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Win-back strategies to improve mobile app retention

Win-back strategies are often high on the list of priorities for mobile app owners as they sadly witness users ceasing to use their app. In fact, with stats showing that a mobile app may lose almost 80% of its daily active users (DAU) within the first three days after installation, it’s evident why win-back strategies are high on the list of priorities for mobile marketers.

Therefore, it’s important that you have a good understanding of app analytics and how to use push notifications to boost app retention as part of a win-back strategy.

If you fail to act on a falling DAU, the stats get even more depressing with up to 90% of apps losing their users within the first month and over 95% after three months. So, here’s why you need to be able to provide the data analytics and reporting and offer push notification campaign ideas as part of implementing win-back strategies.

It makes sense to focus on retaining users for their newly developed mobile app. Of course, it’s still important to put effort into acquiring new app users for growth. But, it costs less to retain users and the win-back strategies will also help retain any newly acquired new users. Did you know it costs as much as 700% more, to acquire new users than it does to retain existing users? Bain and Company estimate that just a 5% increase in retention, can result in up to 95% increase in ROI.

Let’s face it, in order to have a successful app, it’s important to invigorate dormant users to reduce the churn rate and improve customer lifetime value. Basically, the number of new users must be higher than the number of users who leave. A win-back strategy is simply a marketing plan which will get those DAUs who dropped off to return to your app. This means you retain them as active users, and reduce your churn rate (the percentage of users who stop using an app during a given period). First though, if you want to learn more about how to measure mobile app retention check out this blog which will teach you more about MAU vs DAU.

First, you need to identify why a user has stopped using the app. This will help you come up with the right strategy to recapture the attention of your inactive app users and encourage them to re-engage. There are many tools to help you come up with the tactics to bring your disengaged app users back on board. It may take a combination of using different analytics tools and crash reporting tools to find the relevant data.

To create a winning win-back strategy you will need tools for:

  • Analytics – especially Recency, Frequency & Monetary Stats
  • Crash Reporting
  • Push Notifications
  • Online Feedback Surveys

What you really need though, is one management console with all the integrated services in one place to cover all aspects of mobile marketing. You want to have complete visibility on how an app is performing technically and commercially and have the tools such as push notifications and app store optimisation (ASO) to deliver better results. 

The first step in creating a win-back strategy is to measure the current app retention rate. Using an app analytics tool, you will be able to view data for new installs for each of the last 7 days, 30 days etc. You can then see what percentage of installs in each day were active in the 7 days after installation. You will also gain insight into the app audience and see who is using the app, how long for, typical user journeys etc. Using this data you can create reports which will help you make informed decisions on how to increase retention and drive more downloads too.

Recency, frequency, monetary (RFM) analysis is a well known model used by all marketers, not just mobile marketers, to highlight segments of customer behavior based on their history with the product. Metrics such as RFM can help you create a win-back strategy by looking at who your best users are and which types of app users contribute to your churn rate.

With some decent RFM analysis you’ll be able to see who are the best and most active users, and which type of users have the most potential to become more valued users. You will start to get a feel for the types of customers who could respond to a win-back strategy. You might also spot some really loyal users who can be targeted with loyalty and reward push notification campaigns.

Analytics tools allow you to drill down and see how retention varies between different groups of app users such as country or platform, which can highlight actions for your win-back strategy. For example: if 7 day retention is much higher on iOS than Android, then you should check for crashes on Android using a good crash reporting tool.

Crash Reporting alerts you when exceptions occur in your app, providing all of the information needed to proactively prioritize and fix issues before they negatively impact retention rates.

Nick Jones, CEO, North South 804 Apps, Virginia says, “Crash reporting is a powerful tool to include in your win-back strategy – and it gives you the ability to actively and positively engage with a user in what would otherwise be a negative interaction with your app. With a platform updating the crash report every 5 minutes, you can quickly send a personalized push notification to that user letting them know you are currently working on solving the issue they experienced – this can actually leave that user with a more positive impression about your app than if they hadn’t experienced the crash in the first place.” 

For dormant or disengaged app users, you have a few options to reach out to them – including email or push notifications. Tailoring push notifications to a particular segment with a special offer is a great way to remind them why they downloaded the app in the first place. If you’re using a Mobile Marketing Automation platform, it’s simple for mobile app developers to personalize push notifications with customer information such as location, or based on their previous use within the app. For a list of power words to use in your push notifications, check out Business of Apps 2019 Guide to Push Notifications Statistics.

To increase retention with push notifications you need to first of all be proactive. For example, use your analytics retention data to time push campaigns just before users typically drop off. You also need to be attentive and use push notifications to draw users back in when they fall out of the onboarding flow. And, you need to be persistent – remind users why they have the app installed. Finally, be smart – use segmentation to target different audiences with relevant content. Increasing retention with push notifications is something that every good mobile app developer should be able to help their clients with as part of an ongoing app optimization service.

Note however, that push notifications can also be a quick way to annoy and ultimately lose an app’s userbase. Statistics published by Business of Apps state that just one irrelevant weekly push will cause 10% of users to disable app push notifications. Therefore, push notifications must be planned properly. Analyse previous analytics data and possibly A/B test to find out what works most effectively. Overall, the effectiveness of app push notifications will come down to the right segmentation and personalization. The use of rich formats, emojis etc will make push notifications more compelling. In fact, using rich push notifications can result in increases in open rates of up to 56%.

Mobile app user feedback is important for any company to continue optimizing their app.

In-app surveys, although often having a low response rate, can still be a great tool to gain feedback from active users.

Don’t forget, once you’ve gathered information, it’s important to let users know that their feedback was valuable. You could send them a push notification to thank them and mention a new feature or provide a reason to keep them using the app.

After you’ve gained insight from your analytics and crash reporting and started to plan your push notifications, you need to factor in how personalization will further help to win-back users. Every user wants to feel valued. To keep users who are still actively engaged, continuously test, analyze, and improve your win-back campaign content and strategies by taking full advantage of customer data you’ve collected and making the most of personalization. If you leverage your customer data, you can learn when to send, how to send, and even when to let go. Even basic personalization increases open rates by 9%. In fact, if you personalize push notifications you could see retention rates increase by 7x.

So, start using the RFM analysis to understand how long it’s been since users engaged with the app and think about how to ifncentivize them back into the app with a carefully crafted personalized push notification message. Don’t forget to ask for feedback and use the results to propose ongoing app optimization work. If you’re looking for further tips why not check out the Best 10 ways to keep your customer on board and improve User Retention


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