Mobile app engagement metrics: terms, tactics, and trends to watch out for
With more than 99,000 Android apps and 36,000 iOS apps released every month, competition in the app stores is fierce. If you want to come out on top, it’s vital to understand how your users feel about your app.
Mobile app engagement metrics can reveal all. These measurements help to quantify every type of interaction through the user journey — from app downloads through to customer lifetime value.
The data you collect can guide your app development roadmap, help you decide which products to launch, and even inspire your app marketing campaigns. In turn, these well-informed choices should feed back into your bottom line.
In this guide, we’re going to take a closer look at mobile metrics, and explain how to use the data you collect in the decision-making process.
What is app engagement?
App engagement refers to how users interact with your app. More specifically, it’s about the amount of time they spend using the app, and how they interact with the features.
App engagement is crucial when gauging the success of your product, because high engagement rates show that users are finding value in the app and are likely to continue using it.
Engagement also plays a crucial role in the growth of any app. Users who are highly engaged are more likely to make in-app purchases, and more likely to recommend your app to their friends — leading to organic growth and increased user acquisition.
How do you measure app engagement?
It’s not really possible to quantify app engagement in a single number. From daily active users to the average length of app sessions, each metric illuminates a different aspect of user engagement. This is why you need a mix in order to build a complete picture of how users perceive your app.
While the metrics themselves may be widely different in nature, their core purpose remains the same: to empower developers to make better decisions about usability and user experience, leading to improved user outcomes and overall profitability.
How does your mobile engagement score stack up?
12 Mobile app metrics to measure engagement
Whether you’re just launching your first app or trying to build on previous success, the following metrics for user engagement should help you gain a better overall understanding of your business.
1) User retention rate
Retention rate, also known as stickiness, measures how many new users continue to use your app after a set period of time.
It’s a really important KPI, because it shows how many individuals actually like your product enough to stick around. The higher your retention rate, the more people you’re likely to convert into customers.
This metric is calculated as a percentage, with milestones usually set at one day, a week, and 30 days. The formula looks like this:
Active users during period ÷ Installs at the start of period
For instance, if you start a month with 5,000 installs and you have 1,000 active users by the end of the month, your retention rate would be 20%.
2) User churn
The inverse of retention is churn. This metric measures the number of users who leave your app or downgrade from a paid subscription during a specific time period.
Churn is calculated as a ratio between the number of churned users versus the total user count for your app:
Total number of users at period start – Users at period end
It’s completely normal for users to churn over time. But an abnormally high churn rate can be indicative of a problem with your app, such as bad user experience, lack of onboarding tools, incomplete functionality, or poor app performance.
It’s critical to keep an eye on your churn rate, especially if you make changes to your app’s features and functionality.
3) Active users (DAU and MAU)
Daily active users (DAU) and monthly active users (MAU) are two related metrics that provide a great indicator of just how engaging your app really is.
Beyond tracking the number of users who have your app installed on their device, the active user count shows you how many people are regularly opening and interacting with your app.
There are plenty of integrations in the market that can help you measure your active user count, with the most popular among them being Google Analytics.
You can also track how many people are using specific features on a daily basis; for instance, Sendbird lets you keep count of how many people are using in-app messaging.
4) Average session length
The amount of time that an average user is continuously viewing and interacting with your app in a single event is your average session length.
To calculate this metric, find the average length of time between users’ opening and closing of the app, or the amount of time between the first and last action taken by a user inside the app.
A strong average session length indicates that once a user opens your app, they’re finding reasons to keep on interacting. On the flip side, very short session lengths suggest that they are only taking a quick glance before going elsewhere.
If you want users to become paying customers, you should strive to provide enough content to keep them interested. Adding social features can be an easy win here.
5) Session frequency
Apart from measuring the amount of time spent per session, you should also track the frequency with which active users access your app.
To find your session frequency, calculate the average number of sessions per user within a given time period, such as a week or a month.
This is a useful metric for understanding how much value users are deriving from your product. Even if your average session length is high, you may want to find new ways to engage users if they are only checking in once a month.
6) Session interval
A closely related app engagement metric is average session interval. This is the average amount of time between two consecutive sessions for any given user.
This metric provides a more nuanced view than frequency. Someone could open your app 50 times in one day, and then abandon it for the remaining days of the month.
This data would suggest that your app engagement is really good in short spells — but people have no reason to visit the app most of the time. In contrast, a short session interval shows that people get value out of your app all the time, even if they only open it for a short time.
7) Conversion rate
Your Conversion rate is generally the percentage of users who turn into paid customers.
Number of paying customers ÷ Total users
However, this term can have different connotations, depending on the nature of your app and the type of business you run.
For example, an ecommerce app will probably record a new conversion for every time someone buys a product. Meanwhile, a subscription-based service may only record a new conversion when someone upgrades to a paid plan via an in-app purchase.
Conversion rate is one of the most concrete ways of measuring app engagement, and it has the most direct impact on your business goals. Unless your app users translate into meaningful conversions, you’ll struggle to justify the cost of investment in your mobile application.
Elevate in-app engagement eBook
8) Exit rate
So far, we have mainly looked at the topline numbers for app engagement. But sometimes, you need to dig a little deeper into user behavior to understand the trends in your business.
For example: how many people are opening your app and then exiting before doing anything meaningful? This is what the exit rate (or bounce rate) metric can reveal. It can be calculated like this:
Visits to a screen ÷ Total exits from that screen
A high exit rate is obviously to be avoided, and this analysis can help you pinpoint where users are getting bored and dropping off your app.
9) Most visited / active screens
On the flip side, it’s good to know what is keeping your users interested. This is where the most visited metric comes in useful.
In some cases, the popularity of certain screens will be easy to explain. For example, users of a social media app are always likely to spend a decent amount of time on the main feed.
Other screens may see a lot of action for less desirable reasons. If your support section is seeing plenty of traffic, it strongly suggests that your users are a little confused by your UI.
10) Daily uninstalls
While user engagement dropping off is a concern, there are ways to engage users — as long as they still have your app installed. As such, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on daily uninstalls.
People often only remove an app from their phone if they need storage space or it’s actively annoying them. For this reason, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on uninstalls around in-app campaigns.
If you see a spike within a short time frame, it might be worth reining back for a while.
11) Average revenue per user (ARPU)
Engagement isn’t only about which screens your users are looking at and how long they are spending in your app — it’s also about the sales you’re making.
Average revenue per user (ARPU) provides a simple overview of roughly how much money your customers are spending in your app:
Total revenue ÷ Number of active users in time frame
ARPU helps you gauge the sustainability of your business model and understand if you’re actually running a profitable app.
If you want to drill down further, average revenue per paying user (ARPPU) helps you understand what you’re making from your premium users:
Total revenue ÷ Number of paying users
This is an important distinction, because you might have millions of active users who are not actually customers. By narrowing down your data, it becomes easier to see whether your pricing is appropriate, and whether you have more room for growth.
12) Average order value (AOV)
Particularly revealing for ecommerce apps, average order value (AOV) looks at how much those paying customers are spending on average in a single transaction:
Total revenue ÷ Total in-app purchases
Obviously, you’re aiming for this figure to be as high as possible. Watch for this metric changing as you add upsells and start optimizing your checkout process.
Benchmarks for app engagement
Knowing which key app metrics to track is a good starting point for success. But how do you know whether you’re keeping up with the competition?
Thankfully we have loads of great benchmarks for app engagement.
User retention / churn – The average 30-day retention rate across various industries is between 27% and 43%, although high-performing apps average from 32% up to 66%.
Session length – The average session length on mobile devices is around five minutes, so anything longer is a win.
Exit rate – Recent data suggests that an exit rate of around 9% is to be expected, so you should ideally be trying to dip under this mark.
It’s worth noting that the benchmarks for some metrics vary enormously, depending on your type of product and target customer.
For instance, a subscription app that offers financial insights for $100/month is going to have a low conversion rate, but a high ARPPU.
Similarly, some apps are more likely to be opened every day (e.g. social and messaging) than others (e.g. food delivery).
More key metrics for mobile apps
Setting up application usage metrics is clearly a good idea. But when it comes to app analytics, you shouldn’t stop there.
Here are some other performance indicators that are worth your attention:
Customer acquisition – Cost per acquisition (CPA) or customer acquisition cost (CAC) is a metric for figuring out how much you’re spending to attract new paying users. Cost per install is another useful metric here.
Lifetime value (LTV) – This advanced metric combines revenue per user, churn, and retention to give you an idea of how much each user is worth to your business.
App performance metrics – If you really want to impress new users, it’s essential to build an app that performs well.
Customer engagement metrics – Engagement doesn’t necessarily stop when someone exits your app. If you have other touchpoints, it’s worth looking at your customer engagement data as a whole.
Customer satisfaction – Net promoter score (NPS) is a metric that can help you track the mood of your users over time.
How to increase your app engagement rate
If you want to improve your overall app engagement, adding a social aspect to your app is a smart move.
Community and messaging features give users a reason to return to conversations, and notifications serve as regular reminders. You can also use messaging to provide better in-app support, meaning fewer users will uninstall your app in frustration.
Sendbird makes it really easy to drop these features into your existing app, or to build a new community from scratch. Want to give it a try? Talk to our sales team today for a free demo!