2018 App Retention Benchmarks [Full Report] - AppsFlyer
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2018 App Retention Benchmarks [Full Report]

Introduction

Arguably one of the most significant of all mobile marketing metrics, retention is the basis of monetization and functions as a predictor of future revenue. Think about it – without consumers who use your app consistently over time and generate revenue through in-app purchases, as well as increasingly higher revenue from ads, there’s little chance of turning a profit and predicting future revenue and growth.

And that’s also the challenge. Retention is both a key metric and possibly the number one pain point for marketers, showing exactly how hard it is to get users to your app and keep them there over time. This is the result of a massive amount of competitors and highly demanding users expecting nothing short of a superior experience.

To help marketers battle churn, we analyzed retention on days 1, 7, and 30 in several major markets, as well as a global year over year comparison. Note that we share both the rates of the top 10% of apps, as well as the median. It is important to understand not only where your app is positioned vs. the average app in your category/country, but even more importantly to know what ‘best’ is and setting your goals accordingly.

Let’s dive in!  

 

Global Retention Rates

Here’s the bad news: retention is the knight in shining armor of mobile marketing metrics, and it is persistently problematic with significant churn. Year over year, we see that retention levels remain low, even among the industry leaders. Unfortunately, organic users do not seem to escape this cycle – their patterns remain the same year over year, as demonstrated in the graph above. This is especially true on day 30, with only a 5% increase from 2016 to 2018. 

Now for the good news: non-organic users steadily have become more loyal moving towards the end of 2019. In each of the three days we analyzed, retention increased by roughly 20% from 2016 to 2018, which is significant considering the low percentage of truly loyal, high value users in apps overall. Fortunately, marketers seem to understand the importance of retention and are now often optimizing towards it and the results show.

 

Looking at retention among different countries tells a different story; we can see that region and culture likely have some impact on the current loyalty of app users.

By far, Japan clearly dominates in user engagement with a whopping 9.1% rate. Although the leader, it does not stand alone, however; Asia as a region dominates among the top 6 markets since app users in Korea and India are also generally well-engaged. The US is also noteworthy in this crowd, breaking free from the rest of the pack with a 6.7% rate, the 4th highest overall, but one still 26% lower than Japan.

On the other hand, Western Europe, seen particularly in UK and Germany in the graph, experiences among the lowest retention out of the pack, alongside Brazil. Compared to Japan, Brazil has a startling 36% lower rate on day 30, while the UK and Germany are 32% and 35% lower, respectively.

For future acquisition decisions, consider investing more time and resources into the Asian market and in the US, as the users acquired from these regions will most likely boost your engagement and retention rates overall and stick around longer for the ride. Conversely, bear in mind that the UK, Germany, other Western European countries, and Brazil pose a stronger learning curve to beat, so it is worthwhile to come with a tested user acquisition strategy and sufficient resources to support longer term campaigns.  

 

Vertical Breakdown Across Top Markets: Days 1, 7, and 30

 

 

While retention may be low overall, looking closer at the daily rates for 13 different verticals on days 1, 7, and 30 post-install can give us valuable information on the specific movement of users to and from high app engagement and loyalty over time. Below are some of our data insights.

  • There is a significant gap between the median and top 10% rates in all three days and across all verticals — a  264% increase in non-organic and 271% in organic between day 1 and day 30. By day 30, overall organic top 10% was 219% higher than the median, while non-organic rates were 233% higher.
  • In day 1, the US is the leader in non-organic retention for Health & Fitness, Photography, Casino Gaming, and among the top 5 for all other verticals, except Travel, where it is in the bottom two countries. 

While no longer trailing the absolute end of the pack, travel and entertainment app users in the US have consistently lower retention, meaning it is ultimately true that these verticals particularly cannot rely on American users compared to other regions.

  • In shopping, most retention rates are fairly well matched across all countries. However, Japan and Korea stand out in the organic and non-organic top 10% from day 1, maintaining consistently higher than average rates until day 30. Additionally, while Brazil had 42% non-organic retention on day 1, the highest of all countries, it ultimately dropped to 11% on day 30, compared to Japan and Korea’s 15% and 13%, respectively.
  • By day 30 in gaming, the UK is specifically more organically engaged in Casino gaming (16.6% retention compared to a vertical average of 12.5%), with the US and Germany close behind, while Japan dominates in both Casual and Midcore.
  • Travel has generally low retention from day 1, with BOTH the organic and non-organic top 3 countries coming from Asia – on day 30, Indonesia is the only country with a double digit percentage of 10.4%.

 

Taking Action

We know the obvious: users are significantly more engaged immediately post-install and drop off distinctly over time. However, based on the above data, we see that rates are relatively uniform among most countries within each vertical at this beginning stage. It is only after day 7 and beyond that some country leaders emerge, predominantly in Asia. What does this mean?

  • Run retargeting campaigns to bring users back to your  app and boost your retention rates over time. In fact, our data showed that many marketers are increasingly using retargeting to combat churn — there was a 3.3x increase in the number of retargeting conversions among the same apps running campaigns globally in 2017 and 2018. 
  • Start your re-engagement and retargeting campaigns early, using the level playing field across regions to your advantage. Aim to engage with users around the one week mark, through at least day 30. Inform these efforts with more than just your install and media source data by leveraging advanced retention and cohort reports, in addition to rich in-app event data to inform hyper targeted audience segmentation.
  • Ensure a world class onboarding experience with deep linking, which creates a seamless user journey from advertisement to install and conversion.
  • Do not over-promise in your promotions else you risk serious inconsistencies between expectations and reality. This will not only result in an unhappy user but can also hurt your brand name. 
  • Leave less room for surprises by pushing video or playable ads, using app store demos, or a well-designed and informative app store page.

As a final note, it’s worth going back to the median and the top 10% benchmarks we shared in this report: the fact that there is such a gap between them means that, simply, many apps have significant room to optimize and improve their rates.

In order to really succeed and get your app among the retention leaders for your category, you will need to play a long term, data-centric game and have the resources to support it. Good luck!