June 23rd, 2015

The Average App Loses 77% Of Its Users In The First Three Days

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The clock is ticking from the moment you release an app.

Competition for installs and downloads across every identified app sector is at an all time high and the key to ongoing satisfaction is to make sure that an app ticks every user box … within 72 hours.

Andrew Chen, a Silicon Valley-based entrepreneur and writer, believes that the average app loses 77% of its daily mobile users (DAU) within the first three days of launch. In a recently published article on his website, Chen used data from a partnership with mobile intelligence startup Quettra to analyze the state of the mobile retention market and his discoveries are certainly worth thinking about.

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Using only Android apps from the Google Play store (excluding Google’s own apps) that had been installed over 10,000 times worldwide as the base the study, Chen theorized that any app that gets through the first seven days after launch could have a chance of not only success but retained user engagement. According to Chen, the average app loses 90% of its DAUs within 30 days of initial install, with 95% of users rejecting it outright after 90 days.


If that seems to be a shockingly high number, then you’re not really paying attention to trends in the apps economy over the last three years. Quettra’s data highlights just how important it is to get the app right. Granted, different types of apps have varying usage patterns but retention rate should be at the top of the list when determining whether an app is a success or not.

App Success: Retention And Monetization

It is fair to say that with millions of apps available, a comparatively small number have gone interstellar. Chen points out that while DAU is a relatively accurate method of assessing app popularity, app developers should be looking to weekly or monthly figures to establish active traffic patterns, although he did admit that there are relatively few apps that consistently maintain their position at the top of the tree—even with for those that utilize push messaging as means of user engagement.

See also: Current Complications In App Discovery (Series)

“This maps to my own experience, where I see that most of the leverage in improving these retention curves happen in how the product is described, the onboarding flow, and what triggers you set up to drive ongoing retention,” Chen said, in his article. “This work is generally focused on the first days of usage, whereas the long-term numbers are hard to budge, no matter how many reminder emails you send.”

Chen’s data also pinpoints another intriguing trend. Retention rates among the top 100 apps on the Google Play store also show a drop off within the first 90 days after launch, with the speed of that drop off mirroring the so-called average apps. Users find the top apps appealing in the first seven days, return to it repeatedly during that time and then use it less in the next 90 days.

“To me, this is further validation that the best way to bend the retention curve is to target the first few days of usage, and in particular the first visit,” said Chen. “That way, users set up themselves up for success.”

In other words, app developers should be aware that any success is predicated on how a user interacts from day one. This is not as easy as it seems. Top apps retain users because they have either a wow factor or they become part of mobile life to such an extent that not having access to that app is unthinkable.

Mobile users know what works and what doesn’t, and while Chen’s research provides some clues as to what defines retention, the plain truth is that just releasing an app to the general public is no longer the benchmark for success.

Lead image via Wikipedia Commons.