Mobile app users are fickle people. It is very common for people to download an app, use it once, and never return. In general, 75% of users will stop using an app within the first 3 months. People leave apps for different reasons: poor execution, annoying ads, a misleading app description, or boredom. The list of reasons could go on and on. But a big reason that users churn is because the app failed to create a relationship with its users. Without a relationship, the user does not feel compelled to return to the app. They have no brand loyalty.
Think about where you buy your food. In the US, most people have easy access to several different grocery stores but often shop at the same store over and over. When you go in that store, you trust that they will have the products you are looking for. You trust that the prices will be reasonable. You trust that the employees will accurately ring up your bill. The recurring word here is trust. Because you trust the store, you are loyal to them.
The key to retaining users is to gain their trust. They need to trust that you listen to their concerns. They need to trust that you will make the best product possible. They need to trust that the app will function in a way that provides them value. So how do you build trust with your users? Listen, Communicate and Encourage.
Apps are not one-way streets. As an app owner, the product you made is your vision, but it might not fit with your user’s vision of the product. So how do you find what your user’s vision is? Ask them.
Add an easy way for users to submit their feedback to you, like an email form or an in-app feedback system. Relying on app store reviews as your feedback channel is a bad idea. Even though app stores allow you to reply to user reviews, that is not a great way to have a continual conversation with your users. Plus, having negative feedback on the app store is an easy way to decrease trust for potential new users.
A good listener is one who is slow to speak. Let your users speak their minds. Yes, often user feedback can be harsh and it is hard to hear someone rip apart all your hard work. But constructive criticism is a great way to learn your user’s pain points. If multiple people mention the same thing, then that is an area you need to address.
You can also indirectly listen to your users through analytics. In retail stores, customers vote with their wallets. In apps, customers vote with their clicks. By looking at your app analytics, you can see how users are using your app. Are they clicking through your app and getting stuck? Are they confused on where certain content lives within your app? Is your navigation not intuitive? These are all ways to listen to your users without them having to say a word.
Nobody likes one-sided conversations. That’s like talking to a wall. Don’t let your app be a wall. When a user sends you feedback, respond to them. Even if you can’t answer their question right then or they ask for a feature that won’t be developed for months, let your user know that you heard what they said.
Many help desk programs automatically send a response email when you submit a new trouble ticket. That email usually says something like “We received your message and will respond within 24 hours.” Personally, I don’t like these. They do serve a purpose to show that your message was submitted, but as a customer, I want my message to be received by a human, not a robot.
How many times have you called up a telephone support line and had to wade through 5 minutes of “press 1 for X or press 2 for Y”. I normally just start pressing 0 because I want to talk to a human operator, not a robot menu. I want to hear the empathy from a fellow human about my problem.
When a user submits feedback to your app, have a human write them back. Let the customer know that you care about their problem and want to make it better. Even if their question is very basic and the answer is extremely clear to you, it obviously has caused them some frustration.
User feedback isn’t the only way to communicate with your users. In-app messages are a great way to highlight recent changes to your app, or to wish your user a happy holiday, or just to add a more human feel to your app. The goal is to build a relationship.
In the real world, sometimes your friend calls you first; sometimes you call your friend first. Either way, you are having a conversation with each other and increasing the strength of your relationship. Just don’t be that annoying friend that calls ten times a day. You need to use your judgment and determine how often you should message your customers so that it increases their trust without making them annoyed at you.
And most of all, in all your communications, be honest. Honesty is one of the quickest ways to gain user trust. If your app messed up and erased all your users data or the user was overcharged for an item, do your best to correct the situation and then own up to the problem.
No app is used 24 hours a day. So there will be times when your app is not in use. Nudging your users back into your app with push notifications is a great way to increase retention. But just like in-app messages, nudging too often or with the wrong message will just make your users angry.
Think about when you should send push notifications. If your app has users all over the world, sending a blast push notification at 10am US Eastern time means that users in Japan will get the message at midnight. If the message doesn’t make your Japanese users angry because you woke them up, they may just ignore the message all together when they check their phones first thing in the morning. An easy way to address this problem is to send the message at the last time they used your app. So if a user opens up your app at 5pm local time, make sure they get the push notification at 5pm local time. This will increase the chances that they interact with that notification.
Many users have short memories and often don’t remember what they did yesterday. They may have already forgotten that they downloaded your app yesterday. In this case, you can send out a friendly reminder 24 hours after they downloaded your app. The message doesn’t have to be anything complicated, just a little something to jog their memory about your app.
Maybe your app rewards users for reaching a certain level or achievement. A few hours after achieving that goal, send them a short congratulatory message. It can be a short message to show that you are happy for them and encouraging them to reach the next level. This goes back to the human touch aspect. Even if an automated process sends your messages, make them feel like a real live human, not a chatbot, has sent them.
All businesses strive to create loyal customers. Trust doesn’t happen overnight, but instead happens through lots of small interactions. Everything you do in your app should be about making your customer feel like you have their best interest in mind. As independent app developers ourselves, we created User Hook to help us reach our customers and gain their trust. If you want to increase your user retention, give it a try.