7 Ways to Increase App Engagement


Optimizing app engagement is key to more retention, better user satisfaction, and lower acquisition costs.

Improve App Engagement

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Keeping users engaged is a critical challenge for many mobile apps. According to research by Upland, 25% of users stop using an app after just one day.

It’s not enough to focus on driving the most users to your mobile app. Without an app engagement strategy, users will have no reason to come back to your product and churn.

High app engagement means more user retention, which increases your bottom line. Here are the best seven ways to keep your app users hungry for more:

1. Send In-App Messages

In-app messages are pop-ups that catch the user’s attention and encourage them to take a desired action or provide vital communications (like updates).

Many tools allow you to send personalized in-app messages as part of your app experience. These include software such as OneSignal and Airship. Here are scenarios where in-app messages can improve app engagement:

Collect User Feedback

Sixty-six percent of customers want companies to understand their needs. You can understand customer needs by sending a survey via in-app messaging to collect their feedback.

Improve Onboarding

A good app onboarding experience will help retain users. Improve onboarding with in-app prompts that explain how your app works and key features and benefits.

Announce New Product Features

You can send pop-up messages on any exciting features that are going to improve their app experience and invite them to try them out.

Improving app engagement with in-app messages isn’t limited to these three scenarios. To learn more, here’s our previous article on in-app messaging. We cover other ways in-app messages can be useful, along with examples from top companies.

2. Personalize Push Notifications

To boost app engagement, personalize notifications so they feel relevant to the user. According to Nick Ziech-Lopez, Chief Marketing Officer at Enablix, push notifications that aren’t personal make the user want to block them:

“Push notifications give brands an incredible opportunity to use all of the data [...] that users have volunteered to share with them in order to offer personalized messages that encourage interaction,” says Lopez in an interview with Phrasee. “However, so many brands are consistently [...] not using that information to send the best messages they can, and blasting bland marketing campaigns that actually encourage users to turn off push notifications.”

The best way to personalize push notifications is to dive into previous user behavior. For example, Swarm is a mobile app that allows users to share the places they’re going to with their friends. In the example below, the user receives the following notification when a friend near them checks into a new location:


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The user can then like or comment on the push notification without jumping in the app itself.

Another way to personalize push notifications is through geolocation. In this example, McDonald’s targets users in Toronto after the Raptors basketball team just won a game. To celebrate the victory, they encourage the user to get some free fries:

McDonalds App Engagement

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To send better, personalized push notifications, you can use a tool like Leanplum. It allows you to leverage audience data to send the right message to users and run A/B tests to see which type of push notification performs the best.

3. Drive Users to Your App’s “Aha” Moment

Your “aha” moment is when the user starts to see the value of your app and how it solves their challenges or helps meet their goals. “This activation moment,” says Encharge co-founder Kalo Yankulov, in an article for his company, “is the difference between the users that churn and the ones that become loyal customers of the product.”

That’s why it’s vital to drive users to their “aha” moment as soon as possible to maximize app engagement. Here’s how to do it:

Identify What Your “Aha” Moment Is

To identify your mobile app’s “aha” moment, you must look into user research to identify common patterns in the app experience. As you go through the data, try to answer the following questions:

  • At what point do users frequently churn? Where do they get stuck?
  • What type of features do your most-converting users go through before purchasing?
  • What behaviors lead to customers using your product for an extended time?

The best way to uncover this data is to invest in an analysis tool like Amplitude. The software provides a clear view of the user journey and how different personas engage with your product.

Another way to find your “aha” moment is through interviews with loyal and churned users. You can ask loyal users what features are most important to them and what made them purchase. With churned customers, your questions should focus on their frustrations and unmet expectations.

Come Up with Various “Aha” Moment Hypotheses & A/B Test Them

Once you finish your user research, you should have various ideas of what your “aha” moment is. Based on the data, come up with various hypotheses of when your “aha” moment occurs that you can test.

Set up a custom onboarding A/B testing session for various segments of users. Each testing session should be driving the user to a different “aha” moment. Run the experiment across two or three months to see which type of group is responding the best.

4. Include Gamification as Part of the App Experience

Gamification implements a sense of competition and achievement in the mobile experience. And companies that use gamification experience 30% to 40% more customer interactions than companies that don’t, according to a study from Deloitte.

Clint Fontanella, manager at HubSpot, says in article, “People love the feeling of accomplishment, so gamification rewards them with mini incentives while they progress towards an overall goal. This keeps the user continuously engaged and makes it more likely that they’ll accomplish the task at hand.”

A great example of using gamification to increase engagement is Codecademy. Users can earn badges and points for each coding exercise they complete. They also receive digital certifications, which they can use to land job opportunities.

Codeacademy App Engagement

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The Fitbit app has a similar process where users earn badges for fitness activities. They can also compete with their friends on athletic challenges. For example, the challenge could be as simple as completing 10,000 steps each day.

Fitbit App Engagement

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Here are the four steps you must follow to make gamification an essential part of your mobile app experience:

  1. Define your goals: Identify which goals will encourage users to use your app. For example, if you’re managing a bible-study app, it could be to get the user to read a certain number of verses each day.
  2. Showcase the user’s progress: To motivate the user, make sure they have a clear view of their progress. You can do this through a dashboard that highlights all the points they’re accumulating.
  3. Celebrate the user’s wins: Acknowledging the customer’s hard work is a good way to make them feel valued. Make sure to celebrate their wins with encouraging messages in the gamification experience.
  4. Invite the user to invite their friends: A sense of competition helps step up gamification. You do this by encouraging users to invite their friends so they can take part in challenges.

By following these four steps, you’ll have an effective gamification program that engages users and gets them to come back.

5. Offer App Rewards for Your Most Active Users

A strategic way to increase your app engagement is to focus on your best customers. Rewarding users for their loyalty makes them feel valued and encourages them to continue using your app.
After all, 57% of customers report spending more on companies that they’re loyal to. Different ways you can reward your most loyal users include:

Exclusive Access to Beta Features

Are you currently working on some new features for your product? If so, you can give your most loyal users a sneak peek at beta features before their official launch. It’s the opportunity to invite them to be part of the research process and collect relevant feedback.

Discounts on Their Membership

Helping loyal customers save money is an excellent way to reward them. If a customer has been active on your app for a while, you can reward them by giving them a discount on their membership.

Implement a Referral Program

To turn your best app users into brand advocates, you can put in place a loyalty program. It allows them to win rewards through various actions.

A great example of using a loyalty program to engage the best users is money transfer platform company Wise. Through its referral program, TransferWise users can get up to £50 if they invite three of their friends to join the platform and make a transfer of £200.

6. Reach Out to Inactive Users

Losing users is a normal part of managing an app. However, while a user seems to have lost interest, it doesn’t mean you can’t win them back — sometimes, all it takes is just to follow up with inactive users.

According to data from the Client WinBack Benchmark Study, 26% of clients return with a WinBack campaign. The study also found that 47% of returned clients bring more revenue than before.

Here are tactics you can use to re-engage lost users and keep them glued to your app:

Send an Email Showcasing New Feature Updates

To win back lost customers, you can send them an email of any upcoming features you’re releasing. It gives them a reason to come back to your mobile app and check out the update.

Here’s an example from the project management tool Asana. In its email, it showcases its new Dashboards feature, which helps users better track their team’s progress:


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Send Personalized Emails to Fix User Journey Problems

Sometimes, users end up abandoning your app due to roadblocks they’re experiencing. Depending on the user journey stage, you can send triggered emails to explain the next steps to take.

For example, let’s say your user is stuck and doesn’t complete their onboarding process. To overcome it, survey platform Typeform sends the user an email with the information they need to get started. They also get to learn Typeform’s design features and templates:

Typeform App Engagement

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To send personalized emails based on your mobile app user’s behavior, a great tool to use is Intercom. You can use the tool to trigger emails based on real-time events that occur in the user journey.

Reach Out to Inactive Users Proactively with Live Chat

Another reason for user churn is a lack of proper support for solving their challenges.

You can use live chat messaging to reach out to users and provide help to their problems. In fact, according to research by Kayako, 41% of customers prefer using live chat as a support channel, compared to 32% for phone support and 23% for email.

To include live chat for your mobile app, one of the best things you can do is build it through a third-party chat API solution like Stream. The API suite gives you access to countless features (such as reactions, threads, or typing indicators), comes with compliance with security regulations such as the GDPR, and can support millions of users.

7. Include an Activity Feed

An activity feed is an in-app forum for app users to engage with each other, post comments, and share updates.

An activity improves app engagement by creating a sense of community. It allows users to interact and share updates for a more social app experience. You can use it for mobile apps across many different niches such as fitness, technology, gaming, and social media.

With Stream’s Activity Feed API, you can build an activity feed that’s optimized for large user bandwidth and scalability. You can customize your activity feeds however you’d like with plenty of features, such as likes, comments, mentions, and more.

As its user base grew, Crunchbase needed to implement a low-latency news feed to announce important updates. However, it found the process too challenging and costly to do on its own.

That’s when it went to Stream to build its activity due to the flexibility and scalability of our API. After integration, around half of Crunchbase’s users interacted with the activity feed per session. According to Martin Guelck, Director of Product at Crunchbase, it led to an increase in weekly active users:

“We are definitely seeing deeper engagement after adding Stream’s Activity Feed, and we see people interacting more with these feed elements and adding more companies to their watchlist,” he says.

Improve App Engagement to Increase User Retention

Mobile app companies shouldn’t just focus on acquiring the most users possible. They want to make sure that their users remain engaged enough to stick with your app long-term.

Improving your app engagement will do more than lead to better user satisfaction. It will also lead to more retention and increase your app revenue.