App Retention Is Hard. Here's How to Improve It.


This guest post was written by Brittany Fleit, a content marketer at Leanplum.

We all know how difficult customer retention is to measure and improve. This is true across both web-based and mobile-based products. In this post, we break down the strategies you can implement to increase your mobile retention, backed by Leanplum’s new findings.

This year, Leanplum released three data science reports that shed insight on mobile retention trends. Our first report analyzed app send vs. user open times for over 673MM push notifications sent around the world, and learned the best times to send messages in every region. Our second report looked at the factors that affect app engagement, such as Android vs. iOS, the effect of personalized content, and push delivery methods.

Our third report, Retention, Revealed: The Need-to-Know Facts Behind App Retention & ROI, shifts the spotlight to retention. By analyzing hundreds of mobile apps, we broke down the average retention data by day — and then learned how app teams can improve their numbers. 

Increase Mobile User Retention by 7x

In the gif below, you can see that by day one, apps only have a 21% retention rate. By day 30, this number falls to 7.5%. And by day 90, it dwindles to 1.89%.


Those numbers are pretty abysmal — but nothing new. Various retention studies have reported similar numbers for years now. But low retention numbers are just indications that’s something wrong. To find out exactly what’s wrong and why, we’ll have to dig a bit deeper.  

Within our data, we learned that 68% of users are simply dormant in the first week. This means you have opportunities to win dormant users back and convert them into happy, app-lovin’ customers. We also found that if you can improve the day 10 numbers, you can positively impact the retention of a user throughout their first month. 

So … how exactly do you improve retention?

We discovered that sending push notifications as part of your mobile strategy can increase app retention by a whopping 20%. That’s huge!

retention by 20% with push.png

But it gets even better. Implementing push notifications is the easy part. Mobile apps that take things a step further and personalize push notification send times to individual users see retention rates increase by 7x.

The easiest way to personalize push send times: Optimal Time. This machine learning algorithm analyzes individual app usage patterns to automatically send a push at a time when the user is most likely to open. For example, if Katy listens to a music app on her commute to work, the app can send her notifications to check out new artists in the morning. But if Brian listens to music while winding down at night, the app will automatically send him the notification in the evening.

improve retention by 7x.png

For apps, retention goes beyond just having more users — it means protecting your acquisition investment and translating that data to revenue. We looked at a handful of mobile apps and estimated the extra revenue they could make by implementing these mobile marketing strategies.

For example, if Target’s app Cartwheel personalized push notification send times to individuals, the app could earn an extra $209MM more in revenue throughout its lifetime.


But mobile apps of all sizes can gain from implementing push notifications — and personalizing send times. No matter if you have 100 or 1MM DAU, relevant messages can bring users back into your app and generate more revenue.

Download Leanplum's full report, Retention, Revealed: The Need-to-Know Facts Behind App Retention & ROI, to get the strategies that impact app performance. 

Your customer retention rate will thank you. 

Brittany Fleit is a Content Marketer for Leanplum, a fully integrated mobile marketing platform that improves app engagement and ROI.

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