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. For example, engagement metrics like the number of items added to the cart, the cart abandonment rate, and lifetime customer value are appropriate for eCommerce mobile apps. But 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.
In this article, we’ve selected the 18 most commonly used metrics to track user engagement. We clarify the importance of collecting data-driven insights for your mobile app and describe the most suitable analytics tools to track user engagement metrics.
Why user engagement metrics are important
The usefulness of mobile app engagement metrics for increasing user engagement can hardly be overestimated, and these metrics will remain relevant in 2021. Five basic categories of metrics are useful for figuring out how your target audience will adopt your mobile app:
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?
Improving your user engagement metrics can help you attract highly engaged users to your mobile app. And as the engine of your app’s progress, engaged users can help you:
Increase sales potential
Improve customer loyalty
Refine your brand’s reputation
Reduce cart abandonment
Now let’s figure out what user engagement metrics you need to track to measure your app’s performance.
1. Number of downloads
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 an app store. In this case, the number of downloads shows how attractive your app is.
However, the number of downloads can be misleading in measuring your app’s success. Thanks to a marketing campaign, for instance, people may download your app but never use it or uninstall it right away.
2. Activation rate
After users download your app, you need to encourage them to activate it. Activating an app can mean launching it for the first time, creating an account, completing onboarding, subscribing, or viewing a particular screen. You can choose any activation event for new users according to your app’s specifics. You can calculate the activation rate taking the number of activations compared to the overall number of app installs:
Activation rate (%) = (Number of activations in a set period / Number of app installs in the same period) * 100%
How to track the activation rate: Decide what app event you want to collect information about and integrate the software development kit (SDK) of a third-party analytics tool into your app’s code. Below, you can find more information about SDKs.
3. User acquisition
To attract users’ attention to your mobile app, you can launch marketing campaigns. An app’s user acquisition can show you the effectiveness of each marketing channel and reveal which channels generate the most valuable traffic.
How to track user acquisition: The Google Play Console and App Store Connect provide you with in-depth user acquisition data by default.
4. Number of active users
To know how many users continue to use your app after downloading it, track the number of daily active users (DAU), weekly active users (WAU), and monthly active users (MAU).
Who is an active user? According to 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 should be aware of how “sticky” your mobile app is: in other words, how regularly your active users use your mobile app:
Stickiness (%) = (Daily active users / Monthly active users )* 100%
For example, if you have 50 active users per day and 500 active users per month, your stickiness is 10%. That means your average user opens and uses your app three days out of a 30-day month.
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 session length = Total time using the app / Total number of app sessions
- average daily sessions per daily active user, which shows how often the average user visits your app each day:
Average daily sessions per user = Number of daily sessions / Number of daily active users
- 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 refer to a third-party analytics tool.
7. Screen flow
To estimate the influence of your UI/UX 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:
Retention rate (%) = (Number of retained users over the set period / Total number of new users from the previous period) * 100%
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.
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:
Conversion rate (%) = (Number of users that completed an action / Total number of users) * 100%
Your conversion rate points to your app’s ability to encourage users to complete actions. Knowing the conversion rate can be helpful in defining what features of your mobile app 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 conversion rate right from App Store Connect and the Google Play Console, which provide you the percentage of your app downloading 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
The click-through rate (CTR) is a useful engagement metric that shows the number of people who click on your ads or links after viewing your engagement offers:
Click-through rate (%) = (Total number of clicks / Total number of impressions) * 100%
The click-through rate measures the effectiveness of your push notifications, in-app messages, and ad campaigns.
How to track the click-through rate: all advertising platforms provide CTR tracking or use a third-party analytics platform to customize your CTR report.
11. Churn rate
Measuring the opposite of the retention rate, the churn rate defines how many users exit and never return to your app.
Churn rate (%) = (Number of users who quit in a set period / Total number of users on the first day of this period) * 100%
Churn rate = 1 - Retention rate
The main aim of determining the churn rate is to figure out what parts of your mobile app cause a negative user experience.
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:
Bounce rate (%) = (Number of users who quit after viewing the first app screen / Total number of users) * 100%
The bounce rate works as an indicator of your mobile app’s utility: the lower it is, the more engaging and valuable your app. 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 is the percentage of app users who add items to the cart but then leave your app without completing a purchase. You can measure it with the following formula:
Abandonment rate (%) = (Number of users who abandoned their carts in a set period / Total number of users who completed purchases in this period) * 100%
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. Net promoter score
To get users’ feedback in a convenient way, 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):
Net promoter score (%) = % Promoters - % Detractors
With your NPS, you can figure out users’ satisfaction levels after interacting with your app.
How to track the net promoter score: The best way to track your net promoter score is to use net promoter score tools.
15. 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 tools.
16. User feedback, reviews, and app ratings
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 users 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 users reviews, feedback, and app ratings in the Google Play Console and App Store Connect.
17. Cost per acquisition
Cost per acquisition shows you how much it costs to acquire a new user. You can calculate the cost per acquisition (CPA) with the following formula:
Cost per acquisition (CPA) = Total cost of acquisition campaign / Total number of acquisitions or conversions resulting from that campaign
How to track the cost per acquisition: You can calculate your acquisition costs only by integrating analytics platforms into your app. We give detailed information on full-fledged analytics tools below.
18. 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:
Lifetime value (LTV) = Average cost of conversion * Average number of conversions * Average customer lifetime with the app
To make a profit, you need your customer lifetime value to always be 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.
Tools to track user engagement metrics
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, 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 the 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 a paid analytics platform that provides detailed user engagement and retention metrics. It’s aimed at investigating the 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
AppAnnie 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.
As a mobile app owner, you’re completely sure in 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 user engagement metrics that best meet your requirements.