You've almost certainly heard the statistic before, but it bears repeating: 19% of all app installs are used precisely once - and never again. That's Swrve data: I've seen other reports suggesting figures above 25%, but then our customers have always been smarter than the average bear! And further down the line, only a little over half (55%) of apps are used 5 times or more.

To some extent this kind of attrition is inevitable. In any digital business a certain number of new users fall off rapidly, and in the mobile app world, in which there isn't a huge amount of 'friction' in the process of downloading an app (largely because there's rarely any cost involved) it's not a huge surprise that users try out a number of apps and only use a minority in the long term. But that doesn't mean we can or should accept these numbers. In fact the reverse is true, any time we see a number like this, we should be looking at any and every possible way to move the needle: because the rewards for doing so are so significant.

Why On-Boarding Matters

The fact that almost half of app users never get to a fifth session is doubly interesting. Realistically, the failure here is unlikely to be a 'bad' app. It is in fact much more likely that the user falls into one of these categories:

  • They don't understand what the app is FOR, or why they should be using it
  • They don't understand how to use the app: the user experience is confusing, or lastly
  • They've completed a simple task but don't know what else is out there

In each case, poor 'onboarding' is getting between the app you've developed (usually at great expense) and the audience. And after your investment in development and acquisition, that's a crime.

This isn't the place to run through lengthier advice on how to build an onboarding experience, although it's certainly something we'll look at again on the blog. But we can certainly say that a first step is to evaluate your app on the basis of the requirements above. Is it clear what the benefit of the app is? Don't assume that a user will know just because they have downloaded it. Is it easy to use? And is it 'discoverable'? Are users led naturally to new areas of functionality, or do whole facets of your app remain un-used and thus un-appreciated?

It's incredible to see how many apps simply throw new users straight into their 'core' experience without any context or in-app help at all. Don't be one of them! Think of onboarding as the first step in turning new users to 'activated' users, and essential to your business success.