We all want to create an app people love to use, and it’s really heartbreaking when you build something and no one cares about it.
The biggest challenge is not building your app and getting new users. The challenge is to keep them engaged and coming back. This is why we should start with user engagement and retention.
It doesn’t make sense to pour water into a leaking bucket, right?
We know super successful games, such as Angry Birds or Candy Crush, that people barely can put down.
But if you’re not in the game business, how can you make your app more engaging?
In this post, we created a guide that will help you create an app (no matter if it’s mobile or web app) that’s engaging and keeps people coming back.
We follow Nir Eyal’s hook model, stuffed with actionable tips you can use right away.
When we’re sick, we crave a solution that eases the pain. We’re looking for a painkiller.
But the situation is absolutely different when it comes to vitamins. Vitamins are nice to have to keep your body balanced, but they are not really something people crave.
Painkillers are must-haves; vitamins are nice-to-haves.
The question is whether your app is a painkiller or a vitamin. And this makes all the difference.
As a member of a failed startup and after having seen many fail, trust me—I know what I’m talking about.
Your app needs to be useful and provide value to your target audience, so they can’t live without it.
You can have the best retention strategy, but without a great app that solves real problems, it’s worth nothing. The sad truth is that only 9% of users will stay on an app if it doesn’t satisfy their needs.
Here is how to get closer to what users are actually looking for:
If your app is just an idea, conduct customer development interviews with the target audience. Make sure to ask the right questions (to avoid leading their answers). You need to figure out the biggest challenges your users face and learn more if they’re actively searching for solutions. To make your questionnaire bulletproof, follow the mom test.
If your app is already out, you need to figure out how valuable your current users find your app. Here is how to do it:
Product/market fit survey (if 40% of people say very disappointed, you have a product-market fit.
Net promoter score (How likely would you recommend <your product> to your friend?). People should pick a number from a 1 to 10 scale, where 10 is the strongest positive recommendation.
Onboarding is about retention, not acquisition. - ConversionXL
A good first impression starts with onboarding. Onboarding is the process when your app is introduced to the new users and it also determines the later engagement of your app. With onboarding you can have 3 goals:
But before you jump right into designing your onboarding process, make sure to consider the following questions provided by ConversionXL:
Once the core benefits are well defined, you need to make sure to introduce them in the simplest way possible. The need and complexity of onboarding depends on the complexity of your app.
But the thing is there is no perfect onboarding process. One that worked for one app probably won’t work for you. Yikes.
So what can we do?
Here are some general rules and practices you should keep in mind when designing your onboarding process:
User onboarding tools:
Answering the questions and keeping in mind the best practices mentioned above can gradually improve your onboarding process and avoid losing a ton of new users. But you still have to work on keeping these users around.
This is where Nir’s framework comes in the picture.
In his book Hook, Nir Eyal came up with a framework that helps create habit-forming products.
This part of the post is based on Nir’s findings, stuffed with examples and actionable tips. The model is made up of 4 steps. Nailing this process means you have a sticky app that keeps users coming back for more.
First impression is often the last impression as this image shows below.
A fair proportion of users abandon applications after the first visit and never come back. 67% of customer churn could be avoided if the business resolved the customer’s issue during their first interaction.
In fact, acquiring a new customer is anywhere from5 to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one.
That’s a lot.
Engagement and retention are more important than acquisition; once a user is on board you need to do everything to keep them. Both metrics determine how sticky your app is: how often users come back and what they do in the app.
That’s why it’s so important to build some triggers into your app that keep users coming back for more and staying longer.
A trigger is when something entices your users to get back and take an action in your app. These triggers can be:
The question is what triggers can you apply? (In the following sections, we focus on external triggers).
For increasing retention:
For increasing engagement:
There are three important things that should be kept in mind:
After a successful trigger, the user needs to take an action. This is the minimum interaction to get reward. The most crucial thing here is to make the action as quick and effortless as you possibly can.
What is the minimum action the user can take in anticipation of a reward?
Here are some action examples:
Finding the minimum action takes time and many experiments. I recommend building analytics into your app to bring a data-driven approach when figuring out what works. Here are some tools:
The reward is the why and the objective for the user.
These rewards can be grouped into three categories:
IMPORTANT: Build variable rewards to scratch the user’s itch, but leave them wanting more.
The way you incentivize your users depends on the nature of your app and it’s directly connected to your business model.
For example, if your app offers in-app purchases, you should focus on using special offers, discounts. For a free app, emphasize usage-based rewards (to keep them longer and show them more ads).
Once the user gets his reward, the next step is to get the user to invest, setting themselves up for the next trigger, storing value, and creating preference. This is where the user invests for future benefits/rewards mentioned above.
This investment can be money, time, effort, personal data, emotional commitment.
How do users load the next trigger, store value, and create preference by investing effort into your product?
Way before you start coding your app, the first thing you should make sure is that your app actually provides value to the target audience and figure out how to keep these users engaged for long. Since getting a new user is 5-25 times more expensive than re-engaged with an existing one this is where you should start the process. Pouring water into a leaking bucket doesn’t make any sense.
About the author:
Tamas Torok is a marketer, helping tech companies to grow. He currently leads the marketing operations at Coding Sans and focuses on crafting high-quality, research-based content for engineering leaders. He started publishing the State of Software Development report and supports the growth of the Level-up Engineering podcast, dedicated to engineering leaders.