Engage | Mobile App retention crisis and possible solutions
Mobile app retention rates are constantly dropping. Read more about mobile app retention crisis and possible solutions.
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Mobile App retention crisis and possible solutions

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Mobile App retention crisis and possible solutions

In the last several years the digital media time has grown significantly.  This has been driven by mobile and apps.  Almost 60% of total digital media time is spent in apps.  On the other side mobile web has larger audience and is growing faster but engagement is superficial users spend digital time in desktop 33% less.

digital media time spent by platform

Compared to mobile app audiences mobile web audiences at three times larger and growing two times faster.  It is a matter of reach vs engagement. Mobile audiences are growing in numbers, but declining in average time spent. Maybe part of the explanation is that large part of this new traffic is driven by social referral.

The statistics are showing that a lot more unique user monthly are using mobile web vs mobile apps, but their average monthly minutes spent are 20 times less, compared with the time spent by mobile app users.

mobile app vs mobile web statistics for unique visitors and digital time spent


Smartphone apps are dominated by just few dominant companies, especially Google and Facebook. Social networking, Music and Games comprise almost 50% of all mobile app time. Another worrying trends are the following:

  • People are not downloading so many apps anymore
  • Users increasingly put apps in folders and they just forget them there
  • Users are less likely to allow push notifications

Almost 50% of users’ smartphone app time is spent on their one most preferred app and 73% of their time – in their top 3 apps. Users’ favorites are usually Facebook, Google, Snapchat, Amazon and few others.

Here are the main conclusions, some of which may be compiled under the name “app retention crisis”:

  • Media time is shifting to mobile
  • Most of mobile media time is spent in apps
  • App engagement is concentrated in a small number of dominant apps
  • It’s increasingly difficult for smaller publishers/brands to break through — even with downloaded apps — because of folders (being buried) and increasing resistance to push notifications.

In order to compete in this tough environment and increase their app usage companies need to take some steps towards battling the app retention crisis. App retention has become critical for revenue generation for some companies and really frightening number of apps have dismal retention rates.

One of the tools to boost app retention is the usage of push notifications. The major problem here is that users often decline notifications – according to latest reports, only 27% of user “often” or “always” allow notifications. Almost all apps have just 21% retention rate (active usage) 24 hours after download.

After 90 days that number drops to 1.7%. Apps which actively use push notification have higher retention and engagement than the rest. In the first month, the average difference between retention is 1.5 percent — substantial, considering the average retention rate is 7.5 percent by day 30. That means that apps can increase retention by 20 percent simply by sending push notifications.

Many brands fear that too many push notifications will trigger uninstalls and refrain from using them. According to the report this is not true. Behavior based notification triggers usually introduce more value for users and improve retention.

Just a reminder of the 5 basic delivery types for push notifications:

  • Immediate – messages are pushed right away to selected users
  • Scheduled blast – setting some moment in the future to send message to selected users
  • Scheduled by time zone – independent of time zone every user will receive the message at 8 pm local time
  • Optimal time – machine learning algorithm analyzes each user individual app usage pattern an sends the message at this time of the day when the user is most likely to open it
  • Behavior-based – individualized messages are delivered in response to user specific behavior. For example a forgotten item in the mobile shopping cart of the user will trigger a push notification in the form of reminder to check out.

The graphic below shows that Optimal time compared to Immediate and Scheduled blast outperforms them significantly. Scheduled by time zone is not so efficient due to cultural differences – what may result in great open rates in North America for a 8pm blast may be not so efficient for other regions of the world, who might prefer to engage earlier or later in the day.

push notirfication scheduled delivery open rates

The undisputed leader though in terms of open rate and engagement is behavior-based push notification. As you can see below behavior-based push results in 800 percent higher open rates than immediate blasts.

Examples for behavior-based push notifications are:

  • A travel app may message a traveler about hotel deals after he books a flight
  • A music app can notify a listener an alert about a new album, released by the artists, which she was listening recently
  • A retail app may send a shopper a notification that a recently viewed item is now on sale.


push notifications behavior based open rates


If all of this sounds too intimidating – don’t worry. There are a lot of third party tools, which can help you with:

  • Interactive and dynamic push notifications
  • Segmentation of your users
  • Advanced targeting and scheduling
  • A/B testing
  • Event tracking
  • Instant and real time data analysis
  • Geolocation push
  • Retargeting
  • Engagement campaigns
  • User behavior analisys

To name just a few of these tools: Urban Airship, Parse, Mixpanel, Push Woosh, Swrve, Kahuna, Nudgespot, Pushbots, mBlox, InAppBlast, Quickblox, AppBooster, etc.

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