Is Your Post-Onboarding Effective?

by Carmen Apostu
Blog Post

How well are you retaining users of your app post-on-boarding?

By now, most app owners realize the importance of creating an on-boarding process which engages users and encourages them to use the app, but what happens once they’ve gone through your on-boarding?

The news is fairly grim if you pay attention to a few recent statistics released by Localytics. One month after download average churn for apps is 63%. At three months, that figure has climbed to 80%.

retention and churn rates

Ouch. All that effort and app users are still slipping away, like a leak springing in the fuel tank of your shiny new car?

At month one, you probably look at the churn figures and say, ok, we need to take a look at what we’re doing with on-boarding and we need to test the validity of our value proposition. Initial on-boarding remains the biggest clue as to whether users will be there long term. Andrew Chen notes that top apps have much higher Day 1 retention rates, but seem to drop off at the same rate as other apps by Day 30 (that’s still more users at Day 30!). By months two and three though, initial on-boarding should be well over, so what else is going on?

Now you need to start looking at the post-on-boarding experience, what could be going on that is causing the huge drop in users? Here are a few thoughts:

Engage Regularly

Pull out your phone right now and scroll through the apps you have on there – probably many, right? How many did you previously use with some regularity, but no longer do so? Sometimes we stop using an app as part of how that app typically works – perhaps it is no longer required for the function it was built for (banking or insurance apps where you’ve changed providers, for example).

Sometimes we stop using an app because we’ve found a better replacement, but sometimes we stop using it because we got bored or just plain forgot about it.

Engaging app users isn’t a “one and done” task which finishes once they’ve completed your regular onboarding process, you’ve got to find ways to ensure that you keep them engaged. Let’s look at a few thoughts on keeping engagement:

  • What habit-forming behavior can you encourage? As an example, productivity app Streaks encourages users to pick out a few goals for tasks they want to complete on a regular basis (e.g. “go for a daily run”). Users see their “streak” growing over time which helps encourage them to stay engaged. Breaking the chain sees their streak reset to 0 days.
  • Make forgotten passwords or updating credit cards seamless. People don’t want to click around so one of the most user-friendly ways to deal with forgotten passwords on mobile apps is one-click login from an authenticated email address or phone number (Slack is an example of this).
  • Ask for feedback. This is not something we’d recommend you constantly try to force, but putting up the occasional message requesting feedback can provide you with the kind of information which will be useful for keeping users engaged.
  • Communicate regularly. Whether you have a system for collecting email addresses when customers create an account with you or if you can use push notifications or other forms of in-app messages, keep users updated by communicating regularly.

    A note on push notifications here: we know many app owners struggle with getting users to actually allow them, however Last Minute Travel came up with a good solution, as detailed in this Venture Beat article. They took users through multiple touch points during on-boarding which demonstrated why allowing push notifications was a good idea. This saw them go from just 22% of users with notifications enabled to an industry-best 62%.

Don’t Assume Another Feature will Help

If usage is dropping off, it can be tempting to think “let’s build another feature, that will surely help.” The problem is that it often doesn’t and falls under a term known as the “next feature fallacy”, which Andrew Chen wrote about.

He highlights the poor numbers which developers are usually trying to fix by building another feature and states two main problems which usually strike:

  • Too few people will use the feature. In particular, the features target engaged/retained users rather than non-users and new users.
  • Too little impact is made when they do engage. Especially the case when important/key functions are displayed like optional actions outside of the onboarding process.

Building new features might help re-engage some users, but usually only if you’ve developed a strong understanding of the product lifecycle first. As Chen says;

First and foremost is maximizing the reach of your feature, so it impacts the most people. It’s a good rule of thumb that the best features often focus mostly on non-users and casual users, with the reason that there’s simply many more of them.”

… But Do Update Regularly

Sounds a little contradictory? Part of your job is to keep engaged users engaged, and regular updates help with this. It doesn’t have to always be a new feature, but improving upon and fixing any bugs with features you already have is a good idea too. This shows users you’re invested in making the app a success.

Use the feedback you gather from users, along with monitoring usage data to inform you about which updates or feature-adds are likely to be popular. Demonstrating that you listen to user feedback is another good way of keeping people engaged post-on-boarding.

Understand Common Problems

Adweek highlighted a “mobile engagement crisis” whereby apps are often failing miserably to connect well with users long term. As they say “consumer expectations are growing, but companies aren’t keeping up.”

There are some common problems highlighted which impact engagement, such as customers wanting a personalized experience, but that being at war with their desire for privacy. The precursors to an app in crisis were highlighted in an infographic, part of which you see below:

post onboarding

Source: Adweek

Many of these common problems can be summed up with one word; trust. If you want to successfully keep users engaged, then building up their trust in your app, perhaps even in your company as a whole, is a must.

To point to a recent example (without getting into politics!), look at what happened to Uber. Hundreds of users created a public display of deleting the app when they felt that the company had acted without integrity by appearing to “scab” off the New York taxi strike due to protests.

You may not have anywhere near the level of publicity with your app, but there are plenty of things smaller apps do to erode trust (over-use of those push notifications is one!). What you do inside and outside of your app matters, so listening to the overall sentiment and preferences of your customers is a good place to start.

Nail Your Post-On-boarding

If your app seems to shed users in the time period after they’ve completed initial on-boarding, then, besides your overall value proposition, you need to examine the experience they are getting post-on-boarding.

Stay on the pulse of users by keeping up communication and engaging with them regularly. Know what’s working and what needs work, but don’t assume a feature build will be a band-aid.

Build up trust with your users by understanding their needs and preferences and proving why you are trustworthy.

Koombea builds engaging apps users love to come back to. Talk to us today about how we can help you.

by Carmen Apostu
Blog Post