Winning ‘em Back with Uninstall Insights

Mobile marketers are experimenting with new data from uninstall tracking to power retention and winback campaigns. 

Last week, Recode wrote that it's the end of an era for apps. 

uninstall-sad-apps.gifGone are the boom days when independent app developers and small publishers could build healthy standalone businesses addressing niche utilities or content -- the app economy has matured into a winner-take-all market where platforms like Uber, Snapchat, and Facebook are among a handful of ‘apps that matter’.

The shift is being heralded equally by bottom-up changes in user behavior -- on average Americans download zero apps per month -- as well as top-down strategies from the ecosystem heavyweights. Apple last week announced the launch of paid discovery in the App Store in a subtle acknowledgment of consolidating user acquisition budgets. Both Google and Apple are incentivizing publishers towards adopting subscription-based business models as their platforms mature and reorient towards predictable revenue, favoring established publishers with loyal customer bases.

We’ve always suspected that App and Play Store discovery was influenced by trends in user behavior, the new economics of paid search and subscription will explicitly force publishers to focus on keeping their users engaged and retained. Historically, we’ve assisted our customers with hitting their goals by providing insights into the right dimensions on which to segment and target users, starting with their first app launch and ending with their last app close. Increasingly, our customers have pushed us to extend these insights beyond the last app close to a key action that takes place ‘outside of the app’: uninstalling.

Introducing: Localytics Uninstall Tracking Beta

That’s why today we’re stoked to announce closed beta access to Localytics Uninstall Tracking. With Uninstall Tracking, our customers will automatically start seeing a new Uninstall event in their dashboard and be able to use it as they would any other event.

Want to see how uninstalls are trending over time? Our customers can now generate time-series uninstall reports as easy as with any other event.


Want to know which behaviors lead to uninstalling? Our customers can now answer this question by using the new Uninstall event in Funnels:


Want to target a winback email or Facebook remarketing campaign to uninstalled users? Our customers can now create Audiences of users who have performed the Uninstall event:


...and use them in campaigns:


Uninstall vs. Churn

Uninstalls are particularly useful for providing additional insight into what drives users to disengage, and as a behavioral targeting dimension for winback campaigns. We have always and continue to believe, however, that outside of these use cases uninstalls are not as representative of app health as retention and its’ complement, churn.

Users who still have your app installed, but never use it, or even see it, and perhaps have it buried away in some junk folder ‘below the fold’ of their home screen, have churned. And this behavior is far more significant for your app and business than uninstalls:

  • For apps that monetize through ads - churned users are no longer generating ad impressions and inventory;
  • For apps that monetize through IAPs or transactions - churned users are no longer engaged and moving through the funnel;
  • No matter your app’s business model, uninstall tracking serves as a complement to (rather than substitute for) a far more fundamental measure of business and app health: churn.

For our customers in India and Asia-Pacific, the pain of uninstalls has been particularly acute. But the underlying motivations for most app uninstalls -- from device storage constraints to an accelerating trend towards free apps -- are relevant across our customer base.

Why Now?

Historically, Apple has either allowed users to disable the OS-level services or restricted access to the data needed for accurate uninstall measurement. Two major changes recently rolled out to Apple’s Push Notification Service (APNS) have unlocked tracking of uninstalls that live up to our standards for reliability and accuracy:

  • With the release of iOS 8, Apple removed the ability for users to opt-out of silent background push, allowing publishers to send regular (e.g. daily) pushes and poll APNS Feedback for information about the status of the app on the device. Previously, uninstall tracking could only be reliably achieved for users that had push enabled.
  • With the release of iOS 9, Apple has additionally improved the direct feedback it exposes for when a push fails to include a specific Status Code for when ‘the device token is no longer active for the topic’. Previously, this status was grouped together with other reasons for failed-delivery and muddled whether the root cause was uninstall.

With these key improvements to Apple’s services and transparency around push, we’re able to achieve virtually 100% accuracy in measuring uninstalls -- unlike pre-iOS 9 implementations. We view this as a major win for data-driven mobile engagement that enriches targeting with behavioral insights that extend beyond the last app session.

Get access to Localytics Uninstall Tracking beta today.