Last update: May 2021

6 mins to read - 2020/09/16

Mobile Marketing User Journey Stage 4: User Retention

For most apps, user acquisition is a costly process. It’s far more cost-efficient to focus on retaining the customers you already have than acquiring new ones. However, according to Marketing Land, 78% of mobile app users across the industry churn within 90 days. Clearly, there is an enormous window for improvement. Whether it comes in the form of app usage, community interaction, or user feedback, user retention is the fuel that keeps an app running.

Download our FREE Mobile Marketing Playbook to perfect your user engagement game!

mobile apps user retention through discovery

Objective: Encourage User Retention Through Discovery of App Features

A large percentage of lapsed users lose interest in an app without having explored all its features. Identify users at risk of churning by segmenting those who sporadically use your app. Or who only use a few of its functions and haven’t opened the app in a few days.

Send a notification inviting them to check out the app’s full range of use cases, with a deep link to app pages they haven’t visited yet. If they didn’t go through an orientation tutorial when they downloaded the app, invite them to do so. Send a rich push notification with a video walk-through of different features they may find useful. Use data signals to catch your user at the right time, when they are at leisure and can focus on your app. If they are at work or otherwise engaged, you run the risk of having your notification swiped away.

mobile marketing user retention timing

Objective: Get a User/Player to Go Back into the App and Complete a Level

An unfinished level is the gaming equivalent of an abandoned shopping cart. And if a user gets frustrated early on in the game, or gets distracted and falls out of the habit of opening the app on a daily basis, they may become a churned user. 

Once enough time has passed, invite the user to come back into the game and give it another try. Draw them back in with a reminder of the quest or step they need to complete, in case they have forgotten:

“The Mapmaker is waiting for you at the Cartographers’ Guild. Come back and hear what he has to tell you!”

If behavior analytics show that they left the level unfinished because of a particular task or puzzle that stumped them, it may be worth sending them a cheat code. Or an extra life, to nudge them along.

In many F2P games if a user dies or completes a level, they have to wait a certain amount of time before they can resume gameplay. An in-app message can invite them to pay for more lives to keep playing if they don’t want to wait out the time it takes for them to respawn. Otherwise, use a push notification to alert them that their time is up and they can start playing again. 

mobile app push notification user retention

Objective: Alert User That a Product They Were Interested in Has Changed in Price

This is especially useful in travel and auctioning apps, such as eBay, where prices are volatile and liable to change on short notice. In many cases, if a user is looking at a particular item – and especially if they take it all the way to the checkout stage before abandoning their shopping cart – they may only need a slight nudge to get them to come back to the app and complete their process.

If the item they were looking at has become less expensive, that may be the incentive they need to come back and buy it. If the item becomes more expensive, that can still sometimes be the push the user needs. This may be because they feel it’s suddenly more premium and therefore more worth having. Or maybe they are worried that if they don’t buy it now the price will jump up even higher. Either way, with the right push notification sent at the right moment, a change in price can very easily be turned into a sales conversion.

mobile marketing user engagement community

Objective: Encourage Engagement Within the Community

This is a critical function for mobile games, for which user retention is low, and many of which are driven by social behavior. MMORPGs often involve players teaming up and achieving common goals within the game, while augmented reality (AR) games like Pokemon GO will often have players virtually battling each other for possession of a gym in their physical environment. Mobile games also have the advantage of engagement spilling over to outside of the app as well. Players often exhibit fan-like behavior and make the game part of their identity. They do this by:

  • participating in forums and social media pages dedicated to the game
  • attending conventions
  • buying branded merchandise, and more

A well-placed notification can offer players the step they need to become more immersed in the community. If a user has friends who also use a particular app, let them know when there is a chance to interact with a customized invitation. For example:

“Hey Pokemon Trainer, your friend Danny_Zero wants to battle you with his Squirtle! Do you accept?”


“Novice Assassin, three adventurers want you to join their quest to the Sunken Kingdom. Check into the Admiral Arms pub to let them know you’re game.”

Deep links can then direct them to the app page where they can play or communicate with other players.

Even if this has no direct monetization effects, social investment will boost the player’s enthusiasm for the gaming experience overall, and may influence them to draw in other players. 

Objective: Alert Users to Situations in Their Area With Personalized Content Based on Geolocation

The geolocation data signal has a wide range of uses that go far beyond sales and promotions. Ride-sharing apps frequently use location to signal context-savvy notifications. For example, when a user arrives at an airport and needs directions to get to the designated pick-up destination. Traffic apps or navigational apps can also use contextual factors to ping drivers about alternate routes.  

If a user is at an airport, their travel app can inform them of gate changes or flight delays in real-time. If geolocation shows the user of an app for a chain store or institution is physically present in the establishment – say an Applebee’s, or the Air and Space Museum – try sending them an interactive push notification inviting them to check-in.

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There are plenty of contexts in the gaming industry for geolocation as well, particularly in AR games. For example, Pokemon GO not only directs players to local gyms and arenas in their area, but it also has a live map of users’ surroundings. This lets them both hunt for Pokemon in the app, and explore their physical environment by seeking out areas of local interest that show up on their device as “Pokestops.”

Bonus Objective: Boost User Retention With Birthday/Anniversary Campaigns

Reward users for their year-in, year-out loyalty, and boost long-term retention. Do this by giving them a free gift, discount, or bonus content on their birthday. (Or on the anniversary of their installing your app.) This will make them feel like a valued part of your community. Plus, it’s a little added incentive to keep using your app for another year. Leverage personal data, such as the user’s date of birth and interests, to gauge what day and what type of reward will best resonate with them. 

For more tips on how to use notifications to boost user retention rates, download our Mobile Marketing Best Practices Playbook.

Or, to chat about all things mobile marketing or user engagement, get in touch with one of our experts!

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Download our FREE Mobile Marketing Playbook to perfect your user engagement game!


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