The App Attention Economy Is Booming: Retention Still The Challenge

Despite some of the inherent weaknesses of mobile apps, our reliance on them as content delivery vehicles and interactive environments is only growing. According to Localytics, the number of users who are considered highly engaged with their downloaded apps (opening them more than nine times in a given month) rose to an all-time high of 34% of app users in the first quarter of 2015. Localytics' indices of app behavior is based on continual analysis of 32,000 apps on 2.3 billion devices.

Only 17% use even the most engaging apps three months after their first launch. This is an improvement over the previous quarter (12%) but still signifies one of the key challenges of the app attention economy: churn. Engagement is key to turning an app tester into a loyal long-term user who becomes a source of profit for most apps.

Localytics observes that some of the ups and downs in the retention metrics from quarter to quarter have to do with devices' behavior cycles. During the holidays, people tend to upgrade their phones and tablets. This usually results in an “app cleanse” as users filters out the apps they rarely use anymore. Still, retention is lower now than it has been in previous years. This is a sign perhaps of users' maturity, since they know more quickly than before whether an app really is relevant and worth keeping on their decks.



Stickiness varies widely by app genre. For media and entertainment, about 31% of users open an app 10 or more times a month. Travel and leisure is 23%, tech 22%, games 18% and eCommerce and retail 16%.

App engagement generally is on the rise. The average number of times an app is launched per month was 11 in Q1, up from 10.5 the previous quarter. But, again, that launch behavior varies wildly by genre. The most-launched category is travel and leisure (13.4 launches per month). This category includes health and wellness apps, which may have spiked after the holiday with the gifting of phones and wearables that tracked health. News and entertainment (13) is close behind. Tech apps get an average of 9.6 opens a month, games 8.3, and eCommerce and retail 8.6.

The still-high level of app churn (and the high price of customer acquisition in app channels) should be focusing marketers on CRM and retention strategies. Marketers need to understand the nature of user behaviors in apps to see when interest is waning and why. Apps need to stay top of mind and seemingly indispensable in order to remain within that coveted circle of perhaps a dozen apps that most of us consult daily.

Media loyalty has always been about routine. The newspapers, radio programs and TV shows we watch become habits that are often associated with certain periods of the day. Those old media habits have been disrupted radically by devices, which weave themselves into our daily routines and untether media from dayparts, places and situations.

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