How to Increase App Engagement: 5 methods

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Sasha Hodes
How to Increase App Engagement: 5 methods

Table of Content:

  1. Make app onboarding quick & concise
  2. Keep a user’s attention with push notifications
  3. Build relationships through in-app messaging & email
    • In-app chat for support
    • In-app help messages
    • Email
  4. Create a community
    • It leads to customer success
    • It strengthens customer loyalty
    • It shows users you’re listening
    • You can catch at-risk customers before they churn
  5. Gamify the app experience

A successful app keeps its users interacting with it, whether daily, weekly, or monthly. Users spend on average 4.8 hours per day on their mobile phones — and 90% of that time is spent on apps. So, some apps and platforms are clearly successfully keeping their users very engaged.

However, many apps are not doing this. A study by CleverTap found that the number one reason for users who deleted an app was that they didn’t use it enough — in other words, they weren’t engaged with it. This shouldn't be suprising when you consider that:

  • 30k and 70k new apps are added to the App Store and Play Store every month, respectively. Users have so much choice and ability to switch to existing or new competitors with ease.
  • The average mobile user has around 80 apps on their phone, all vying for attention. But only 30 apps are used at all. That’s less than half of them!

So how does your app beat the odds and ensure your users stay engaged?

Here are 5 bullet-proof methods:

1. Make app onboarding quick & concise

The truth about app users is that they're impatient. Think about it this way: the consumer attention span is decreasing by 88% year on year, with a 35% decrease in in-app session lengths per quarter. If they have to run through endless, clunky onboarding slides with overly instructional text after launching the app for the first time, there’s a chance they’ll exit and never return.

In a world filled with speed, noise, and convenience, you need to get your users using the app quickly but with enough knowledge to properly experience the product or service.

Consider your app’s onboarding. You want to reduce the steps for users to make an account or sign up — the install to account activation rate. Educating users is crucial, but you shouldn't overwhelm the user with it right at the start. Instead, you can pepper suggestions & tips across their first time in the app. If you do want educational slides to appear right after account activation, ensure there are just a few of them that provide only necessary information.

Mobile App Onboarding Slides
Example of onboarding slides

2. Keep a user’s attention with push notifications

Almost everyone will remember when they went onto an app and exited before completing an action. There’s a chance of re-engagement happening on its own, but some will forget to come back. Push notifications can help bring those users back with nudges & reminders popping up on their phone home screens. 

Here are some examples for places to send push notifications according to customer journey:

  • A welcome notification for when a user has just activated an account
  • Event-triggered messaging, such as a reminder to complete a purchase or return to cart
  • Account activity report — like monthly spending for banking apps or earnings on stocks for trading apps
  • Transactional messaging to help users track purchases
  • Promoting new services & products or sharing discounts
Push notifications to mobile apps

The personalization of push notifications comes in many forms, including sending notifications to users according to their place in the customer journey. This is using notifications smartly and infrequently only when there's something relevant to share with that user, such as reminding them to complete a necessary action. You can see this working well for an app marketplace which wants to get users to come back and make more purchases. They can send out a push notification to suggest items users may be interested in based on their location and purchase history.

But another factor to personalization is addressing users personally. everyone likes being personally acknowledged. Let’s say you have a food delivery app — one of your drivers is going to be delayed in getting to a customer. You can send the customer a push notification, addressing them by  name and order number, informing them of the delay and apologize with an updated delivery time. This would go down much better than an impersonal 'delayed' message. 

3. Build relationships through in-app messaging & email

The power of in-app messaging is that it enables you to build communication and cultivate relationships with your user base directly inside the app. These things are integral to long-term engagement and customer retention. But in-app messaging is quite a broad term and has different applications.

In-app chat for support

Almost everyone uses messaging for various purposes throughout their daily lives. It’s become the most familiar form of communication in the mobile age. So it only makes sense for your support team to be able to message users from inside the app. When a user has a query or issue, why make them go somewhere else to get help when you could speak to them without them exiting the app? Integral to maintaining engagement is keeping users inside the app.

In-app messaging managed via a support ticket system

In-app help messages

These messages can share necessary information with users. Let’s say you’re an app marketplace and a user has bought something but the payment didn’t go through. Without an in-app message informing them of this when they’re still in the app, they may not find out till days later that they haven't in fact bought the item. To use in-app messages effectively, you should segment users to receive certain messages based on what you want them to know or learn. 


One of the best ways to build relationships with your user base is via email. It’s a direct channel and one that most people don’t ignore. Of course, consumers have gotten tired of the constant sales and promotional marketing flooding their inboxes. But emails that share tips on the best ways to use an app, that may be treated differently. Another great thing about emails is that they allow you to use a variety of content formats and experiment with messaging more freely.

No matter how good your onboarding is, to ensure that users have the best experience with your app, sending tips and advice through emails is key to keeping them engaged. Some examples of engagement-focused emails are:

1. Email welcoming a new user

2. Introduction to a new or unused feature

3. Encourage users likely to disengage to return

4. Re-engaging churned or unhappy users

5. Discounts or deals that’ll be interesting to that user

4. Create a community

In the digital age, good communication only gets you far with customers. People want to feel a sense of connection and relatability, to feel cared about and easily be able to communicate with brands. This is crucial in ensuring users stay with you. One part of creating a stronger brand is cultivating a community.

Why is this?

It leads to customer success

Customers like to know what they’re doing with a product. Onboarding and support can help make sure this is the case. Another good way to provide the ultimate experience for users is by inviting them to a community with other like-minded users. A community adds value as it provides a way for users to help other users, socialize with new people, make new friends, and discover original advice that they can apply to their own use case and improve their user experience. Humans are social creatures who work best in group settings — play on this with your brand by making a community. 

It strengthens customer loyalty

The more time users spend interacting with your brand, the more invested they will be in it. Alongside using your app, they’ll also spend time in your community, developing relationships with other users and your team. This level of engagement would be hard to let go of, making it less likely for users to switch to a competitor and lose access to the community. 

It shows users you’re listening

Having access to a variety of source for customer insights — user reviews, brand communities, and social media — allows you to provide more actionable recommendations for product managers and marketing. However, taking action on valuable insights isn’t the only thing communities allow you to do. After releasing a new app version, you can reply to users who’ve written about issues that have now been fixed and also make a general announcement to the community about what they can expect from the new version. This will make those users feel listened to and cared for, maintaining engagement with the app

You can catch at-risk customers before they churn

Many users frustrated with your app will use a community channel to vent or share their discontent. Think of this as an alarm bell for an upcoming churn. However, the good thing is that you can prevent this from happening by communicating with those users directly from your community, responding to angry users promptly, and helping them solve their issues. Finally, you can listen to the community to track any trending changes in customer sentiment so you can diagnose and resolve problems before they negatively impact CSAT and result in disengagement with the product.

5. Gamify the app experience

To keep a user engaged with your app, you need to build an experience that goes further than stable performance and a user friendly UI. As stated at the beginning of this article, there are thousands of new apps coming onto the market every month, with millions already available in the ecosystem. This means users have choice and you need to give them a reason to stay engaged with your app and keep them coming back for more.

This is where gamification comes in — when app developers apply gaming mechanisms to immerse players in mobile apps. Through gaining points / collecting badges, for example, gamification taps into simple psychology: the human need to achieve, compete against others, and complete challenging goals. These unique experiences will keep users coming back to further engage with the gamified elements of the app.

In-app gamification
In-app gamification

But what are the different types of gamification that have had success?

  • In-app rewards: a prize when a task or action is complete. This has an integral value that makes engagement with the app worth it.
  • A quiz: putting users to the test with some questions about the app or its area. This sense of challenge is a great way to increase interaction and can be super fun for users.
  • Virtual tokens: a sort of token which users can win in the app and use to buy real things in the real world.
  • Badges: Who doesn’t like to win medals? It’s a form of recognition and acknowledgment of achievement, and a huge motivator to keep using an app to win more.
  • League tables: spurs competition and creates news aims to rise higher in the table through further use in the app.
  • Progress bars: A supportive way to get users to achieve their goals, showing how far they are to succeeding. They won’t want to quit when they can see their 90% of the way through!

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