If there’s one fact we don’t tire of advertising on the Swrve blog, it’s that installs don’t equal success in most mobile apps. It’s what happens to your users after install that matters. Unfortunately, in all too many cases the reality is “they disappear rapidly.” Our own research suggests that 19% of apps are used just once.

And long-term retention figures don’t make for much better reading either. That’s a problem, because without long-term, engaged users, businesses have very little opportunity to deliver on their mobile app business objectives.

So with that in mind, below are 4 simple ideas to help deliver the best mobile engagement levels possible:

1. Deliver Awesome On-boarding

The moment a user arrives in your app you can assume they are asking themselves two questions: ‘why am I using this app?’ and ‘how do I use it?’. Don’t assume they know the answer to either. And be aware that unless you provide a satisfactory answer pretty quickly they are likely to get confused or frustrated and leave.

That’s why it’s essential to create an intuitive, educational initial experience that answers these questions quickly and effectively. Far too many apps ignore this requirement. They launch the user straight into the core experience and leave them to their own devices. No wonder so many fail to engage beyond the first session.

Of course once you have answered those first two questions, a third arises: “what else can I do?” - keep in mind the need to continue education throughout the app experience, and ensure that users are introduced to new features in a way that avoids further confusion.  

2. Encourage An Early Purchase

When a user installs your app, they are giving you a chance. Take that chance and look to drive commitment as soon as possible. One way to make that happen is to offer an incentive to make a purchase early (assuming that purchasing is possible via your app).

The logic behind this approach should be obvious. By making a purchase a user is either linking a pre-existing account from another channel or setting one up - including sharing payment details. Once that hurdle is overcome, they are significantly more likely to return in the future. The next transaction will be essentially frictionless.

For some apps that use virtual currencies (dating and games spring to mind), offering a significant discount on buy-in on day 1 creates an even greater incentive to stick around: to get the value from the purchase already made. Always attempt to make that happen!  

3. Deliver Targeted Campaigns

The more you learn about any individual user, and then tailor their experience, the more value they will get from your app, and the less likely they are to leave your service for another. At the heart of that process is not necessarily the marketing activity itself - push notifications, in-app messages, etc – but the learning and targeting that underpin them.

So make it your business to ensure that you’re reporting and learning from every significant event and user property, because that enables you to build the dynamic segmentation rules that deliver targeted campaigns to your user base.

If you don’t collect this data, and you don’t actively use it to tailor experience, you are failing to build relationships and you won’t move users from simple installs to truly engaged users. Now you know a user is an individual, it’s possible to treat them as an individual. Show messages - whether in-app or push - to specific segment groups that deliver relevant offers, at the right time, and talk their language. Deliver campaigns that increase commitment at every turn.  

4. Social Sharing

Don’t underestimate the power of network effects. In some cases (messaging apps) these are obvious. I’ll use an app that enables me to talk to friends, and won’t use one that nobody else has. But in any context a smart social sharing strategy can encourage greater mobile engagement. If my friends are doing it, I’m more likely to stick around myself.

So you should be doing everything in your power to make it as easy as possible to make social sharing happen. Encourage your users to share achievements (and if you don’t have natural ‘achievements’ in your app - create them). In fact, if appropriate, pit users against each other. This is one area where apps can learn from the games industry, where ‘competitive’ social techniques are a major driver behind greater user engagement.

Encourage users to share, and make sure you test how those invites are delivered. We have seen increases greater than 500% in social sharing after A/B testing the language used in the process!