15 App engagement strategies (to make your mobile app sticky in 2024)

15 App engagement strategies (to make your mobile app sticky in 2024)

Did you know that the average person has 80 apps on their smartphone but only uses 30 each month? If you want to break through the noise and make your app stand out, you should focus on user engagement. After all, the more engaged users are, the longer they stick around! However, figuring out how to improve engagement on apps requires a big-picture approach since it takes into account everything a user does. That’s where the following 11 mobile app engagement strategies come in. From gamification to personalized messaging, these techniques will make your app sticky and keep users coming back for more.

In this article, learn how to increase user engagement and build a user engagement strategy that will help you reach your metrics.

What is mobile app engagement?

Mobile app engagement is the interaction between the user and an app. Building mobile app engagement is crucial because of app users, 90% who engage with an app tend to stick around. To measure the engagement of individual users, you can use metrics such as daily, weekly, or monthly activity to see how ‘sticky’ your app is. Additionally, you can gather insights from the length of user sessions and the intervals between them.

Knowing how to utilize these key metrics will help guide your mobile app engagement strategies – and having a clear strategy is invaluable.

What does user engagement mean for your mobile app?

In reality, user engagement encompasses everything. Every click, view, and interaction a user has is user engagement. And the more they engage, the more they get out of your app. In other words, higher levels of user engagement indicate a successful app. That’s because engaged users make your app more profitable!


Why you need a mobile app engagement strategy?

A sticky app will get users talking, and 92% of consumers trust word-of-mouth recommendations over any adverts you could ever send. The user engagement tactics you choose must be clearly defined. After all, if you are going to thoroughly test new features and strategies – which you are, right? – then you should know what you want from the very beginning.

You might get lucky with your tactics, but if you’re serious about learning how to increase user engagement, then you need a clearly defined strategy. Only then can you gather the important data to support your experiments to improve user engagement:

  • Does the user come back and use the app frequently or not? How often?
  • How much time do users spend on your platform?
  • Are they utilizing the full app or just a few features?
  • What are the most popular features?


How to develop a mobile app engagement strategy?

Key to developing your mobile app engagement strategy? Create an action plan based on customer needs, direct feedback, and user data. It sounds intimidating, but only a holistic approach will result in a streamlined plan that creates a seamless user experience.

Importantly, you must analyze your strategy both before and after monetization. A complete strategy does not ignore existing users. It is 50% easier to do business with an engaged user than with a newly acquired one.

Want to increase user engagement? Learn to track your success.

Tracking your mobile app engagement strategy requires regular analysis. In effect, as your audience evolves, so should your app! To inform your analysis, use these 3 metrics:

#1 Daily/Monthly Active Users (DAU/MAU rate)

Daily active users / Monthly active users = DAU/MAU rate

Briefly, the DAU/MAU rate shows how sticky your app is. The more daily users you have, the more engaging your app is!

#2 Churn Rate

(Users who left in time period / Total users) * 100 = %

A churned user is a user who can’t engage anymore! Keep track of this metric to ensure that you are heading in the right direction.

#4 Feature usage

(Feature users / Total users) * 100 = %

You might want to increase user engagement on certain features. For this, you can also work out the DAU/MAU rate of a feature, and the time intervals between feature usage. To be sure, these metrics will produce exact and actionable data for you to optimize!

15 mobile app engagement strategies to create a sticky user experience

1. Gamification

How to increase user engagement? Look no further than gamification! Gamification uses game-like features such as leaderboards and challenges to hook users. Based on behavioral science, these features unlock powerful motivators by making the CX fun, social, and easy to use. In short, there are four big mechanics behind gamification:

  1. A competitive and social UX. People are highly motivated by social influences!
  2. Progress that is clear and visible. This fulfills the user’s need for growth.
  3. Rewards for participation. Studies show this leads to user engagement.
  4. Winning is easy to understand. Simplicity is engaging.

Implementing gamification can be difficult and overwhelming. However, some tools like a gamification platform help you shape your own gamified app experience without needing excessive code. Let’s look at some examples:

Duolingo badge reward system

Look at Duolingo for instance! Their badge reward system saw an impressive 116% jump in referrals, and with friends on the platform, users are more likely to engage!

duolingo gamification user engagement


Forest’s CO2 leaderboard

How did Forest stop 220 tons of CO2 from entering London’s air? With their e-bikes powered by gamification! As a pillar of their user engagement strategy, Forest ranked their riders by the amount of CO2 they have saved. Since they implemented the leaderboard, Forest has hosted a record 150,000+ trips monthly.

gamification improve user engagement on apps


2. Share your app’s story, mission, and vision

To build brand trust, and develop an intrinsically engaging app, your users must believe in what you do and why you do it. This is especially important for Gen Z, those aged 16-24, and that means it’s important for you!

These 3 statistics tell you all you need to know:

  1. Gen Z is an over-represented group. They make up 40% of mobile users!
  2. They care deeply about social responsibility. 85% of Gen Z say that trusting a brand is critical in purchase decisions.
  3. And finally, they are also the most engaged! Winning over Gen Z and the benefits to user engagement is clear. Gen Zers spend an average of over 4 hours every month on non-gaming apps, 10% longer than any other demographic.

Look at Adidas Runtastic for example.

Adidas challenges users to run further

In 2019, Adidas Runtastic wanted to show off its environmental chops with a challenge that incentivizes users to run and fundraise to clean up plastics from the ocean. They wanted to increase user engagement! So they issued the ‘Run for the Oceans’ challenge! Basically, for every 10 minutes a user ran, Adidas cleaned up the weight of a plastic bottle from a beach. All in all, 2.2 million people took part!

user engagement Gen Z

3. Decrease onboarding friction (and user churn)

The biggest drop-off in user engagement happens during onboarding. Indeed, every added step of onboarding results in a 20% increase in user churn! For a more effective onboarding, keep tutorials to a minimum and demonstrate your value proposition as soon as possible. Of course, you can use gamification to improve onboarding. Research shows tutorials on a gamified app increase user task completion by 135%!

LinkedIn onboarding gamification example

You can combat onboarding fatigue with a gamified progress bar! LinkedIn is one app that made a great success of this approach. After they implemented a progress bar to encourage profile set-ups, conversions increased by 55%!

LinkedIn onboarding gamification

MuscleBooster onboarding gamification example

MuscleBooster is another good example of gamification in user onboarding. The fitness app lets users select their personal goals and targets during onboarding. This takes advantage of the ‘endowed progress effect’, which means users are more likely to complete a task they have begun.

fitness app onboarding optimization


4. Optimize the moment for registration

The make-or-break moment of every mobile app engagement strategy is when you ask users to commit to your product. However, asking too soon can cause the user to churn. Conversely, asking too late fails to capitalize on the user! So what do you do?

Look at the example of the graphic design tool Snappa. At one point, 27% of all signups never activated their email. But after some experiments, Snappa delayed the request to verify and monthly revenue rose by 20%!

5. Focus on action, not information

In reality, people are overloaded with information every day. And often, we don’t know what to do with any of it! An overwhelming experience triggers 2 major effects:

  • Paradox of choice. The more choices a user has, the less likely they’ll choose!
  • Hick’s law. Where decision time rises with each additional choice.

And this decreases user engagement! To avoid this, create an action-focused UX. That way, users start with action in their minds and are more likely to take the next step. This approach is how the French fintech Shine achieved an 80% onboarding conversion rate! Arnaud Babol, Shine’s growth engineer, shares a tip for your mobile app engagement strategy:

“Keep it simple: one screen, one action.”

fintech UX UXdesign best examples

6. Increase feature discovery with a tooltip or spotlight

In reality, just 12% of a product’s features attract the majority of user engagement. And nobody wants to pay for things they don’t use! Given this, your mobile app engagement strategy should improve feature discovery. In short, this means analyzing certain features and making them more discoverable, as well as easy to use.

To highlight underused features, use a tooltip or spotlight. For instance, few people used the live streaming platform Kumu’s search bar. But with a simple spotlight, Kumu achieved a 54% click-through rate, and the feature’s user engagement increased by 38%!

user engagement strategy features

7. Build an in-app community

Out of all app categories, social apps attract the most weekly engagement. But you don’t have to be the next Snapchat to engage users socially, any app can do it. Specifically, simple features such as leaderboards, challenges, and forums can increase social influence.

Research into the fitness app Nike Run Club confirms that social features have the greatest positive effect on long-term mobile app engagement. Curiously, Nike Run Club’s space for socializing is almost an Instagram look-a-like.

app engagement strategies mHealth

8. Tiered loyalty systems reward engagement

Give your users something to strive for! A tiered loyalty system shows that the more they engage, the better things will be. To be sure, your loyal customers expect to be rewarded.

For instance, e-scooter operator Voi. has a loyalty program called Voialty. In it, customers level up from Rookie to Pro by taking more rides. In turn, users of higher levels get bigger discounts on their rides!

shared mobility how to increase user engagement

9. Custom avatars make the experience personal and fun

If you want to tell a story, custom avatars are a must-have. In short, avatars let the user feel more personally involved, which boosts the user’s sense of ownership over the app.

However, there is more you can do than a simple profile photo. Take the fintech app Nestlings for example! The app uses colorful animal avatars to personify your financial personality! By cleverly visualizing animals ‘squirreling away a nest egg’, as Nestlings puts it, they also enhance the story and experience of saving money.

fintech app engagement strategies

10. Want to excite your users? Try competition!

Competition helps frame tasks and give users purpose. This is especially important for tracking apps, where their very point requires lots of repetitive tasks. To be sure, studies show that a competitive element makes users more likely to complete tasks!

Any app can do this – right now shared mobility app Forest is rewarding users who save the most CO2 by riding their e-bikes. By giving away prizes for winners, HumanForest is incentivizing user engagement, as well as avoiding 20 tonnes of carbon emissions in just 1 week!


11. Optimize your empty states to increase user engagement

While only an estimated 5% of users ever see an empty state, they’re still a great opportunity to drive user engagement. How? Based on a blog about empty states by Chameleon, 3 key principles have been formulated:

  1. Education.
  2. Motivation.
  3. Direction.

For a great example of how to improve user engagement on apps with empty states, look at the note-taking app Notion. When users create a new page, they see instructive demo content and features like a get-started checklist. As well, they are motivated by action-focused copy: “Press enter to continue with an empty page or pick a template”.

12. Chatbots provide fast support (and get users re-engaged)

With improvements in AI, 70% of consumers now prefer chatbots for fast support. Why? It’s simple, users want their questions answered as fast as possible! Given the advantage in response time, studies show that chatbots can provide a 400% engagement boost compared to human support.

Mastercard uses chatbots to increase customer engagement

Mastercard is using chatbots to increase customer engagement. Far from being used only for complaints, Mastercard customers can converse with the bot to ask just about anything!

fintech app engagement strategies

Here’s another great example. Slush, a tech events organization, implemented the chatbot “Jenny”. In no time, the bot took on a whopping 67% of all support requests and created 55% more conversations! In short, one simple chatbot can show you how to increase user engagement!

13. Upsell, activate, and re-engage existing users

Achieving high levels of user engagement is impossible without a clear re-engagement strategy. By day 90, chances are 71% of acquisitions will churn! You can prevent this by activating cart abandoners with discounts and upselling to existing customers with personalized offers. The benefits of re-engagement are huge: re-targeted users result in 37% more revenue events than organic acquisitions!

Let’s take the example of the French travel app Ouibus. Offering the chance of a discount, they used scratch card and fruit machine game ads to retarget existing users. As a result of the campaign, Ouibus saw a 27% boost in revenue!

Oibus app engagement

14. Boost user referrals and take advantage of the network effect

Leverage the ‘network effect’ and you’ll multiply user engagement! So, the effect says that an app becomes more useful with more users. For customers of fintech app Revolut, bill-splitting features and fast transfers are more valuable if your friends use Revolut too.

So by incentivizing user referrals with prizes, you’re directly investing in your growth!

fintech referral app marketing

15. Update and optimize your app regularly

Your customers change – and so should your app. With regular testing and optimization, you can stay on top of every new challenge that comes your way. For sure, this will keep your app unpredictable and exciting to use.


Put simply, app engagement is the interaction between a user and a mobile app. Without a doubt, it is what makes an app successful – engaged users spend 60% more, generate more data you can leverage, and provide more touchpoints to capitalize on.

In reality, user engagement encompasses everything. Every click, view, and download a user performs is user engagement. And higher levels of user engagement indicate a successful app. That’s because engaged users increase profitability — engaged users spend as much as 3x more!

If you are going to the effort of thoroughly testing new features and strategies, then you should know what you want from the very beginning. Indeed, 90% of experiments fail. So without a clear plan, a few failed tests can easily diminish the motivation you need to achieve your goal.

To start developing your app engagement strategies, you need to analyze and create an action plan based on your entire operation. It sounds intimidating, but only a holistic approach will result in a streamlined plan that creates a seamless customer experience.

Gamification hooks users by incentivizing engagement with features such as badges, points, and rewards. Based on behavioral science, these features unlock powerful motivators by making the CX fun, social, and easy to use. For example, Duolingo’s badge rewards boosted referrals by 116%!

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