App engagement plays an integral part of any mobile app strategy. Building and nurturing relationships with users can be challenging. But the rewards are worth the effort.

Increasing app engagement can have a positive effect on your app business. Engaged and loyal users improve monetisation potential. This phenomenon is well known across different digital platforms.

Engagement, then, is a vital part of developing a successful app. So how can developers increase this vital metric?


App engagement - Onboarding

Robust Onboarding Process

User engagement has a lasting effect on retention. According to appboy, multichannel onboarding campaigns boost next-day retention by 80 per cent and two-month retention by 131 per cent.

A clear and consistent onboarding process is a valuable tool in generating user engagement. The value of engagement can be seen across the user lifecycle, but creating an onboarding experience allows users to understand how your app works and will drastically improve the chances that users will come back to your app.

Making a good first impression is essential. Onboarding should be simple, and the process should clearly explain the value proposition of your app. These tips should help you to develop your onboarding process to boost app engagement:

  • Remove blockers – this means that you should remove any sign-up forms or requests for information until they are necessary.
  • Give the user the option to move quicker – some users understand quicker than others. Many won’t sit there waiting for slowly animating text to appear.
  • Use familiar language – don’t make up terms that the new user will have to learn before they understand.
  • Directly communicate your value – figure out what keeps your users engaged and put this front and centre of the onboarding process.


App engagement - messaging


Push notifications

Push notifications can be a controversial topic amongst developers. When they are implemented well, they can have a positive effect on user engagement. The key is balancing the right amount of personalisation with the right number of notifications.

According to research by Localytics – users who enable push notifications open an app over 9x more than those who do not. This difference represents a 171 per cent increase in app engagement.


To ensure that your push notification opt-in rate remains high, you’ll need to think about how and when you ask for permissions. Like onboarding, this comes down to clear value communication.

Asking a user to enable push notifications the first time they open the app will most likely have a detrimental effect on the opt-in rate. As MoGage explains – communicating value alongside a well-designed interface can almost double the industry standard opt-in rate.

There are now many toolkits that can help developers achieve higher opt-in rates whilst complying with the relevant data protection legislation.

Push Messaging to boost engagement

Once you have obtained consent to message users, it’s important that you carefully craft the right message to the right user. Personalisation is a crucial element of engagement. Messaging should go beyond name personalisation – you need to provide a truly personal experience to boost engagement.

Getting this balance right is difficult. A poor push notification strategy will increase your user churn. Get it right, and you’ll have more engaged users. Here are some tips:

  • Don’t over send push notifications
  • Consider messaging in relevant app moments
  • Personalise push notifications based on where the user is in the lifecycle

In-app messaging

Similarly, it is important to plan your in-app messaging strategy carefully. It’s no surprise that a proactive in app-messaging solution can boost retention by up to 3.5x. For developers, this is a crucial part of engaging users.

Value still lies at the centre of in-app messaging, just as it does with push notifications. The messages are instead focused on engaging as opposed to reengaging users.

For these reasons, in-app messages should feel like a natural next step and feel familiar in terms of the app’s branding and style. They shouldn’t interrupt the flow or feel like marketing. Here are some extra tips:

  • Use these messages to initiate a dialogue with your users.
  • Focus on relevant information such as updates, event-driven offers or promotions, or proven engaging content.
  • Ensure that these messages remain actionable by using CTAs or deep links which navigate the user to the right place


Location is a great way to enable the personalisation of app messaging. Used correctly user location can help determine context. This location awareness allows you to provide more personal messaging.

Engagement and retention are improved if messaging is at the right moment. For example, this means reminding your users of an event when they are nearby. Perhaps it would be suggesting a new product when the app is open, and the user has just left a store.

The potential is enormous but will vary hugely from app to app. Research shows that personalisation has a huge positive effect on engagement rate and that location increases this even further.

There are powerful platforms with dedicated SDKs for developers to add location support to their app engagement strategy.


App engagement - Gamification


Gamification is a fantastic way to take your engagement and loyalty to the next level. Gamification is the process of adding game-based design to a non-game app to make the app more engaging.

There are two types of gamification; intrinsic and extrinsic.

  • intrinsic motivation – this is used to describe when a user performs a desired task for personal motivation.
  • Extrinsic motivation – this is when a user is motivated to complete a specific task or action to receive a reward or incentive.

Gamification involves increasing extrinsic motivation which in turn boosts intrinsic motivation and keeps users naturally coming back to your app.

Determine the metrics that you would like to improve

Regardless of gamification, you’ll want to define what it is that you want to achieve. Are you focusing on driving engagement or boosting retention?

Clearly defining goals here will help you to create the right actions and incentives later on.

A good idea is to limit these to a couple of goals. Such as sessions per user or 7-day retention.

Identify the right incentives

Once you have focused on these goals, it’s time to decide which user action match up to these goals. Here is where you must reward those goals and think about the incentives that you are offering to your users.

The incentive could be anything from a badge or in app-token to a reward or something with monetary value. It’s essential that you choose something that will motivate the user to achieve your goals.

Other tips:

  • Apply gamification to onboarding and other important elements of your app
  • Use gamification to achieve virality. Rewarding your users for sharing your app and its features is a highly effective way to implement gamification
  • Use surprises well. Sometimes the user will be more motivated to partake if the reward is a surprise. Give users a glimpse of the reward and keep them excited.
  • Use challenges. Users like to complete challenges, and sometimes the reward for this can mean more than the actual prize.


App engagement - Data

Leverage insights and data to understand your app users

The truth is that the best engagement and retention strategies begin with a detailed understanding of your app audience.

Segmenting your user base based on their behaviour will help you to understand the best way to engage users. Targeting messages to specific behavioural based segments can increase conversions by up to 200 per cent.

Understand how your app is used

Monitoring your user activity is an important part of user retention and engagement. Understand where your users complete goals and where they drop off. Use these insights to build a detailed picture of each session and use these insights to segment your audience.

For example, you might have a segment in your shopping app which likes to view only the newest items and will often order them in-app. These users can be segmented, and you could send them personalised messages when new ranges are released.

Get to the bottom of who your users are

Are your users impulse shoppers, hardcore gamers or do they fit into another segment? The reality is most likely that your user base can be segmented into many different categories. That’s why understanding who your users are is a crucial part of app engagement and retention.

Utilising datasets such as user location and purchase history can help to build more complex segments. Personalisation is an ongoing process so to remain consistent it’s vital to use data to get to the bottom of who your users are.

Use these insights to deliver the right message on the right channel

This understanding will help you to deliver the right message to the right user via the right channel. Make sure you measure key engagement metrics throughout this process. It will help you to fine-tune your strategy even further.

This information will help you to inform your external marketing strategy. That might mean that some user segments are partial to reengagement via email or other channels outside app messaging.


App engagement - Conclusion


  • An onboarding process is an important part of app engagement. Make sure you account for a variety of users and always make your proposition simple and communicate it effectively.
  • App-based messaging is one of the most powerful tools in your engagement and re-engagement strategy. Push notifications and in-app messaging are proven to help as long as they are kept personal and relevant to users.
  • Gamification is an emerging strategy to keep users interested in your app. Thinking about your goals and choosing the right incentives is crucial to an effective gamification strategy.
  • Building insights using data will allow you to segment your users and help you to inform your internal and external engagement and retention strategy.

Text: James Ewen

James is a marketer who writes extensively about many emerging tech topics in big data, marketing, IoT and mobile. His interests include researching how data is transforming the world around us (for better and worse). He currently leads the marketing effort at Tamoco.

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