3-Month Mobile User Retention Increases Nearly 10% Since 2015 for Retailers

2017 was a tough year for retailers, with unprecedented levels of store closures and growing threats from Amazon. But, retailers also had an impressive second half of the year. They saw record sales during Black Friday weekend, with consumers dropping more than $11 billion. And, mobile shopping hit a new high in 2017, with Cyber Monday heralded as mobile’s first $2 billion day ever.

This impressive second half of 2017 also played out in our recently published Retail App Benchmark report. These benchmark reports include stats around user engagement and retention, as well as the average performance of push notifications and in-app messaging campaigns.

Retention on a steady incline since 2015

Retention measures the percentage of users who return to an app one month, two months, and three months after the app is downloaded. Churn is the opposite; it measures the percentage of people who do not return to an app one month, two months, and three months after downloading it.

In the last six months of 2017, retail apps saw three-month user retention increase to 25%, up from 21% in the first half of 2017. Additionally, the percentage of retail app users who churned after three months dropped to 75%, down from 79% in the first half of the year.


Certainly this level of churn is still high and concerning, but it’s far lower than when we measured churn for retail apps in 2015.

Comparing the benchmarks for retail and ecommerce over the years shows that 3-month retention has increased from eighteen percent in 2015 to twenty-five percent in 2017. Even though this increase is modest, it suggests that marketers are getting better at sending more personalized push notifications that entice users to launch an app.

  2015 Q4 2016 H1 2016 H2 2017 H1 2017 H2
Retention - Month +1 37% 36% 41% 39% 41%
Retention - Month +2 24% 25% 29% 27% 30%
Retention - Month +3 18% 20% 24% 21% 25%

These numbers also suggest that mobile app teams are making apps “stickier” with better UX and features. Something that supports this is the data we collected that shows how often, and how long, people engage with retail apps.

While engagement metrics are down over the years, this is not necessarily a bad thing...

  2015 Q4 2016 H1 2016 H2 2017 H1 2017 H2
Monthly App Launches 17.5 11.4 10.92 10.88 10.24
Monthly Session Length (minutes) 2.85 3.39 3.52 3,28 3.21
Monthly Time in App (minutes) 51.02 38.65 38.46 35.7 32.87

These lower numbers may indicate that users are becoming more “app savvy” and can find and buy products in-app much faster.

Decrease in push opt-ins and increase in clicks on in-app messages

In the benchmark report, we also examined push notification opt-in rates for retail apps on both Android and iOS devices. Between the first and second half of 2017, we didn’t see a major change in push notification opt-in rates on Android devices (88% vs 87%), but iOS opt-in rates dropped from 47% to 42% during that same time period.

Additionally, we found that Android push notification open rates and conversion rates for retail apps on Android devices decreased slightly in the second half of 2017, but that the engagement rate for those notifications (average number of sessions recipients had within the first week of receiving the message) actually increased to 2.45%, up from 2% in the first half of the year. We saw similar behavior on iOS devices, though the increase in engagement was a bit smaller, going from 2.31% to 2.45%.

Lastly, we looked at the same data for in-app messages and saw a sharp increase on Android in-app conversion rates for retail apps - increasing from 10.17% percent in the first half of 2017 to 12.59% in the second half. While open rates for in-app messages on iOS devices increased during this timeframe, conversion rates came in slightly lower at 5.93%, down from 6.64% in the first half of the year.

Overall, it’s clear that retail apps have come a long way in the last year. While there is still a lot of work to do to deliver the level of personalization that consumers want, it’s clear that retailers are making progress.

To learn more, check out the full report.