October 26, 2018
The User’s Journey: How To Increase User Engagement And Retention
Guest Contributor

It’s a wonderful feeling when lots and lots of people use sign-up for or download your product.

However, these numbers are a mere vanity metric if they aren’t backed up by solid engagement and retention numbers. A sign-up is good, but it’s hardly a worthy cause for a celebration if it’s followed up by zero engagement in the future.

In fact, studies have shown that just 14% of new users use your app more than once. Worse still, only 2.7% stick around after the first month.

This isn’t great news when we all want more engagement and retention. The good news is that it’s possible to boost engagement and retention by fine-tuning your user journey. In this article, we take a look at how to do just that.

Level up your onboarding process

Onboarding is crucial for future engagement and retention. The key is to let users get super involved with your product right from the start, by letting them explore and understand it as much as possible (without overwhelming them).

In a nutshell, onboarding is the process of converting a first-time user into an actual customer who sticks around – by familiarizing them with your product. Studies have shown that a strong onboarding process can actually boost engagement by a massive 4X.

The problem for businesses is that creating an onboarding process that hits the spot and turns a first-time user into a full-blown customer isn’t easy. Here are some ideas:

1. Highlight the benefits

What are your product’s best benefits? Whatever they are, display them during the onboarding process.

This is an important point because – as mentioned – what you don’t want to do is overwhelm your users right from the start with too much information. Identify your best benefits and then display them from the get-go. Doing this will show a user exactly why they should keep using your product.

2. Target specific buyer personas

People want your product for different reasons. Users don’t all have the same buyer persona. For this reason, it’s a rookie mistake to use the exact same onboarding process for everyone.

Remember that in 2018, people want a hyper-personalized experience. As such, it’s a good idea to create a personalized onboarding process that targets different personas, as opposed to going for a generalized onboarding process that, while it might save you money, doesn’t offer the kind of personalized experience people are looking for.

For example, Myfitnesspal offers new users a personalized fitness plan right after they sign up.

myfitnesspal fitness goals personalized unboarding process

When you create a personalized onboarding process, you’re able to communicate in a better way how your app will provide each user with value.

3. Make the first hurdle easy to complete

Imagine buying a video game and finding that the very first level is ridiculously hard to complete. After a week of trying, you still haven’t completed it! You down tools and decide that you’re never going to play it again. It’s too hard.

Some products are like this. If a user finds that taking the first steps in your app is too complex, they’ll likely abandon the tasks altogether. And this is the last thing you want so early in the game.

To this end, you should make the first success simple to achieve. If a user wants information or wants to solve a problem, make it simple for them. A user who gets beyond the first hurdle is more likely to stay for longer. It’s basic math.

It’s also a good idea to include progress indicators while the user is setting up your product. Accomplishing small milestones leaves an impression of progress which pulls the people to stay around a bit longer.

progress indicators hootsuite

4. Use push notifications

Push notifications don’t always work at boosting engagement and retention. But when done right, they can work.

Think of website push notifications. After you’ve subscribed to a push notifications list while browsing a website, it gives that business the power of instant communication with you. However, if they begin to send you more notifications than you can handle, you’ll quickly become annoyed with the brand and unsubscribe.

It’s the same with push notifications sent from your app. If you send too many pushes, or if you send them to the wrong group of people, you might turn users off.

There are a few things that need to be just right for a push notification to work effectively:

The time

If your targeted group of users is sleeping, there’s no need to send them a push notification. If you do, you might wake them up – and this will only annoy them!

Not just that, but even if a user isn’t awake, it’s hardly likely that they will act on a push notification in the dead of night.

The frequency 

How often you send push notifications out will depend on a few factors, such as:

  • Is the push notification something your customer asked for?
  • Your industry – (in the gaming industry, for example, once a day is fine).
  • Is the message helpful to your customer?
  • What type of users are you targeting – top, middle or bottom of the funnel?

However, regardless of which industry you’re in, it’s never a good idea to send out too many push notifications. Research has shown that 32% of users will stop using an app altogether if they receive 6-10 push notifications in one week.

app push notifications on minimum

Keep them to a minimum and make every single one count by loading it with value.

The percentage of ads

Sure, some push notifications will be advertisements. But you can’t send out ads all the time. This will break any potential relationship you might have had with your customers.

Below is a list of high-value push notifications ideas for you to incorporate into your strategy:

  • Loyalty and rewards
  • Webinars or live events
  • Contests
  • Order confirmation and tracking information
  • Discounts and promotions
  • Social media activity

Target groups

It’s tempting to send out the same push notifications to everyone because it’s easier and cheaper.

But you’re hardly likely to hit the spot with everyone if you do this.

A better idea is to personalize your messages so that you boost engagement and retention. For example, you send your users location-based push notifications.

my app personalize messages

5. Ask for feedback

Let’s face it, the best way to find out how customers really feel about your app is to get answers straight from the horse’s mouth.

In other words, ask for feedback.

In fact, there will be times when you don’t even need to ask for feedback. For example, check your app in the Apple App Store and see if customers have left reviews. If they have, get your team to check them and even respond to them.

app feedback and reviews

Enjoy the positives, but particularly take a look at any issues that have been raised. What problems are users facing with your app? What needs to be resolved? This is an easy way to nip problems in the bud so that future users are more engaged with your app.

When it comes time to ask for feedback, try user surveys, either in-app or via a link to one of your social media channels. Surveys can give you strong insights into what people are saying and ultimately thinking about your app and brand.

And when you do get feedback, make sure that you act on it.

6. Segment customers by behavior

Customer segmentation is nothing new, but when it comes to data, most of us still use it to segment customers by product type or location.

However, in 2018 your customers want an increasingly hyper-personalized experience. To this end, you need to start segmenting your users according to their behavior.

Behavioral segmentation allows you to leverage the full breadth of your customer data so that you are able to learn more about what your customers do.

For example, you can use a point of sales card reader so that, not only are you are offering your customers versatile payment options, but you’re also collecting data that give you an insight into each customer’s buying decisions. Then, you can use this data to personalize the in-app experience.

The ultimate goal here is to find customer segments that let you understand how to tweak the experience for a specific group of customers so that engagement and retention both go up.

Test, track and improve your user engagement and retention

It’s always a good idea to use split testing to exactly pinpoint what’s working and what isn’t. Text, colors, button shapes, navigation…there is a whole range of small things that has the potential to boost or decrease user engagement.

Once you’ve carried out your split tests, you can figure out what combination of elements gives you best engagement and retention numbers at which stags in the user journey – and then you can double down on it.

Not sure how to carry out split tests? Here is a decent guide.

Don’t stick to just split testing, though. You can use Google Analytics to measure a number of key metrics like daily active users or turn to heatmaps to figure out exactly where your users are engaging the most with your app.


All in all, engagement and retention are mightily important. They are key to your long-term success because you can’t keep running out of customers and finding new ones. If users don’t return, your app will ultimately have little – if anything – to show for it.

So take your time to do the right things. Improve your onboarding process, ask for feedback, create better customer segmentation and use push notifications in the right way.

Michelle is the content writer and editor for Heroic Search, an SEO agency based in Tulsa. Her content has been featured on Entrepreneur. The copy she produces helps SaaS companies boost their profits.

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Guest Contributor
This post was written by a guest contributor and polished by Point Visible editorial team.


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