3 Ways to Increase Your App’s Day 1 Retention

Experienced mobile publishers know that strong retention is invaluable.

Whether it’s the same game played during a daily commute or a weekly check-in on the latest ecommerce products, a “sticky” app is one that’s halfway to success. If a material segment of users are opening your app daily, or even multiple times per hour, it’s likely you’ve got a winner on your hands. It’s the kind of product that can lead to big things for your portfolio and your company as a whole.

But before delivering disruptive engagement numbers, publishers need to start small. Improving day 1 retention is the first step towards building a loyal and profitable user base, but even that can prove challenging. Churn is most likely during the first few moments of a user’s first session. They open the app, make a few snap judgements, and can quickly decide that it’s simply not for them. Now that almost 94% of all apps are free to download, users have very little to lose by taking a cavalier approach to app exploration.

Successful publishers recognize that even once a user has downloaded, installed, and opened their app, it doesn’t mean they’ve earned their business. The next challenge is keeping customers around long enough to convert. To accomplish this, publishers need to introduce design elements that motivate users to return to the app. We suggest the following.


Reward Tutorial Completion

Educated users are easier to retain. Do everything you can to incentivize users to complete your onboarding experience and you’ll have an easier time getting them back. This can be difficult, especially when your ability to motivate users often depends on the very understanding you’re trying to facilitate. The fact that publishers also know very little about a user’s behavioral patterns at this point introduces another layer of difficulty.

Your best bet is to shoot for the middle. If yours is an ecommerce app, offer a material discount for a user’s first order upon completion of your onboarding experience. Mobile game publishers can leverage a new user’s limited understanding of their game mechanics to entice them with either premium currency or in-game assets. Keep in mind that these are only compelling insofar as users understand their value. Be sure that they’re relevant to a facet of your app that you’ve already tutorialized.


Request Push Permissions Appropriately

The ability to contact your users via push notification is an obvious advantage when trying to boost day 1 retention. Too many publishers, however, rush to request the necessary permissions. Many decide that the start of a user’s first session is the ideal time, the logic being that it maximizes the number of requests issued and should therefore increase overall opt-in rates. Sophisticated publishers have found this to be ineffective. While app category plays a big role in getting users to agree to receive notifications, timing and education are also major factors.

Ensuring that your users know what to expect from your push notifications can have a huge impact on opt-in rates. In a sponsored post with TechCrunch, Brenden Mulligan explains how taking a more measured approach improved opt-in rates for his mobile photo-sharing app, Cluster. “When educating the user about Cluster before asking for notifications access, acceptance increased from less than 40 percent to 66 percent.”

Though it may mean adding a few extra steps to your onboarding, the resulting engagement is more than worth it. Rather than making the request on startup, let users spend some time getting to know your app’s core functionality. Once they have a sufficient grasp of what you’re offering, preface the permission request with a dialogue explaining how you intend to use push notifications to enhance their experience.


Make An Appointment

Once users have made it through your onboarding process, incentivize them to revisit the app roughly 24 hours later. For mobile game publishers, in-game reward timers are an excellent way to motivate scheduled gameplay. For ecommerce or media applications, daily deals and welcome discounts are both effective in getting users back into your app a day later. Even if your core engagement loop makes use of short-term timers to begin with, start your users off with a higher value reward that brings them back a day later, when you can be reasonably certain that they’re available.

When time is up, don’t leave their return to chance. Leverage the push permissions you’ve secured to deliver a reminder that their reward is available. This is a critical communication, so think carefully about its contents. Make your word and image choices clearly recall the value communicated during the first session. Be sure to include all relevant details, including any rewards and/or discounts they’ll receive upon returning to the app.

The battle for the first 24 hours of attention can be the hardest a publisher ever faces. Users have minimal investment and know very little about your app’s core offering. It’s up to resourceful marketers to make the most of a freshly onboarded user’s experience. Keep these best-practices top of mind, and you’ll be on your way to a well-retained and valuable user base.

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