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App Development


What is App Engagement and Why is it Important?

Getting people to download your app is only the first step—you put a lot of effort into creating it, so the next thing you want is for people to continue using it (especially since that’s also how you make a profit).

That's why the next thing that you should focus on is app engagement. This term refers to all the ways users interact with your app once inside, from buttons they click to time spent with the app open. The more there is to engage with —and the more compelling they are— the more reason users have to keep coming back, which is where an app’s real business value lies.

According to Localytics, 25% of an app’s downloaders will abandon it after one use. That’s a startlingly high bounce rate, but that means many apps aren’t doing what they need to keep users interested. Do you want to avoid this fate befalling your brand’s app? If so, let’s discuss what app engagement is, why it’s important, and what you can do to improve it.

What is App Engagement?

As stated above, app engagement refers to how users interact with your app. You can measure engagement through specific app engagement metrics, including how many sessions users conduct within a given period, session duration, number of launches each day, and more. These metrics give you an idea of how well users are enjoying your app and what value they’re taking from it.

It’s important to understand that every brand and app developer has a different idea of what success looks like when it comes to app engagement. A finance app might expect users to check in every day, while a brick-and-mortar salon brand that uses an app to let clients check-in faster only expects users to engage with it each time they need a haircut. How you define the kind of engagement you’re hoping for is up to you.

Important Engagement Metrics to Measure

Active users

This term refers to the number of users actively interacting with your app on a regular basis. Ideally, you want a higher number of active users than new ones. As exciting as it is to see consumers downloading your app, you have a “leaky bucket” if people are coming in but not staying. Your active user count indicates that you’re providing real value that people want to take advantage of. Many apps measure daily active users, though you can elect to measure on a weekly or monthly basis as well.


Similar to how other businesses talk about their customer retention rates, your user retention rate tells you what percentage of users choose to continue using your app instead of abandoning it. This statistic is one of the most important user engagement metrics you’ll look at when assessing in-app interactions. You can calculate it by subtracting the number of users you acquired throughout a given period (such as a month) from the number of users you finish that period with, dividing it by the number you had at the start, then multiplying by 100.


Your app's churn rate is the opposite of your retention rate, i.e., the percentage of users you lose (whether they leave you for other apps or they decide yours isn’t meeting their needs and expectations). Statista reports that in 2018, the average mobile app churn rate was 71%, and the average retention rate was 29% over 90 days, so don’t be too shocked if you see a high number of people choosing not to use your app anymore (especially depending on your app type — only worry when your most loyal users begin to leave). Look at your analytics data to determine which users are churning so you can provide value that would encourage people in similar demographics to stay.


Do you sell any goods or services in-app? If so, you’ll want to measure your conversion rate. You don’t necessarily have to sell products, either; anything actionable within your app, like filling out forms or signing up for other services, are examples of actions you’re “converting” users to. How effective are your marketing tactics and calls to action? How important are these actionable features to your app’s overall success? Your app might have other ways users can engage with it, but your conversion rate will be an integral part of your business model that you want to keep track of.


Another critical example of app engagement happens right at the beginning when people open it. It’s a wise idea to track how many app launches occur daily, weekly, and monthly. This information tells you how many times active and inactive users alike tap the app on their phones or tablets and what time of day they do it most often. Increasing your number of app launches is arguably easier than many other app engagement metrics because you can incentivize users with methods like giveaways, discounts, special features, and more. Before you can get consumers to interact with your app’s inner workings, you need them to open it.

Session duration and intervals

Session duration is another key metric because you can discover how long users spend in the app. Do they keep it open long enough to engage with the features you want them to? Is there enough for them to do and see that they have reason to keep it open for long, or is your app lacking in activities, motivating them to close it sooner? Session length indicates how much value consumers are gleaning from your app.

Session intervals refer to the time between app sessions. Depending on your app, you might want people to use it multiple times per day or feel satisfied with using it twice per week. The more frequently users open it, the more value they’re getting, so you know it’s time to improve your user experience or add features if intervals are growing too long.

Why is App Engagement Important?

We’ve discussed which engagement metrics to track, but why is mobile app engagement so much more important than user acquisition? Why is it so closely related to an app’s business value?

The answer is because your app engagement signifies your app’s overall business “health.” If you have an engaged audience, you also have a strong customer community that can make transactions or click on ads. Games, dating apps, social media platforms, productivity tools, and all kinds of apps rely on interactions to stay afloat. Monitoring users’ behavior also gives you insight into your ROI from all those features you developed.

On the subject of advertising, the more active users you have, the more you can learn about them through their individual behaviors and zero-party data (this is data your audience provides willingly, like through quizzes and reviews). The better you know them, the more you can personalize ad campaigns and tailor marketing experiences that they’re more likely to be interested in.

It’s also beneficial to prioritize app engagement because it has the potential to lower acquisition costs and increase consumer lifetime value. Engaged users are better advocates who tell their friends about your app through word-of-mouth marketing, which is much cheaper than trying to reach new users through social media and your own online ads.

Tips to Increase User Engagement

In 2019, 32% of an app’s users returned to it at least 11 times (down six percent from 2018). Depending on your app’s vertical, you could consider these users highly engaged. What are actionable examples of things you can do to increase in-app user engagement and get this statistic higher? You can try the following:

Market your app well in the app stores

Before users even download your app, they’ll see your listing in the app store — first impressions matter. Take care to communicate everything users should expect from your app and why they should download it, such as what problem you solve in their lies, what benefits you offer, and what sets you apart from competitors. Now, you have people’s attention — just remember to follow through and deliver on your promises.

Onboard users efficiently

Nothing drives users away faster than an insufficient onboarding experience. Have you ever downloaded an app only to find yourself lost and confused because you weren’t sure how to navigate it properly? Put lots of thought and care into how you onboard new users. Walk them through each feature, the layout, and everything else they need to know to have a successful app experience. Simplify and streamline the process, too. Keep the number of steps involved to a minimum. Don’t make creating an account more difficult than it should be.

Update your software regularly

Bugs and crashes happen to any good app, which is why it’s important to continuously check for them and fix issues as quickly as possible. If you’re more of a creative and strategic mind that prefers to turn to expert developers for these kinds of problems, you can take advantage of a service like Instabug, which helps you optimize your app’s performance and security.

It’s also wise to update your app’s features if you want to increase user engagement. Why would users continue using your platform if it stays the same? They’ll appreciate new elements and improved functionality from time to time.

Optimize your user experience

One of the most crucial things you can do to improve your app engagement is to optimize the user experience. Pretend to be a user and explore your app as they would (meaning someone who may be discovering it for the first time or someone who wasn’t involved in the development process). Ask individuals who are strangers to your app for their feedback as well. What are their thoughts and opinions? Does everything in your app function like it should? Is it easy to navigate? Are the colors and designs eye-catching? The smoother the experience is, the more likely users are to come back.

Leverage push notifications

Sometimes, people forget they downloaded your app or fall out of habit from using it regularly (like fitness apps, for example). You can send a gentle reminder via push notifications that appear on users’ phone home screens when the app is closed. It’s definitely possible to overdo it with push notifications and drive consumers away, but if done respectfully and strategically, these notifications can help bring users back to your app.

An important note: don’t make your push notifications boring! Simple messages like “sign back in” don’t inspire action; instead, be friendly and don’t shy away from using emojis.

Personalize your messages

On a related note, take care to personalize your messages. Including users’ names, whether you’re creating a push notification, in-app message, email, or text, encourages users to open whatever you send. Personalizing communication with your audience is a much warmer way of interacting with them than sending “cold” messages that don’t inspire them to take action. If possible, personalize messages based on users’ demographics, not just their names (meaning someone older might prefer to be addressed in a different tone of voice than someone younger).

Gamify your app

Many apps inspire engagement through “gamifying” their platforms. You can do the same by including challenges and processes that allow users to earn rewards. If users enjoy the games, they’ll want to continue using the app to have fun; and if they have rewards, they can spend them in ways that result in further app engagement.

A Final Word of Advice

Maximizing app engagement can sound daunting between various engagement metrics and all the ways it takes to keep users happy, but if you give it the priority it deserves, you’re on your way to having a valuable and popular app.

And don’t forget: amongst all the other steps involved, always be sure to optimize your app’s technical performance. An excellent option for enhancing your app’s quality and accelerating your iteration speed is using Instabug, a mobile-first platform that enables you to collect user feedback, conduct thorough bug checks, and prevent crashes. This way, you stay at the top of your game and keep your users happy and engaged.

Learn more:

Instabug empowers mobile teams to maintain industry-leading apps with mobile-focused, user-centric stability and performance monitoring.

Visit our sandbox or book a demo to see how Instabug can help your app


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