Whether ordering a pizza on a rainy evening, learning the basics of a language before your next vacation, or shopping for a new winter coat, people spend one third of their waking hours looking through apps. There are millions of apps across Google Play and the App Store, but on average every one in two apps is uninstalled within the first month after download.

With these stats, it’s no surprise that mobile app teams find it increasingly difficult to keep their users’ attention. Battling with a low engagement rate is one of the bigger challenges within the mobile app industry today. There are many different techniques and channels to use that encompass the entire customer journey, however, one of the most effective ways to keep users hooked is through user engagement.

Tracking the right metrics can help you figure out which users are most likely to respond to your prompts, and which users are dropping off at certain stages and need more specific messaging to encourage them to return.

These engagement metrics measure user behavior, namely, the frequency of interaction over a period of time. DAU and MAU measure the numbers of users who engage with your product or service over a specific period of time.

Communicate with your most active users

💌 If you see the users that have been active every day for 11 straight days, and the other data correlates with high engagement, these might be the customers having a great experience with your app. Ask them for a public review, and you might be able to capture happy customers at the right time and place.

🏃 Likewise, you can pull back those users who haven’t been to your app for a while. Your low-engaged users can receive emails and push notifications about discounts on products similar to the ones they have been interested in.

🤩 To interact with the users that open your app regularly, in-app messages are a great channel. They don’t have to be intrusive to the user experience nor hard to build. Branded pop-ups like this one from Pushwoosh can actually add to the user experience. For instance, via in-app messages, you can deliver exclusive discounts that users might not see elsewhere. This way, you can turn your app into an experience that users can’t afford to miss.

Active users are an indicator of how sticky your app is. You can segment users into groups to understand which demographics are using your app the most and then communicate different messaging depending on the segments.

Speaking of stickiness, what does it mean to have a sticky app? A sticky app is one that users feel they need to have in their day-to-day lives. A sticky app has a loyal following, low user churn, and high engagement. Stickiness focuses on the transactional value in your product and is usually caused by a unique and effortless user experience. For example, using a fintech app to pay bills, or ordering food in a delivery app is a smooth and straightforward experience.

For example, if you have 500 monthly active users, out of which 50 interact with the product every day, then the stickiness of your product is 10%. According to Sequoia Capital, the standard DAU/MAU is between 10–20%, very few companies achieve 50%.

Tracking this metric gives you an idea of how valuable your app is to users. It can help predict the potential revenue over time and gives product teams a good idea of which features might need iterating.

Improve your app stickiness

From our experience at UXCam, all sticky apps have a few things in common:

  • Inclusivity and FOMO
  • Data-driven
  • Seamless design
  • Problem solving

Timely communication with your user can help increase your stickiness ratio and make users feel that sense of inclusivity and FOMO. Think about what drives users to come back, whether it’s through push notifications, emails or SMS.

This timescale runs from the moment a user opens your app to when they close it. Knowing how long users engage within your app can help when deciding at which point in the user journey you want to send your in-app messages.

Should you pursue higher or lower average session length?

Even though at face value it seems as if the longer the session length the better, this actually depends on the type of product you’re offering:

🎭 Entertainment and social media apps look to increase their average session duration as it indicates captivating user experience and drives app monetization;

📉 Analytics apps, however, might see longer session times as a reflection of a bad user interface or confusing user journeys.

Knowing which are the most popular or least popular areas of your app (besides the homepage) will give you a better sense of navigation flow and user journey. If you know that a certain segment of customers are looking mostly at the ‘winter coats’ section of your e-commerce app, you know that it will be more effective to send those specific users information about a price drop or new products within that category, either as an in-app message or as a push notification.

Your app retention rate is the percentage of users who continue engaging with an app over time. While retention rate alone can’t tell you when to send in-app messages, it can be an indicator that you need to re-engage users. In a recent report, 58% of online buyers say personalized experiences are important when making purchases from a company.

Increase your app retention with engaging communications

Push notifications can bring users back to the app, especially if they’re conversational and eye-catching. A gaming company, Beach Bum, uses Pushwoosh to send push notifications with emojis and custom dice sounds, making it impossible to ignore the message.

Knowing where users are dropping off can help with your engagement strategy. If you notice that users are dropping off at a certain stage in the app, you can send them messages to bring them back. To see your drop-offs, set up funnels for your path of conversion.

Creating conversion funnels can help you understand how many of your users move from one step to another. If you see that there is a large percentage of drop-offs between “app launch” and “sign in”, you can send those users an email reminding them to complete onboarding. Additionally, you can look deeper into conversion analytics to see what other UI issues your users are facing.

Set drop-offs to trigger your communication

Knowing which users didn’t complete a sign-in can help personalize your engagement. You can send an email like ‘You’re one step away from completing your registration” and prompt them to return to the app.

Having a customizable dashboard will be a time saver in tracking metrics. Set up templates or tailor your own dashboard to see metrics like monthly and daily user trends, average time spent in the app, filter for your most engaged users, monthly new users, time spent per screen, conversions by screen, UI freezes, and screens with the most rage taps.

Now that you know which metrics to track to inform your user engagement strategy, you may wonder: how can you improve those stats? App messaging can help.

Messages sent at the right time, to the right audience can encourage users to open your app and perform a target action like purchasing that pair of boots they’ve been eyeing, or uploading a profile photo of their four-legged friend on a dog walking app.

Let’s look deeper at some different types of messaging and when they are best used:

In-app messaging

In-app messages appear as static banners or interactive pop ups when the app is open. The goal of in-app messaging is to strengthen engagement and retention of those users who are already active in the app. In-app messages are the most effective in these scenarios:

  • During onboarding - you can use in-app messaging to show the steps that users need to take to fully set up their account, take their first activation action and keep using your app.
  • Promos - in-app messaging can be used to communicate any sales or promotions that are going on. From an individual in-app message, you can direct customers to a dedicated product category page where all items are discounted, or let them know that a product they have ‘favorited’ previously is now on sale.
  • New features - can be communicated through in-app messaging. This way, you can drive feature adoption, not only user engagement. Maybe you have solved a pain point for a lot of users and you’d like to highlight that in-app. Some apps have a set of beta users, and in-app messaging can be targeted at them specifically so that they are the first to try a new feature.

Push notifications

Push notifications are best at bringing users back to the app when they don’t have it open. Pushes can improve your app user engagement if you use them in the following scenarios:

  • Reward loyalty and previous engagement - share exclusive price drops directly to the customers that expressed interest in specific products.
  • Reminders - can be used in communication from Day 1 to let users know that a part of their onboarding is incomplete or a registration process is not finished. Later in the user journey, reminders can trigger customers to finish their purchase, upgrade, or simply get back to a pending task in the app.
  • Reward progress - push notifications can make part of a gamification strategy. The best-known example is Duolingo that nudges users to keep using the app daily to keep their high score spot on the leaderboard.

Message Inbox

Also known as a messaging center, this channel is great for saving marketing messages in a dedicated section of the app. For example, time-sensitive discounts can be stored in the message inbox until expired or used.


Surprisingly for many mobile apps, email marketing can be very effective in engaging and retaining app users. A recent study showed that emails sent within the e-commerce space, aimed at users who had abandoned their carts, had a conversion rate of almost 34%. If you’re not using email marketing, you’re missing out on an opportunity to engage and nurture your loyal customers.

Let user engagement metrics guide your communication strategy

It’s important to measure your user engagement metrics so that you can properly target segmented users when planning your app messaging strategy. Without segmentation, you will either have to send push notifications and in-app messages to all your active users, or you’ll be blindly guessing the demographics and use cases, which most likely won’t contribute to your app growth or reduce churn.

Metrics can help you figure out which users are most likely to further engage with your app and respond to your prompts, and which users are dropping off at some stages and need more specific messaging to encourage them to come back. Understanding engagement metrics helps you understand the motives and behaviors of your audience. Subsequently, it helps to personalize your interactions with customers.

If you’re interested in engaging and retaining your app users throughout the lifecycle, get in touch with Pushwoosh Team.