The App Churn Risk Window: 60% Chance Users Who Don’t Come Back Within 7 Days Never Return

With more than 30 downloaded apps on the average American’s smartphone- plus some preloaded ones - apps face a lot of competition for screen-time. We’ve previously reported that 22% of users only ever open an app once, while 34% of users open an app 11+ times. For marketers, it’s important to quickly identify the one-shot users, and bring them back into the app—before they’re gone for good.

But how can you identify which users will stick around, and which are just passing through? The answer is in the time interval between a user’s first and second session.

 

60% chance users who don’t come back within 7 days never return

In examining global iOS (iPad and iPhone) app usage, the median user returns within just under 6 hours of his first app usage. However if a user doesn’t launch an app for a second time within one day from first use, there is a 40% chance that their first session will also be their last. This “churn risk window”, increases over time – when the interval between the first and second session approaches 7 days, there is a 60% chance that a user will never return, i.e. churn.

Retention blog_Percent chance of never returning

 

Social and Entertainment users quickest to never return

For certain categories, marketers must react even more quickly to re-engage users before they’re lost. In Social and Entertainment apps, the data shows that if a user doesn’t try the app again within 12 hours of their first launch, there is greater than a 50% chance they will never open it again.

App churn risk window by app category

News apps on the other hand, have some of the longest intervals between their first and second app launches. The median churn risk window is almost 24 hours. As well, even if a user doesn’t launch a News app again for up to 7 days after their first use, there is still a 59% chance they will return later. This may reflect news cycles that are sometimes multiple days between big events. Health apps exhibit qualities similar to both News and Social apps. The median Health app user returns to the app for the second time after almost 1.5 hours, yet they have a long tail of late returning users.

Retention blog_median hours between sessions

 

How engaged are quick returning users?

Across almost every category and platform, users who had the longest first session length also returned to an app within 1 to 12 hours, followed closely by users who returned within the first full day. This latter group of users, who make up almost half of all returning users, likely reflects natural new-app behavior: a long first session length to test the app and another session sometime within the next day. Users who had shorter first session lengths unsurprisingly also took days to return to a newly downloaded app. For app owners, this indicates a set of users who did not engage fully on their first visit, and therefore an opportunity to dig into their screen flows and funnels and improve the app experience.

Retention blog_average length of 1st session

 

Re-engaging users so they don’t become a churn risk

Getting a user to return quickly after the first taste of your app is critical, especially in the categories of Social, Entertainment and Lifestyle. So how can you proactively re-engage users before they’re lost?

Push messages which appear on the home screen of a user’s device, are a great first resource for re-engagement. However, to avoid overwhelming users, especially users who have only ever seen your app once, you’ll want to target your messages and make the messaging as clear as possible. Grouping your push messaging by segment allows you to target users who have not returned during a critical “churn risk window” without targeting everyone. If the push campaigns are connected to your app analytics data, you can also target them based on behaviors during the first session. For example, you could target users who never finished the registration funnel, or missed out on some key functionality of the app in their first visit.

So, while the ‘churn risk window’ may seem daunting, app owners will be in a much better position to act if they arm themselves with both the data on their retention patterns across dimensions such as sessions and the tools to combat churn such as push (and in-app) messaging.

 

Methodology

Localytics is the leading analytics and marketing platform for mobile and web apps across more than 1.5 billion devices, 25,000 apps and 5,000 customers. Localytics processes 50 billion data points monthly. For this report, we examined new iOS app users in November 2013 and their usage through the end of February 2014.

Richard Cipolla is a Solutions Consultant at Localytics and a data science and analytics expert.

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