Product Management

Hooked: How to improve mobile app engagement (+ examples)

Published July 21, 2023 ⚡ Updated on October 10, 2023 by Andrea
a space rocket to symbolize skyrocketing mobile app engagement

In a world dominated by mobile technology, creating an app that captivates users and keeps them coming back isn’t just a bonus—it’s a necessity. As app developers, product managers, and UX researchers, we’re all chasing the elusive dragon of user engagement. But how can we unravel this complex puzzle and boost mobile app engagement effectively? The answer lies at the intersection of robust data analysis, empathetic design, and an overlooked yet transformative strategy: user testing.

Understanding app engagement: more than just numbers

Before we explore solutions, let’s demystify what ‘app engagement’ truly means. It isn’t just about downloads or daily active users. The key to understanding app engagement lies in the heart of your user’s journey—How often do they interact with your app? How long are their sessions? What specific features do they engage with? How invested are they in your app?

Nir Eyal’s book ‘Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products‘ presents a clear framework for this understanding. In a four-step model—trigger, action, variable reward, and investment—Eyal emphasizes the importance of ingraining user habits to create products that not only attract but retain and engage users. The challenge, however, is understanding and implementing this cycle within your mobile app.

Increasing app engagement with user testing

To shape an app engagement strategy that truly resonates, we need to shift from a developer-centric to a user-centric approach. Only when we understand our users’ needs, motivations, and frustrations can we craft experiences that ‘hook’ them. This is where user testing shines.

By creating real-world testing scenarios, user testing for mobile apps uncovers essential feedback straight from your users, pointing to what works, what doesn’t, and what can be improved. The result? A solid foundation upon which to build your mobile app engagement and retention strategies. Here are a couple of examples of well-known products who transformed their fortunes through extensive user testing.

Instagram: leveraging user feedback to boost engagement

Need proof that user testing should be your go-to strategy to improve app engagement? Look no further than Instagram, the photo-sharing app with over 2.3 billion users worldwide. In its early days, Instagram was not the successful platform we know today. It started as a feature-cluttered app named ‘Burbn.’ The creators Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger had to make a pivotal decision when they noticed that despite Burbn’s many features, users were primarily using it to share photos. The insight was a result of meticulous user testing and observation.

Embracing this feedback, they stripped the app down to its bare essentials, focusing on the photography feature, and renamed it Instagram. It was this user-focused shift that led Instagram to become one of the most engaging apps in the digital world.

Duolingo: skyrocketing user engagement through research

Let’s consider another example: Duolingo, the language learning app known for its impressive user engagement and retention. Through rigorous user testing, Duolingo discovered that users felt overwhelmed by the lengthy language lessons. The solution? They broke down lessons into bite-sized chunks, making learning more accessible and less intimidating. This user-centric modification significantly boosted engagement and made Duolingo the go-to app for language learners worldwide.

Long story short, user testing helped both Instagram and Duolingo identify their users’ real needs and shape their products accordingly, ultimately skyrocketing user engagement.

5 steps to improve your mobile app engagement strategy

While user testing forms the backbone of an effective app engagement strategy, it isn’t the sole component. Like any great recipe, you need a medley of ingredients to create an irresistible end product. To supercharge your app engagement metrics, consider coupling user testing insights with the following strategies. And remember, just like testing, none of these are “one and done.” It’s about trial and error, improvement, and a hearty helping of persistence.

1. Personalization: tailoring user experiences

Personalization is your secret weapon for boosting app engagement, in addition to customization. After all, who doesn’t love a personal touch? Take Spotify, for instance. Each Monday, they roll out the red carpet for their listeners with a Discover Weekly playlist, finely tuned to individual tastes. Thanks to their commitment to using user data creatively, they’ve seen a surge in user engagement, with people eagerly awaiting their new, bespoke playlist each week. Could your app benefit from a little more personalization?

2. Push Notifications: the gentle nudge.

Ever heard of the Goldilocks principle? Too much, and you’ll annoy your users. Too little, and they’ll forget you exist. The Headspace meditation app has mastered this balancing act, using push notifications to improve user retention. By personalizing reminders about meditation schedules and mindful moments based on prior app activity, Headspace provides gentle nudges that encourage regular app usage. In your quest for increased app engagement, consider how tailored push notifications could serve your user base.

3. Regular Updates: keeping things fresh.

There’s something reassuring about a well-maintained app. Frequent updates signal a commitment to user satisfaction, fostering trust and ongoing engagement. Just look at Facebook. Their continuous cycle of updates and improvements, whether enhancing data security or introducing new features, has helped them stay on top in the fickle world of social media. What aspects of your app could benefit from regular tweaks and updates?

4. Gamification: fun, fun, fun.

Who said apps had to be all work and no play? Injecting elements of play—like rewards, challenges, and leaderboards—can make app usage more engaging and habit-forming. Again, take a leaf out of Duolingo’s book. Their language learning app uses gamification to boost user engagement, making learning fun and competitive. As you refine your app engagement strategy, consider how gamification could incentivize user interaction.

5. Ease of use: keep it simple, genius.

If there’s one thing that can make or break user engagement, it’s the user experience. No one enjoys wrestling with clunky interfaces. In fact, we despise bad UX so much here at Userbrain that we built a whole product to eradicate it from the web! Venmo, the money transfer app, has made it incredibly simple and intuitive to send money to friends and family. Their app’s straightforward functionality and easy-to-use interface have made them a favorite among users. Is your app as easy to use as it could be?

By integrating these strategies alongside your ongoing user testing, you can give your mobile app engagement a substantial boost. But don’t forget, the real secret lies in continually listening to your users, learning from them, and iterating on your app to provide the best experience possible. User testing, combined with these strategies, gives you a comprehensive roadmap for improvement. So, buckle up and start your journey toward peak app engagement today!

Conclusion: stitching together the engagement puzzle

And there you have it—the essential guide to unraveling the enigma of mobile app engagement! Just like piecing together a jigsaw puzzle, each bit of the process we’ve discussed forms an integral part of the whole picture. In our journey to solve this conundrum, we’ve navigated through complex concepts, examples, and strategies. Yet, at its core, it all boils down to one thing: cultivating a deep understanding of your users.

Think about it this way—your app is like a conversation between you and your users. Just as a great discussion doesn’t happen with monologues, crafting a successful and engaging app isn’t about what you think is best. It’s about listening, understanding, and responding to your users. User testing paves the way for this dialogue, providing a framework for you to comprehend what your users need, enjoy, and find frustrating. In essence, user testing is your listening ear in the world of app development.

But the story doesn’t end there. It’s just the beginning of an exciting, evolving journey. Successful engagement isn’t a destination, but rather a constantly moving target. As your app evolves and expands, your engagement strategies should follow suit. The goal is to continue offering value to your users in innovative ways.

This is where Userbrain comes into play. Our user testing solutions lay the groundwork for your continuous improvement. By providing invaluable feedback from real-world users, we empower you to make informed decisions leading to engaging and successful mobile apps.

So, as we wrap up this guide, let’s revisit the key puzzle pieces that will help you craft an exceptional app engagement strategy:

  1. Start with user testing at Userbrain: Establish a solid foundation by understanding your users’ needs and motivations. Get started with 2 free user tests! ?
  2. Personalization: Create tailor-made experiences, like Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlist, based on your users’ preferences.
  3. Push notifications: Use timely and personalized reminders, like Headspace, to encourage regular app usage.
  4. Regular updates: Show your users that you’re devoted to improving their experience, as demonstrated by Facebook’s consistent updates.
  5. Gamification: Make your app usage more engaging and habit-forming through elements of play, like Duolingo’s language learning challenges.
  6. Ease of use: Prioritize intuitive and straightforward functionality, like Venmo, to enhance user satisfaction and retention.

By incorporating these strategies with ongoing user testing, you can create an engaging and user-friendly mobile app masterpiece. Remember, your app is a dynamic entity that thrives on consistent improvement and innovation. So, get set and embark on your journey to unlocking your mobile app’s full engagement potential. Happy innovating!

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