Why is your User Retention Rate so Low?


The average app loses 77% of its DAUs within the first 3 days after the install. Within 30 days, it’s lost 90% of DAUs. Within 90 days, it’s over 95%. Based on this Quettra data, Andrew Chen, General Partner at a16z, states that the average app mostly loses its entire userbase within a few months. 


Of course, a lost DAU doesn’t mean that users are completely inactive. Different apps have different usage patterns. However, Ankit Jain comments that “Users try out a lot of apps but decide which ones they want to ‘stop using’ within the first 3-7 days. For ‘decent’ apps, the majority of users retained for 7 days stick around much longer. The key to success is to get the users hooked during that critical first 3-7 day period.” 

Also, according to Quettra data, successful apps (top 10, for example), have stronger retention rates than the others. That means that DAU and retention is a critical factor in growing and maintaining a successful app.


Your app’s retention rate is lower than the industry benchmark? Or you think there is still plenty of room to improve retention? First, you should understand what the reasons could be for a low retention rate. Let’s examine together.

1. Your App Doesn’t Excel at Tasks

People download apps because they think that the app would help them solve their problems at better than websites. This better level could be about ease, speed, or other advantages. So, your app should give the users a unique experience by excelling at a task and delivering it with mastery to have an improved retention rate.

2. Your App Gives an Unpleasant Onboarding Experience

Onboarding is the first real experience that a user will have with your app, apart from their application store experience. It is not hard to imagine how important it is to create a pleasant moment for your users not to leave your app and come back later. Learn if your users are happy with their onboarding experience and make the necessary changes. You can get inspired by other apps that have the best onboarding flows and increase the retention rate.

Image: Shopify, An example of a noisy, unpleasant onboarding flow

3. You are Sending Irrelevant and Irritating Notifications

Push notifications and in-app messages are two of the most effective ways for in-app engagement. However, if not done right, they cause users to uninstall your app. 71% of users who uninstall an app do it because of annoying notifications. Work on tailored notifications to improve your retention rate.


4. Your App is Slow

This is a consumption world, and no user has the time to wait for your app to load. Imagine a slow-working taxi app on a rainy day. Imagine waiting for a coupon app to work while the cashier and the line behind is waiting. Your retention rate might be low because your app is slow. Mobile users demand fast solutions to their needs and your app shouldn’t disappoint them.

Image: Giphy

5. Your App Crashes

Mobile users have a low tolerance for buggy, sloppy apps. It is unlikely that they will give your app several chances if it keeps crashing. There are many reasons for app crashing, and one of them is the variety of devices on which they are installed. On iOS, this is not a problem yet, there are hundreds of different Android devices available. With this many possible combinations, your app should be prepared for the problems by various testing and other methods.

Image: Innv8tiv

6. Your App is Asking for Feedback at the Wrong Times

Breaking users’ flow while they are engaging with your app for self-promotional purposes hurts your retention rate. Instead of pushing users to disengage with their tasks, ask for feedback when they have completed the task and achieved a goal to increase the chance of getting a reply without frustration.

Image: iMore

7. Your App Shows Intrusive and Irrelevant Ads

In monetary terms, ads are great for your app, and they might match your users with other cool products. Yet, Nielsen Norman Group reported a dislike of ads after surveying users. When users are engaging with your app, it is frustrating to get disrupted. It breaks their flow, and they need to take action to get rid of the ad. To have a better retention rate, make sure that ads do not distort the user experience. 

One way to reduce the negative effect of ads on the user is to place them in the app’s natural flow or have a dedicated space. You can use in-app stories to deliver ads to your users without disengaging or dedicating much real estate. Discover how to take advantage of in-app stories with Storyly

Image: Storyly, you can create partnerships with in-app stories

8. Your App has Overwhelming Navigation

Mobile is about speed and efficiency. App users want to complete their tasks quickly. If it takes too long because they cannot find what they are looking for, or get lost in the app, then the app navigation is problematic.  

There are many different mobile navigation patterns for different needs, and they all come with their good and bad sides. Because mobile screen sizes are small, making navigation discoverable and accessible is a challenge. Yet, navigation plays a big role in the retention rate. Having a familiar user interface takes the burden of educating the user for navigation both from you and your user.

Image: Users are familiar with the gesture-based navigation

9. Your App Has Too Much Gated Content

Forcing a pay-to-play scenario on your users could easily disrupt the user experience and lower the retention rate after a few weeks.  When users look for some free content but cannot find as much as was promised, they leave the app. If you have a lot of gated content in your app, you should inform the user beforehand.

Image: Smashing Magazine

10. Your App Invades Privacy

App security and privacy are more top of mind for users than ever before. Users are more educated about them. Your app may be failing to take appropriate action by asking for unnecessary permissions, permissions without clear reasoning, or asking for too much personal information.

Image: Appcues, Uber Eats explains why it needs to access location data

Wrap Up

The app retention rate is a critical metric and a starting point to assess the performance of your app. Many mobile app owners don’t even realize that there is something off in the app causing a low retention rate. To have a better retention rate, you need to put the in-app experience front and track the metrics closely to have a better understanding. After finding the root of the problem and making the necessary changes, you will observe that the retention rate gets better.

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