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5 Mobile marketing actions to improve engagement

Quettra has recently published a study on mobile marketing that confirms the biggest problem currently faced by mobile applications: low user retention. It carries out a comparison between apps located in different Android rankings and it may come as a surprise (or not!) that the most popular − those located in the Top 10 − have not only obtained more downloads than the others but have also managed to enjoy a much higher user retention rate. The last group (Next 5000 Apps) can be found at the other extreme. This group is made up of apps that have a user retention rate of just 13.62%.

Let’s illustrate this with some numbers

Over the last mobile marketing campaign, an app called XYZ has achieved 10,000 new users in a month. This means that the company that has created the app has invested approximately € 13,000 according to market standards (and taking into account that XYZ falls into the last group of apps: the Next 5000 Apps).

After 30 days, up to 1,362 users have kept on using the app, though the initial number of users was 10,000. So, each retained user has entailed a cost of € 9.55. If XYZ had managed to achieve a user retention rate of 50% during this first month, the cost associated with each user would have been of € 2.6 instead of almost € 10.

graphic with retention curves for Android apps

Source: Andrew Chen

The situation is quite clear: we allocate more efforts and resources to obtain new customers than to keep those that we already have, and this translates into a great loss of money. In fact, the shocking part is that without good metrics we don’t even become acquainted with the fact that users are leaving our app.

This is the reason why − despite investing in user acquisition is essential − we must first have already worked out very well our mobile marketing strategy regarding user retention.

Within the mobile market or elsewhere?

Watching out to have an idea of what’s going on in the market as a whole is completely essential, especially at the moment when our mobile application is born. We don’t have any users yet and crave to obtain some at this early stage. That is why promotion strategies must be focused on acquiring these first users.

User retention, however, must be conceived and developed much earlier: we have to work out our user retention strategy at the same time that we are creating our app. To include actions in the user’s cycle and the app’s flows aimed at convincing these users to keep on using our app is paramount.

Actions that we can include

Unfortunately, there is no secret formula to improve user retention. However, there are some actions that we can include in our mobile marketing strategy to improve user retention. We must adapt all these actions to meet the specific aspects of our application and our users. We can optimise our application by acting on 5 areas:

  1. Onboarding
  2. UX
  3. In-app communication
  4. Notifications
  5. Gamification


We have already discussed the importance of Onboarding on the previous post, importance that stems from the fact that it’s the first contact that our users have with our app. This first experience is of the utmost importance and allows a very short reaction time: the first week is vital because we may lose up to 80% of the users that we have just managed to acquire in our m-Marketing strategy.

During this first stage, we have to check the data collected by the app with special care to identify particular points of the app where the drop-off rate is very high or processes that prove to be too complex for our users. Simplicity is absolutely essential!

UX, imperative in mobile marketing

Onboarding is the first contact that users have with the app. The next step is to improve and optimise our app’s user experience. And this is achieved through UX. We must consider the following when improving our app’s UX (User Experience):

  • As users, we have limitations. Information should be easy to find and scan. Call-to-actions must be straightforward and never mislead users; they must also not include big amounts of text.
  • As users, we make mistakes. As users, it should be very easy to go back and undo a mistake that we just made when using our app.
  • Our memory is not always brilliant. The user should not have to remember many tasks when going from one screen to another. The normal thing is to remember − at most − 3-4 tasks.
  • We are social beings. We use technology to be social. Take advantage of it!
  • We don’t always pay proper attention. We get distracted very easily and things that are new, bright or different from what we are used to are those that attract our attention more easily.

In-app communication

Both what we say as to how we say it is very important. The tone delivered is also very important both within our app as further beyond. If we choose a certain tone on our website or in our social networks, why not use it also in our app?

Sometimes we come across many applications that look like if they were written by robots giving orders: “Download the app if you want to continue”, and so on. But what if I’m not interested? Very often we are not even asked about it…

There are other tones for delivering messages: nicer tones that deliver the same idea and that are more convincing.

screenshot from online newspaper

To bear in mind that we are human beings addressing other human beings is very significant when addressing communication within our app. Our mobile marketing strategy will otherwise fail.

Push notifications

The same way that it’s important to work on communication within our app, we must also focus on the notifications and messages sent to users. Push notifications, for instance, are a very good tool for reminding the user to re-enter our app. We must be persuasive and catch his attention if we want to convince him.

The Wallapop team make really good use of push notifications: receiving a message that says “To reach the top… You’ll have to be equipped!” makes you feel curious enough to open it. When opened, it − surprisingly − doesn’t take you to the app’s main screen but rather to a mountain section they have created. All this is achieved by means of deep linking.

screenshots from smartphones

These messages can and should be segmented. In my particular case with Wallapop’s mountain products, the push notification would have very possibly been more rewarding for them if I had visited any section or mountain product beforehand.

I am personally not into mountain related sports and have never looked for mountain products (or the like) in Wallapop but hey, they managed to get me to open the app. Do you think that’s enough as a mobile marketing strategy?


Introducing game-like characteristics in an app or in a website is not something new. Do you know Mint? It’s an American portal (and currently a website as well) that will help you save money by motivating you as if it were a game. How can we implement this? According to experts in gamification, we must include the following aspects of our app:

explicative image

Our app’s purpose (or the gamification’s goal) should be clear. We have to be able to make progress (otherwise we’ll get bored). Throughout this progress, we must be able to learn and gradually become experts. We will feel proud of our accomplishments and share them with other people because we are social in nature. This is why our gamification must:

  • Be clear
  • Be progressive
  • Allow the user to learn
  • Reward the user
  • Allow the user to share on social networks

In short…

We have to work on user retention, loyalty management and ultimately on the entire mobile marketing strategy from the very beginning, even before we start to develop our app. We can work on these aspects in many ways but there are 5 key issues that will improve user retention if we optimise them: Onboarding, UX, In-app Communication, Notifications and Gamification.

Proyecto Marketing