10 Strategies to Increase User Retention for Apps

10 Strategies to Increase User Retention for Apps

User retention is one of the biggest challenges for brands of all types, especially mobile apps. There are several reasons for this, including the issue of attracting relevant users, creating the ideal user experience, and taking other steps to maintain engagement. Because of these potential issues, the average retention rate tends to be around 20% for many industries. 

Here you'll learn more about what user retention is, its importance, and some of the best strategies to use for increasing retention.

What Is User Retention?

User retention refers to the ability of a business or organization to keep its existing customers or users engaged with its product or service over time. It involves understanding and addressing the needs and preferences of users, providing a positive user experience, and offering ongoing value to keep them coming back.

Why Is User Retention Important?

User retention is critical for apps because it helps encourage repeat usage and purchases through subscriptions or other transactions.

With good user retention, mobile apps will be more profitable. This is because existing users are easier to sell to compared to new users: According to Semrush, the probability of new customers making a purchase is around 5% to 20%, whereas the probability of selling to existing customers is around 60% to 70%. 

These and other statistics show why you need to invest in user retention as much as user acquisition.

Best Practices to Increase App User Retention

To increase user retention and get the most from your applications, implement the following strategies:

  1. Optimize the User Onboarding Process
  2. Activate New or Idle Features to Improve App Adoption
  3. Collect and Analyze User Data
  4. Personalize the User Experience
  5. Do App Store Optimization (ASO)
  6. Increase Retention With Gamification and Rewards
  7. Use Push Notifications
  8. Use Email Marketing
  9. Use In-App Messaging
  10. Do A/B Tests to Increase Retention

Optimize the User Onboarding Process

One of the keys to boosting user retention is to give users a great first impression. This initial impression defines the relationship that any user will build with your app going forward. 

When optimizing the user onboarding experience, there are some steps you can take to carry new users along, including:

Know Who You're Onboarding

Each app will have a different type of user base that will respond differently to certain onboarding processes. Determine what your users need when onboarding and ensure the onboarding flow adapts to them. You can even segment your users to provide more personalized experiences for each segment.

Track Users' Progress

You can use gamification to improve the onboarding process in the form of a progress bar. As users progress through a tutorial or complete specific onboarding tasks, allow them to follow their progress, encouraging them to keep going.

Improve UX With Tutorial Documents and Videos

You can help users along the onboarding process with accessible tutorial documents and videos. Include these throughout the in-app experience as part of a natural flow or create a resource center within the app that users can access at any time. 

Additionally, you can use app and web Stories to further optimize onboarding flows. Stories use engaging and concise messaging along with images and video to keep users moving along their journey. These Stories can introduce people to your app, highlight certain features, and encourage specific actions within the app to streamline onboarding.

Activate New or Idle Features to Improve App Adoption

Users will be more likely to get attached to your app the more they explore and actively use your app's features. This makes new and idle feature activation a critical part of retention. 

For example, in your onboarding flows, you can ask users about certain interests and what they're looking to get out of your app. Based on users' input, you can direct them to the features that will help them the most. In addition, you can segment users based on the features they haven't used yet that you believe would be relevant. You can then use messaging to encourage those segmented users to activate relevant helpful features.

As soon as you release a new feature, you should also announce it. Use push notifications, in-app messaging, and emails to broadcast the new feature launch and get more people interested.

Collect and Analyze User Data

The best way to increase your user retention rate is to deliver a user experience that people expect and enjoy. This is why apps must constantly focus on user data. The data you need to use will include a combination of first-party, third-party, and zero-party data, which will help you make the most demanded improvements. 

Carefully analyzing all the data you collect will help you define user segments, direct more of your focus toward target audiences, and prioritize any future improvements you need to make. You'll also be able to use this data to create a fully personalized experience for each user, which will go a long way in increasing retention.

Personalize the User Experience

There are millions of apps out there vying for people's attention with generic messaging. With so much saturation, you need to do what you can to stand out as apps battle to grab people's attention within a few critical seconds. Personalization will help you get that attention from users and retain them more effectively than basic, impersonal approaches. 

You can incorporate personalized experiences for users in numerous ways. For instance, user-specific customizations are key in attracting the user's attention and keeping the user in the app. Allow users to create their own personalized experience with the app, including themes, topics, messaging, layouts, recommendations, and other items they want to see. If users have more control over the UX, you'll be able to hold their attention better. 

User-specific customization is one area where Storyly can help. Apps that have Storyly Stories enable users to customize Stories based on their profiles and interests. As a result, users will see the messaging and visuals that resonate with them most effectively, which can significantly help boost user retention.

Do App Store Optimization (ASO)

It's important not to neglect your app store page, as this is crucial for giving people an accurate picture of your app before people actually use it. 

With ASO, you can reach the right users with targeting. This entails optimizing every element of your app store page to connect with users who will find your app the most useful. Be sure to include relevant keywords in your app's title and description, include plenty of accurate screenshots capturing various features, add video demos, and build backlinks. 

If people go into your app knowing what to expect based on your app store page, this will indirectly increase retention. Otherwise, people who download and install your app could feel as though you've misrepresented your app and quickly leave.

Increase Retention With Gamification and Rewards

People connect with games and game-like experiences, which is what makes gamification so effective in retaining users.

Gamification entails using certain game elements to turn a non-gaming experience into something more fun and competitive. 

There are many ways you can integrate gamification into your app's user experience. Some examples of these include the following:


Create some challenges for users who engage with your app. For instance, you can create a list of tasks for users to complete and give them in-app rewards for completing them. You may also be able to set a specific time limit before people are no longer able to complete a challenge and collect rewards, which will entice people to complete the necessary task sooner rather than later.

User Leaderboards and Scoreboards

People often associate leaderboards and scoreboards with gaming apps, but even non-gaming apps can add these to the user experience. One example is an app like Duolingo, which is a language-learning app that ranks users according to the number of points they've received by practicing foreign languages.

Ultimately, there are plenty of ways to use gamification to your advantage and boost retention by offering a more engaging experience.

Use Push Notifications

Push notifications are among the most popular methods for engaging users, and they are still perfectly reliable when used the right way. 

If people haven't used your app within a certain period, push notifications are essential for bringing them back. They're also highly valuable when promoting new features or launching other types of campaigns to drive engagement. 

When using push notifications, the best strategy is to send the right messages at the right time. Determine when your users are most active based on time zones and mobile usage. Also, use personalized notifications when possible to speak more directly to each user. As long as your notifications aren't too frequent to the point of being obnoxious, you'll be able to succeed with this dependable marketing tool. Don't be afraid to make your notifications stand out with emojis in addition to text, either, but don't overdo it.

Use Email Marketing

Another instrumental tool to use for user retention is email marketing, seeing as millions of app users still check their emails regularly.

To start a strong email campaign, build a list of contacts who are actively interested in your app and offerings. You can do so by asking people to subscribe to your email list within your app or on your website. You'll then be able to send these recipients all types of marketing emails, from newsletters detailing updates to your app to personalized product recommendations. Emails are also invaluable in reminding people of abandoned carts in addition to pushing notifications and in-app messages.

Email is generally a great channel to supplement other messages that users might either ignore or fail to see. 

Use In-App Messaging

Engaging users within the app as people regularly use it is also necessary to increase retention. In-app messaging can connect with users currently using your app in multiple ways.

Some examples of in-app messaging include:

Targeted Messages

Based on each user's preferences and usage history, you can send personalized messages of all kinds. These may include product recommendations, feature recommendations, deals, relevant announcements, and more. 

Polls and Surveys

Want to learn more about what your users think of your app and their experience with it? Conduct surveys that ask about how they found you, what they would like to see from your app, and other questions. Surveys can help increase retention by showing users that you value their input and are working to optimize the user experience based on this input.

You can also use polls to ask about people's favorite products, features, and more, which you can use to develop new features, personalize your UX, and more. Like surveys, polls indicate that you care what people have to say while giving them interactive points to keep them engaged.


If you've recently made an update to your app or plan on making an update of some sort, use in-app messaging to send out announcements. Include details about the changes people can expect.

To make the most of your in-app messaging, consider integrating Storyly Stories. Using Stories, you can easily develop nearly any kind of in-app message with effective text and visuals.

Do A/B Tests to Increase Retention

Before officially launching any strategy, it helps to conduct A/B split tests to gauge its effectiveness. A/B testing involves using two versions of a piece of content with a single element changed between them. You can then present both in front of test audiences and see which leads to a better response. 

You can do A/B testing with all of your marketing strategies to see which will yield the best user retention. As an example, you might launch an in-app message with two different visual elements or calls to action. After running both for a period of time, you can measure the results to see which one people interacted with more. Based on these results, you can either modify or drop the message that performs worse and use the one that does well. 


Your app needs high retention rates to succeed. While many app owners and developers focus on user acquisition, retaining users and keeping them loyal will result in more engagement and profitability. As you develop strategies to increase user retention, it's necessary to use the right tools for the job. Today, there are plenty of solutions available to help you build successful retention strategies, one of which is Storyly.

Storyly makes it easy to create and launch Stories that resonate with app users and help maximize retention. Learn more about what Storyly can do for you and get started by signing up today.


Tuana Tuncer

Digital Marketing Specialist at Storyly. She has always been a bookworm since childhood. Knows/writes about mobile marketing. Also enjoys inquiries about the role of technology in sustainable development.

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