Why App Installs Have Become Meaningless - Driving Post-Install Engagement

Since 2008, Apple’s App Store has seen over 180 billion installs from users worldwide. We are inundated with options: over 1,300 new apps are introduced to the app store daily and 80% of users delete an application just three days after installing. The demand for apps is far lower than the amount being introduced. Developers and marketers alike face the challenge: are installs an accurate KPI for growth? 

Over 8 in 10 Americans have a smartphone, which means almost everyone understands the feeling of panic when you accidentally lose — or even temporarily misplace — your phone. Smartphone owners engage with nine apps per day, about 30 apps per month. This is not a seller’s market.

As the app store floods with options, marketers work against the current to help brands find enticing tactics to engage consumers. 

The Payout: Per Install to Post-Install Event



A few years back, Uber constructed a rider acquisition program based on a cost-per-engagement model, only paying a publisher when a rider completed their first ride, to mitigate the risk of low engagement traffic. Industry leaders noticed the trend and it snowballed—developers recognized the efficiency of the CPE model and raised expectations to include engagement, retention, and in-app purchases. 

Similarly, publishers realized providing a scalable offering required alignment with developers’ expectations, placing user retention and post-install engagement at the forefront of acquisition efforts. When a campaign yields continued engagement, the likelihood of uninstalls naturally decreases — and client satisfaction and lifetime value increases. 

How to Engage New Users (And Keep Them)

Strategies to increase user acquisition and engagement come in all flavors, from ASO and UAC to more innovative engagement. Cover your bases: leverage deep linking directly to the app through marketing emails, content, and advertisements, engage offline users through push notifications, sync with native apps to drive users back into the application. Importantly, take advantage of information on the most valuable users to strategically target prospects who are likely to engage with the application over time.  

Apple continues to champion subscription commerce, releasing a “Try Something New” section of the app store to highlight subscription-based apps featuring free trials. With the creation of “freemium’ content,” users can trial before opting-in to a monthly paid membership, driving engagement and longer-term app use. Bottom line, if an app is subscription-based, it should offer a free trial. Those who do are in good company; Apple Music, HBO Now, Hulu, Audible, Pandora, and more reach success on the initial install and see extended user retention. 

Re-engaging lapsed users can be tricky — the most effective way is almost always the carrot-and-stick method. Giving users an incentive to return to the app and rewarding them with prizes, extra lives in gaming apps, or discounts in shopping apps creates higher user lifetime value. The hardest hurdle to conquer is the time between an install and the first action; after the first positive experience, a user is far more likely to keep coming back for more. 

In today’s rapidly-changing mobile marketing space, building a loyal customer base through post-install engagement is imperative.

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