App Retention Tips For New Mobile App Developers And Publishers

I just want to drop a quick app retention question for you.

So you’ve finally done some pre-launch app marketing, essential app store optimizations, and tweaked your app marketing strategy to gather more downloads. If I make your app famous and suddenly got a million downloads right now, how do you deal with it?

After having an epic app launch (10 Epic Ways To Do Pre Launch App Marketing For Your App), will you able to retain and grow your users efficiently or lose your users day by day like every lame developer do?

Focusing Solely On App Acquisition Is Dead

As the explosion of mobile apps in recent years, more and more developers are building an app with one only goal, that is to earn money. I mean, to make money very fast.

Are you familiar with articles with methods like how to increase app downloads, how to have zero to 100k users, how to acquire more app users and other similar titles lurking around the web?

Focusing on app acquisition than app retention will mostly result to poor app development, poor user experience, the birth of black hat app store optimization and the demand for app installs.

I also want to point out the increasing demand for app installs. Many new developers pay some services to increase their app installs. The best example is “incentivized installs”. However, most of the time these are low-quality users who only downloaded their app for the sake of points and will mostly delete your app after they get enough points to redeem for a particular reward.

Why Focus On App Retention Instead

I’m not saying that user acquisition is unimportant and you focus only on app retention; it is just, new developers and publishers tend to focus more on gaining new users instead of strengthening their relationship with their current users. Although they will help you as a publisher, most of the time, app downloads and installs are not the only metrics you should track.Android_Renention_Top_Apps

Let’s take a look at data above from Quettra. Within 30 days, “next 5000 apps” loses almost 85% of its users while 70% on “next 100 apps”. In over 90 days, you will see that c top 10 apps and next 50 apps have significantly better app retention than next 100 apps and next 5000 apps.

It only means no matter how many downloads and new users your app gain; you will most likely lose them if you do not know how to retain them.

An article at Techcrunch reported that app users spend 85% of their time using apps they installed. Seems good news, right? However, only five apps on average are heavily used by each user, and the rest have only 8% – 1% usage of their time.

This data was collected in 2014 and seemed outdated but let’s not ignore the fact that many of these “heavily used” apps are from large developers and publishers. They also have a budget for better app retention and app marketing strategy.

Good examples are the highly-rated apps which gather the biggest slice of the pie with 24% while Facebook and Google take 13% and 12% respectively, which if combined will result in 25% of users’ time consumed.

Long-Term Benefits Of App Retention

Once you are able to track this kind of metrics, it is possible to have a better and good long-term effect for your overall app marketing strategy. This will not only boost your app’s performance but also improve your return of investment.

@appmarketingbst People who download through a search query are more likely to be retained than the ones from an Ad. Cheers from App Radar!

— App Radar Marketing (@appradar_com) June 17, 2016


An awesome tweet from App Radar also added that people who download through a search query are more likely to be retained than the ones from an Ad.

Simple Tips For Better App Retention

This short list will cover few of the most efficient ways to have better app retention. While this list doesn’t have a step-by-step guide, you can use this as reference and starting point to your app retention and app marketing campaign. Note: I will try to update if from time to time so be sure to subscribe.

#1 Use Viral Loop and Feedback loop


According to Growth Devil, “Viral loops are a type of marketing campaign used to promote a company or product. The viral loop works like a virus that infects a person and causes them to share it with other people.”

Farmville, Cafe Land, Restaurant Story, Candy Crush and other similar games are good examples of games that use the viral loop that is very effective app retention and app marketing strategy. They encourage you to invite friends to earn rewards, in-app currency, or even to continue playing another level (that’s so evil).

I consider as one of the modern and digital “word-of-mouth” methods and for the record, word-of-mouth is one of the most effective, efficient and powerful native ads.

Feedback loop


Some games also reward users who complete social media tasks like simply liking and sharing their Facebook page, Tweeting the game to your friends and much more. This strategy also works with a “Feedback Loop”, a method to make your users leave a review and rate your app.

Interacting with your users via social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. is a must. Social media is the best medium to reach your loyal and potential users. You can launch campaigns, use social media as customer service, run contests and promos, announce updates, teasers, etc. and post native stuff to boost your app exposure.

Note: Apple App Store is strongly restricting viral and feedback loop, I think they see it as another “gray hat ASO.”

#2 Provide Regular Updates

Updating Your App For App Retention

Never abandon your people, especially if you already have few loyal users. Updates let you signal your users that you’re keep improving their experience and keeping your contents fresh. Think of updates as another re-engaging tool.

Your app is like: “Hey, I’m still alive, and I have a new haircut!”.

Updating For New Features

The classic approach for releasing updates is launching a massive and valuable content for your app or game. This effect mainly happens on free-to-play games like MMOs. Updates usually come up with new maps, monsters, equipment for the new arc story that extends the game experience and play time.

Providing regular updates also build a lot of expectations and hype for users which keeps them engaged and loyal to your app or game.

Updating For Trending And Current Events


Respawnbles featuring St.Partick’s Day update

Even launching small updates like fixing minor bugs and errors positively affect your user. Also updating for World Cups, Super Bowls or Movie/Music Awards can have significant benefits from trending events. You can also update for current seasons like Winter, Summer, etc. or Holidays like Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day, etc.

It can also boost your app exposure, app rankings and increase app downloads which are magnificent for your app store optimization. Google features publishers who update apps and games.

I also believe that Google tracks how often you update your app that will affect their trust on your app. Theoretically, this can improve your app’s ranking on Play Store.

Updating Your App Will Improve Your On-Page ASO

One way to impress your target audience is to update your app frequently. Newly updated apps looks better in terms of on-page ASO and a chance your app being featured in respective app stores.

#3 Reward Loyalty

Once your users are engaged and active, it’s time to give back and offer rewards. But let me correct myself on “giving back”, it is not giving free t-shirts or movie passes but rewarding them with things that matter your app.  Incentives could be in-game currencies, free or exclusive stuff or discounts.


One great example for rewarding its users is VainGlory, a perfect mobile MOBA game that thrives to breakthrough esport scene. One of their strategies is to give a daily and weekly goals to retain their gamers. The game has few different goals and chests (like the one pictured above) to earn extra in-game items and currency.

#4 Collecting Emails

This may be an old fashion method but still worth it. You can collect emails through newsletter while offering exclusive deals or content of your app. You can read the whole post here in – 9 Keys To Taming Promiscuous App Users and Increasing App Retention.

You can use your own newsletter in various ways like:

  • Re-engaging users
  • Acquiring new users
  • Using referral marketing
  • Cross and upsell products

#5 Better Onboarding Process


If you are going to ask me what is the best app retention method, I will say to have better onboarding process, hands down!

Never turn off users with confusing display and menus. Let your new users experience and learn how your app works in the fastest and most informative ways as possible. You are not only making it faster for your users to understand and start to use your app, but you will also avoid stressing your new users out.

Here is one of Apptimize’s best app onboarding list, if you want to read the whole article go here – Four Best Mobile User Onboarding Flows:

#6 Building Community Outside Your App

Encouraging your users to join your online community outside your app can help you engage and retain more users at the same time. Updating them with current news and events of your app is enough to re-engage your past users.

Few of the most popular games in the world is using this strategy to keep their users retained. Great examples are almost all Supercell games like Clash of Clans with their thousands of content creators throughout the web especially YouTube and Wikia. Rovio also keep their millions of fans and users engage on their Facebook page. VainGlory (the game I mentioned earlier which implement “rewarding loyalty”) have their own forum for general and esport discussions.

#7 Implement Awesome Customer Service

Nothing beats a great customer service.

Even it’s after sales, customer or technical support your app users will love it! The main key to long-term brand success is to have a long-term also app retention strategy and great customer relation. You should able to listen to your app users about their concerns and foresee what they need. Make them also feel they are appreciated.

I recommend this “epic” post from – 10 Tips To Giving Awesome Customer Service.


Mistakes That Will Murder Your App Retention

Let us first discuss the mistakes developers make on their app retention strategy. Don’t worry this list covers only the very common mistakes new developers make and promise to make it fast.

Please use this as your first line of defense to protect your app retention and your overall app marketing strategy as well.

#1 Your app is buggy, not responsive and then crashes.


One of the very common mistakes on app retention is having a buggy and not responsive app. This mistake is a no-brainer consider applying the scene to yourself, and you will do the same thing your users feel. If your app does not work correctly, users will eventually uninstall your app.

Your app might be slow too.

Although most of the time launching or opening an app depends on the device and network connection, having a cumbersome and slow app will keep your users drawn away from your app.

According to another article from TechCrunch, only 16% of users will try your slow and buggy app twice.

It means you will lose 84% of your users just by experiencing bugs and errors from your app and for all those users who still uses your app despite the technical errors. They will not only suffer from those flaws but also with your other app retention mistakes just like the next one.

#2 Ads here, Ads there, Ads everywhere

I am not against ads as we all know they are a great source of income, but this will also kill your user experience and app retention.

Sadly, almost all new publishers look into ads as the holy grail of revenue stream which is wrong. There are several better and smart ways to monetize your app.

Plague Inc. is one of the best examples that implements ads without sacrificing their user experience. They have a free version of their excellent game with ads but in a good placing that blends to their user interface and doesn’t annoy gamers.

#3 Bad Push Notification

Is it a bit of surprise?

Push notification is excellent tools for app marketers and publishers. It can help in various ways like informing your users of your events, sales, and discounts, engaging them with latest news and updates or re-engaging inactive users again to keep retention and much other more.

The problem is, app publishers starting to abuse push notifications.

Push notifications are like double-edged swords. It is a great app retention tool and also a great app killer at the same time. One simple mistake on your message, timing, personalization, etc. and things can go badly wrong.

#4 Bad Timing To Ask For Review

App Retention Early Rate Mistake

Asking for review is never a bad thing but be sure to have an exquisite timing when to ask for reviews.

You don’t need to remind them from time to time. One of the best ways to get a review is by using rewards, whether digital or physical. Incentives will attract your users to review your app. Apple app store is strict to this kind of schemes, though.

Doing so will rack up some negative user ratings that can plummet your rankings and brand reputation. Be sure to reply to negative app user reviews as soon as you can and resolve the issue.

You might also like to read: How To Handle Negative App User Reviews

When is the best time to ask for an app review? Well, I really don’t know, and it will heavily depend on your own app’s data. Consider implementing the kind of feedback loop from the tips above. I also recommend you to read this article from – The Right Way To Ask Users To Review Your App by Matt Galligan of Circa News.

#5 Asking Too Much Information and Permissions

App Retention Too Many Permissions

Imagine a very simple app asking for a lot of permissions, something like a game asking to read user’s contact adds or manage accounts, use accounts on the device, read subscribed feed and much more. Smells fishy right?

The rule thumb is: never ask for unnecessary permission requests and private information.

#6 Your App Sucks

If your app sucks, we can’t do anything about it.

You must create a high-quality app that your target niche or audience truly needs. Invent innovation and new features that can help them improve their everyday lives.

You shouldn’t create an app without spying on those competitors. Scrape and study their ratings and reviews and see what is the major downside of their app, you can also look for new great ideas, and you can also ask the community itself about what are their thoughts and what they need. You can apply all the data you’ve collected to make your app retention, revenue, ratings, and reviews better.

Measuring Your App User Retention

Right now, you might have already generated an idea how to retain your app users and make them loyal to you. Well, that’s a good start.

Once you have a strategy to keep your app users, never forget to ready a method to measure your success. Don’t let your retention strategy go to waste.

Measuring app retention have several critical benefits for your app and with the accurate statistics, you can achieve a better return on investment and revenue. There are few ways to track your app retention and here are them:

Classic Retention

There are already few ways experts measure app retention, one of them is the “Classic Retention”. Classic retention is the most used and the easiest way to measure your app success. Only users who come back on your specific retention date will be considered as retained no matter how often they use your app before the specific retention date.

For example, you acquired 300 users on January 1. Users who come back to your particular retention period. Typically, you give your users at least a month. It doesn’t matter how often they use your app for the whole month, what you should track is if they come back to your specific retention date.

Although it doesn’t give accurate information about your app retention, it gives a general idea how your app is doing on retaining users. I strongly recommend reading Thomas Sommer’s post via Applift about user retention to know more ways to measure your app retention.

He discussed how to use a different kind to measure app retention using Full Retention, Classic Retention, Rolling Retention,  Return Retention, and Bracket-Dependent Return Retention.

Alternatively, you can take a look at this great example from Localytics plus you can also read their 8 tips about app retention – Mobile Apps: What’s A Good App Retention Rate?

Using Cohort Analysis


According to Wikipedia, “Cohort analysis is a subset of behavioral analytics that takes the data from a given eCommerce platform, web application, or online game and rather than looking at all users as one unit, it breaks them into related groups for analysis. These related groups, or cohorts, usually share common characteristics or experiences within a defined time-span.”

Cohort analysis is a more detailed method to measure retention that Classic Retention and other related methods. A cohort is a group of segmented users based on their join/engagement date.

We then compare and analyze every former group on how they are engaged and where your app is lacking to make certain newest groups have higher retention rates. You can learn more about cohort analysis on and in Kissmetrics about their – The Case for Cohort Analysis and Multi-Touch Attribution. Analysis

Track Uninstalls

Also, consider tracking uninstalls of your app. If you’re a complete beginner and doesn’t really know how to start the methods above, you can simply use this to track you app retention. I found this very useful post from – Quick Tips to Track App Retention.


You should never overlook the importance of app retention. As we already know that user acquisition is not and should not be the only priority and metrics to measure your app success.  It is great to have a neat app retention idea that blends with your overall app marketing strategy.

If you already have an idea how to retain your users, or you have some methods I missed and willing to recommend, please share it in the comment section below and don’t forget to subscribe.

Leave a Reply

6 Comments on "App Retention Tips For New Mobile App Developers And Publishers"

Notify of
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Nelic Ashkir

Very very great tips here. Thanks for posting this on Facebook so I can see this is use this on my own app.


Hey, great app retention tips here.

I just want to ask about classic retention, is it mean even they only open my app once they still fall into the retain category of users?

Daksh Bhatt

this is really a great tips with detailed analysis and images. I totally agree with you here, if we regularly update our app with the improvements and new features, your retention ratio will increase automatically.