How to Increase App Engagement – 10 Tried and Tested Strategies for SaaS
Looking for sure-fire ways to increase app engagement?
It’s a fact of SaaS life that more engaged users are more valuable users.
Because increasing user engagement is strongly correlated with improving customer retention. And if you can increase retention, you’re well on your way to growing revenue and having a more successful product!
We pride ourselves on knowing a few things about how to increase app engagement, and in this blog, we’ll share exactly what we’ve learned.
These critical insights are the closest things you’ll find to app engagement no-brainers -so read on, and prepare to see your app usage soar!
- App engagement is a leading indicator for most of the SaaS KPIs that matter, so it’s vital that you work to improve it across the customer lifecycle
- “Engagement” is not the same as “usage” – it implies a positive experience, and so what increases engagement (and the best ways to measure it) will vary for any particular app
- Nevertheless, there are a lot of tactics you can use to improve app engagement that will work for many apps across different verticals
- Most important amongst these are tactics relating to onboarding: minimizing signup friction; personalizing primary onboarding based on the use case; driving users to their Aha moment and activation point fast using a checklist and getting them to experience value with interactive walkthroughs
- Other methods we look at include: promoting in-app feature discovery using contextual tooltips; collecting and acting on feedback with micro surveys; onboarding gamification; removing friction with an in-app resource center; messaging outside the app to draw users back, and continuous improvement through A/B testing
- If you’re looking to increase app engagement by trying out some of the tactics we discuss in this article, get a Userpilot demo and you can get started right away.
What is app engagement?
App engagement is a measure of the level of positive interaction that users have with your SaaS application, across all touchpoints.
The keyword there is “positive” because engagement is more than just usage. As Lincoln Murphy puts it:
“Engagement is when your customer is realizing value from your SaaS, different at various stages in the customer lifecycle.”
So measuring user engagement has a qualitative aspect as well as a quantitative one.
Negative user engagement reflects bad experiences – signals for this might include cancellation, silencing notifications, deleting user info, etc.
App engagement is a little bit narrower than customer engagement. That relates to all interactions with the brand during the customer lifecycle. What we’re looking at here is user behavior in-app.
Why increasing app engagement should be a priority?
If we understand “engagement” in Lincoln Murphy’s terms as “getting value from using a product” then this question is pretty easy to answer.
- If the user doesn’t use your app, they won’t get value from it and they’ll churn
- If the user uses your app but doesn’t get value from it, they’ll eventually stop trying and churn
Most SaaS businesses make money by charging subscription fees- when a user cancels, that revenue is lost.
Therefore, engagement and user retention are strongly correlated. When you increase user engagement (ie your app users are getting value from your product), you boost customer retention, user Life Time Value, Monthly Recurring Revenue, and a whole host of other factors that reflect your app’s success.
App engagement is a leading indicator for all these metrics.
But the nature of engagement changes over time: what it takes to engage users and provide value depends on where they are in the user or customer journey (see image above).
Therefore, it’s essential to promote habitual usage and make it as easy as possible for users to find new sources of value through your UI and communications.
How to measure app engagement?
App engagement can be measured in different ways.
The one that’s best for you will depend on what your product does, how users interact and realize value from it, and what usage patterns indicate high or low-value realization and progress along the user journey.
Here are four particularly helpful engagement metrics.
Product adoption rate
This is great for figuring out usage patterns and allocating users to personas. It measures the percentage of app features being used over a period of time (usually 30 days).
In other words, product adoption rate whos you how many users are engaging with core and secondary product features on a regular basis.
Multiple feature use indicates strong app user engagement – while single-use suggests either weak engagement or alternative use cases (cross-segment these users to work out which).
A great way to track Product adoption rate is by setting Goals (shown below in Userpilot). This feature lets you track the percentage of your user base hitting certain key actions within set timeframes.
Customize your Goals to see which features are being used together for greater insight into your users.
Customer engagement score
Once you know the actions and events that correspond to “value realized” you can use them to construct an index that ascribes different weights to them, depending on their importance.
Inactivity or signs of negative engagement should have negative values.
By adding up the total event values within a set time period, you derive a customer engagement score. You can do this for your whole user base, for particular segments, or even for individual users.
You can then direct re-engagement activity towards those with low scores, and push additional value to deepen the relationship with loyal app users.
User retention rate
Your user retention rate is the percentage of those paying customers at the start of a period who are still paying customers at the end of it.
This gives you a basic but vital insight: what proportion of your users are engaged enough to keep paying?
But as a means of measuring app engagement, the user retention rate has some pretty obvious weaknesses:
- Outgoing users can be offset by new user acquisition, distorting the picture
- Cancellation typically follows on from disengagement. Having user retention as a proxy for the percentage of users engaged denies you the benefits of treating engagement as a leading indicator for retention likelihood
Product stickiness is the ratio between daily active users (DAU) and monthly active users (MAU). It tells you how often users return to your app, that is, who is using your app on a regular basis.
When the ratio is 1:1, it means your whole user base is benefiting from your product all day, every day.
A good Stickiness score will depend on how often users need to be in the app, using key features, to get value. So don’t worry if your ratio is not 1:1, your users might not need to use your app daily.
For a product like Facebook, they’ll be aiming for 100%. For accounting and payroll software that gets used on a monthly cycle, it’ll be much lower.
10 ways to increase app engagement and user retention
So, the kind of app engagement that translates into better user retention (and therefore more revenue and product growth) depends on:
- What your product does
- How users get value from it (aka which features they need to engage with in order to get value)
As such, improving user engagement should never be approached in a one-size-fits-all way.
But there are some tried-and-tested ways to drive and improve engagement and user retention that work for nearly every SaaS company.
Here are ten sure-fire ways of improving app engagement.
Remove friction from your signup flow
First impressions count, big time.
A signup process that’s clunky or asks for too much information will put new users off from engaging from the outset. If it’s too laborious, they may never come back or even complete the signup process.
If you can make the signup experience fast, easy, and pleasant, you’ll incentivize users to come back and keep trying your product.
Fullstory does a great job of this. As a product with many use cases, it has to segment users fast to provide a relevant onboarding experience and personalized content.
So, while the app waits for you to validate your email, it asks for key snippets of info that helps tailor app onboarding:
When you have validated your email, Fullstory welcomes you back. This turns what could feel like a boring hoop to jump through into a pleasant experience. Offering “sign in with Google” is also convenient and helps cut friction.
Once you’re in, Fullstory asks a few use case questions to assign you to the most relevant persona:
And finally, it guides you through the steps needed to start realizing value:
Personalize the user onboarding process
That leads us nicely onto the second point. New users don’t want to sit through a presentation of every single thing your app can do, whether it’s relevant to them or not.
Nor do they want to be presented with an intimidating blank canvas that they can’t see how to get started with.
A welcome screen, like the Fullstory ones above and the BacklinkManager one below, gives you a chance to ask key questions about use cases and personas that allows you to tailor user onboarding to what new users care about.
Depending on the answers given, you can personalize the onboarding process to defined segments (shown in Userpilot below).
Once you have segmented your users, the first thing you should focus on is personalizing their path to the Aha moment.
Drive users to their Aha moment with a primary onboarding checklist
The Aha moment is that point of insight when new users suddenly grasp your value proposition. That is a key milestone in onboarding, as reaching it spurs users to continue learning and engaging.
A good onboarding process will guide users to that point as quickly as possible to minimize the risk of them losing interest. A great way to do this is with a primary onboarding checklist.
In the example above, from Postfity, the steps necessary to grasp how the app can deliver value have been compiled into a checklist. Items are ticked off as a user completes them.
This not only makes it clear what the user has to do, but it also gamifies the whole experience!
One great tip for onboarding checklists is to give users a headstart. Include at least one item they’ve already ticked off. A psychological principle called the “Endowed Progress Effect” means that people are more likely to finish off a task it seems that they have already made progress with.
Increase app engagement with interactive walkthrough guides
Where the process of getting to Aha is more complex, or when you’re looking to get to the next user journey milestone – Activation, when value is achieved for the first time – a checklist may not guide users enough.
So an alternative tactic to improve user engagement at these points is to employ interactive walkthroughs.
Here’s an example from Kommunicate, a chatbot tool. Instead of just showing a list of actions needed to hit the milestone, the interactive walkthrough leads new users step-by-step through the process of actually carrying them out.
With interactive walkthroughs, the users learn by doing. They provide a great app user experience by getting customers to that all-important first value as quickly as possible.
For best results, pre-segment users with a welcome screen and then serve up different interactive walkthroughs. Then you can guide them to whatever goal they will value most!
Increase feature discovery and engagement with in-app messages like tooltips
A big risk of disengagement is when a user hits a “value plateau”. That is, they’re getting some benefit from your app, but they’re only using some of what it has to offer.
As a user spends more time on your app, you need to be continuously driving new sources of value. That means promoting new feature adoption (as we’ve already discussed under product adoption rate).
By helping them make the most of all the things your app can do, you’ll retain users for longer.
Collect and act on feedback to improve your product
What better way could there be to find out what would engage users more than to ask them?
User feedback is incredibly valuable, and the best way to collect it is within contextual in-app microsurveys.
This is a better way to collect feedback than traditional surveys because:
- Asking one or just a few questions at a time will increase response rates by reducing the user effort required
- Asking in-app at key triggered points will get you immediate, honest feedback (eg if you ask someone how they found a workflow straight after completing it)
- Collecting feedback in-app keeps users engaging rather than taking them elsewhere!
Here’s an example of a cancellation microsurvey from Baremetrics:
By quizzing outgoing users on their reasons, Baremetrics can use that feedback to prevent future customers from suffering the same problems.
For example, perhaps a lot of users say they’re “not sure how to use the data and tools”. This tells Baremetrics to work on better onboarding and help center resources.
Of course, this points to a key point about feedback. It’s one thing to collect it, but for it to help promote future user engagement, you also have to act on it.
Use in-app gamification strategies for increased engagement
By gamifying your app, you can incentivize users to engage by making it fun and/or by taking advantage of known psychological quirks.
A gamified UX sets out goals and objectives and provides rewards for hitting them. The rewards can be material (eg credit for referrals) or purely symbolic (eg badges and celebration screens). The point is that game structures in your app’s design can make it more engaging.
As long as the gamification doesn’t detract from the core functionality by getting in the way, that is!
We’ve already talked about checklists and the Endowed Progress Effect that can be leveraged by adding pre-completed tasks to them.
Here’s an example from Userpilot. when the user sees this checklist for the first time they would have already created an account but seeing that task completed on their to-do list, makes it easier for them to continue with the next item of the list.
And adding completed tasks to your in-app onboarding checklists is easy when you build them with a product adoption tool like Userpilot. Add the task to your checklist and set it to ”do nothing” and ”Automatically mark as complete” in the settings panel.
Progress bars, leaderboards, points, and levels: all these tactics, when used smartly, can help increase user engagement.
Implement an in-app resource center and drive user engagement
One of the biggest causes of negative engagement is users not knowing how to solve a problem they run across in the app. Being stuck leads to frustration, and on to stop using it.
So, it makes good sense to ensure that all the solutions to common problems – and fast access to a customer support team – are there at users’ fingertips.
The best way to do this is by packaging all your support materials (videos, FAQ articles, tutorials, interactive walkthroughs, chatbots, support ticketing, etc) into a one-stop help center or knowledge base that’s always within reach.
Here’s how Postfity is using their help center not just to solve user problems, but also to drive new feature adoption and the discovery of new sources of value.
When a user clicks on ”Posting to Instagram-Now direct”, an interactive walkthrough like the one we mentioned above, will trigger, guiding the users on how to engage with that feature step by step.
Use email to bring users back to the app
All of the tactics we’ve looked at so far have one thing in common: the user has to be in the app for them to work.
But what if they’re not?
These are the people you need urgently to engage. If they’re not logging in they may well be becoming disengaged.
So, you need to make use of other channels to give them reasons to re-engage.
Email is ideal for this. You can use generic messaging that goes out to all users introducing new features or flagging particular benefits and use cases.
Alternatively, you can use personalized messages directly engaging with the user and asking them what would draw them back in.
You can also use push notifications, either mobile or web.
Push notifications are particularly good for getting attention, but you need to be careful and avoid making your messages feel spammy and interrupting.
Continuously test multiple in-app messaging engagement tactics and improve
Finally – like most things in SaaS – app engagement and user retention are not “one and done” activities.
Even when you have an apparently perfected customer journey pinned down, you should always be experimenting to find new, better ways of keeping users engaged.
By A/B testing engagement tactics (different UI elements, different experiences and messaging, etc), you can home in on the interventions that have the biggest impact on user behavior and improve your app accordingly.
Userpilot gives you the ability to improve user engagement by designing and testing different onboarding flows against specific goals, for example, a specific feature adoption.
Simply tick the ”Run A/B test” box, when setting up a user onboarding flow (like a checklist or interactive walkthrough), set your goal, and let the experimentation begin.
No matter what your particular app does for users, we’ve given you a lot of food for thought here for increasing app engagement.
While there’s no substitute for working out exactly what your users need and what value is for them, the ten ways to increase engagement explored in this blog will get you a long way down the road.
And as we’ve shown along the way, Userpilot provides the tools to do a lot of these things – and many more product experiences besides!
Want to build product experiences code-free? Book a demo call with our team and get started!