4 App Features to Keep Users Engaged

6 min read
Frank L.
Frank L.
Published July 29, 2022

Did you know that 71% of app users churn in the first ninety days after downloading an app? Keeping users engaged can be tough, especially when time is precious and users are impatient to resolve actions quickly. Yet, making the effort to include features for user engagement is important for retention.

There are certain app features that offer users a higher ability for interaction and engagement within apps. Despite the challenge of high user churn, certain core features are proven to keep people engaged.

1. Have Some Fun With Gamification

“Gamification” is applicable to apps outside the realm of games — it’s the incorporation of game-style reward structures to encourage users to perform repeat app behaviors. It can come in the form of trophies, levels, or even in-app competitions to heighten the sense of achievement for users whilst they fulfill actions within the app.

The intrinsic and extrinsic motivation that games offer fulfills the need to accomplish different levels of rewards and, by doing so, receive instant gratification. Intrinsic motivation fuels the user with feelings of satisfaction from achieving success using an app’s features, for example, tracking a run and reviewing your statistics afterward. On the other hand, extrinsic motivation is felt from external factors such as badges and trophies awarded after completing a game or level.

Duolingo, an app to learn languages, introduced a badge system that saw daily activity increase by 2.4% and increased in-app sales by 13%. With the addition of badges, users felt a heightened sense of accomplishment that unlocked new learning opportunities — a reward for their continuous development.

Gamification can increase engagement through personal competition, as well as competing against other users. In both cases, the ability to see progress and unlock new app features makes an impact and leaves users curious. The continuous reward of app actions and progress fuels return behaviors in users.

Introducing gamification to your app can be in the form of rewards for game-like features, such as filling in a crossword in record time or an acknowledgment that a user has been using an app for a daily streak. Or, rewards can come as progress badges for completing onboarding profiles or the first comment left on a photo. In the end, each form of app action taken by a user can be rewarded throughout the user journey. The important thing to keep in mind is to keep a recurring theme of rewards throughout the app. By doing so, users feel like they are on a constant journey.

2. Keep it Social With Activity Feeds

Our study found that app engagement increased by 66% when activity feeds were added to apps.

Activity feeds display information from an online community in the form of posts, comments, likes, and post shares. They help user engagement by satisfying two innate human needs: social proof and gratification. Activity feeds reassure users with reviews and opinions that provide helpful insight and social proof. In truth, app users perceive fellow user reviews as honest and genuine. This trusted and organic communication loop improves the interaction of feedback, comments, and likes. In turn, this creates a snowball effect of engagement between users and the platform.

A company that has done a great job with activity feeds is Strava. The activity app tracks the physical activity of runners and cyclists using GPS. The app allows users to record their activity and track their performance statistics. However, the app includes a clever social twist and allows users to share accomplishments with friends or local communities, enter into competitions, and motivate one another.

Studies show users are 2.7 times more likely to remain on an app due to the sense of community and belonging. Social support and recognition are another way for users to feel heard and valued. When users feel supported, activity feeds are an effective platform to facilitate interaction and keep users engaging in a conversation.

For example, ThegameHERS is an app that provides an inclusive and safe online environment to share information, tips, and support for women and femme-identifying gamers. The activity feed empowers women to use their voices, engage in conversation, and support one another.

To include an activity feed in your app, start with your brand values and identity. The activity feed will attract like-minded people and create a community around your company’s core values. Then, consider adding an app interface that is easy to use, simple for interaction, and allows users to share app accomplishments publicly.

3. Communicate Directly With Users With Chat API

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What happens when a user can’t find what they need in an app? They go elsewhere.

The solution to fixing problems quickly is through Chat APIs. A Chat API (Application Programming Interface) provides server infrastructure to embed chat messaging inside an app. The API provides one-to-one or group messaging, which allows an app to integrate and scale back-end chat services.

As chat APIs are found inside the applications ecosystem, they connect users with support directly in the app. They allow users to receive relevant app support and subscription information instantly and access communication channels without having to look for solutions elsewhere, which saves time and headaches for users.

For example, Dealer-FX increased its user retention by 90% after integrating Stream’s chat API. Dealer-FX is an automotive software company that connects dealerships with vehicle owners. With the use of Chat API infrastructure, communication between the two parties was improved by quickly connecting users to a solution. In this case, vehicle owners were able to locate, set up repairs, and communicate with dealerships and important stakeholders. Moreover, as the app is able to store meta-data from the car’s repair history, when a client needs new tires, a technician may realize they also require replacement brakes. Consequently, a group chat is generated around a dealership with every party involved.

The end goal for users is to access a solution to their problem with as few friction points as possible. Look into your customer analytics and feedback surveys and gather insight into areas for app improvement. If your app has complicated features that require assistance, make sure the option for support is accessible quickly in the stage users normally hesitate. The added support a simple chat feature can offer greatly improves the app experience.

4. Introduce Push Notifications That Are Actually Helpful

Push notifications grab attention and save time for users. Personalized push notifications alert users about relevant and time-sensitive matters that are actionable through the app.

Improve engagement with push notifications that are actually helpful. For example, if a user is close to a physical store where they have a loyalty card, send a push notification about a time-sensitive offer, and use client profile data and preferences to alert users about pressing news and updates. For example, Starbucks, sends push notifications with relevant offers when one of their loyalty clients is in close proximity to a Starbucks location.

When messages are sent with dynamic content, meaning ads that change depending on past user preference and behavior, user retention can improve between 61% to 74% in the first 28 days. Sending out messages that are helpful to users rather than generic offers personalizes the app experience for users.

For example, UberEats will use customer data for push notifications and send special meal offers for restaurants you have recently ordered from and given good ratings to. Not only does UberEats know about your meal and review, but the timing of notifications can also play a big part. Say an app knows you often order a pizza on Thursday at 8 pm. It could send prompts when you are most likely considering ordering a meal.

Another way to improve engagement with push notifications is to offer widget information for users. For example, a calendar app may provide a widget that shows the important information for that day displayed on the home screen. The widget information found on the home screen prompts users to click to learn more about the daily notification.

Bonus tip: CleverTap found that simply adding emojis to push notifications can increase CTRs by up to 70%. So get creative and add fun to your notifications with some funky emojis!

Personalize Communication to Improve Engagement Even More

Personalizing an app to the user's goals and aspirations is the key to improving engagement. This occurs when a tailored user experience matches individual customer needs instead of a generic user journey. By doing so, apps have the ability to create meaningful connections that strengthen user engagement.

The more personal an app becomes, the more engagement it will receive. Apps can personalize support messages and notifications and even customize onboarding. Each feature that is personalized saves time, delights users, and improves engagement.

For example, in the onboarding stage, start by asking which trends, groups, or channels a user might like to follow or what features they’re most interested in. By doing so, users are provided with immediate information and a tailored activity feed relevant to their interests.

Personalization should be used for all forms of communication with a client, from support messages to push notifications. Each channel of communication and distribution must rely on the user’s data in order to delight the user and engage in repeat behavior. If you're interested in using client data to improve user engagement, learn how Stream offers chat APIs and activity feeds that cater to your app development goals.

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