How to re-engage users who have abandoned your app after first use?

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The global mobile app industry is estimated to generate $935 billion by 2023 through paid app downloads and in-app advertisements – just short of reaching the trillion-dollar mark. Being part of such a huge industry, as a digital marketer or a business owner with an active mobile app, would you really want to leave any stone unturned when it comes to strategies related to user acquisition, user retention, or user engagement? 

I would guess not. What is more alarming is the fact that it is reported that the global business sector faces a loss of $1.6 trillion every year once their customers move away from their product or service. This is the reason why organizations focus too much on retaining a customer after a successful conversion. 


Worldwide mobile app revenues from 2014 to 2023

How to re-engage users who have abandoned your app after first use?
source: Statistica


User Engagement and User Retention

Spending on digital advertising, driving your potential customers to your mobile app, and having them install your app – a lot of focus is usually on these initial steps. The buzz is more or less surrounding these topics. However, once your customer has downloaded the app or even made his or her first purchase using your app, now what? User engagement and retention are two key metrics for any business. The digital arena is no different – if your mobile app engagement and retention is low, it is likely that you will be facing some bigger problems real soon. You might have to re-invest your marketing or sales budgets to bring back the customers that you have lost over a certain period.

  • User Engagement – this metric tells you how active your mobile app users are. Even though it is considered to be a subjective metric, the benchmark to measure user engagement is the fact that highly engaged users will actively participate on your app and have 11 or more app sessions within a month.
  • User Retention – this is the metric that will tell you how many times a user will return to the app once it is downloaded. According to the industry norm, mobile app user retention is defined as the user who returns to your app at least once within the first thirty days after the initial app install.


According to Statista, once the mobile app has been installed, only 32% of users will return to it 11 times or more. Furthermore, it is reported that 25% of users abandon the apps after using it just one time. These trends show that marketers need to be on top of their game at any given time in order to stay ahead in a highly competitive environment.

Having said that, it is also imperative to understand that these two metrics will vary from one brand to another and also, from one industry to another. Taking the nature of the business, product, or service into consideration, what is considered to be an effective user engagement strategy for one might not be fruitful at all for another.


How to Re-engage & Retain App Users?

Push notifications are one is a default form of any app engagement strategy

Well, you, as a marketer, though you did everything you possibly could given the set of tools and resources at your disposal – however, data shows that you still have a high number of inactive users. Here are some ways through which you can re-engage your inactive users:


Use of Push Notifications

You might have noticed those notifications that pop on your mobile device every now and then from apps that you haven’t used in a while. This is exactly how marketers try to re-engage you by using strategic push notifications. If done the right way, push notifications can have an engagement rate of up to 40%, as compared to the 20% that you get through email campaigns. The flip side of push notifications is that if it is not done thoughtful enough, and the user is bombarded with too many ineffective notifications, they may just ignore or block them. At worse, they might even uninstall your app altogether. 


One of the better examples in recent times is the way the apps Uber and Careem have been re-engaging their users throughout the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. Since many countries have suspended cab services in the wake of global lockdowns, they have been trying to re-engage users by telling them about their services related to food delivery and pick up and drop off of essential items.


Use of Social Media Channels

Another effective way of re-engaging your inactive users is through your social media outlets. There is a possibility that up till now, you might have only used your social media profiles for sharing limited posts regarding your brand or products. There is a lot more that you can and should do with your social media channels.


Coming up with engaging content using visuals, animations, graphics, etc., will help you reach your user re-engagement targets. If your content specialists and creative team know the art of storytelling, this will have an emotional impact on both your active and inactive customers. Furthermore, devise strategies that are related to rewarding users for product reviews. This will directly target your app user acquisition to a huge extent. 79% of users first check the ratings and reviews before they go through with downloading an app. You do not have to worry about negative reviews since it is believed that if negative reviews are responded to in a timely manner and app bugs are fixed in the next app version, it increases user loyalty and keeps them engaged for a longer period.


Use of Gamification Concept

One rising example of gamification is the increase in apps that encourage gamification of one’s life, such as gamifying life achievements and habit building. 

This is one of the widely used modern-day techniques by brands in order to maintain their user engagement metrics. Through game mechanics, you can effectively keep your users occupied as to what is going to happen ‘next’ once they have successfully passed the current stage. This could be a pre-defined in-app step or stage that you want your user to get through after taking a certain action or set of actions.


You can reward your users at each action(s) or level by monetary or non-monetary means that incentivize the whole process. You can also combine gamification with other user re-engagement or user acquisition marketing techniques. For instance, push notifications to achieve your desired goals.


One of the prime examples of effectively using the concept of gamification is when Starbucks re-engaged its inactive users with their holiday campaign. They let users collect bonus points and other small prizes through in-store app purchases. Through this, they were able to target a large number of inactive and dormant users who might have otherwise remained inactive, uninstalled the app, or downloaded a competitor’s app. 


How Can Cohorts Help in User Retention

A cohort is defined as a group of individuals that share common behaviors and characteristics. In a business context, a cohort is a subset of users that are segmented in order to study their actions and metrics during a specific period of time. Cohort analysis can be conducted using two ways to split your users into cohorts: 


Cohort by Acquisition

Using this method, you can divide your users by the date they signed up for your app. Using the retention metrics of this cohort group, you can analyze the time duration of users who use your mobile app once they have downloaded it.


Cohort by Behavior

In this group, you can divide users by their behavioral traits when they use your app. This may include in-app purchases, social media sharing, clicks on a certain ad or promotion, etc. Studying these actions for a certain time frame, let’s say a week or a month since they first used your app after downloading it, you can come to various conclusions related to your app usage, what areas to focus on, what in-app features to remove or modify, etc.


Look Out for High Churn Rates

Churn or attrition rate is defined as the percentage of mobile app users who, for one or more reasons, stop using your app after a certain period of time. In order to stay competitive in your industry or business sector, you need to ensure that your mobile user acquisition and new user signups are always higher than those who choose to leave or uninstall your app.


In 2018, Statista reported that the average global 3-month mobile app user retention rate was 29%, with a churn rate of 71%. For digital marketers, this is not a number that they would want to be a part of. This is the reason churn rates need to be constantly monitored, and whenever there is an upward trend or a very high churn rate during a specific time span, marketers and developers need to revisit their marketing campaigns and app usability, respectively.


Our Final Thoughts on User Re-engagement & Retention

Today, we live in a digital era where decisions are made within seconds. Before you can devise or implement a marketing plan, you may have already lost a significant number of customers. To keep up with this pace, digital marketers need to focus more on in-app user behaviors rather than solely focusing on app installs.

User retention is still a more cost-effective business decision as compared to targeting new users. To put this into perspective, acquiring new customers costs five times more than retaining current ones. Moreover, a customer will spend 67% more in the third year during his customer life cycle as compared to the first year.  Taking these factors into consideration, you can still achieve better user re-engagement and retention numbers, provided that you are making the right business decisions. After all, in 2018, 40.74% of uninstalled Android apps were reinstalled by the users – yes, there is still light at the end of the tunnel.

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