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The ultimate guide to Monthly Active Users (MAU) for apps

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So you’ve developed, tested, and launched your app - congratulations! How are you going to measure the success of your app to keep it alive and kicking? While there are many different ways to do this, one critical metric to measure an app’s health and performance is Monthly Active Users (MAU).

So what are monthly active users? How do you calculate monthly active users (it’s a little more complex than you might expect!)? Why is MAU an essential metric for app developers, and what are some limitations of MAU? We’ll discuss everything in this blog!

What is MAU? Here’s how to define MAU

Monthly Active Users (MAU) is a metric used to measure the total number of unique users who interacted with an application over 30 days. For example, if an app has 100 million MAUs in a particular month, it means that 100 million people have used the app at least once during that month.

MAU is a useful metric that goes hand-in-hand with user engagement and user retention to help measure an app's success and growth over time.

If your app has a high MAU, it means that a large number of users are engaging with your app on a monthly basis. This is a positive sign for your app, as it indicates that your app is popular and has a strong user  base. It could also be an imperfect indication of user satisfaction and loyalty since it shows that users are continuing to use your app on a regular basis.

On the other hand, low MAU means that only a small number of users are engaging with your app on a monthly basis. This can be a cause for concern as it indicates that your app may not be resonating with users or meeting their needs. However, it's important to keep in mind that a low MAU is not necessarily a death sentence for your app. It may be an opportunity to reassess your app's value proposition, user experience, and marketing strategies to improve user engagement and retention.

How to calculate monthly active users

The formula for calculating MAUs is:

Total MAU = Number of unique users who use the app in one month

Average MAU = Sum of each month’s unique users / 12

How to calculate average MAU
How to calculate average MAU

Note that MAU can be calculated using calendar months or 30-day time periods. Remember to account for people who use your app on different devices to avoid duplicates.

Calculating monthly active users is a two-step process:

  1. First, you need to define what makes a user "active." In other words, what is an active user? The criteria for defining a monthly active user can be as simple as opening your app or logging in, or you might need to set a higher bar for active engagement, depending on your app's features and purpose. For example, an active user of a gaming app might be defined as one who logs in and starts 1 game. An active user of a weather app might be someone who opens the app and checks the weather every day.

  2. Once you know how to identify active users, count how many new and returning active users your app saw within the calendar month or 30-day period in question. You can do this via analytics tools or by querying your database.

MAUs can also be expressed as a percentage of the total users. In this case, divide the MAUs by total app downloads.

Example MAU calculation

Here's an example of how to calculate monthly active users:

Let's say that an app had 100,000 unique users in January. In February, 70,000 of those users returned to the app and used it at least once. Additionally, the app acquired 30,000 new users during the month of February who used the app at least once.

To calculate MAU for February, we would add the number of returning users (70,000) to the number of new users (30,000) to get a total of 100,000 users who used the app at least once during the month. This would give us an MAU of 100,000 for the month of February.

Let's say this app has been downloaded 200,000 times. Then, we can express the MAU as:

100,000 / 200,000 = 0.5 or 50% monthly active users.

Why is Monthly Active Users (MAU) important? 4 advantages of using MAU as an engagement metric

MAU is an important metric for apps because it provides a snapshot, albeit an imperfect one, of how engaged and active users are with your app on a monthly basis. It is an indication of the size and strength of your user base and can help you understand how well your app is performing.

Here are 4 advantages of tracking monthly active users:

  1. Track user engagement: MAU is a strong indicator of user engagement since it is a measure of how often users interact with your app. It can indicate whether users find your app useful and engaging enough to use it on a regular basis.

  2. Understand retention rate: MAU helps you understand your customer retention rate. MAU can be used to measure user retention, or the percentage of users who return to your app on a monthly basis. A high MAU indicates that users are sticking around, while a low MAU may indicate that users are losing interest and not returning to your app.

  3. Assess revenue potential: Third, MAU gives insight into your app's virality and revenue potential. A high number of monthly active users can translate into higher revenue potential for your app because a higher number of users can lead to more advertising or subscription revenue.

  4. Benchmark growth: MAU is a meaningful KPI that can help you benchmark your app's growth over time and against industry standards and competitors.

What are some ways you can use MAU to power deeper analysis into your app's performance?

  1. Measure net new users against your app’s MAUs to get a clear picture of both retention and churn.

  2. Compare Monthly Active Users (MAUs) to Weekly Active Users (WAUs) or Daily Active Users (DAUs) to measure the quality of your user engagement and see if you need to find ways to bring retained users to your app more often. (We’ll talk more about DAUs later in this blog!)

  3. Compare MAUs and retention to changes over time in your number of paid users to investigate the health of your free-to-paid conversion flow.

To sum up, monthly active users help power other metrics, giving you a clearer overall picture of your app's success. 

A note on Monthly Active Users (MAU) and Product-Led Growth (PLG)

What is Product-Led Growth? Product-led growth (PLG) is a growth strategy that relies on the product itself to drive user acquisition, engagement, and retention — often by capturing new customers by letting them use the product so they can see its value firsthand.

MAU is a key metric used to measure the success of PLG because it provides the base of insights into user acquisition, engagement, and retention. In a PLG model, product improvements are driven by user feedback and data. MAU can be used to measure the impact of these improvements, as a high MAU may indicate that users are responding positively to the changes and are continuing to use the product.

Limitations of using MAU as an engagement metric

While MAU is a useful metric for measuring the engagement and success of an app, as seen above, there are some limitations to its use. Here are a few potential drawbacks of using MAU, and some ways that stakeholders can avoid these limitations:

  1. There is no standardized definition of MAU: Depending on the nature of your mobile or web app, the definition of a monthly active user can change. For example, an investment portfolio company may define an active user as someone who logs in to their web app once a month. On the other hand, an app-based e-commerce store may define a monthly active user as someone who makes a purchase.

  2. MAU doesn't capture user behavior: While MAU can give an indication of how many users are using an app, it doesn't provide any insights into how users are actually interacting with the app. For example, an app may have a high MAU but low user engagement if users are only using the app briefly and not engaging with its key features. To address this limitation, use additional metrics, such as daily active users (DAU) or session length, to gain a more comprehensive understanding of user behavior.

  3. MAU doesn't capture user satisfaction: MAU only measures how many users are using an app, not how satisfied they are with the app. An app may have a high MAU but low user satisfaction if users are using the app out of habit or because they have no other options. To avoid this limitation, you may need to track other metrics like Net Promoter Score (NPS) or customer feedback surveys, to keep a finger on the pulse of CSAT.

  4. MAU doesn't account for user churn: MAU only measures how many users are using an app during a given month, but it doesn't capture how many users are leaving the app. An app may have a high MAU but a high user churn rate if users are leaving the app as quickly as they are joining it. To keep tabs on user loyalty and attrition, stakeholders need to measure retention and churn rates in addition to MAU.

Who uses MAU? How is the MAU metric used?

MAU is used primarily by app developers, UX and UI designers, product managers, and marketers. But anyone with a stake in an app's performance — like investors and even competitors — can derive important insights from MAU and the other KPIs it drives. Let’s take a look at how different functions in an organization can derive benefits from tracking monthly active users.

First, app developers and product managers may use MAU to measure the effectiveness of new features or updates to the app. By tracking monthly active users over time, they can see if changes to the product are having a positive impact on user engagement and retention, and make informed decisions about their products’ future development plans.

Secondly, companies can use MAU data to better understand user behavior, allowing them to develop loyalty programs specifically targeting those users who are most likely to keep engaging. After all, knowing when and how users engage with products or services can provide valuable insight into how to keep them around. Not only does this help make customers feel valued, but it also helps companies stay agile and focused on customer satisfaction, which helps them to stay ahead of the competition.

For UX and UI designers, MAU data can offer invaluable insight into how users interact with the UI and the effectiveness and robustness of the user experience in general. Tracking monthly active users helps designers evaluate whether the existing designs are working and whether or not improvements should be made to retain users. App designers can also see which features are being used properly and which need to be improved. With clear objectives from the initial design phase, designers can make slight UI changes to maximize the user experience for increased app retention in the future.

Next, marketers may use MAU as a metric to track the success of their user acquisition and retention strategies. By tracking monthly active users over time, they can see if their marketing efforts are driving new users to the app and keeping them engaged. Knowing how many users were active during a given month can also provide useful information about what types of content and features resonate best so that marketing efforts can be targeted accordingly. Additionally, tracking monthly active users over time can help identify potential issues with user retention and engagement that need to be addressed to improve user experience and boost customer loyalty going forward.

Finally, investors may use MAU as a metric to evaluate the potential of an app or company. A high MAU can be an indicator of a strong user base and revenue potential, which can be attractive to investors. Competitors may use MAU to benchmark their performance against other apps in the market. By comparing their MAU to that of competitors, companies can identify areas where they may need to improve to remain competitive.

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A note on Daily Active Users (DAU): What daily active users are and how to calculate them

Daily Active Users (DAU) is a metric that defines how many people are active on a web or mobile app each day. If an app has 50,000 people actively using the app in a day, the app has 50,000 daily active users. 

How to calculate DAU

The formula for calculating DAUs is:

Total DAU = Number of unique users who use the app in one day

Average DAU = Sum of each day’s unique users / Number of days in the month

The formula for average DAU
The formula for average DAU

In the case of DAU as well, you need to first define an ‘active user’, and then count the number of active users in a day.

The DAU/MAU ratio

You can assess app retention by comparing your DAUs to MAUs. The DAU/MAU ratio is a good indicator of the stickiness of your web or mobile app: if many people use your app daily and your app’s MAU is also high, then this is a good indicator that people are coming back to your app - and stickiness is high!

Calculate the MAU and DAU ratio
How to calculate the DAU/MAU ratio

What is a good DAU/MAU ratio?

Apps with a DAU/MAU ratio of over 20% are considered to be good, and a DAU/MAU ratio of 50%+ is amazing. Note that this DAU/MAU benchmark varies according to the industry. For example, a social media app should aim for a high DAU/MAU ratio since social media usage is encouraged every day (or multiple times a day!). In contrast, a hotel bookings app can have a lower DAU/MAU ratio and still be considered acceptable since consumers can’t be expected to book hotels for business or leisure trips every single day.

What do changes in monthly active users mean?

Now that we know about both MAU and DAU, let’s talk about what changes to your app’s monthly active users might mean.

Increase in MAU
An increase in monthly active users

An increase in MAU often indicates that (new users + reactivations of lapsed users) > churn of existing users. New user engagement could be driven by a new advertising campaign, positive press, or the app being featured in the app store, which can drive an increase in downloads and new users.

A MAU decrease could indicate something wrong with the product or service that needs attention. Addressing issues via a new release or feature can help reduce churn rates among these users; this, in turn, would help to increase MAU.

When it comes to reactivating lapsed users, start-ups can reach out to them with a variety of tactics, from email campaigns to in-app notifications.

How to increase monthly active users

Looking for actionable strategies to increase your app's monthly active users? Try the ones below:

  • Improve the user experience: Ensuring that your app is easy to use and navigate can help to increase user engagement and retention. Consider conducting user research and gathering feedback to identify pain points and areas for improvement.

  • Add new features: Adding new features or improving existing ones can make your app more appealing to users and encourage them to use it more frequently. Give the highest priority to features that are highly requested by users or that differentiate your app from competitors.

  • Segmentation and personalization: By segmenting your app’s users by relevant attributes such as interests, geographic location, or last point of contact, you can identify commonalities that you can use to personalize your offerings. With personalization that goes beyond a generic ‘Hi, {firstname}!’, such as relevant content or in-app help, you can ensure that users get a richer app experience.

  • Offer incentives. Offering incentives, such as discounts or exclusive content, can encourage users to engage with your app more frequently. You could also offer incentives for completing specific actions, such as sharing the app with friends or using it for a certain number of days in a row. As a bonus, incentives are a time-proven way to boost customer loyalty.

  • Improve app store optimization (ASO). Optimizing your app's listing in the app store can help to increase visibility and attract new users. Consider optimizing your app's title, description, and screenshots to make it more appealing to potential users.

  • Use paid user acquisition. Investing in paid user acquisition, such as app store ads or social media ads, can help attract new users to your app. This strategy works best if you have data on your most loyal and engaged users — then, you can target specific user demographics or interests to increase the likelihood of attracting similarly engaged users.

Other metrics to calculate in addition to monthly active users

In addition to monthly active users, here are some other metrics that we recommend using to track your app’s growth:

Key takeaways

  • MAU is a metric used to measure the total number of unique users who interacted with an application over 30 days. Total MAU = Number of unique users who use the app in one month. Average MAU = Sum of each month’s unique users / 12

  • A high MAU indicates that a large number of users are engaging with your app on a monthly basis, while a low MAU may indicate that your app is not resonating with users or meeting their needs.

  • MAU is important because it provides the base for a snapshot of how engaged and active users are with your app on a monthly basis and can help you understand how well your app is performing.

  • MAU can provide valuable insights into app engagement and app retention while giving you an idea of how effective your marketing efforts are. MAU can be used as an index of user engagement, user retention, revenue potential, as well as to benchmark your app's growth over time and against industry standards and competitors.

  • MAU is used primarily by app developers, UX and UI designers, product managers, and marketers, but anyone with a stake in an app's success can derive important insights from it and the other KPIs it drives.

Increase your app’s monthly active users by adding in-app communication capabilities

If you want to increase your app’s monthly active users, consider adding in-app communication capabilities to your app. Sendbird is the premier API provider to empower digital leaders with rich, scalable, and tailor-made in-app communication experiences. By leveraging chat, notifications, voice, and video, businesses can drive user engagement, conversion, and retention across use cases like operations, commerce, and support.

The ability to have engaging conversations is a huge driver for customer experience — and, in turn, monthly active users. With Sendbird, your app will become the center point of customer engagement while providing the capabilities needed to keep users engaged and connected, and to expand your user base. Start a free trial, or contact us if you need help! Our experts are always happy to assist.

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