Retaining customers is critical to success. How sticky your app is will determine what percentage of new app users that continue to use your app for more than a few months. These are not the people who download your app and let it sit on your phones, stickiness is about active, regular users. People who consider your app valuable.

So how do you make your app stickier? What about your app, or any app, that compels a customer to keep using it? As it turns out, all sticky apps have a few things in common. If you want to learn what they are and how you can take advantage of these attributes, keep reading.

how to increase app stickiness

What Makes an App “Sticky”?

A sticky app is an app that customers continue to use on a regular basis. It doesn’t get abandoned, and it’s hard to leave for a competitor because of the connection the end user has with the app. The main factors that affect your app’s level of stickiness are:

  • Ease of Use and Reliability
  • Utility and Usefulness
  • Curiosity and Entertainment Level
  • Emotional Connection
  • Social Connection

If you manage to get all of those just right, you can tweak aesthetics. Always get the basics right first. Focus on the fundamental technical aspects, simplifying the process as you go. Then zero in on perfecting the essential features and services you want your app to provide. Done that? Now you need to make sure your app is actually “fun” to use over time. This is subjective, depending on the app’s purpose.

Aced the first three primary points? The following two are a little harder to get right. Creating a connection with your user base can be a little tricky. And it’s often an issue that’s bigger than just the app. The easiest way to build a sense of community or a bond with your users is through a social (or social media) connection. But you need to make it seem meaningful, not just like an obligatory check-in.

Increasing your app’s level of stickiness isn’t all that difficult. All you need to do is keep testing it for the five factors above. If it falls short in any one category, devise a solution and implement it. This can be easily done with an app builder. Then track and repeat. So, now that you know what makes a sticky app, you need to figure out what’s wrong with yours.

What’s Your Problem?

To create a stickier app, you need to know the things that are keeping your current app from achieving its full sticky potential. To find out what those obstacles are, all you need to do is answer the following four questions. Once you can do that, you can tackle them one by one and track the results of your efforts.

What need is my app solving and how quickly can it be done?

This question has two parts. First off, if you have an app but it isn’t solving a problem, this is red flag number one. Fix that, then come back.

If you do have an app and it’s set up to solve your customers’ problems (which can be anything from deciding if they would look good with red hair to locating your business’s hours of operation) you need to start thinking about how easy it is for your customer to perform this primary action. If it takes less than a minute, great. Under three minutes including sign up? Still good. Any longer and you may be looking at your first roadblock.

how to increase app stickiness

Why do my customers quit using my app?

This is the big overarching question. If you can figure out exactly why most of your customer drop off, you can fix it. Of course, you can’t prevent every customer from abandoning your app, but you can reduce the number.

So how do you figure out why customers quit? You track them. Or you test them. Or you look at your feedback. You could even do all three. They should all point to a similar answer.

What makes a person stick with my app, day after day or month after month?

Again, if you aren’t tracking your “power users,” you need to start. Today. You should know what features people use most often, with the highest frequency. Do they have anything else in common?

What makes people recommend my app to their friends?

This can be a harder question to answer than the two above only because it relies almost entirely on voluntary feedback from your customers. Conducting a short survey, incentivized or not, can show you exactly why your app is succeeding and may provide a few suggestions for how it can be improved.

Still, always take customer feedback with a grain of salt. You do not have to implement every suggestion. You don’t even need to prioritize the most popular one, even if it comes from a particularly vocal section. Focus on what’s best for your customer and your business without diluting your app’s primary purpose.

What Do You Want to Achieve?

Each time you aim to improve your app, your product, you need to define a specific goal. If you don’t, it can be easy to get lost in the minutia of app development. Your goal needs to have a particular, achievable outcome and the steps you need to take to get there outlined within it. It also requires a metric you can use when tracking your progress.

For example, your goal is, above all to increase stickiness. That means you need to solve whatever issues your customers have that make them want to abandon your application. So your goals should zero in on whatever your biggest obstacle is at this moment. That could mean you want to improve your app’s onboarding process, so it takes a user X amount of time to do whatever happens to be the main feature of your app.

Alternatively, if your customers seem to abandon your app after one or two users, your goal may be to implement a specific plan to create more engaging content. Because of how varied apps can be, your specific goals will vary greatly. However, remember to start with significant, easy fixes and move down to the little stuff. It can be tempting to get lost in smaller problems, but they won’t cause the most change.

Testing Your Solution and Tracking Outcomes

Improving how sticky your app takes time. There’s no getting around it. To know what’s working and what’s not, you need time to test it. Testing is crucial. Without conducting tests and analyzing the data, you’re playing darts in the dark.

Short tests, like the ones you use when testing a new onboarding approach, are equally as important as tracking customer behavior over the long term. Keep records of each change you make and when then regularly add notes from whichever metrics you are collecting. Over time it will all add up. You will have more users who spend more time with your app and come back to it on a more regular basis.

Where to Start – Common Barriers to App Stickiness

If you don’t have a lot of data to go on, or if you’re not quite done designing your app, the following are great places to start when you’re looking to improve the stickiness of your app.

Onboarding is Lacking – Getting the “new user” experience just right can be tough. You don’t always want a lengthy tutorial or tour, but you also don’t just want to drop your customers into a feature-loaded app. No one likes feeling lost or overwhelmed.

If a customer has a bad experience using your app for the first time, they probably won’t use it again. First impressions mean a lot. This is where paid tests are critical. However, finding average people to show your app to (not just people who spend hours a day testing apps) is also essential. The more significant your sample, the better your app could be.

Boredom and Tired Content – Unless your app fulfills a regular, physical need or facilitates a physical service or task that needs to be performed regularly, you need to give your customers a reason for revisiting your app.

If your app is just the same old, same old all the time, your customers may move on to greener, more exciting pastures. This doesn’t mean you need to update your app’s design or add new features regularly, but it does mean giving your customers a reason to check in every so often. You could do that by adding new incentives at regular intervals like app-only deals and discounts.

You could also provide limited-time opportunities or special events. To that end, keep things relevant. Don’t do things that complicate your app’s primary purpose. Always make sure whatever your business does, it benefits the customer or user-base in the end.

No Emotional Connection – Your customers need a way to connect with your business and your app. Why should they be your customers and not go to a competitor? You can do this by having a strong story and background and intertwining that with your app.

You could also leverage social media and customer outreach to create unique programs or experiences for specific customer groups. An emotional connection increases the stickiness of your app by boosting loyalty.

Poor Support and Non-Existent Community – Let’s say, for example, that you have a great app with just the right features for your ideal customer, client, or user. But it only works when you do things in a particular order. Or it tends to end that user’s session after 5 minutes every time they log in. Now they need customer support or a way to ask the community for help.

Not every experience your app’s users will have will be a positive one. They may need help figuring things out, too. Having a support option or a few different support options is key to keeping those users around. Without support, they are likely to get frustrated, abandon your app, and may even discourage others from using it.

Even if you don’t have the resources for live support, having an FAQ and an easy form or support messenger can help you work around this obstacle while you get up and running.

how to increase app stickiness

The Stickiness-Engagement Link

From everything, you know what makes an app “sticky” it should be plain to see that the term is closely linked to user engagement. Engaged users use a given application more. “Stickiness” is a measure of how likely your app is to keep a user engaged in the long term. If your app is sticky, the chances are high that your customers will be retained over the long run. They have reasons to keep coming back, and that list of reasons only grows as they continue to use your app.

How Sticky Your App is Determines It’s Long-Term Health

A business can’t survive on new customers alone. Having an app or progressive web app is a great way to connect and engage with your customers on a consistent basis. The stickier your app is, the healthier your customer relationships are, the better your business will do in the long term.

This post was brought to you by Kevin Schrage, Director of Marketing at BiznessApps, an app builder for small business.  

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