How to Make Your App Stickier

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The path to app stickiness, of course, starts with an install. Installation is the first real sign that a user is already on the way to becoming significantly more engaged with your brand. App users convert twice as often as web users and are twice as likely to remain engaged with a product. But getting a user to your app is just the beginning; keeping a user is almost more important.

One in four mobile apps are abandoned after a single use, and within 30 days, the average app will lose around 58 percent of its users. While these might sound like daunting statistics, there are a number of things you can do to make your app stickier.

Here are four key strategies to engage and retain more users.


Competition for consumer attention and time is increasing, so differentiation is key to making your app stand out. One good option for this is personalization, which can be used for both user acquisition and effective engagement. An important aspect of personalization is user intent. You need to know your users and serve them the right content and ads as they move through the customer journey.

First impressions also matter. The biggest user dropoff is usually after the first app session, so making a good first impression is the most important step in driving initial stickiness.

Personalized onboarding is a great way to head off this dropoff. With personalization during onboarding, users receive hyper-relevant information to keep them engaged and marketers learn which actions get customers to convert and, ultimately, stick around. Brands that use onboarding data from the very beginning are at a huge advantage when it comes to driving app stickiness, because they understand the tactics that best keep users engaged.

Sharing and Referrals

Sharing and referrals are not only ways to get new users, but also to engage and re-engage existing ones. For example, an existing user shares a link with a friend and when that friend downloads or engages with the app, the initial referrer gets a notification along with a reward. This way the referrer re-engages with the app and you’ve gained a new user.

The double viral loop shows that once a new user joins because of a referral, invite, or share from an existing user or influencer, the original user is much more likely to re-engage with your app and share again if they’re notified.


Gamification is a great way to differentiate your app and keep users engaged. For businesses, gamification is used to motivate certain behaviors by triggering powerful human emotions. Using game mechanics and designing experiences that have an emotional payoff can subconsciously excite people in a way that enables you to achieve your goals. These emotionally charged experiences tend to lead to better user engagement, greater in-app sales, and ultimately, increased long-term loyalty to your brand.

The challenge is finding a gamification strategy that actually fits with the app rather than relying on giving referral discounts or monetary incentives. Instead, encourage video challenges, post challenges, or other types of contests to help users spread awareness about your app while sharing content of their own that makes them feel good. For example, Walmart used the video challenge approach, asking users to upload a video on TikTok of themselves dancing with the #DealDropDance hashtag to spread awareness of Walmart’s Black Friday deals. The campaign was a huge success in driving awareness and engagement, with over 3.6 billion views on videos that used the hashtag.

Gamification can be hard to get right, but it’s an excellent engagement tool.


While personalization, referrals, and gamification are key differentiators for driving engagement, confirming their impact is crucial, which is why testing is incredibly important to any engagement strategy. For instance, you can test different versions of smart banners to the same audience to find optimizations in copy, creative, placement, or even messaging.

By testing value messaging on your banners, you can learn a great deal about user intent. Users have different perceived benefits depending on their life cycle, status, intent, and even their frame of mind. Highlighting separate benefits of the app at different times will help you determine what users are receptive to each message.

As you’re testing different strategies, keep in mind these engagement metrics that matter:

  • Attributed Installs: The number of installs attributed to a specific campaign. This unified metric gives you insight into how well your campaign is aligned to your target audience. Track this metric to understand how users are engaging with campaign messaging and content.
  • Attributed Opens: The number of opens attributed to a specific campaign. This is useful for understanding where campaigns are driving existing user engagement instead of new-user acquisition. If your app is optimized for conversions already, just getting users into your app will help drive downstream metrics.
  • Attributed Revenue: This is the revenue resulting from app conversions attributed to a specific campaign. This bottom-of-funnel metric can help you identify results from your spend and understand how users are converting and engaging longer term.
  • Day N Retention: The number of app users that are returning to the app within a defined timeframe. This will tell you if onboarding flows and marketing messaging are keeping users engaged with the app. To improve this metric, try email, push notifications, ads, and retargeting, as well as marketing campaigns on owned and earned channels.

Although the path to app stickiness starts at installation, it continues with engagement. Creating an engagement strategy that utilizes personalization, referrals, and gamification can help differentiate your app and retain users longer. However, no single strategy will work for every app, so testing and tracking metrics will tell you what’s working and what’s not so you can optimize effectively and retain your most valuable audience—app users.

Mada Seghete is cofounder of Branch, the mobile growth platform of choice for over 50,000 apps and 2 billion monthly users around the world, where she leads marketing and new market development. Born and raised in Romania, Seghete came to the United States to study electrical and computer engineering at Cornell University and then earned a master’s in engineering and an MBA from Stanford. She invests in early-stage women-founded companies as an angel investor and a partner at xFactor Ventures and hosts the popular growth podcast How I Grew This.

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