While people are more addicted to mobile apps than ever, they’re also quicker to purge them or let them languish in a state of ennui. As app developers, we must take active steps to combat this.
According to comScore, 75 billion apps were downloaded last year from Google Play and iTunes. Millennials, a key 18-34 demographic, spend an average of 90 hours per month using apps on their smartphone, and nearly 35 hours using apps on tablets. Even those aged 65 and over are using smartphone apps nearly 40 hours a month. Leading apps include those for social media, radio and games. These apps account for 55% of all app usage.

Another statistic from Nielsen, a little less heartening, is that most people use an average of just 24 apps regularly.

In an era where many apps are downloaded but few make the final cut for ongoing and regular use, it’s more critical than ever that app developers arm themselves with the knowledge of how to get users to convert and use their apps regularly.

Churn – the Slow Death of an App

A term coined to signal the death knell of an app is “churn.” Churn is inactivity – users inactive on a particular app for a specified period, commonly 30 days. Churn often results from app developers failing to keep users engaged. Remember, there are over 4 million mobile apps available for download at any given time, creating fierce competition and many opportunities for users to be wooed away by the latest offerings.

What are the Odds your App will make the Cut?

So how serious is churn? Upon downloading an app, 58% of users churn in the first 30 days, and over 90 days, that number rises to 75%. Research shows a close correlation between the number of times an app is used during the first 30 days and the chance the app user will become inactive.
Research also indicates there’s a minimum number of times a user must use an app to understand its value and remain an active user. That magic number is three.
While measuring churn across a 30-day window has value, for maximum effectiveness, app developers would do well to focus on driving up interactions within the first three days after a user has downloaded an app. Churn was reduced to only 29% when users engaged with an app three times within three days of downloading it.
This is the 3 x 3 rule – make sure that people downloading your app use it a minimum of three times in the first three days to avoid app churn.

Top Strategies for Avoiding Churn

What can app developers do to reduce churn and encourage users to hit a benchmark of three uses in the first three days? Three key elements that have met with surprising success – in-app messaging, remarketing and recruitment. Let’s take a deeper dive into each.

Keep It Social with In-App Messaging

Apps making use of in-app messaging had up to 3.5 times higher retention and 27% more launches than those that do not. In-app messaging helped users more successfully navigate the app, increasing their likelihood of sticking with it for the long haul. Whatever stage your app is in, whether it’s testing, onboarding, offers, or what have you, in-app messaging serves as the voice of your app, and this resonates with users.

Remarketing Equals Retention

Marketing is heavily associated with the launch of a new app, but it must not stop there. Long after the initial launch and wave of downloads, it is important to continue to remarket the app to users who chose to give it a chance. It ensures that your app will stay front and center in the mind of users. It costs far more to acquire new users than it does to retain existing users, so remarketing represents a smart and solid use of those marketing budget dollars.

Let the User Be Your Voice

When a user downloads your app, you’ve gotten your foot in the door to a completely new world of potential users. Apps users are a great tool for recruiting new users, which means including sharing and social media features into your app is indispensable. Also consider “new friend” promotions sent via push notification or email message.
Promotions should be personalized based on the data you’ve acquired about the user, but avoid being overly familiar, at the risk of coming across as creepy. For example, “Hi, (first name or username)! Receive exclusive content when you refer a friend!” strikes a nice balance of personalization without giving the impression that your company is storing too much sensitive information about the user.

Less Churn, More Sales

While we can argue about whether three uses in three days is the magic number, it’s hard to argue with the notion of the importance of investing time, effort and money into interaction and engagement strategies designed to reduce churn of your app. As users become more engaged and interact more frequently with your app, you’re building something very important – trust – which ultimately leads to more sales and the long-term success of your app.

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