Expert User Retention Wisdom for the Coming Year
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Expert User Retention Wisdom for the Coming Year

It’s around this time of year that we all start to think warm, fuzzy thoughts of gratitude and thankfulness. It’s a time to think and talk about the people you love. And as mobile marketers, that list includes your legion of app users, paying customers, and brand loyalists.

To Retain Customers is to Give Them Meaningful Experiences

Every company says they love their customers and consider them the lifeblood of their organization. Every app aims to keep users for the long term.

Yet how many actually go the extra mile to not just deliver solutions that solve user pains, but also provide them with a meaningful, optimized app experience?

That’s our heart and soul here at CleverTap. We provide mobile marketers with an experience optimization platform – something more than simply delivering analytics or engagement – so that you can build satisfying experiences that keep users coming back for more.

User Retention Advice from the Experts

We’ve talked to some of the world’s leading experts on user experience and user retention, and they all agree that keeping customers for the long term isn’t easy. But it’s worth every effort.

Here’s what they told us.

SC Moatti: User Retention Depends on Knowing Your Users

SC Moatti is Managing Partner at Mighty Capital and former Product Leader at Facebook. These days, she spends time and energy on products that make a difference.

Moatti says: “I invest in companies building products that count, products that transform lives and create value at scale. When people ask me about the essence of mobility, I tell them it’s about understanding a user’s real identity, as well as their context.”

And in order to do that, you need to know your users and understand how your app fits into the larger context – their lives, their friends and family, their identity.

With enough understanding of what matters to your users, you can create meaningful user experiences that will have them returning to your app again and again.

Moatti adds: “We all want to look good, to have mobile products that are beautiful and efficient, and we all want to have a meaningful life. In order to build products that people love, you have to build products that are extensions of ourselves. Consumers expect that the apps they use will grow and learn alongside them.”


SC Moatti quote: ‘Consumers expect that the apps they use will grow and learn alongside them.’

And by learn, we’re talking about apps (and by extension their developers and marketers) that learn from user behavior and from the wealth of data that users give them to provide a service that is relevant, personalized, and fulfills specific human needs. When your app can do that, you’re going to cultivate customers who will stand by you for the long term.

Take Action:
Segment your users into actionable groups so you can tailor your messaging to what you know about each segment. If you use CleverTap, then intent-based segmentation can predict the likely outcome of each of your segments (who is likely to buy, who is likely to uninstall, etc.) so you can interact with them based on their likely action and send messages that are relevant to their context.

Nir Eyal: User Retention is Built on Habits

Nir Eyal is the bestselling author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products and taught at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Design School. He now helps teams design products and apps that are engineered to be more engaging from the get-go.

Eyal says: “If a product doesn’t form a habit, it’s going to be forgotten. Once a habit is formed, the user is no longer considering whether they should open an app — they check the app every day, automatically, without thinking much about it.”


If a product doesn't form a habit, it's going to be forgotten. ~ Nir Eyal. Click To Tweet

And building habituality into your app entails knowing what your users are looking for. But the time frame is tight. Often you only have 3 days before losing 77% of your users.

Eyal adds: “If your product doesn’t engage people within a week’s time or less, it’s going to be very, very difficult to build a habit around it.”

Take Action:
Use Eyal’s strategy for building habits into any product. It’s called the Hook model. Basically, the hook of your app should have these 4 parts:

  • Trigger: The external or internal prompt that makes someone want to complete an action in your app
  • Action: The action a user needs to complete to get a reward
  • Reward: The variable rewards that motivate a user to keep completing the action
  • Investment: The things a user invests into your app (time, money, personal data, effort, etc), which make it harder to uninstall, and which lead to the next trigger


Nir Eyal's Hook model for creating habituality in your product

Hila Qu: User Retention Entails User Experience Optimization

Hila Qu, VP of Experiments & Retention at Acorns and former Product Manager of Growth at GrowthHackers.com, is no stranger to the scientific method. As a marketer with both a bachelor and master’s degree in biology, Qu now performs experiments using marketing channels or in-product features.

She tells us: “To a certain degree, new users can be bought by spending money on advertising, but you can’t use money to persuade users to stay.”

To that end, she tests retention channels such as email and push notifications, or tweaks the product to ensure users are led toward retention with a minimum of friction.

Qu adds: “We try to understand the entire user flow after acquisition, so that we can figure out the roadblocks users are facing. We want to learn which barriers we can remove so that users can achieve their goals as quickly as possible.”

“People still try to guess what is going to work best,” says Qu. “But it’s so easy to run a test on different marketing channels, or within your product.”


Hila Qu quote: ‘User retention is the ultimate measure of whether everything — your mobile product, messaging, and overall experience — is working.’

Take Action:
Use the scientific method to define the problem plaguing you, to generate a hypothesis on why it happens, to test this hypothesis, and then examine results. Improving user retention is not a single problem easily solved, it’s an ongoing, continuous process of improvement and optimization.

Andy Carvell: User Retention Depends on Engagement

Andy Carvell is co-founder and partner at Phiture Mobile Growth Consultancy and creator of The Mobile Growth Stack. He works with companies all around the world, helping them apply the mobile growth stack and take a strategic approach to growth.

Not every app demands to be used every day. Some apps, like travel apps or delivery apps, are only launched when needed. But your job as a mobile marketer is to keep users aware that your app exists, and that they installed it and can use it any time.

Carvell says: “This is a way to get existing, engaged users more engaged. It has a huge effect in terms of new user retention, as well. At SoundCloud, we increased retention by 5% because we got our users into a loop of engagement that was tailored to their interests.”

This is where in-app notifications, and push notifications come in handy. You can send users content specific to their tastes and keep them engaged until they need to launch your app.

Take Action:
Create content that you can send to users based on their interests and preferences. Use CleverTap’s Triggered & Scheduled Campaigns to virtually tap them on the shoulder and deliver content that’s relevant to them.

Read More User Retention Advice and Strategies

We put together a highly visual pocket reference on user retention. Grab it here:

The User Retention Pocket Guide

Then read the full posts for each of the interviewees above:

Mastering Mobile App Engagement & Retention

Mastering Mobile App Engagement & Retention

Explore the various lifecycle stages of a mobile app user and learn engagement (and re-engagement) strategies via push notifications, deep linking, in-app messaging, and more.

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