Top 11 app engagement strategies (and how to make your app sticky)

Top 11 app engagement strategies (and how to make your app sticky)

Did you know that the average person has 80 apps on their smartphone but only uses 30 of them each month?  If you want to break through the noise and make your app stand out, you need to focus on user engagement. That’s where these 11 proven app engagement strategies come in. From gamification to personalized messaging, these techniques will make your app sticky and keep users coming back for more. So let’s dive in and explore how you can drive mobile app engagement with real-life gamification examples!

What is app engagement?

App engagement is the interaction between users and mobile apps. A mobile app engagement strategy is what makes an app successful since engaged users spend 60% more, generate more data you can leverage, and provide more touchpoints to capitalize on.

User engagement varies from completing onboarding, to making a purchase, or simply swiping through the app. 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 app engagement strategies – and having a clear strategy is invaluable.


Why you need a clearly defined app engagement strategy

A sticky app will get users talking, and 92% of consumers trust word-of-mouth recommendations over any adverts that you could ever send their way.

The user engagement tactics you choose must be clearly defined. After all, if you are going to do the effort of thoroughly testing new features and strategies – which you are, right? – 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.

That goal is to get users engaged and it cannot be more important! We are living in a world of product-led growth and that means the quality of your UX is crucial



How to develop an app engagement strategy

Key to develop your own user 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 customer 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.

11 app engagement strategies to make your product sticky

Check out these gamification examples of how to improve your app engagement strategy and make your app sticky with the right engagement strategy.

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

Attract and engage Gen Z users with your app’s story, mission, and vision. It’s crucial that your users believe what you do and how you do it! Build brand trust and loyalty for long-term success.

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, which showed off its environmental chops with a challenge that incentivizes users to run and fundraise to clean up plastics from the ocean.

user engagement Gen Z

2. Use gamification to make your app sticky

To make your app sticky, use gamification – a proven app engagement strategy that makes the CX fun, social, and easy to use. App gamification hooks users by incentivizing mobile app engagement with interactive features such as challenges, progression and achievements systems. 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. 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

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3. Minimize onboarding churn with clear steps

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%! And to boot, users leave happier.

Take MuscleBooster for instance. Its onboarding lets users select their personal goals and targets. 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. Make the experience social

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.

In fact, 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

5. Create a fun and personal experience with custom avatars

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

6. Boost user excitement with competitive features

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 HumanForest 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!

Gamification is the key to engagement! Start your journey with our action-packed workshop 👉

7. Offer quick support and re-engage users with chatbots

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 is one such app using chatbots to increase user engagement. Far from being used for only complaints, users can converse with the bot to ask just about anything!

fintech app engagement strategies

8. 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!

9. 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 a product 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

10. Reward loyal users with tiered loyalty programs

Give your users something to strive towards! 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. Prizes, freebies, and exclusive partnerships should be reserved for your most loyal users, and this will motivate both them and new users who are missing out!

11. 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.
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 own 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 addictive 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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