Important best practices to improve app engagement

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Posted by Niko Schröer, Business Development, Google Play

Driving installs is important to growing a user base, but it’s not much use if
your app sits on users’ devices and is rarely opened. In a competitive app
landscape, it’s increasingly important to engage and retain users over the long
term to build a successful business. Users who are using your app more will have
a higher lifetime value and be more likely to share your app. Watch my Playtime
session below to hear about the tools and features other developers are using to
increase app engagement. You can also read the summary of my main tips below.

1. Build a high quality app to engage Android users

Building a high quality app is the foundation of a great user experience on
Android. The better your app’s user experience is, the more engaged your users
will be. Optimizing for material
design, for example, can significantly improve user engagement as well as
building for Android
Wear, Auto or TV where it
makes sense based on your value proposition.

To achieve high quality, we recommend you to check out the latest Android
features, tips, and best practices in our Playbook
for Developers.

The developer of the golf app, Hole19,
tailored their app’s user experience thoughtfully for Android Wear and, as a
result, saw a 40% increase in user engagement compared to non-Wear users. Watch a video about Hole19′s

2. Make your users feel at home

Personalising your app experience to make users feel at home is a good way to
start a long lasting relationship. Onboarding new users is a crucial step in
this process. Onboarding should be fast and seamless and ask for minimal user
input – after all users want to start using your app as quickly as possible.
Furthermore, the onboarding should be a core part of the overall product
experience. Use images and wording that’s true to your brand and only ask for
user input when it’s actually needed, to reduce friction and avoid losing users.

a fitness app, created an engaging user onboarding flow in which they tailored
imagery and text to male and female users respectively. They also moved the
registration process to a later stage in the funnel to reduce friction. The
improved onboarding flow increased user activity by 58% within the first 7 days.
They also implemented Google Smart
Lock to seamlessly sign-in returning users.

3. Optimize feature releases as a way to increase user

Introducing new features is essential to staying ahead of competition and
relevant to your users to ensure they keep coming back to your app. To make new
feature launches successful drivers for user engagement, follow these simple

  • Define a clear objective for each release to measure your impact, e.g.
    increase number of users who edit a photo by at least 10%.

  • Use
    beta testing to gather user feedback and iterate a feature before it’s
    rolled out to all of your users.

  • Enable
    the pre-launch report in the Play developer console to spot potential flaws
    and ensure technical stability in your alpha and beta apps.

  • Guide users to each new feature as if it is a light onboarding experience.
    Visually highlight what’s new and provide a short explanation why users should

  • Measure performance with analytics to see if the
    new feature drives engagement (that you’ve defined as your objective).

4. Use notifications wisely

Push notifications are a popular engagement tool and rightfully so. However,
there is a fine line between driving engagement and annoying users (who might
then uninstall your app). Follow these guidelines to ensure your notifications
are on the right side of the line:

  • Be relevant and only send messages that matter to the user in context. Be
    creative and true to your brand, speak your users language and use an authentic

  • Make notifications actionable for your users and don’t forget to deep link
    to content where applicable to save your users time.

  • Remember that not all your users are equal so personalize your message to
    different user cohorts with Firebase

  • Consider timeliness of your messages to get users the right notification at
    the right time and with the right frequency. For example, it might be better to
    send a notification about something interesting to read at a time when the user
    normally gets out their phone – like during their commute – instead of the
    middle of the day, when they might be busy and dismiss a new notification.

  • Finally, give users control over what notifications they receive so that
    they can opt-in and opt-out of the notifications they like and don’t like
    respectively. If users get annoyed about certain types of notifications and
    don’t have a way to disable them, they might uninstall your app.

The Norwegian news app Aftenposten
implemented a new onboarding flow that clarified which notifications were
available, allowing readers to manage their preferences. This reduced uninstalls
by 9.2.% over 60 days and led to a 28% decrease in the number of users muting
notifications completely. Read
more about Aftenposten’s success.

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5. Reward your most engaged users

Last but not least, you should find ways to reward your most loyal users to
retain them over time and to make it desirable to less engaged users to engage
more. These rewards can come in many shapes and forms. Start by keeping it
simple and make sure the reward adds real value to the user and fits in your
app’s ecosystem. You can do this by:

  • Giving sneak peeks of new features by inviting them to a beta

  • Decorating user accounts with badges based on their behaviour.
  • Offer app exclusive discounts or promo
    codes that can only be redeemed in your app.

Generally, the more you can personalize the reward the better it will work.

Find success with ongoing experimentation

A great Android app gives developers a unique opportunity to create a lasting
relationship with users and build a sustainable business with happy customers.
Therefore optimising apps to engage and retain your users by following these 5
tips should be front and centre of your development goals and company strategy.
Find more tips and best practices by watching the sessions at this
year’s Playtime events.

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