How to Gauge App Engagement and Retention

Matt Loos
Matt Loos
December 15th, 2017
Estimated read time: 4 minutes, 19 seconds

One of the most interesting trends we see (as presented in the stats below) is a movement away from traditional websites to app experiences. People are choosing to spend more and more time with apps because they are personalized, intuitively designed, and task-oriented.

Smartphone users typically have loads of apps installed on their devices but use only a select few daily. This lack of engagement leaves marketers fighting for screen real estate and the constant challenge of app discovery.

An August 2015 Millward Brown Digital survey revealed that 43% of US smartphone owners used four to six apps on an average day. Comparing that to the number of apps they have installed—about 40 to 70—app usage is fairly small.


And that low usage rate is just for apps users keep. The same study found that 72% of smartphone owners deleted an app because they rarely used it. Other causes of deletion were because the app was draining the device’s battery, as well as a need to free up memory on their smartphone.

Looking to combat deletion and lack of usage, many app marketers have been turning to app retention, a metric used to gauge how valuable an app is to consumers.

A separate July 2015 study by mobile analytics and attribution platform Appsflyer explored why engagement— and more importantly re-engagement—was critical for app marketers. The survey looked at over 450 million installs across ecommerce, travel and utility apps from May to July of this year. The retention rate was calculated as the unique number of users who were active on days one, seven and 30, out of the total number of unique users who first launched the app in the selected timeframe.

While retention rates do vary by operating system, it is not by much. Almost a third of both Android and iOS users relaunched the app after a day, showing that engagement significantly decreased just 24 hours after the initial install. By day 30, only 3.3% of Android users and 3.2% of iOS were still engrossed with the app.


The study also looked at how important organic app acquisition was. In fact, retention rates on Android devices after 30 days were 156% greater for organic app installs than for paid app installs.

Smartphone users are clearly interacting with apps, specifically those they find organically. However, as the app marketplace continues to saturate, marketers must find new and different ways to stand out.


Image credit: Nielsen

Considering this current sweeping trend, we’ve rounded up the freshest statistics and charts that reveal the increasing importance of mobile (and mobile apps) in consumer lives.

1. Mobile devices are becoming omnipresent across the globe.

  • 1 in 5 people in the world own a smartphone (Source: BI Intelligence)
  • 1 in 17 people in the world own a tablet (Source: BI Intelligence)
  • 25% of smartphone owners aged 18-44 can’t remember the last time their phone wasn’t next to them (Source: Fast Company)

2. Consumer appetites is growing because app retention and engagement have improved.

  • There are 224 million monthly active app users in the US (Source: Search Engine Journal)
  • The amount of time people spend using apps has increased by 21% since last year (Source: Localytics)
  • In 2014, the percent of apps used only once shrunk to 20%, improving from 22% from last year (Source: Localytics)
  • During the last four years, the percentage of apps used 11 or more times increased to 39% in 2014 (Source: Localytics)
  • In Q4 of 2014, apps were opened more than 10 times per month (higher than Q4 of 2013) (Source: Localytics)

3. Mobile is winning the battle for consumer time in key categories, like social networking and entertainment.

  • Digital radio and photos now generate 96% of their total engagement from mobile devices (Source: comScore)
  • Total mobile engagement on social has grown 55% in the past year (Source: comScore)

4. Brands are investing more in mobile ads because they perform better than online ads.

  • Mobile ads perform 4-5 times better than online ads (Source: HubSpot)
  • 62% of smartphone users are “ok with 15-30 second ads” in exchange for video content (Source: ReelSEO)

5. Mobile app revenue and the number of m-commerce transactions completed in apps will be higher than ever.

  • More than 2 billion mobile users will make a mobile commerce transaction by the end of 2017 (Source: Juniper Research)
  • In 2014, 42% of all mobile sales generated by the leading 500 merchants came from mobile apps (Source: Internet Retailer)
  • 74% of smartphone users use their phone to help with shopping (Source: HubSpot)
  • Mobile coupons are redeemed 10x more than print coupons (Source: HubSpot)
  • Global mobile app revenues are expected to grow to 76.52 billion US dollars in 2017 (Source: Statista)

6. Mobile is eating into the time people spend watching television.

  • US adults spend an average of 2 hours and 51 minutes a day using mobile devices (Source: eMarketer)
  • In 2014, mobile was second only to TV for total time spent with media (Source: eMarketer)

7. People now spend more time using apps than they do accessing the web from a desktop or mobile device.

  • There are 5x as many cellphones in the world as there are PCs (Source: HubSpot)
  • 85% of people prefer native mobile apps to websites (Source: Search Engine Journal)
  • In the US, time spent with mobile apps now exceeds desktop web access (Source: MarketingCharts)

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