The average app loses almost all of its user base after three months. No matter how cool your app looks, the retention rates will drop if the users don’t feel like they’re benefiting. This is where having great onboarding practices can help you to go a step further in your user’s app journey.
You can manage to keep the retention rates stable by welcoming the users with an excellent onboarding experience right from the beginning. Then, when the user base is solid, your growth team can further implement a marketing strategy for higher retention rates, and this to result in higher profits too.
User Retention Can Skyrocket Your Profit
You may wonder why the number of downloads doesn’t necessarily mean success of marketing strategy. It is because even though having new users is always great, it’s easier to communicate with returning visitors than with new ones.
Returning visitors already know your brand. They would try out new features or products that your app provides because they already trust you. If they have a positive experience with your app, users might even recommend it to someone else. Another thing that goes in your favor is that you’ve already interacted with existing users. It’s very likely that you have certain data about them that you can use for re-engagement campaigns.
The Main Reason Why Returning Users Matter a Lot
If this doesn’t still sound convincing enough, here’s what will change your mind: acquiring new users costs five times more than retaining an existing customer. You don’t even need to have a drastic increase in your retention rates to notice the improvements. Just an increase of 5% in retention can increase your profits anywhere from 25%-95%.
Now, this doesn’t mean that acquisition shouldn’t be your priority. It means that you shouldn’t ignore the importance of retention rates in your marketing strategy. Also, you should balance acquisition and retention to bring existing users closer to your app while acquiring new potential users.
What are the best onboarding practices for higher retention rates?
1. Create a Simple and Super Short Onboarding Process
You might feel like your app has plenty of great features and you want to show all of them to your users. As good as this sounds, it might not be the best idea. In fact, according to a Clutch report, 72% of the respondents stated that they expect the onboarding process to last for a minute or even less. The longer your onboarding lasts, the more the users become frustrated.
This means that the first 60 seconds from when the user opens your app are the most important factor to convince them about returning. You’re not leaving a good impression by providing overwhelming information or making the onboarding last long.
Even if the crucial details that you show are text-heavy explanations, it’s very likely that your users won’t follow up. They will feel like they’re spending time on something that could have been done better – and they would be right about that.
So, to avoid making your onboarding a boring experience rather than one that foretells an exciting journey for the user, follow through these very simple principles:
- Tell more with less
- Make the onboarding to last as quick as possible
- Use short and simplified content
In case you want to keep some features locked for the premium users, you can let the users know at the beginning that they have this possibility. However, this marketing strategy can work great for you if you are already a well-known brand. In this case, the users know that if they sign up, they will get great features and content. But, if you’re new on the scene you can consider showing all the content to your users before they sign-up so that they’re convinced that this is worth their time.
You don’t have to worry whether they will sign up or not. If they think your app is worthy of their time, they will sign up for sure. After that, it’s up to you to continue with engaging your users and keep the retention rates high.
2. Show Your App’s Value Right Away to Avoid 21% Drop in Retention Rates
One in five users abandons the app after just one use. This could mean many things, but one aspect you particularly have to consider is whether your onboarding is presenting the app’s core values right from the start.
Expressing your main app’s value as soon as possible is definitely something you want to go in your favor. Positive user experience is what leads to stable user retention rates. The retention really matters when you’re measuring your app’s success through your marketing strategy.
What can help you a lot with user retention here is if your users enable the push notifications. In a user retention study by Localytics, almost half of the users (46%) who have opted-in to push notifications to spend 11+ sessions in the app.
That’s why you have to convince the users during the onboarding process that opting-in for push is going to make their app journey and experience way better. You won’t succeed in this if you fail to present your core values from the start and overwhelm the user with plenty of information.
3. Ask Only for the Essential Data to Prevent Serious Decrease in Retention Rates
The onboarding is an excellent opportunity to ask users politely to share more information about themselves, but if they want to.
In a Pew Research study, 60% of the people said that they refused to install an app once they found out about all the personal information it requires beforehand. That’s why it is very important to ask only for the most essential information and to ask for permission before collecting any of the user’s data too.
Let users know for which purposes, and how their data is going to be processed. It is a legally abiding thing to do and by respecting it, you will also build trust between you and your audience.
You can later ask for certain data so that you can make their app experience more enjoyable and customized. This can be information such as age, gender, location, and preferences.
Remember that if you lose the trust or don’t build it in the early stages of the user’s app journey, it will be very hard to rebuild it. There are tough competitors that can take away your users anytime you give them a chance to.
4. Avoid the “Feature Bloat” with Ongoing Onboarding
If you continuously introduce new features and new content, and you update the existing ones, both at the same time rapidly, you will cause the “feature bloat”. That’s why you have to balance introducing new features and updating old ones. It’s all about making the app usage as simple as possible.
You should gradually guide the users through all the updates so that their learning happens in the right place. It should end with them being satisfied with your offerings, and app in general. This sort of organized movement of the users from one point to another of the learning curve is what we call an ongoing onboarding as part of your marketing strategy.
It is a development process that your team should implement in order to ensure long-term retention. The team is going to do this by continuously educating the users about the value of the app, and this gives them a reason to always come back and use it.
How can you avoid the ‘feature bloat’?
The team can do this by implementing different gamification techniques. But considering that most of the time they are short-term in nature, it is best to implement them in a combination with long-term strategies, such as the personalization.
At this stage of the user’s journey, you might already possess enough information about them, so you can use it to craft personalized messages, both in-app and outside of it.
The personalization is a proven tactic that can significantly increase the transaction rates and the click-through and open-rates of an email. Just by sending out a personalized email you can cut down the churn rates by 45%.
5. Listen to Feedback to Keep 97% of Users Loyal to the App
Many of your users will like to give you feedback about their interaction with the app. What plenty of companies do is ignoring the feedback they’ve received and pretended like it’s not there.
However, your potential users can easily read online reviews about the app, which can affect their decision about whether they should download it. Frustrated users will delete the app, and this in return will lower your retention rates. Now, you may wonder how the feedback can help you in crafting the perfect onboarding process.
The users’ feedback pinpoints to the pain moments that they have within your app. This in return will show you what to improve, and what to highlight or remove in your onboarding process.
Users will be content if you’re willing to make improvements that will provide them with a customized app experience. It’s also good to let them know that right away. Even though the feedback isn’t really a part of the onboarding process, it won’t really matter how great it is if your users keep reading negative reviews about your app. As a result, the users will be eager to stay loyal to your app and continue using it.
Responding to feedback and making the users feel appreciated is what builds trust over time. It should remain as one of the most important aspects of your marketing strategy because they will know that you care about their experience with your product.
This is backed up by an Apptentive survey in which almost all (97%) of the respondents said that they are likely to become loyal to a company that listens and implements their feedback. In return, users will feel motivated to keep on using the app, recommend it and give it positive reviews online.
BONUS: Find the App’s Drop-Offs with Cohort Analysis
Once you go through the practices we’ve recommended above, it’s time to do some testing and analyze your results. This is a significant step that you mustn’t skip. It will give you plenty of insight into how your users are dealing with the app and what needs to be improved. We recommend doing the cohort analysis by breaking down your users into more segments.
The cohort analysis technique is used to see how certain variables change in different groups with different starting conditions. In other words, you break down the users in different segment groups, based on the characteristics they share. Each segment’s starting condition is the time of acquisition and the variable is their activity.
Using a CRM software can help in gathering more insights about the drop-offs. Once you have the data, you can analyze where are the pain points for the users in the app. From our experience, we found these three common scenarios to cause pain points in an app:
- Requesting access too early: If the app asks for access to a certain feature on the phone, such as the camera, they might refuse to do so. This usually happens if you request early in the onboarding process. Asking for access to their phone or other personal information might scare off the users. This in return can make them skip the onboarding. When in this situation, you first need to show the users that they can trust you. This way when you request for the permission, to also explain why you need it and what for.
- Users don’t understand the app: Skipping the onboarding means they won’t understand why a certain feature is important. If this is a feature that is crucial to your app’s functionality, then the users won’t be able to explore it according to your best-case scenario. Eventually, they will either understand and proceed with it or stop using the app. However, from our experience, the latter is the scenario that is most likely to happen.
- The app isn’t intuitive: There might be a stage in the user’s app journey where the flow doesn’t feel very natural to them. The users will have hard times exploring the app if they feel like they’re going back and forth. Having an intuitive app interface is extremely important and should be balanced along with the app’s functionalities.
Function-oriented onboarding is a great tactic to put the focus onto the main functions of the app
The segment breakdown is customized according to different business models and different industries. Using months (the time of acquisition) is usually only done at the beginning. Then, you can focus on other cohorts, such as the channels that were used at the time of sign up, the number of website visits or purchases made, etc.
Tracking retention rates with cohort analysis will give you plenty of data. Later on, you can use it for further experimenting with different triggers and tactics for retaining them. For that reason, we really advise you to go through the cohort analysis. Every single data is important to your marketing strategy.
Without a proper onboarding process, you’re significantly lowering your chances for keeping the retention rates stable and to further convert users into customers. Don’t let your potential users avoid installing your app just because your marketing strategy lacks an effective tactic of onboarding and providing meaningful content to its users.
The practices mentioned above are a good start, but what you really need to do is to continuously test and analyze the results. Experiment with A/B testing and guide the users through the app’s funnel. At the same time provide them with a fun, useful and user-friendly experience.
The results you’ll get from the testing will create a solid ground for conclusions. Furthermore for suggestions on how you can remove a pain point. Once you see the results from the improvements you’ve made, it’s also important to compare the old and the new data. It will give you valuable insight into what can be even more improved.
The route to a highly-effective onboarding isn’t an easy one. But if done the right way, your retention rates are going to positively affect your KPIs and lead you to that big app success you’re working towards.
If you need support with building the perfect mobile app onboarding experience, improving your app's retention rates, or for automating your mobile messaging & user engagement activities, do not hesitate to contact Alite International. We have been working with multiple large organizations in supporting their mobile marketing strategies & their move towards full marketing automation. Send me an email on email@example.com.