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Why 1 in 4 people throw your app away after one use

Apple’s app store sports more than 2 million apps. Google’s Android marketplace boasts even more — greater than 2.2 million. Today, apps are crammed together into tighter space than ever before. Predictably, the total number of apps we actually install and use on our devices is relatively small. Smaller still is the number of apps users use more than once.

A recently published study shows that one in four mobile users open an app once and never again. And if they do open that app more than once, 62 percent of people will use that app less than 11 times – total.

This data from 37,000 applications is painfully honest about just how hard it is to produce a successful app. With so much competition, app owners need to know how to overcome the overwhelming odds of being abandoned.

How to not get dumped

Push Notifications

Push notifications improve user retention, pushing it to 56%.

People undoubtedly have preconceived notions of whether they love or loathe push notifications in their apps. Despite those feelings, however, that retention rate is no joke. Push notifications function as a highly efficient way to remind users that there is valuable action left to take in the app or to expect a great new feature soon to be rolled out.

Finding the right balance between useful nudges and obnoxious nagging took some time, but the biggest companies in the game have started dialing in their push strategies, and with great effect. Instagram, Snapchat, The New York Times, CNN, Facebook, ESPN, you name it. Each of these companies have made big moves into the notification space, and to great reward.

When push notifications are done right, they’ve commonly boosted both retention rates and app reviews. It’s important to use them at appropriate intervals and to send a valuable message. And if harnessed correctly, it can be a boon for app creators: More than half of mobile users in the U.S. who receive push notifications return to an app regularly.

It’s a fair assumption to make that users who subscribe to push notifications are more loyal to that app. However, it’s always a better idea to encourage an opt-in rather than automatically serve notifications. Using a personal touch in your messages, combined with the powerful remarketing tool push notifications provide, can be a powerful combination.

Alongside push notifications, in-app messages also significantly impact user retention – about 46% on average.


Seamless onboarding

The next biggest hurdle to adoption? A shitty onboarding process. The easier the onboarding experience is, the lower your app’s abandonment rate will be. It really can be as simple as that sometimes. Your user interface and user experience from the get-go have to be lockstep, intuitive and engaging or your app doesn’t stand a chance. Even the tiniest feature, if it causes even the remotest of confusions, must be simplified or eliminated moving forward.

By approaching the onboarding process with a laser focus on ease of use and intuitiveness can be the difference between your app’s long term success or failure. Depending on the line of work, it can mean the difference between your company’s future success and failure. So, quite literally, when it comes to onboarding, get it right or pay the price.


Keeping the App Updated

We get it. It can be a real pain in the ass ideating and executing on consistent app updates. It can be anywhere from a bit to a bunch of work on the back end, but we contend it will really pay off in the long run. Mobile users love getting an upgrade to their apps, especially if it expands functionality in a real and meaningful way. It’s also key to keeping your app fresh and relevant. Unless you have an app as indispensable to audience’s daily lives as Facebook, chances are you need to update your app somewhat regularly to give users more reasons to open it while giving you a greater chance to keep their interest. And to tie it all back together, it’s also a great piece of content to use as a push notification.  

Mobile Personalization

The final piece of advice here is to personalize your app where and when you can. Personalizing your app for users gives them a unique and more relevant experience. If users can either customize the app for themselves, or if those users feel like the app is learning from their behavior and customizing itself on its own, they’re more likely to lean into that app than if it’s a one-size-fits-all kinda construction. Now, personalization might not be appropriate or necessary in every given situation, but when used appropriately, it can be a great and significant driver of repeat audience traffic.

Every one of the 4 million+ apps out there is vying for our attention, but how many of them will actually stick after download? As it turns out, much of that answer lies in with the app owners/creators. By focusing on a few key things and incorporating a couple best practices, you’re far more likely to be one of those apps that finds a more permanent home on audience’s home screen.


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Jeff Francis

Jeff Francis is a veteran entrepreneur and founder of Dallas-based digital product studio ENO8. Jeff founded ENO8 to empower companies of all sizes to design, develop and deliver innovative, impactful digital products. With more than 18 years working with early-stage startups, Jeff has a passion for creating and growing new businesses from the ground up, and has honed a unique ability to assist companies with aligning their technology product initiatives with real business outcomes.

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