So, you’ve got yourself a new user. Congratulations! In an app market more competitive than most major sporting events, that’s no mean feat. Now all you have to do is increase their level of engagement, convert them into valuable, loyal paying users, and preferably have them write you a glowing app store review. Simple.

Well, it might not seem like it. Notoriously, engagement and retention rates are often low, with as little as 37% of users using the app just one month after download. If you want to move those numbers, it is vital to first identify exactly where your users are falling away in order to focus your efforts. That is why understanding pressure points can make a serious difference to your retention rate.

Every app has pressure points - the moments in the app experience when the app/user relationship is put under strain, and people are most likely to choose to leave. Think of it as a leaky pipe: at some points, the pressure of the water inside will be stronger, the walls that are keeping the water in will be weaker, and the water will leak out. The solution is to identify those moments using data from your analytics program, work on smoothing out the user experience at these points, and strengthen the incentive to stay engaged.

Whilst every app’s pressure points are different, there are some that most apps have in common, and that’s a good place to start.

Three Pressure Points in User Experience

Sign up

The problem: You’ve just downloaded your shiny new app. You’re excited to get started using it - but here’s a whole array of sign up screens. They ask you for your name, email address, date of birth, favourite colour, first born child and who knows what else. ‘All I wanted to do was find a place to get dinner!’, you exclaim.

The solution: Sign up does have to happen at some point, but establishing how and when works best for your app really can pay off. Maybe it is as soon as people open it up for the first time, but it might just as well be after you’ve shown them some features, or you’ve given them some time to explore, or only when they go to make a purchase and they really need to have an account.

Whenever your sign up form pops up, make sure it’s as straightforward and user friendly as possible, and that you make it clear what people are signing up to. Let people know how the information you’re giving will benefit their experience, and they’re far more likely to volunteer their information.

Feature highlights

The problem: You’ve got through the sign in process and are looking at the local restaurants. You click on a bistro that looks great - but then a message pops up from the app. You scan over it and click it away. On to the menu, but then here comes another in-app message. And another. You’re trying to see what comes with the seafood chowder, and the app keeps trying to tell you about their Christmas gift cards, even though it’s January. Close app in frustration.

The solution: It’s great to have exciting new features - after all, that’s what gets people to download and to stay interested. There are, however, good and bad ways of introducing them to people. If you don’t make them obvious enough, people will get bored and leave the app, but be too pushy with your features and people will get annoyed and (you guessed it) leave the app. The answer? Target.

Any good analytics program should tell you enough about your users to know who will be interested in which features, and therefore who should be targeted with certain tip overlays or push notifications. It should also highlight the optimum time to interact with each individual based on their use patterns. That said, always avoid shouting about your new feature when users are trying to get a job done: there’s no faster way to frustrate a user.

Payment details

The problem: You’ve picked what you want from that nice bistro menu, selected for delivery, and now you just need to pay. You persevere with the lengthy form, and then realise you want to check your order before it’s processed. Check done, you return to the payment page… and find all your details wiped. You enter them again and click to pay, but now the app asks you to re-enter your account details, before informing you that you’ve mistyped your card number and the payment is cancelled. Give up, uninstall app, and throw the phone into a nearby river.

The solution: If your user has come as far as the payment page, that’s a good sign, but don’t pat yourself on the back just yet. These final stages are some of the most delicate in the whole process, and that transaction can easily become just another abandoned cart. Whether your revenue comes from goods, services, subscriptions or additional features, for most apps the only really valuable users are the ones who regularly generate revenue, and that means getting that first purchase experience right.

Make sure your payment process is integrated into the app experience so that it only takes a few clicks, and let users know how far through the process they are in order to encourage completion. And, for goodness sake, don’t ask them to re-enter their payment details every time. Keeping this information securely on file helps establish a valuable pattern of return custom by emphasizing one of the main advantages of mobile apps: convenience.