Why App Engagement Is Crucial for ASO and How to Improve It

Posted in March 2018 by Emma Mullan

App Store Optimization

So you have successfully developed your app and it is in the app store with users downloading it! Job done, right?

I’m afraid not…

Unfortunately, downloads do not equal life-long customers. In fact, 20% of app users who sign up will use your app only once. And 60% of users who don’t return after seven days, never will. And if that wasn’t shocking enough, further research has shown that as much as 80% of app users churn within just 90 days!

From here on your job is to keep your app users as engaged as you possibly can in an attempt to keep churn to an absolute minimum and boost your app store optimization at the same time. So, here’s what you should know!

But How is App Engagement Important for ASO?

When it comes to your ASO strategy, there are many different factors that you can test and improve upon to increase your rank in the different app stores. This includes the likes of your keywords, app name and description, app icon, screenshots, preview video, etc.

But have you considered the possibility that how engaged your users are with your app can impact upon your app ranking as well?

What you may not already know is that the app stores have access to data on whether or not your customers use your app, as well as how often. They use this information as a factor to determine which apps’ users are finding more valuable than others, adjusting where they rank as a result. If your app has a poor retention rate, then the app store is much less likely to show it as it already knows that it is invaluable to many of the users who have previously downloaded it.

For many app marketers and developers their attention is more focused towards optimizing their app store page in an attempt to acquire as many new users as possible. And yes, this is definitely still a key step and the main goal of ASO. However, without a proper user engagement strategy, the majority of new users you did acquire with your top class ASO skills will quickly lose interest and drop off.

Ultimately, this low retention rate negatively affects your rank in the app store and that is why app engagement is a super important part of your ASO strategy.

6 Top Tips for Improving your App Engagement

1. Make a good first impression

First, you need to start off on the right foot. If your users have to go through a lengthy, painful sign-up process before they have even begun to use your app, or if your app is full of bugs and your users are just met with one error after another, the chances are high that they will exit your app and never be seen again. First impressions are difficult to change no matter how small a mistake might have been. It’s so important to consistently and regularly monitor your app performance to ensure everything is running smoothly and so any issues can be addressed immediately.

Keep things simple from the beginning with a simple sign-up process. Only ask for the information that is vital to start with. For example, users’ name and email address. You can give your users the opportunity to provide more personal information at a later stage, once they become more familiar with your app. Top rated apps like Whatsapp, Uber and Tinder all have one important element in common - new users can sign up in approximately 10 seconds in about 3 taps. A great way to do this is to give them the option to sign up via an existing social media account, such as Facebook or Twitter. This allows you to collect all the information you need with barely any effort on their behalf.

2. Get personal

If you expect to achieve great results by sending the same, generic message to each one of your app users, then you are in for a real disappointment. 49% of users expect to see some degree of personalization in any messaging they are receiving. To do this, you will need to effectively segment your user database based on a number of different factors such as their preferences, location, gender, age and buying behaviour, to name just a few. A well-segmented push notification has been found to convert up to 54% of the users who opened it, compared to just 15% who convert from a generic broadcast message.

3. Successfully achieve the ‘opt-in’

While push notifications aren’t the only way to keep your users engaged with your app, they are definitely the most effective. But before you can start sending out your highly personalized push messages you need to receive that all important ‘opt-in’, which for iOS looks a little something like this…

Example for Opt In Message

Many app marketers/developers chose to show this message to the user right at the very beginning, but this can often be a huge mistake as if they click ‘Don’t Allow’, this is a done deal as you cannot show this message again. Users often view push notifications as a complete annoyance so what you want to do is demonstrate the value in them choosing to opt-in. This can be achieved with pre-permission messages. These are custom-made in-app messages that you can show as many times as you wish and use to gauge whether or not the user is ready to opt in. If they say ‘yes’ to this message, then you can go ahead and show them the ‘official’ opt-in request. Photo sharing app, Cluster, found this method resulted in a 100% opt-in rate!

Cluster using pre-permission messages to demonstrate value prior to launching the official opt-in request

Cluster using pre-permission messages to demonstrate value prior to launching the official opt-in request

4. Use a multi-channel strategy

There are many other channels available to mobile marketers alongside push notifications that can help boost engagement. For example in-app messages, email, social media and SMS. A multi-channel marketing strategy has been found to achieve an 89% retention rate. Push notifications alone can become slightly repetitive to your users as you are quite limited in regards of characters and creativity, so it’s a great way to change up your style of messaging and provide your users with more detailed content such as images and video. Plus sending push messages out too often can be extremely off-putting to your users, so using a multi-channel strategy allows you to reduce the number of notifications you send while still regularly communicating to your users.

5. Offer rewards

A great way to encourage app engagement is to offer your users special offers, rewards or discounts for continued loyalty to your app. According to Oracle, 50% of users actually expect this sort of ‘mobile exclusivity’ for using your app. Ultimately the rewards you can offer come down to the type of app you have and what would work best for your user. For example, an app like Starbucks can offer a reward in the form of a free coffee after a customer has gained enough stars from previous purchases on the app.

Starbucks Loyalty

Whereas, a betting app such as Betway might offer their users a free £10 bet if they haven’t been active in a few weeks, therefore helping boost engagement amongst the segment of users who had dropped off and lost interest.

6. Encourage reviews

As you would expect, apps with higher rated reviews and ratings are given much more credibility and ranked higher in the app stores. Therefore, it is critical for your ASO to build that relationship with users through regular engagement and encourage them to give you a positive rating. In order to achieve the highest success rate there are certain best practices in place for how to go about this, but ultimately the key is to have loyal users that would be more than happy to help you out. Research by Kahuna discovered that 100% of users are willing to consider downloading a 5-star app, while only 13% consider apps with one-star ratings, so it is definitely worth your while to get this right.


By following these 6 tips you have the potential to skyrocket your user engagement and retention rate and increase your rank in the various app stores at the same time. It’s time to stop focusing solely on user acquisition and start nurturing and building a relationship with your existing users from the very first moment they download your app.

Guest Author
Emma Mullan
Emma is a Marketing Strategist at Hurree, an app marketing automation platform that makes predictive and personalised messaging easier than ever.

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