5 steps to improve user retention rates through app personalization

5 steps to improve user retention rates through app personalization
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Key Takeaways
  • Mobile app publishers today face tough retention metrics - and they're only getting tougher as new market players join.
  • One way mobile apps can differentiate and boost retention is by personalizing their apps from A-Z.
  • We've gathered 6 important steps to help app publishers boost retention rates via personalization, starting with the data.

To personalize or not to personalize?

Gone are the days of those one-size-fits-all mobile app experiences. Today, with millions of unique apps claiming mindshare, app publishers face some of the toughest retention challenges – and consequential pressure to offer added value and personalized experiences. 

In a recent study, Leanplum found that 20% of users abandon an app within 30 seconds of the initial download. A Branch study found that 71% of users abandon an app within a day, and 90% abandon it within a month. Common problems that lead to these shocking metrics include a poor user experience (i.e. slow load times and confusing navigation), difficult onboarding processes, a lack of clear value, and a lack of user engagement, among others.

To help publishers overcome some of these hurdles, let’s hone in on that last one: a lack of user engagement. There are certain apps out there that have mastered everything else – their onboarding experience is a breeze, their UX is top-notch, and their app’s overall value is clear, but they’re not reaching out through the types of personalized messaging that today’s consumers want.

consumers mobile app retention

Why mobile app personalization matters

App retention problems can certainly vary based on core app functionality, user device type, geographical location, and more. Regardless, we’ve witnessed across the industry how hugely beneficial mobile app personalization can be. 

First, Adobe defines app personalization as “the process of building a mobile app to meet the needs of specific audiences. Similar to other forms of personalization, app personalization aims to present user experiences that are customized to their specific needs.”

72% of consumers want personalized messages

The same study mentioned earlier, while specifically focused on app onboarding experiences, found that personalization led to a 180% increase in app sign-ups, a 190% increase in retention, and a 200% increase in engagement. And, ultimately, 90% of app users who engage with an app at least one time per week are more likely to be long-term users.

Still, according to Evergage, only 28% of all apps are personalized. Thus, there’s a major opportunity in the app market to differentiate by taking advantage of user data and segmentation, creating personalized messages and offers, and ultimately continuing to test and improve.

So how do app publishers personalize the right way to ensure better mobile app engagement and retention? 

5 steps to boost user retention with mobile app personalization

1. Start with the data. 

What information do you have about your customers’ specific values, needs, and wants? The right data will help you make informed decisions about how to personalize your mobile app. The right data can be split into three categories:

  • Demographic data like age and gender, 
  • Contextual data like a user’s current geographic location, device type, time of day they use the app, and, 
  • Behavioral data, for example, if they’re clicking on more coats than shirts in a retail app.

2. Personalize the onboarding process. 

Here’s where your user’s journey begins, and where you can begin to help them reach their unique goals. Design an onboarding experience that keeps customers and their problems at the core, and creates clear paths through the product without friction points. 

Personalizing the onboarding experience starts with leveraging the data we mentioned above, and then segmenting them based on their behavior or specific use cases. However, it can also mean reducing onboarding friction (i.e. in a finance app, asking users early on what their financial goals are to remove steps later on), personalizing onboarding messaging via emails (such as a welcome, re-engagement, and follow-up email), and adding dynamically created personalized text to onboarding screens.

3. Personalize the in-app experience. 

According to Business of Apps, in-app messages have been shown to boost retention by an average of 30% globally, when properly implemented. Make sure your messages are clear, concise, and catered to the customer’s goals and needs. For example, it may make sense to base in-app messaging — as well as personalized savings offers – on users’ individual behavioral data. 

Zendrive’s Insurance Qualification Lens (IQL) solution, which embeds into consumer apps via an SDK, leverages unique driving behavior data in order to provide personalized feedback to each user that opts in. During about a month-long test drive experience, users get tailored information about how they’re driving and tips on how to drive safer – which in turn boosts their chances of getting a personalized auto insurance savings offer once they complete the experience.

Zendrive helps consumer apps use unique driving data, which is personalized in itself as no user’s driving data is precisely the same, and which can be used for effective in-app messaging.

4. Work with the right vendors. 

As a mobile app publisher, if you’re relying on third-party tech vendors to help analyze and source unique user data for a personalized in-app experience, make sure that the vendor checks off all the necessary boxes.

Firstly, as data privacy is a major concern across businesses and consumers today, it should also be at the core of your tech vendor’s business. For example, your tech partner shouldn’t collect Personal Identifiable Information (PII), should always ensure an opt-in experience for end users, and should utilize edge computing. 

The right partner should also provide an easy onboarding and implementation process, and where necessary, offer help with user engagement, and go above and beyond to help app publishers set goals and perform well. 

Zendrive's IQL solution is future-proofed and privacy friendly

5. Don’t forget to A/B test. 

Last but not least, a crucial step to successful mobile app personalization is A/B testing. This can be used to test changes across your app – for any aspect where a measurable goal can be improved. That includes the onboarding flow, content and messaging, the user interface (UI), and more. Conclusions can be applied to long-term personalization campaigns.

“The A/B test is used to gather valuable insights about the app’s users, and those insights can then be applied to all users who fit into those demographics through app personalization.”


User retention & beyond: Top benefits of app personalization

Ultimately, personalizing the app experience (backed by reliable, varied user data) can lead to a number of huge wins for consumer app businesses. 

First, in an overcrowded market where less than a third of apps are actually personalizing, there’s a huge opportunity to stand out from the masses. Other benefits include increased brand awareness and an improved customer experience (according to Evergage, 84% of businesses report that the customer experience is a key personalization factor). 

91% of consumers are more likely to buy from brands that provide relevant offers

Plus, mobile apps can benefit from increased user engagement and conversions – Accenture found that 91% of consumers say they’re more likely to buy from brands that provide relevant offers and recommendations. And all of this, of course, leads to improved user retention and brand loyalty.

In this ever-competitive mobile app market where retention challenges are the roughest they’ve been, we might be better off skipping the question, “To personalize or not to personalize?” 

To learn more about how Zendrive helps consumer apps leverage personalized driving behavior data via its Insurance Qualification Lens (IQL) solution, contact us directly below.

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5 steps to improve user retention rates through app personalization
Andrew Abrahm
Sr. Director, Business Development
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