App Retention: 23% Of Apps Are Only Used Once

Dan Haggerty Dan Haggerty
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You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

The bloated nature of the app ecosystem continues to effect app engagement and retention rates.

A report by Boston-based mobile engagement platform Localytics said that 36% of people are still using an individual app one month after install. According to the third edition of Localytics’s vertical industry benchmark reports, 23% of apps are used once before being ignored or dumped.

On the plus side, 39% of people will return to an app at least 11 times, the report said. App engagement and retention is measured by the number of times that a person will launch or open an app—known as “sessions”—which puts the onus on a developer to ensure that the experience is worth returning to.

An individual app can expect to be launched around 13.78 times per month, with a weekly engagement rate of 5.81 launches. The average person spends just under five minutes in an app each month, which contributes to a total time spent in apps during the month reaching 66.14 minutes.

The report—which drew on data gathered in the last six months of 2016—said that average monthly engagement with individual apps was flat across all categories. Much of this stems from the ongoing problem of a disconnect between the number of sessions and the people who could be considered as loyal to an app.

For example, 10% of people will launch an app twice but only 2% of people will return either eight or nine times after install. This is a not a new phenomena (far from it), although it does highlight the rather obvious need to make an app worth repeat visits.

User Retention by # Sessions

Source: Localytics

One key metric that must always be considered is retention rates, which drop significantly after the first month of app install (although that may not always align with app launch date). After two months, app retention is at 25% before falling to 20% after three months. This means that churn rates—the percentage of people who do not return to an app after install—rise to 75% and 80%, respective.

For the purposes of its analysis, Localytics assessed the engagement and retention rates of 37,000 mobile and web apps from over 2.7 billion devices. Both Android and iOS apps were put under the microscope, with five categories—media and entertainment, retail and eCommerce, social, travel and lifestyle, business and technology—all measured.

Apps Must Inform, Educate Or Entertain

Unsurprisingly, social and media and entertainment saw the highest levels of engagement in the last half of 2016.

Social apps were launched an average of 20.28 times per month, with people spending just under an hour per month—58.81 minutes—in these apps. The report said 42% of people would return to a social app more than 11 times, although the average churn rate after three months was 83%.

An ongoing obsession with video streaming would likely account for the amount of time spent in media and entertainment apps.

Localytics said that people spent an average of 103.16 minutes per month in these apps, with individual apps recording a monthly engagement rate of 14.57 launches. Churn was still high after three months (79%) but 36% of people will come back to media and entertainment apps at least 11 times.

Two girls looking at their phones

Business and technology and travel and lifestyle apps had “solid engagement” with an average of 13.23 monthly launches, the report said. Both categories also encourage repeat visits—38% of people launched business and technology apps more than 11 times, although travel and lifestyle recorded a rate of 42%.

Time spent in these two categories of app was also reasonable; people spent 51.83 minutes per month in business and technology apps and 46.64 minutes in travel and lifestyle apps. Churn rates mirrored the rest of the app categories with only 20% of people still using a business or technology app after three months. Travel and lifestyles apps fared slightly better with a 75% churn rate.

Retail and eCommerce apps provided a mixed bag of results, according to the Localytics data.

Retention rates for the first month hovered around the 59% mark, while 21% of people only use a retail and eCommerce app once—both of which are below the average scores for all apps. On the flip side, total time spent in this category of apps is low—only 38.46 minutes per month—although an average session lasts around 3.67 minutes.

“There is so much competition when it comes to winning the loyalty of today’s fickle app users,” said Localytics’ chief marketing officer Josh Todd, in a press release. “It can be challenging for companies to know how their app is stacking up. Our hope is that these vertical benchmarks help companies compare the effectiveness of their app with others in their industry and understand where they are seeing success and where they might need to improve in order to win and retain more users.”

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