Mobile App Retention : One of the most Important metric marketers tend to neglect

Apple and Google have created a new era of mobile computing whose rapid growth is rivaled by the Internet boom of the 1990s. A recent research from ABI Research revealed an estimated 70 Billion app downloads in 2013 – 58 Billion to smartphones and 14 billion to tablets, that’s a total of over 10 apps downloaded per human being on earth.  The App Store has an estimated 775,000 apps as of Jan, 2013 and the Google Play/ Android has an estimated 800,000 apps as of Jan, 2013 ( Refer Fig.1)


Figure 1

 With the market for apps being extremely crowded and the quality bar rising continuously, the era of the get rich quick apps have long gone by and the real challenge for the marketers/ App Entrepreneur is to gain a significant mindshare of their user base.

This is where the significance of Mobile App retention comes in. With so many apps to download and use on the app store, most of the apps get lost among the collection of apps downloaded by the user or gets deleted soon after download. It is estimated that in case of most apps within a period of 3 months, over ¾th of your customer base is long gone,


Figure 2

Web marketers don’t stop marketing their product to the users who visited their website once. They use various techniques and channels to re-target that user. This is important because they understand the value of an existing customer or a user who has passed maybe a couple of stages in the Customer Funnel. However more often than not, in the mobile world marketers tend to forget the value of an existing user both in terms of the positive effect it can bring in driving more word of mouth and downloads and also in terms of the amount of additional revenue it can generate.


Figure 3

In case of app store, the avg. cost of acquisition of a user is >$1. This leaves a common App Entrepreneur with a single purchase price of $0.99 with losses financially. Hence, it’s important for an App Entrepreneur to understand the financials involved in acquiring a user and the amount of money that can be generated from that user, which is nothing but ARPU ( avg. revenue per user).

Having a look at Figure 3 tells us that:


Figure 4

As you can see , for your profits to increase basically you would have to increase your count of Active Users and ARPU and reduce the avg. cost of acquisition of users.

One basically improves on the Active User count by having the right techniques for retaining and engaging with existing users.

ARPU is again influenced by the user retention percentages. The more the user retention percentages, the more the avg. time spent on the app which directly correlates with the average revenue per user (in app purchases). With retention the LTV (lifetime value of a user) goes up significantly adding to the top-line.

There is also an indirect factor which people often tend to forget: With good retention and happy users, one drastically reduces the Cost of Acquisition of Users as through Word-of-mouth, the happy users will recruit a significant number of new users.

A small increase in your app’s user retention numbers can go a long way in adding a few more dollars in your kitty directly as well as indirectly. An eg:


How does one improve User retention?

There are various things one should ensure as an App Entrepreneur to ensure a high user retention figure for your app and to create a brand of faithful users:

  • Create an app that is awe-inspiring, an app that is extremely useful or fun to use, an app that solves a particular problem or is extremely engaging and entertaining, an app that is beautiful in design. I could go on and on but the bottom-line is one has to create a world-class app for the user to come back again and again and open the app from the dozens of app one downloads on to their smartphone.
  • Analytics: Use analytics to understand user engagement on different pages which includes the bounce rate, avg. time of visit, frequency of visits, . Try and identify pages which have a high drop-off and do split testing to weed out the reasons for the same. Use free tools such as Flurry for analytics. Provide a mechanism for your users to reach you instantly either with an issue or a suggestion. It is critical in a lot of ways:
  1. Avoiding negative ratings on the app store from the few disgruntled users which would discourage new users from downloading your app.
  2. Understanding issues faced by the user which you wouldn’t have thought previously.
  3. Get suggestions and ideas for new functionalities. Use the app user for your research and survey actively to further improve the app.
  4. Giving means for users to contact you when in need just forms one part of the coin. It’s equally important for you to respond back immediately to further improve your relationship with the customer and make the user feel that he is cared for. This goes a long way in making the user an advocate of your app.
  5. Updating and improving the app constantly is yet another important factor. It is important not just because the app should improve both in terms of usability and functionality at a rapid pace but also because with each update the dormant user is prompted to come back to the app. Hence utilizing this is really effective.
  • It’s important to segment users based on their in-app behavior and interact with them differently. Craft a different strategy for different segments of users. There are a number of strategies apps in different segments use to engage with such users. Eg: In a travel app : Send special offers to a particular destination to people who have constantly kept track of the travel packages to that particular destination.
  • Communicate with dormant users with relevant content or any piece of information which would prompt them to log back in. Always use in-app messaging and push notifications to increase retention. Studies from Airpush have shown that push notifications increases engagement 4x times and increases retention 2x times. For eg: a Social media app could send a notification/message to one of its dormant users highlighting the activities of his/ her friends or by highlighting what’s new/ trending.
  • Engage on Social Media to build a good relationship with your users. This would result in a higher mindshare for your brand name in the minds of the user which would indirectly increase retention and word of mouth.
  • Create a reason for the user to log back in regularly either to win points or get a shot to enter the leaderboards. Gamification is yet another important aspect that will encourage users to come back to your app.

Hence, what I would say is that we App Entrepreneurs have a retention problem rather than a discovery problem. The ASO techniques are extremely important in getting you visibility on the app store and maybe a few downloads but with the plethora of apps on the app store and the relatively low barrier to delete an app from a mobile, the major challenge for us is to increase the user retention and with it the Lifetime value of our users.

App Store Optimization Strategy : Insights, tips and tricks

I have been doing a lot of research lately in trying to understand the various ways by which one could promote one’s app in the most cost effective way. In fact in my previous post, I had covered a lot of things a budding App Entrepreneur must take care of in order to get good traction during launch.

The Appstore is a gold mine for App Entrepreneurs and there is no questioning this fact. However the reality is that the money is eaten up by the Big guys more often than not. It’s extremely difficult for a new guy to get his App rated in the Top 10 or even the Top 100. I agree it’s a must that one should build an awesome app, but many a times having an awesome app doesn’t result in your app getting featured in the Top 10 if it doesn’t reach enough audience. And for that for a new entrant it’s important that he takes note of each and every thing that would boost the visibility of his/ her app and especially the ones that’s free ( for now, let’s forget the fact that Time’s money! J )

There are various channels one could use in advertising one’s app. A research from Apptentive shows the percentage distribution of the various App discovery methods.


As you can clearly see, general browsing in the App Store forms the most significant chunk of this distribution chart. This is why it’s important for you to make your App Discoverable in the App store. The process of optimizing mobile apps so that it ranks higher In the App Store is known as ASO or App Store Optimization. The increased visibility on the App Store results in increased downloads for your app. There are a number of other studies that shows the same pattern. A study from Forrester also confirms the high volume of traffic generated through app store searches.

What are the parameters that determine your ranking in the App Store and hence require an optimization strategy for?

Title – The title of your app contributes heavily on your ranking in the App store, in fact I would say it has the maximum weight. Hence, it’s extremely important that you do your research before deciding on the title of your app. You can always try changing the title with every submission of a newer version however I wouldn’t suggest you to keep changing your app title as your app would have got mentions at various places and constantly fiddling with your title might in fact lose you a few new users.

Keywords- This is an equally important component that determines your ranking in the app store for various search queries. I will cover in detail, the various techniques and tips on doing your Keyword research and optimal use of these keywords in your app’s metadata.

App Description – It’s extremely important to have a clear, catchy message in your app description not only because it gives you a better chance for getting rated for a particular keyword but also because once your app gets discovered people read your description along with viewing your screenshots and reviews before taking a call on downloading your app. The keywords in your App description might not have the same weight as the ones in the Title and the Keywords section of your metadata but it is important nevertheless.

App Ratings and Downloads – This is yet another factor that indirectly influences your ranking for a particular keyword. This makes it very important for you to consider getting yourself rated for keywords that does not have extreme competition from apps that already has raked in thousands of downloads and reviews. Here in, the recent velocity of downloads and reviews matter rather than historic numbers.

Key things to understand and follow in ASO:

ASO is not something that you do once and you are done with. If you think you can put in enough effort on a regular basis to do your research, optimize and track the results then I would suggest you to not waste your time on ASO. ASO requires repeated monitoring of the performance of your Keyword strategy and chopping and changing the ones that does not perform or get you rated for, reasons being any.

Localizing the metadata of your app is extremely crucial if you want to further improve your chances of downloads. This might be an extended topic to cover in one single post, however I would highlight the gist of it. One easy way is to hire someone on Odesk, Elance or Copify and translate existing keywords where required, however, such a strategy won’t always bring you the best of results. I would suggest you to use a mix of tools like Google Translate, Google Keyword Tools and Google Trends to get you an idea of the volume of traffic various keywords can generate. I will do a separate post in detail on Localizing App metadata.

 Use some fantastic products out there in the market that does the heavy-lifting for you.




App Annie


These are some fantastic tools that you could use to understand the rankings, search volume, traffic etc for various keywords/ apps on the App store. Few of them would require you to pay a monthly subscription for getting access to their entire list of features but I must say it’s totally worth it. I however use a mix of Straply, Xyo and SensorTower without paying a penny for getting my keyword research done! J

While choosing your keywords you need to keep in mind a few things. The important factors that should determine your keyword selections are:

Search Volume – Target only those keywords that has a high search volume

Competition – Target keywords that has less competition

Strength of your Competition – It’s also important to understand the strength of your competition. If there are a number of popular apps with thousands of downloads using the same keyword you are thinking of using, then it’s better to avoid those as it would be highly difficult for you to get in to the top few for that Keyword.

Let’s understand the way people search on the App Store. According to a study this is how the search would be split:

80% of Searches are “Category” or “Genre” type searches

5% are for specific app titles

5-10% of searches are Inspiration Searches such as “great apps” or “new apps”

The remaining 5% are transactional searches where the users are looking for a particular app function like “write notes” or “filters for photos”

The problem with trying to get a slice of the Category or Genre based search is that the competition is just too high for a newbie. Targeting search for specific app titles and feeding of them is somewhat Blackhat in a way. However it’s entirely up to you to decide the methods you use. It might give a few initial downloads which is crucial for a new app, we can debate if it’s ethical or not later! J However try and use apps that are in your same niche and share similar audience which would give you a better conversion ratio.

The way I do my Keyword Research is:

Make an extended list of keywords used by apps In the same niche/ similar apps. Use Appstorerankings for getting this information:

imagePost making an extended list of keywords I use Straply to figure out related search terms, search volumes and Competition. I cross-reference the Search Volume on as well.


I will create a list of Keywords for which the Search Volume is relatively high and the app competition is less. Again, the question is how do we estimate a reasonable level of competition? Remember that in an iPhone for every search, results are displayed one at a time. Hence it’s really important to avoid Keywords for which you think you cannot achieve a rank higher than 8 for good results.

Next I scan through search ratings against various Keywords for individual apps in my niche. This gives me even more Keyword choices. What you need to do is

Search for an app that is in your niche after you login to Straply (remember it’s free).

Click on the App name listed in the search results ( the one in the Apple Store)

Straply will show you a list of keywords for which the App is rated. Sort the list based on Search Volume and you will have the high volume list of Keywords for which the app is rated. Now try and figure out keywords for which the number of apps is significantly lesser.


It might be a good idea to use Keywords that are specific app searches but there seems to be a big error in the spelling searched for. It might be an indication that the person would have just heard about an app and wants to try it out. Guess people like this are more open to trying out new stuff, so it’s always a good idea to present your app also in front of them! J (Grey hat I would say)

Also, use the Missed keyword Opportunities given by Straply to further see your options. There are a few that might be relevant to your niche/ app. It’s extremely important to use keywords that you can associate with your app or else you will finally end up losing downloads.

Now you have an extensive list of keywords you can play around with. Few important tips to note in finalizing your keyword list:

App Store allows you a maximum of 99 characters for the Keywords metadata. Try and utilize as much of this quota as possible.

Don’t use spaces after the comma that’s used to separate Keyword list. For eg: “pic,photo,cam,camera,filter”

Try and avoid using long keywords as far as possible

Split search queries like “tag photos” into “tag,photos” . You will get rated for both the keywords and the “tag photos” search as well.

Use the keyword set you have finally decided upon through all of your efforts and then track how you are doing for various search queries and keywords. Try and change quickly the keywords for which you aren’t performing well. Keep trying out various combinations to get your best set of keywords. I would suggest you to localize at least the metadata of your app as well to see great results.

To conclude, ASO is a great tool for you to greatly improve your app discoverability. However, it involves your time and effort. Get discovered and you are half way there to succeeding on the App Store.


Poor Man’s Guide to a great App Launch

How to Plan for your App Store Debut:

Building an exceptionally good app is hard enough and if you thought that was the toughest part, think again! Marketing an app and getting it into the top 100 of the app store is even more difficult (There is an estimated 775,000 apps in the app store). Of course anything’s achievable with a great app and an even greater marketing budget, but then what do you do if you are a normal Indie game developer or is a college graduate stepping in to the world of apps, have built a great app and deserves a share in the app store?

The first and foremost thing for any app to be successful is to have a great experience. Nothing can help you if the app ain’t world class. But then the app in itself being “Awesome” does not guarantee you app store success. For that you would need to plan your app launch meticulously.

I normally split the app launch cycle in to 3 parts:

1) Pre – Launch

2) Launch Day – Day Zero

3) Post – Launch

Pre – Launch Phase:

1. Create a splash page much before you launch your app. Collect e-mail addresses so that you could notify them when you launch your app. I recommend for creating and deploying your splash page. Ensure that you create a great splash page that excites the user and makes them key in their e-mail ID for notification. Also, exceptional Splash Pages that starts trending on Launchrock gets featured by them further increasing your visibility.

2. Create a Facebook and a Twitter Page. Start engaging with your audience. Facebook and Twitter are great channels to drive targeted users. ( Facebook and Twitter marketing is a powerful method and I will write a separate post on how to build your Facebook and Twitter Following).

3. Create banners which are 640х100 iPhone 25 kb jpeg or png. Reach out to as many applications in the same niche as possible and try and buy spots on their pages. Can be expensive but try getting one or two. This would give a stream of downloads. Note that buying display Ad spots can be a little expensive so, chose carefully. Do not over spend. 2011 numbers shows that 30% of all app traffic is from in-app advertising and cross promotions.

4. Create a Press page on your website with all the necessary information. Also, create an e-mail draft to be sent out to the press/ blog reviewers etc. It’s very important that you create a quality e-mail draft to be sent out to the Press. Remember that the reporters receive hundreds of requests for coverage/ review everyday. Hence it’s very important to be precise and catchy with your description. Do keep in mind the following things while drafting the message (you can hire someone from, or if you think you need help):

·         ·         The name of your app exactly as it is spelt on the App Store.

·                   What it does and why it is different?

·                   The price.

·                   One link to your product page (Your website).

·                   One link to the iTunes product page.

·                   One or two screenshots.

·                   A video – No longer than 30 seconds. Remember this is a very important component. Many a times the reporter would play the video in trying to understand your app before heading to your app page. This leaves the first impression, so ensure it’s quality stuff and excites the reporter.

·                   A description in a concise paragraph. Say who your audience is, what your app does?

·                   What sets it apart from the Crowd?

·                   Contact information. An email address and not a link to a contact form.

·                   Skype IDs, Twitter IDs

I’m giving below a Sample Draft that gives you a fair idea of a good draft. Note that the below is for an app that lets people add interactivity to images:


Subject: “App Name” for iPhone makes your Images Talk.

Spotted something interesting you would want to share with the entire world or something you would want to know more about? Want to share your stories and memories? Yes, “App Name” provides an easy, fun and an elegant way to do that. We let you add annotations (We call them “Spots”) on images and link it to rich media to highlight the interesting elements and stories in an image. Each spot gets its own thread of conversation which makes the conversation highly contextual. The user can join in on any conversation and start engaging in just seconds. This free app also enables the user to explore a plethora of interesting images along with the elements and stories that make them up. Wait, that’s not all, we let you create the rich interactive experience right there on your website as well in a completely hassle-free and effortless manner! It’s fun and highly engaging.

“App Name” lets you:

·                  Take Snaps in a flash and highlight the interesting elements in them using “App Name” Spots

·                  Share the stories and memories in a photo using spots.

·                  Effortlessly Link Video, Audio, Maps, Wikis, Photos, links to Amazon, Etsy, Fancy or any other portal on the web to any spot.

·                  Have engaging & contextual conversation around each spot.

·                  Explore & discover a plethora of interesting photos along with the elements and stories that make them up.

·                  Seamlessly embed your photos with the spots anywhere on the web

·                  Share your spots on Twitter and Facebook with a single click.

“App Name” ( Free) is available for download now at the iTunes Store ( iTunes address ) and you can read more about it at Here is a video of “App Name” in action ( Link here ). You can also find attached a couple of Screenshots.

Please feel free to contact me, if you have any questions about the app or would need a promo code. I would be happy to answer your questions. Thank you in advance for considering my app for review,

E-Mail: [email protected]

Skype ID: “abc”

Check : for a great list of Blog/ Review site whom you would definitely need to contact.


5. Create a perfect App description to be displayed in the App store. I can’t stress upon how important this aspect of your app is. This is what your consumers would read first, hence ensure that you create an extremely compelling description. Also, Create localized and translated App description. You never know who all from where all are going to download your app. So ensure you have the app description localized. Try or to get contractors.

Many a times, people forget the importance of KeyWords in your app description. A lot of your app downloads are going to happen organically through the Search function in the app store. Hence, ensure that you take time and think through properly on the keywords you would want to use so that you get maximum exposure on Search. IMP Notes on Keyword:

·         There is no need to include your app name as a keyword.

·         Separate your keywords with only a comma, not a comma and a space. Writing them like this, “memory,language,card” will help you to make the most of your 100 character limit.

·         Use tools like Google Keywords to research keywords.

·         You may only change your app name or keywords with the release of a new version. So think through and research your decisions.

·         If you don’t think a keyword is performing or being searched often, feel free to replace it with another keyword when you release your next version.

·         Do searches inside the App Store to see how your app ranks for important search terms.

6. Create BRILLIANT screenshots. Again, this is really important. First impression is always a lasting impression. You have may be 5 seconds to get the attention of the user before he swipes and moves on to another app on the app store. So ensure you create high quality screenshots, doesn’t matter even if you have to slightly edit the originals.

7. Identify Youtube reviewers to reach out to on a one-one basis. There are quite a lot of reviewers on Youtube with a large subscriber base. I must say, Youtube is one of the most viral of all the channels.

8. As soon as your App is reviewed and accepted, change the app launch date to your desired date of Launch. Its default date would be the date of submission of the app for review.

9. Try and utilize this period before your official launch. Generate Promo-codes from the app store.  Send out the promo-codes generated to app reviewers and try pushing it out through Facebook and Twitter. A maximum of 50 promo-codes per release is given by Apple, so ensure you send it to people who are willing to write reviews. Try and submit a small update to get another bunch of 50 promo-codes before launch if required.

·         Ensure the promo-codes are sent correctly and people don’t have to type it in to redeem. It can be tedious. Send them the direct links. Use or for sending out direct promo-code links to download.

·         Run a contest on Facebook/ Twitter to give away the promo-codes if required.

·         Run a small contest on Review sites if possible and give away a few promo-codes for the winner.


1. Launch on a Tuesday. You will find a lot of varying opinions on this. I strongly believe Tuesday is the best day to launch. It gives you enough number of days to gain momentum so as to feature in the app store Top 100 by the weekend when maximum downloads happen. ( Breaking in to the Top 100 of your respective category is crucial if you want to drive organic downloads).

NOTE: Apple calculates rank based on the downloads/ activity on the last 4 days. Get your app in to the top 100 by a weekend when most downloads happen and will get a lot of organic downloads-

Rank (Day)  = (Day*8) + (Day-1)*5 + (Day-2)*5 + (Day-3)*2

2. Submit/ distribute your press release. Try – this service is inexpensive and has huge reach. $22 for the extended service – these releases are picked up by serious players in the mobile industry. Others to try are and more premium services like NewsWirePR – expensive but have 80,000 + industry influencers who could make a big difference

3. Get social. Use your own social network, and friend’s social networks to push updates. Run a contest and entice people to share the app with their friends. You can even buy posts on Large pages. There are quite a few pages with a large audience who would willingly share your posts for a fixed pay.

4. Reach out to Youtube reviewers whom you would have already contacted and make them post review videos.



One day after launch

5. The day after launch, activate cross promotional campaigns using the banners created before launch. Do cross promotion from a network of Applications, related to your app’s category. In 2011, around 30% of all app traffic is from in-app advertising and cross promotions

6. Write and create threads on Forums. MacRumours, TouchArcade, Tuaw, Mac-forums,,  etc,

7. Post to Hacker News.

Two days after launch

8. Two days after launch – follow up on any coverage received till date. Thank the people who covered your app. Tweet their posts and write comments on the articles.

9. Continue to create more threads, respond to people who have written on your posts

10. Follow up with all the YouTube Reviewers

11. Send people in the application a push notification to leave one positive review if they are enjoying the application. Ensure that you don’t bug your users too much with these requests but then it’s important as well that you gain a lot of positive reviews. It’s a fact that people who have had a bad experience with the app would instantaneously drop a negative review while people who liked the app have a much lesser chance of giving you a positive review. Hence, encourage them to drop a good note that would drive a lot of organic downloads going forward.

Three/Four days later…

12. Engage more on Social Media Channels.