When mobile app teams think about growth, they usually think acquisition.
Teams scramble to get as many users as quickly as possible.
But here’s the thing:
Retaining these users is more important than getting them in the first place.
Nir Eyal, active angel investor and best-selling author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, believes that the most successful mobile apps are habit-forming.
According to Eyal, we’ve got to make our apps habit-forming in order to stand a chance at retaining users, and we’ve got to do it fast.
“Unfortunately, if a habit isn’t formed within the first week of use, you’ve likely lost your chance to keep these users over time.” -Nir Eyal
In this article, I share insights from a recent sit-down I had with Eyal where he laid out the core tenets of user retention.
In an era where users demand more than a pretty interface, Eyal shares actionable tips for how to build habituality into apps from the get-go, engage users beyond triggers and notifications, and retain users when you don’t have a product that gets used on a daily basis.
Tenet #1: Retention is the foundation for growth
When it comes to building and promoting apps, Eyal reminds us that, as a community, we focus too much on growth.
“Growth is meaningless if you don't think about how to keep users once they sign up.” — Nir Eyal. via @CleverTapCLICK TO TWEET
But focusing on user retention isn’t just an ideological position or a preference. If mobile app teams don’t focus on how to get users to stay, they’re likely to “waste tons of money acquiring new users, who ultimately don’t stick around.”
Thankfully, habit formation is easier than ever before.
“The transmission of more data about us, at faster speeds, at greater accessibility has made everything much more habit-forming, which is a great opportunity for businesses,” says Eyal. Of course, there’s a lot of companies competing for that attention.
Tenet #2: Habituality must be built into apps from the get-go
There are many apps people use every day, and the big guys like Facebook, Slack, Instagram, and Spotify are used habitually by millions of people.
“Once a habit is formed, the user is no longer considering whether they should open an app — they check the app every day, automatically, without thinking much about it,” says Eyal.
Once a habit is formed, it’s almost impossible to drive users away.
For example, Slack is an enterprise-facing company that frontline employees started using to chat with each other, outside of their organization’s official channels. These employees developed a habit of using Slack, got attached to it, and then management saw the benefit and implemented Slack on a greater scale.
Unfortunately for those building mobile apps, there isn’t much time to hook users and create a habit.
Eyal believes that one week is all you’ve got: “If your product doesn’t engage people within a week’s time or less, it’s going to be very, very difficult to build a habit around it.”
Eyal recommends identifying core habits — what users already do — then codifying that experience. You need to understand what users who stay actually do, as opposed to those who leave.
For example, maybe users who add five friends in two days are more likely to continue to use an app than those who don’t, so it makes sense to encourage users to add friends as quickly as possible.
The Psychology of Insanely Addictive Apps
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Tenet #3: It’s not just about triggers and notifications
When mobile app teams want users to engage with their apps, they often consider triggers and notifications as a surefire way to convince users to open the app and interact.
According to Eyal, Colombia Phone Numbers List triggers and notifications can be used as tools, but they’re not a strategy in and of themselves.
“Nine times out of 10, it’s a bad idea to copy someone else’s tactics,” he says. “What works for one app won’t work for another. You have to understand your user’s psychology in order to build out a holistic experience that is habit-forming.”
Although it may be tempting to use triggers and notifications as much as possible to create mobile app engagement, it’s essential to develop a strategy for how to use them. If you use these tools too much — and users aren’t getting value from your app — you’re likely to drive them away.
Tenet #4: Consider user hooks, and conduct “habit-testing”
Nir Eyal has his own strategy for creating a “hook,” that is, the thing that hooks users into a mobile app.
“If you understand how to build your hook, you’ll be good to go,” says Eyal. “In Hooked, I explain exactly how to do this, how to take a piece of paper and write down the four stages of your hook.”