24% of Users Abandon an App After One Use

Retaining mobile app users continues to be the silver bullet that alludes most brands. While many brands have made a lot of traction in the past year with better app experiences and more engaging, personalized push and in-app messages, the retention problem still looms.

With that in mind, today we are releasing an annual update to our app user retention study, which measures loyalty and abandonment across our user base of 37,000 apps. Our study focuses on two key metrics:

  • User Retention: The percentage of users who return to an app more than 10 times.
  • User Abandonment: The percentage of users who abandon an app after one session.

In our 2016 study, we reported that 23% of users abandoned an app after one use. Roughly one year later, we’ve found the number has grown to 24% of users. While this is not a big change, it is the second highest abandonment number we have seen since 2012, suggesting the struggle is real for brands to entice app users to keep coming back.



Additionally, we found that the number of users returning to an app more than 10 times decreased slightly to 37% in 2017 versus 38% in 2016. The flip side of this is that an overwhelming majority, 63% of users, visit an app less than 10 times.



It’s no secret that mobile engagement is hard. Many organizations have still not found the right balance between acquiring new app users and engaging with the ones they already have. While we still believe we are very much in the midst of a mobile engagement crisis, we also see some bright spots. Below we will dig into some of the tactics that have proven to be successful when it comes to decreasing abandonment and increasing long-term user retention.


The Impact of In-app Messages on the First Visit

In-app messages, or messages presented to users while they are in an app, are a great way to convey information to users because they do not have to opt-in to receive them.

We found apps that send in-app messages to users on their very first visit, or session, to the app see only 13% of those users abandon the app after one use, versus 25% of users who were not shown an in-app message on their first session.



Showing an in-app message on the first session also results in 54% of users visiting an app 11 or more times versus only 33% of users will visit an app 11 or more times if they are not presented with an in-app on the 1st session.

In-app messages shown on the first session are a great opportunity to provide information that will help the user get more value from the app. For example, a message from a retail app encouraging new users to “get started with our app by filtering your preferences here” with a button to take them to a place where they can select their favorite brands, sizes, color preferences, etc. is a great way for the retailer to gather initial information about that user and give the user a chance to explore what the app has to offer.


The Importance of Proper Onboarding

We also looked at the impact of onboarding experiences, such as welcome or beginner tutorial screens that help users get up to speed on how to use the app and get value from it. We compared these types of value-add onboarding experiences with apps that simply ask users to sign up for an account on their first session.

We found that for apps with a true onboarding experience, only 9% of users abandoned the app after one use and 61% of users will visit the app 11 or more times. On the other hand, 17% of users who were asked to sign up for an account on their first session abandoned the app after one use and 41% visited the app 11 or more times.



It should not come as a huge surprise that an onboarding experience yields better results as it is less invasive than trying to get users to create an account with the app. Presenting users with a welcome screen or a series of screens that takes them through everything they can do in the app is a great way to get users acclimated and feeling comfortable to where they want to come back and continue to explore.


iOS Retention Continues to Improve

After seeing improvements in both app abandonment and user retention last year, iOS apps have continued to positive momentum into 2017. We found that iOS users only visiting an app once decreased 3 points from 24% in 2016 to 21% in 2017, while iOS users visiting apps 11 more times increased 1 point from 36% in 2016 to 37% in 2017.



These improvements could be attributed to Apple’s continued innovation and the introduction of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, two devices that had impressive early adoption and may have spurred apps to up their game in order to fit the advanced technology and user experience.


Moving Forward

Engaging and retaining app users is no easy feat. The battle wages on, but we are encouraged by a few of the bright spots we referenced above. Many apps have made great strides in delivering more individualized experiences that keep users coming back for more, and we hope to see even more improvements throughout 2017.

We will continue to keep a close eye on app user abandonment and retention over the next year, but make sure to check out our quarterly benchmark reports to understand how each vertical industry is measuring up.



Localytics is the leading mobile engagement platform across more than 2.7 billion devices and 37,000 mobile and web apps. Localytics processes 120 billion data points monthly. For this analysis, Localytics measured the percentage of users who only used an app once as well as the users who returned multiple times. For the in-app messaging analysis, we compared the percentage of users who did or did not return to apps who are using in-app messages on the 1st sessions compared to those who are not. For the onboarding vs signup experience we looked at apps that track welcome events vs signup events on the 1st session. The timeframe for the study was May 1st 2016 - Feb 28th 2017.

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