How To Create An App That’s Here To Stay

The average app loses 80% of its users – but you can do better!

If you want to keep people interested in your app, it’s not about upgrades – it’s all about what happens the very first time they use it.

How many of the apps on your phone do you use every day? Chances are there are plenty of icons on your screen that see little or no traffic. We may have our favourite apps that we can’t do without, but on the whole we’re not very loyal: the average app loses 80% of its users.

This statistic comes from mobile intelligence outfit Quettra: 77% of the DAUs (daily average users) are gone in three days after installing an Android app. In a month, 90% are gone. This bodes poorly for app developers who go into business where the odds are they won’t make a profitable product.

“Users try out a lot of apps, but decide which ones they want to ‘stop using’ within the first 3-7 days,” said Ankit Jain, founder and CEO of Quettra. “For ‘decent’ apps, the majority of users retained for 7 days stick around much longer. The key to success is to get the users hooked during that critical first 3-7 day period.”.

So how do you get people to stick around?

Andrew Chen, the top Silicon Valley investor and advisor, says it’s all about the onboarding process. That means the stuff that happens right after someone has downloaded the app and is setting it up for the first time. The first rule is to make the app simple and intuitive, and the second is to not throw in too many choices. Customisation can be a fine thing, but interested parties can be offered that choice later – the first priority is easing people in.

The same rules apply, says Chen, whether the product is an app, a desktop client or a website. For a social product, encourage people to make friends. Options here include importing people’s email address book, or asking them to list their interests and make suggestions based on the answers. “For an enterprise collaboration product, you might want users to start up a new project and add a couple of coworkers to get them started,” writes Chen. “For a SaaS analytics product, you might want users to put their JS tag on their site, so that you can start collecting data for them and sending digest emails.”.

Digital wallet app ‘Lemon Wallet’ saw a 57% increase in customer retention after streamlining their user onboarding process by asking users to upload a card to the app. This meant people were halfway to building a digital wallet already, hence they were invested. A more complicated case study is Twitter – a social network that’s big by any measure, but whose user retention problems are well-documented. Assuming Chen is right – that it’s all about what happens the first time someone logs in – the problem is that Twitter hasn’t figured out how to steer people towards the kind of experience that makes Twitter so popular.

Directing people towards following famous people and brands misses the point, argued Owen Williams at ‘TNW’: “A trivial improvement for [Twitter] could be to add a step for following people from your city, using the already available location data on the service to find chatty users nearby, but instead Twitter chooses to orient new users towards brands and famous folks. … It’s a real shame and shows how Twitter’s changing to be more about brands than meaningful interactions.”.

Maybe Twitter can afford to lose a good number of users at the first hurdle, but most apps don’t have that same luxury. In any case, there’s a lesson here: if you’re to successfully guide people through the initial sign-on process, make sure you really understand why people like the product, and what kind of experience they’re looking for.

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