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Cracking the Code: Uninstall Tracking Post Latest FCM Update

Abhinav Wagadre Abhinav Wagadre, a Product Manager at CleverTap, excels in campaign optimization, engagement workflows, strategic product launches, and go-to-market strategies, driving customer success.
Cracking the Code: Uninstall Tracking Post Latest FCM Update

In today’s fiercely competitive app market, retaining users is increasingly challenging. Statistics show that 25% of apps downloaded worldwide are only used once. Apps that fail to deliver quickly and effectively are at risk of being uninstalled. Key reasons for uninstalling include poor user experience, excessive advertisements, limited storage space, misleading promises, and privacy concerns. These factors reflect broader patterns in human behavior, with users having high expectations and low tolerance for frustration. The ease of downloading alternative apps means any negative experience can lead to quick abandonment. Privacy concerns also indicate a growing awareness and caution about digital footprints.

Why Uninstall Tracking Matters

Uninstall tracking is not merely a vanity metric; it directly impacts business outcomes. According to AppsFlyer, over 53% of app users uninstall an app within 30 days of installation, leading to significant financial losses for businesses. On average, an app loses about $33,000 per month due to uninstalls. Uninstalling an app indicates underlying issues, making it crucial to understand why, when, and which users uninstall. This understanding reveals insights into user behavior trends, app usability, relevance, and performance. Failing to monitor and address app uninstalls can result in lost revenue, user trust, and market competitiveness, underscoring the importance of vigilant monitoring and strategic interventions to reduce churn and foster sustainable app growth.

Armed with these insights, marketers can refine their engagement strategies to attract users with higher retention potential. Utilizing uninstall data to enhance the user experience, address pain points, and optimize the in-app experience can increase user engagement and retention.

The Traditional Approach to Uninstall Tracking

The industry has primarily relied on silent push notifications to track app uninstalls on Android devices. Silent push notifications are messages that do not display on the user’s device, serving as a means to detect when an app has been uninstalled. The app’s server would send a silent push notification, which would awaken the app in the background to check for its presence on a particular device. When a user removed the app from their device, the device did not respond to this notification, indicating that the app had been uninstalled.

While silent push notifications provided valuable insights into uninstall rates, they had limitations. For instance, there was often a delay between the uninstallation event and its detection, as the server needed to send and receive the notification. Additionally, silent push notifications were subject to factors such as network connectivity and device settings, which could impact their reliability.

The FCM Update:  What you need to know

As of May 15, 2024, FCM’s policy change regarding stale tokens disrupts uninstall tracking on Android devices. Tokens inactive for over 270 days will become invalid, resulting in push notification requests failing with a 404 (Unregistered) error. This change directly affects uninstall tracking, as the industry relied on silent push notifications to detect app removals.

Impact on Traditional Uninstall Tracking

With the FCM update, the reliability of traditional uninstall tracking methods, such as silent push notifications, comes into question. The invalidation of stale tokens means that silent push notifications may fail to accurately detect app uninstalls, leading to discrepancies in uninstall tracking data. Since FCM returns a 404 (Unregistered) error from inactive apps after 270 days, there’s a risk of misidentifying inactive users as churned and inflating uninstall reports. Marketers relying solely on this method risk missing critical insights into user churn and may struggle to implement effective re-engagement strategies.

Real-Time Uninstall Tracking with CleverTap

“To address the challenge posed by the FCM update and ensure accurate uninstall tracking on Android devices, CleverTap offers the Real-Time Uninstall Tracking (RTUT) capability. RTUT leverages Firebase Analytics to track app uninstalls in real-time, providing marketers with timely and precise insights into user churn.

It seamlessly integrates with Google Cloud Function to transmit data to the CleverTap platform. When a user uninstalls the app on an Android device, Firebase records a system event called app-remove, which is then sent by Google Cloud Function to the CleverTap platform. This ensures that marketers have accurate and up-to-date information on user churn, allowing for more effective re-engagement strategies.”

Advantages Over Traditional Uninstall Tracking Methods

While silent uninstall tracking provided daily uninstall statistics, real-time uninstall tracking offers several enhanced benefits:

  • Instant Re-engagement: With real-time data, you can swiftly reconnect with users who have uninstalled your app, increasing the chances of winning them back.
  • Precise Insights: Gain detailed insights into the exact time and conditions that led to an uninstall, allowing for a better understanding of user behavior and the factors contributing to churn.
  • Immediate Feedback: Solicit feedback from users at the moment of uninstallation, providing valuable information for iterative improvements and enhancing the user experience.

These capabilities make real-time uninstall tracking a powerful tool for marketers aiming to reduce churn and improve app performance.

Implementing Real-Time Uninstall Tracking

Implementing Real-Time Uninstall Tracking (RTUT) is a simple process that involves setting up a unique identifier in your app, configuring a conversion event in Firebase, transmitting uninstall data to CleverTap via Google Cloud Functions, and activating RTUT on the CleverTap dashboard. For a comprehensive guide, including step-by-step instructions and video tutorials, refer to our documentation. Please note that a Firebase Blaze plan is required for utilizing Google Cloud Functions.

Looking forward: Engage or Lose Users

While the recent FCM update renders the use of silent push notifications to accurately track uninstalls ineffective, this update reflects a broader move towards enhancing user experience by preventing engagement with inactive users. Consequently, brands must keep users engaged at regular intervals to avoid them becoming dormant or inactive, especially in the case of high-value businesses like travel and furniture with infrequent transactions. The new FCM policy treats inactivity and uninstalls similarly, making users unreachable after a period of inactivity and potentially leading to uninstalls.

Last updated on June 6, 2024