How (not) To Lose 25% Of Your Users In One Moment

How (not) To Lose 25% Of Your Users In One Moment

The bad news: 25% of users will open your mobile app precisely once, never to be seen again. The good news: you can improve that number by optimizing your app’s first-time user experience.

First-time user experience (sometimes abbreviated to FTUE) refers to the very first time somebody uses your app. Simply put, the design goal at this stage is that a new user immediately gets value from your app and progresses to an activated state. Apps that optimize their first-time experiences grow, retain and monetize better. Apps that don't end up residing in the 'where are they now' file.

Optimizing First Time Experiences

In this piece we feature first-time journey of a fashion curation app. For this app, it is critical that users create a profile. No profile = no personalization = no curation = no utility for the user = no subsequent engagement or monetization. And the best moment to drive registration is on first use – the moment of most user interest and intent.

The client used Swrve to design, deploy and measure three different first-time experiences:

  • The control group, which is the current app setup, forces registration after a brief tour.
  • Treatment 1 removes forced registration and educates users with tips (that promote registration as a benefit to the user) as they first use the app. 
  • Treatment 2 deploys an in-app message with a clear financial incentivize to register.

New users are randomly bucketed into different audiences, and each is shown the three different treatments. As Treatment 2 comes with significant financial risk, the audience size is deliberately reduced to 5%. If a test like this is implemented with a platform like Swrve, you get the added benefit of statistical confidence around which treatment converts best.

The Control Group:  The Current Setup

The control (and current) first-time experience for the app - shown below - mandates that a user register and create a profile before they can use the app. Only 14% of users are doing so. Put another way, 86 out of every 100 users abandon the app before they’ve even used it.  Most of those users were acquired through paid channels.  So these bounced users are very expensive.


Treatment 1: Swrve In-App Tips

Treatment 1 removes upfront registration and lets the users immediately start using the app - and continue to do so. As they do, however, Swrve serves a series of tips to each new user. Tips let new users learn about what to do in the app while also taking those actions in real time. Learning by doing is often most effective because the user gets the context about an action, takes the action, and sees immediate value.


26% of Treatment 1 users register - an 85% increase over the Control group. This is a fascinating result. The removal mandatory registrations nearly doubled registrations! Why? More users experienced the app, saw immediate value from the app, and were guided through this journey through Swrve real-time tips. And fewer were immediately put off by the 'hard-gate' after a few screens.

Treatment 2 – Incentivize Registration

Treatment 2 is a more financially risky test. It offers a $25 discount off first purchase if a user registers now. To minimize risk, only 5% of new users will be exposed to this test. To deliver the incentive, Swrve delivers a rich, interactive message triggered after one minute of first use:

Treatment 2 performed best. 44% of users created a profile - a 221% improvement over the Control group. Furthermore, 20% of users went on to purchase - again the highest of all treatments. Why? Again users saw immediate value from the app, and in this test, were presented with a powerful incentive at just the right moment.

Tracking Performance - Funnel Reports

Funnel reports measure how new users move from first open to activated state (and every stage in between) across three different first-time experiences.  We can clearly see Treatment 2 as the best variant, both in terms of immediate performance and medium-term revenue.

In summary, the first moments of use have a profound impact on your apps long-term growth.  Take the time to measure, test and iterate your first-time user experience. By allowing real user data to inform your decision making, huge improvements in app performance are not just possible - they are inevitable.


Additional Reading:
Kyrstal Higgins - First time user experiences in mobile apps
First Round Review - This Is How You Design Your Mobile App for Maximum Growth