There are plenty of metrics for analyzing user engagement. However, you don’t need to track all of them. What user engagement metrics you should track depends on the specifics of your business and the category of your mobile app.
Engagement metrics like the number of items added to the cart and the cart abandonment rate are highly relevant for eCommerce mobile apps but completely unusable for news or social media apps. In turn, for social media apps, it’s better to track the amount of time users spend on a screen and the number of clicks, comments, shares, likes, and views.
It’s hard to overestimate how vital the data from user engagement analytics is for our product managers and business analysts when they need to validate a tech startup idea, calculate unit economics, or revise an existing software solution.
The follow-up upgrades of our delivery app James Butler, for instance, were based entirely on the app engagement analytics, and particularly, on the user feedback. Though James Butler received hundreds of positive user reviews after its launch, our team received some sensible proposals from buyers and couriers on how to improve the app. Those insights gave impetus to developing a unique app feature in the upgraded version, but more on that later.
To lead your mobile app to success — be it an idea in the bud or a fully functioning project — you need to know your user engagement metrics. The question is, “Which user engagement metrics for apps should you track, how to track them, and what to do with the acquired data?”
This article is just about that.
Why user engagement metrics are important
Tracking your mobile engagement score can give you data-backed answers to the most critical questions for your business regarding:
- Acquisition: Where do your users come from and what marketing channels bring the most valuable users to your mobile app?
- Activation: Is your mobile app attractive enough to encourage users to open it? How many users create accounts after downloading your app?
- Retention: Does your app bring users solid value so they return to it? Is your mobile app technically sound or does it have some flaws that drive away customers?
- Referrals: Does your target audience find your mobile app useful enough to recommend it to their friends?
- Revenue: What app features do your active users prefer to spend money on? Does the lifetime value of users justify the cost of attracting them?
It’s worth mentioning that user engagement is subject to the “small change, big difference” rule: Only a 5% increase in user retention (which is one of the core engagement metrics we’ll explore later on in this article) can increase your revenue by 25% and even more.
No less important is to keep your user engagement metrics higher than the market average for:
- Improving your customer loyalty
- Refining your brand’s reputation
- Enhancing your competitiveness
- Reducing your cart abandonment
Top 20 App Engagement Metrics You Need To Track
Now, let’s figure out what user engagement metrics you need to track to measure your app’s performance.
1. User acquisition
First, to use your application, users need some way to know it exists. Of course, there is always a chance that people will find your app in the app stores using keyword searches hasn’t been canceled. But to make thousands, not tens of people use your app, you need to launch killer marketing campaigns: via emails, push notifications, blogs, influencers, and the list goes on.
An app’s user acquisition can show you the effectiveness of each marketing channel and reveal which channels generate the most valuable traffic. This way, you’ll know what marketing channels to invest in and what’s better to save on without sacrificing user traffic and leads.
2. Number of downloads
One of the fundamental metrics used for the majority of mobile app business analytics calculations is the number of downloads.
The number of downloads allows you to get input on the popularity of your app and its product-market fit. It gives you insight into your target user behavior and uncovers the patterns of how your users discover and engage with your app.
By tracking the number of your app downloads, you can inform your marketing strategies, as you can target specific regions or demographics where your app is gaining traction. Besides, this metric is a great way to evaluate your app store optimization (ASO): The higher it is, the better your app’s visibility in search results and rankings in the app stores are.
You can measure how many users download your mobile app in two ways:
- From app store search results without visiting your app’s store page. In this case, a high number of downloads testifies to good app store optimization (ASO).
- After viewing your app’s page in the app store. In this case, the number of downloads shows how attractive your app is.
Note that the spark in your app's number of downloads doesn't mean you've won your users' trust. Thanks to an effective marketing campaign, for instance, people may download your app but never use it or uninstall it right away.
3. Activation rate
After people download an app, they open it — is it always that way? Nope. People can download your app spontaneously because they like your ad's Viva Magenta background — and then forget about it for ages. They can even open your app, bump into a 10-screen registration form, think, "Come on, dude… that's not even good", quit it, and move it to a bin, never getting to know how great your app is.
Being aware of how many users are actually using your app after downloading it is of utmost importance for your app’s success. It enables you to assess your marketing campaigns, improve user retention, and identify the first-coming roadblocks that prevent your new users from engaging with your app.
Activating an app can mean any action new users can take that works well for you: launching an app for the first time, creating an account, completing onboarding, viewing a particular screen, making the first in-app purchase, or subscribing.
You can calculate the activation rate by taking the number of activations compared to the overall number of app downloads:
How to track the activation rate: Decide what app event you want to collect information about and set it as an activation event to track for Google Analytics or any other third-party analytics tools like Firebase or Mixpanel.
4. Number of active users
To know how many users use your app after activating it, you can track the number of daily active users (DAU), weekly active users (WAU), and monthly active users (MAU).
Who is an active user? According to the definition from Google Analytics, an active user is a user who has opened your mobile app and performed actions within it in the set time frame (a day, a week, or a month). Users can be called active when they regularly:
- visit your mobile app (for news apps, social media apps, and weather forecast apps)
- generate a certain number of posts, likes, comments, or shares per day, week, or month (especially for social media apps and audio/video streaming apps)
- make purchases (for eCommerce mobile apps)
You should determine what your users need to do to be active according to the specifics of your app.
How to track the number of active users: You can track 1-day, 7-day, 14-day, or 30-day active users with analytics services embedded in the App Store and Google Play Store.
You can and should be aware of how “sticky” your mobile app is: in other words, how regularly your active users use your mobile app:
For example, if you have 50 active users per day and 500 active users per month, your stickiness is 10%.
How to track stickiness: Just as with the number of active users, you can track your app’s stickiness ratio from the Google Play Console and App Store Connect.
6. App sessions
Another set of metrics to measure user engagement in mobile apps relates to app sessions. A session is the time interval between a user’s first action after launching an app and the user’s last action before closing it. You can track:
- the average session length, which measures how much time users spend in your app on average during one session:
- average daily sessions per daily active user, which shows how often the average daily user visits your app each day:
- the session interval, which is the period of time between users’ returns. If the session interval increases, the level of user engagement decreases. Finally, this increase could lead users to abandon your app.
How to track app sessions: App Store Connect can show you only the number of sessions during a given period. In the Google Play Console, you need to choose an event type to specify what you want to track. To get more details on your app’s session metrics, you’ll need to use a third-party analytics tool.
7. Screen flow
To estimate the influence of your UI/UX design on user behavior, you need to trace how your users interact with your app. See what screens or app sections they visit most often, what actions they most frequently take, how they navigate between screens, and what screens make them leave your app. Screen flow metrics include:
- the number of screens per session, which measures how engaged your users are in your app’s content
- screens with the shortest and longest viewing times, highlighting the screens with the most interesting and useful content and those that require additional efforts from your app developers
- screens with the most interactions, which is a helpful metric for figuring out the trump cards of your mobile app. These are your app’s hooks that you can use to re-engage users and attract new ones.
How to track screen flow: Follow the Google Analytics guide or install an SDK of another analytics tool to get reports.
8. Retention rate
The retention rate tells you what percentage of users have used your app more than once in a given period. It can be calculated with the following formula:
For example, if you received 1,000 new users in January and 300 of that 1,000 returned to your app in February, you would have a 30% retention rate in February for the January cohort.
Your retention rate reflects the effectiveness of your app’s key features in engaging users and making them want to stay with your mobile app for a long time. The retention rate gives you a better look at your target audience: what they like or dislike, what motivates them to come back to your app, and how often they use your app.
Keeping your retention rates high can help you increase revenue over time. On the one hand, repeat users are more likely to make in-app purchases, sign up for subscriptions, or click on ads. On the other hand, you can reduce the cost of acquiring new users, since satisfied users are more likely to recommend an app they like to others.
Retention rates play a critical role for your subsequent app development and improvement. After each of your app's update, you can monitor your retention rate to find out whether your users find a new app feature valuable. According to this feedback, prioritizing which features to develop next will be no brainer for your development team.
The retention rate for the old Envol app our clients came to us with was too low/decreasing, and it affected the platform's revenue. After we surveyed users and analyzed feedback, we were able to make changes that raised the new Envol's retention rate over 40%.
How to track the retention rate: The retention rate is displayed in App Store Connect and the Google Play Console by default.
9. Conversion rate
Every mobile app owner expects users to take actions like downloading the app, subscribing to the app’s updates, viewing screens, and making purchases. The conversion rate gives you the percentage of users who have taken the actions you wanted them to:
Your conversion rate evaluates your app’s ability to encourage users to complete actions. Knowing the conversion rate can be helpful in defining what app features are most welcomed by your users or testing the adoption of a new app feature.
How to track the conversion rate: You can track the basic conversion rate right from App Store Connect and the Google Play Console, which provide you with the percentage of your app downloads from the app store page. If you need to track other conversions, you’ll need to integrate a third-party analytics SDK.
10. Click-through rate
One more useful metric on your way to learning how to measure app engagement is the click-through rate (CTR). It shows the number of people who click on your ads or links after viewing your engagement offers:
The click-through rate measures the effectiveness of your push notifications, in-app messages, and ad campaigns.
How to track the click-through rate: Use Google Analytics or a third-party analytics platform to customize your CTR report.
11. Churn rate
The opposite of the retention rate, the churn rate defines how many users exit and never return to your app.
The main aim of determining the churn rate is to figure out what parts of your mobile app cause a negative user experience and work to address those weak spots.
Introducing our secure messaging app MLP to initial users from the Middle East region, we witnessed a churn rate higher than expected. It was found that for those of them who valued the UX and UI design above data security, it was essential to have a messenger with a familiar, Telegram- or WhatsApp-like, interface.
By analyzing the user journey within the app and building funnels, we figured out at what stages our users tended to quit the app — and successfully refined those weak spots to best meet users’ expectations.
How to track the churn rate: Like the retention rate, you can get the churn rate right from your app store analytics tools.
12. Bounce rate
No matter how perfect your mobile app is, there will always be someone who closes your app after viewing only one screen. That is what the bounce rate is about:
The bounce rate works as an indicator of your mobile app’s utility: the lower it is, the more engaging and valuable your app is. But sometimes your users might need to refresh information, thus quickly viewing a particular screen. In this case, your app’s bounce rate can be high while your app is still frequently used.
How to track the bounce rate: You can estimate your bounce rate by adjusting an event type in the Google Play Console or by using a third-party analytics platform.
13. Abandonment rate
The abandonment rate points to the percentage of app users who start a particular activity within an app (e.g. adding items to the cart) but do not complete it. You can measure it with the following formula:
By tracking abandonment rate, you can identify specific pain points or bottlenecks within your app that are causing your users to leave without completing an action you want them to.
Most often, abandonment rate is measured in e-commerce products. For example, if you’re the owner of a shopping app like Wish and see your abandonment rate high during the checkout stage, you may need to review the checkout process, remove unnecessary steps, or offer more payment options.
How to track the abandonment rate: To calculate the abandonment rate, you need the help of a full-fledged analytics platform. For example, Firebase allows you to create a funnel for customer engagement metrics to track the moment when your users abandon the purchase process. You can add as many events to your funnel as you need and create up to 200 funnels for one project.
14. Uninstall rate
How many people uninstall your app? Keep a running tally in order to understand the relative health of your app.
Keep in mind: Most apps lose 80% of new users in the first 90 days. What’s more, 50% of all users who uninstall your app do so within the first 5 days. So if you’re able to address friction points during onboarding, you’ll see daily uninstalls taper off within those initial 5 days.
15. Net promoter score
How to measure user engagement in apps in the simplest way possible? Naturally, just ask them about their app experience! You can send an in-app message asking users to rate their app experience from 0 to 10. After users give their ratings, you can divide those users into three groups:
- Promoters who gave your mobile app a 9 or 10
- Passives who gave it a 7 or 8
- Detractors who rated it 1–6
To get the percentage of promoters and detractors, you need to divide the number of users from each group by the total number of users who gave ratings and multiply by 100%. The next step is to calculate your net promoter score (NPS):
With your NPS, you can figure out users’ satisfaction levels after using your app.
How to track the net promoter score: The best way to track your net promoter score is to use net promoter score surveys.
16. Customer satisfaction score
Unlike the net promoter score that demonstrates the overall impact of your mobile app on your users, the customer satisfaction score (CSAT) can be useful in measuring users’ attitudes to a particular feature of your app. You can ask users to rank your app features on a scale (1–5, 1–10, etc.) just after they’ve finished using the app. Then you can summarize all scores and divide them by the number of survey participants.
How to track the customer satisfaction score: To analyze the CSAT, you need to add an SDK of a special analytics tool like Mopinion.
17. User feedback, reviews, and app ratings
To better understand your app user engagement, pay attention to how responsive your users are when you ask them to give feedback about your app features. If they find your mobile app valuable, they’re likely to give you feedback immediately. Positive user reviews and high app ratings have a great impact on potential users who are considering installing your app. In-app feedback can point at your app’s shortcomings, unnecessary features, UI/UX backlogs, or other flaws that discourage your users and cause churn.
How to track user feedback, reviews, and app ratings: To analyze your mobile app’s adoption, you can track user reviews, feedback, and app ratings in the Google Play Console and App Store Connect.
18. Cost per acquisition
Three last metrics from our list are more money-related. The first of them is the cost per acquisition which shows you how much it costs to acquire a new user. You can calculate the cost per acquisition (CPA) with the following formula:
Of course, having low CPA is a dream of any marketer. However, you always need to trace the contingent of new users you manage to acquire. Because if your CPA is low, but the app’s user engagement and retention metrics are also low, it could indicate either you acquire a non-target audience or your app provides a poor user experience.
Moreover, measuring CPA can help you make informed decisions about your marketing and advertising spends. By tracking the CPA for various acquisition channels, you can identify the most cost-effective ones and allocate your marketing budget accordingly. This enables you to get the most qualitative new app users at the best possible cost and improve the ROI of your app.
How to track the cost per acquisition: You can calculate your acquisition costs in Google Analytics or by integrating third-party analytics platforms into your app. We give detailed information on full-fledged analytics tools below.
19. Time to first purchase
This mobile app user engagement metric is about the amount of time it takes your users to make their first in-app purchase after downloading your app.
By knowing the average time to first purchase for your niche, you can monitor your app's competitiveness. If your time to first purchase is longer than the market average, think about providing a thorough user journey analysis for figuring out what can prevent your users from making in-app purchases.
Shortening your time to first purchase will help you increase your conversion rates and ultimately improve your app’s ROI.
20. Lifetime value
How much revenue does one customer bring to your company during the total time that customer uses your mobile app? Tracking your customer lifetime value (LTV) will give you the answer:
Running a mobile app startup is not charity but business. No matter how high other user engagement metrics are, if you spend more on acquiring a user, than the revenue this user brings back to you — within several months, there will be no app to measure engagement KPIs for.
So, to make a profit and keep your business sustainable in the long run, you need to constantly track your customer lifetime value and keep it always higher than your cost per acquisition.
How to track lifetime value: You can’t get meaningful data about your app’s lifetime value just from the app store analytics tools. But any third-party analytics platform mentioned below can provide an LTV report for you as well.
Tools to track user engagement metrics for apps
As a mobile app owner, you need to constantly update your customer engagement metrics and monitor users’ attitudes toward your app. Here are eight mobile app analytics tools that can help you measure the top user engagement KPIs so you can optimize your app:
Google Analytics is the most widely used dashboard-type tool that provides complete, in-depth online analysis of your app engagement metrics both for your website and mobile app. You can use it to track session lengths, conversion rates, app acquisition, churn rates, retention rates, and screen flows. Google Analytics for mobile apps can track poorly performing screens, where users come from (referrers), sales activities, and many other key customer engagement metrics.
Cost: Free; premium version for enterprises
Firebase is an all-in-one tool for quantitative mobile app analytics that provides thorough user- and event-oriented reports. Firebase is a Google subsidiary and thus integrates with many Google services, including Google Ads, Google Cloud Platform, and AdMob. Firebase helps you develop mobile apps using many integrated tools: Cloud Messaging, Cloud Storage, Crashlytics, Dynamic Links, etc. You can better customize your user experience in your app using Remote Config, which records certain user activities in your app. You can also optimize user experience by Firebase A/B testing and improve the effectiveness of app notifications sent by Firebase Predictions — a useful tool to categorize users into groups based on predicted in-app behavior.
Cost: Free or paid (paid plans start at $25 per month)
App Store Connect and Google Play Console
App Store Connect, the tool integrated into the Apple App Store, along with the Google Play Console, the analytics service for the Google Play Store, can measure your app store optimization (ASO) and app performance. These tools track app store reviews and major app engagement metrics by separating users into segments. Google Play Console even offers A/B testing for your app icon, description, title, and more.
Localytics is an analytics platform that provides detailed user engagement and retention metrics. It’s aimed at investigating customer behavior, applying intelligent personalization, and attracting users through omnichannel engagement (in-app messages, notifications, ads, etc.).
Cost: Free up to 10,000 MAUs; paid above that
Mixpanel is a convenient mobile app analytics tool for developers since it doesn’t require any code to track customer engagement KPIs. Mixpanel allows you to choose data points such as devices, channels, and locations; divide users by segments, actions, and funnels; and create custom reports. Mixpanel can also be useful for creating targeted notifications.
Cost: Free for up to 25,000 data points; monthly, annual, and enterprise plans
App Annie is a pioneer in the mobile app analytics market with its option to juxtapose market data and company data, providing the most complete app analytics. With the paid version, you can track the number of downloads, revenue, your retention rate, daily active and monthly active users, session duration, screen flow, demographic data, the user journey, and over 12 engagement KPIs.
Cost: Freemium — some features are free; premium and new features are paid
Flurry is a platform where you can analyze data on a standard dashboard or create up to 10 dashboards customized for your requirements. Dashboards in Flurry conveniently visualize the conversion rate, user flows, and funnels. While looking at app charts with plenty of data, you can apply filters such as user age, country, first session, app version, and dates for more thorough research.
UXCam allows app developers and designers to replay recordings of user sessions and analyze when and why the app crashes or feature faults appear. UXCam can help you figure out why users leave your app, with funnel analytics.
Cost: Free for one app and up to 2,500 monthly sessions; paid above that
How can you improve app engagement if it's low?
Now that you know what user engagement metrics you should track, the question is, “How can you improve them?” Here’s our selection of 7 steps you can take to improve your mobile engagement score if it’s low:
1. Find the reason for low engagement
Analyze user reviews in the app stores, gather feedback with the help of user surveys, run mobile application engagement analytics — take consequent actions to identify why your users aren’t engaging with your app. Once you know the gist of the problem, you can tackle it accordingly.
2. Revise UI/UX design
Select several common actions your users perform within your app and go through their user paths back and forth, trying to see your app interface from a user’s point of view. Was the app navigation too complicated? Or was the main screen visually overwhelming? Maybe, the social sharing feature was missing? Sometimes, it’s sensible to hire a third-party software audit provider for this case, to view your app design with a fresh look, so to speak.
3. Enhance motivation to use your app
One of the most effective strategies to remind users of your app and thus engage them to open it again is to send timely push notifications with personalized offerings. Consider providing extra incentives to use your app including discounts and rewards.
Here’s an example of what we did for James Butler, our delivery project in Denmark, to boost its user engagement. We implemented one unique app feature that both buyers and couriers craved: a trade functionality, when a buyer could set the amount of money they’re ready to spend on delivery and a courier could send a counter-offer with the price for which they’re ready to deliver.
4. Use the power of social sharing
According to Think with Google, 51% of smartphone users in the U.S., aged 16–64, get to know about new apps from their friends and family who already use them. So if you have low user acquisition, number of downloads, or number of active users, why not to encourage your established users to recommend your app to their close environment?
For this, adding social sharing features that allow users to share their experiences with your app on popular social media platforms can stand you in good stead.
5. Leverage gamification
One of the proven tactics to increase your core user engagement metrics, such as retention and conversion rates, is to implement gamification. By adding game-like elements like points, badges, and leaderboards, you’ll be able to recreate a more enjoyable user experience and stimulate them to keep using your app.
Mobile app engagement metrics: Conclusion
As a mobile app owner, you’re completely sure of your app’s viability. But the cutthroat mobile app market requires more than just believing in success. You need to make data-driven decisions. To do that, choose the mobile app analytics tools and track user engagement metrics to best meet your business requirements.
Need the help of experts to take your mobile app business to the next level? We’re here to help you!