15 Ways to Keep App Users Hooked


It’s hard keeping your users interested. They’re picky and it’s not hard to see why. There are so many apps available and it’s simple for them to just delete one and download another. So how can app makers keep the interest of users that are swamped with a million things to do and so many other apps to distract them?

You can find a way to hook your users.

Think about it. According to Google, the average user downloads about 26 apps on their mobile device. Since the average app users only spends about 2 hours a day using apps, there’s not much time to convince users your app is special.

Remember, you’re not just competing with similar apps. You’re competing with the other 43 apps fighting to stay on your users’ home screen.

So you need ways to keep users hooked. Here are 15 simple ideas that may just help you keep users around.

Awesome Customer Service

There’s no way to hook your users without talking to them. You just won’t have a real sense of what they want beyond what your analytics tell you. So make it easy for your users to reach out, especially if they have a problem. Add in-app chat into your mobile app using a tool like Apptentive or Hipmob. Create an awesome in-app FAQ filled with helpful videos or animated gifs to help them using a tool like Helpshift to make it simpler.

Also, setup automated emails, text messages, and push notifications based on your users’ behaviors. Just find a smart way to always talk to your users and you’ll be surprised at what will happen to user retention and user engagement.

Build an In-App Engagement Screen

I think one of the smartest things mobile app development teams can do is have an in-app engagement page. If you don’t know what an in-app engagement screen is, it’s just a hub screen for your mobile app users. It’s the screen your users can go and find out everything about your app and/or company.

Let’s just use an example, it’s more fun that way. Let’s say you made the Flappy Bird game. How would your users find about updates, Flappy Bird merchandise, and other similar games by your company? They wouldn’t without lots of push notifications, website visits, or random mentions i your app. Well, an in-app engagement screen would have it all. It’s the place users expect to find important announcements, video, or other things that interest them in your app. Don’t worry if you’re confused or need more examples. Sign up for the newsletter and I will go over in-app engagement screens in detail and how to make your own in a few weeks.

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Change Your Look

Unfortunately, mobile apps are seen as “treats” and not the powerful software they really are. Since we can’t change that, work with it. If you want to keep users interested and opening your app more, you have to keep your look fresh.

You don’t even have to do much work to change your look. Just make small changes. Change your button colors, change your app font, or even change your intro video. This is easy to do if you use a content management system for your mobile app. Whatever it takes to keep users interested is worth the few seconds it takes to drag and drop new content in your app to change your app’s look. Also, test out how often you have to update your app to keep users. Some apps do well with quarterly updates but others do better with weekly updates. Just test, watch your engagement numbers, and you’ll get your answer.

Make your app feel bug free

I know there is no such thing as bug free apps, but that doesn’t mean your users can’t think so. The bugs you should care about are the bugs your users experience. You don’t need perfect code, you just need code that works for your users. And if it doesn’t feel bug free, your users won’t open your app again.

Go through the features your users will use most and make sure those features are bug free before anything else. Always test your app. Install a “kill switch” tool  that will turn off any buggy feature in your app while you find a fix. That way, your users can still keep using the app and you can spend all the time you need on a quality bug fix.

Make your app fast

One of the top ways to earn a 1-star review in the App Store (besides app crashes) is a slow app. Mobile app users hate slow apps. As a matter of fact, the average user only uses an app for about 1 minute before moving on. You can’t hook users if your app takes longer than this to open.

Don’t think app speed keeps people from using your app? Well, here’s another fact to keep in mind. According to the Mobile App Survery Report, the average smartphone user expects apps to open in less than 2 seconds. If your app doesn’t do that, it’s time to optimize your app. Find ways to cut some of the bloat when your app launches. Cut some of the heavy graphics. Optimize your app code to get rid of any lag. Send your app content later, instead of loading it all at launch. Again, just find a way to make things fast and your users will stay around.


Add small features

It’s expensive to always add lots of features, especially big ones. But it doesn’t take big features to keep your users hooked. Learn about your users’ needs and make small changes that make a big impact. For instance, if you have a business app why not integrate LinkedIn into your app. If you have a to-do list, why not add a simple way to remove items with a gesture, like shaking their device. It’s the small things that will help you keep users hooked. You don’t need big features (which you should reserve for a X.0 update anyway) to keep your users hooked. If you need ideas for new small features, just check your app analytics and the ratings/reviews of your own app. There are plenty of ideas you can find here.

Make it easy to use your app with friends

Apps are just more enjoyable when you can use them with a friend. I mean, what’s not more fun with a friend? This could be the hook you need to get users to stick around. Multiplayer games have been doing this for a while now. But you don’t need to make a game to pull this off.

Imagine you have a flashcard app, why not allow users to study with their Facebook friends? This is not only a big win for your user engagement, but could be a great way to spread the word about your app.

Just get users using your app with friends. Your user sessions could be longer, revenue could increase, and your users could keep your app longer.

Introduce them to something new at the right time

How can a user get hooked if you bombard them with 50 things to do as soon as they open the app. Unfortunately, I see a lot of apps get this wrong and it usually happens when they’re trying to get users to spend money.  I understand you need to make money, but this won’t happen if you annoy the heck out of users and they never open your app again.

Introduce your users to different things in your app in parts. What’s the most important thing they need to do the first time they use your app? That one thing is the only thing you should focus on their first session. I know, you have so much you want your users to experience in so little time. But that’s the point exactly. Mobile app users don’t spend much time in your app. Let them get hooked to the one thing your app does well and the next time they come back, they can experience more. It’s more exciting for the user, it helps focus onboarding, and it’s just easier for the user to understand what your app’s about.

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Tailor your messaging

If you have a mobile app, all your users aren’t the same. So why would you send them all the same messages, the same way, at the same time? This just doesn’t make sense.

Think about it. If you have a to-do list app, I can promise you that many of your users are using your app for different reasons, in different ways. Maybe there’s a dad that uses to-do lists during the weekdays to manage the family’s schedule. Or there could be a busy hedge fund manager that has the same to-do list everyday, never checks things off, but needs her list in one place.

If you tried to send them the same in-app messages or show them the same kind of content, neither user would stay around long term.

Just customize the content and messages you send to users and they have no choice but to fall in love with your app.

Reach out at the right time

Would you want a snow cone in January? Or hot tea in July? If you want to keep your users around, don’t make the mistake of reaching out at the wrong time.

Think about the times you reach out now. Do you ask your users to tweet messages when they’re sleep? Do you send push notifications asking users to rate your app even if they’ve never used it?

It’s not enough to blast one general message to all your users anymore. You can get better user engagement with well-timed messages based on what your app users are actually doing (or not doing). This ensures the right message gets to the right users at the right time.

Get Rid of Distractions

Imagine how many push messages, tweets, emails, and texts your users are distracted by when they use your app. Make sure your app isn’t making things worse.

Consider removing your app name inside the app. Hide the time unless they close your app. You could even have a “Don’t Disturb” mode that prompts users to turn on “Airplane Mode” to block outside distractions. Whatever you can do to keep your app users focused, do it.

Stop Nickel and Diming Your Users

In-app purchases are lucrative for some app makers, but they make some app users run for the hills. Your users open your app to get something done. They don’t want to close three video ads just to be prompted to buy something in your app AGAIN.

Find a way to optimize your in-app purchases. Maybe you can charge more for the most popular ones and drop the others. Maybe you can encourage users to spend money in your app without pop-up prompts and pay walls. Maybe you could even find a way to monetize your app a smarter way. Just stop making your users feel like they’re being nickeled and dimed, or they’ll never stick around to spend a dime ;)

Give away goodies outside of the app

Need an interesting way to get users back to your app? Give away some goodies. Free t-shirts, cookies, and cute toy mascots could turn any fly-by-night users into true fans. But don’t limit yourself to just physical goods.

Try giving out virtual goodies. To give out virtual goodies outside of your app, talk to your users outside of the app. This can be via email, SMS, snail mail, or by phone. Even if you have millions of users this isn’t hard to pull off.

Let’s say your app analytics show that your top app users are playing your game for shorter sessions. How do you get them to play more again? First off, think of something you want to offer those users. It could be something as simple as $5 of free game play or advanced access to new features. Just make sure they can get it now. Now send an email, push, or SMS just to that user group. Btw, you’ve segmented your users…right? Ask them like a human why they’ve stopped playing as much. Send a personal note without sounding like you’re watching their every move in your app. You can even invite them to do a survey. Just remember, people hate surveys so the reward better be worth it.

Whatever you choose to give away make sure it can build user loyalty. It won’t hook users if it’s not interesting or valuable to them.

Easter Eggs

There’s nothing like an adventure to pique people’s interest. And hunting for an Easter Egg in your app is just the adventure your users need to be hooked.

Make your app do something special if they shake your app in three different directions. Give away some cool prize if they find the secret room in your game. You could even make a special Easter Egg available Easter day that gives them some sort of in-app purchase for free. This doesn’t even have to be fancy. Just do something interesting or funny to get app users coming back. A good Easter Egg could even get them talking about your app with friends. BONUS!

Make your app easy to use again

You don’t have to be a mobile game to have a “play again” button. You just need to make it easy for users to jump right back into action when they want. You can do this a few ways. Consider  making quick action buttons, allowing speech commands, or replacing buttons altogether with gestures.

You could also allow users to use your app in a “lite mode” so they see abbreviated menus. You could even give them a way to start where they left off in your app.

Your only goal here is to get them using the app again without much traction. The quicker they can get back into your app using your core features, the more value they will get out of your app.

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Article Name
15 Ways to Keep App Users Hooked
Mobile app user engagement and user retention are direct drivers of app revenue. So its key to keep app users hooked. Here's 15 ideas on how to do it.