One in four mobile apps are abandoned after a single use. Eek- this is certainly a tough statistic to come to grips with. But don’t be so quick to blame the complexity of today’s users. The undeniable reality is that all mobile app teams make mistakes, big and small. You are human after all. Yet some mistakes, if not identified and resolved quickly, are probably causing your users to drop like flies.

There are many ways you can combat app abandonment, but in order to do so effectively, you must increase your awareness. First and foremost you need to understand what makes users abandon your app before you implement any combat strategies. To help you out, we have assembled the 7 most common reasons plus the best solutions to these noteworthy pitfalls.

1. Poor User Onboarding Experience

User onboarding is one of the earliest and most important interactions you will have with your users. It’s the tutorial or guide to your product, and it has to be executed to perfection if you hope to keep your audience’s attention. Onboarding is a great time to make an amazing first impression on your users, and get them acquainted with using your product. So, you can probably already imagine why user onboarding is so essential for fighting user abandonment, but it’s nice to hear it again anyway.

The top-ranking apps in the mobile app economy all focus on retaining users from the very first visit. And, while the entire duration of your relationship with users is obviously important, it’s really the earliest moments that you share with one another which help to build habits, form bonds, and cement your product in people’s minds. User onboarding is one of the strongest tools that you have to fight app abandonment, and you have to use it for all it’s worth.

The good news is that user onboarding doesn’t have to be difficult. Sometimes, showing your users just a few clear and actionable screens will provide a great onboarding experience. But in other cases, like with popular role-playing games, it’s best to take your users through a fully-fledged progressive onboarding experience that demonstrates the ins and outs of your product while they actually use it.

As Des Traynor of Intercom so perfectly puts it, “Rather than relying solely on emergent metrics and then forcing users to hit some business targets, modern onboarding focuses on the user and what they want to achieve.” The success of your user should be your ultimate goal and should serve as the foundation of your onboarding process.

You should also make sure that your team is aware of common onboarding mistakes such as forgetting to provide your users with a “Skip” button, or showing your app’s sign-up screen as soon as they open your app. And, keep in mind that onboarding is an ongoing process that can continually be optimized as time goes on.

Weathercube app
Weathercube gets onboarding right by clearly telling users how to use their product in just three slides. Image:


2. Privacy Concerns

User privacy is a major reason for mobile app abandonment which has only recently come to light. In the past few years, there has been growing concern over mobile apps that request questionable in-app permissions, sell user data, track geolocation, and automatically post to personal social media accounts on behalf of the end user.

You can probably tell why actions of the past have made today’s mobile app users wary of having mobile apps that show even the slightest hint of a privacy concern. For example, the release of Pokemon Go caused an uproar when media outlets revealed that users who registered for the app would be accepting extensive data-capture permissions. The issue was quickly resolved, and was said to be a security flaw after it had occurred, but still serves as a great example of how serious most users have become about their privacy.

If your app requests in-app permissions, just make sure that your product actually needs the permissions it’s requesting in order to function. Users are quite understanding of in-app permissions that are mandatory, but it’s best to give users a quick explanation as to why you are requesting said in-app permissions. You must be upfront and honest with user and keep your brand’s messaging transparent throughout. If you do this, users will feel much more comfortable about using your app.

Pokemon Go App
Pokemon Go released with a security flaw that caused for major concern, although the issue was quickly resolved. Image:


3. Your App Is Easily Replaceable

Here’s a pill that’s tough for most app teams to swallow. If your mobile product doesn’t have a sweet competitive advantage like a powerful value proposition, brand image, app store ranking, exciting UX or social proof, then users will probably and quickly turn to a better product to use.

With the millions of apps out there, your app is at a high risk of being replaceable, and that’s definitely hard to hear. But, knowing this fact also doubles as a strong motivational tool that can keep your team working hard towards developing a razor-sharp edge in your niche. Making your mobile app irreplaceable is a battle that’s best fought in small daily increments. Start by solving a genuine problem that users face, then build trust with your users, and take persistent steps to carry out your vision throughout the long-term.

Building an irreplaceable, abandonment-fighting mobile app is a time-consuming process. But, if you can even just focus on getting your mobile app into the same realm of high-quality mobile products like iScanner, Facetune, Stylebook or Flightradar24, then you’ll more than likely have created something special that naturally keeps your audience coming back for more.

Facetune app
Facetune provides users with a genuinely valuable product that is difficult to replace. Image:


4. Ad Clutter

In-app advertising is still in its earliest days, and many ad-reliant mobile products can feel like entering the Wild Wild West because of this. Consequently, it’s easy for many mobile app teams to prioritize generating short-term ad revenue over building a long-term vision. A recent report published by Tune has actually shown that 24.6% of their survey’s respondents claimed to use ad blockers on their mobile devices. On top of that, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) published a report in alignment with Tune’s data, claiming 73% of media execs are calling for major UX overhauls in digital marketing across the board. The IAB’s survey results show that today’s digital advertising problems are a result of having to meet the demands of “liquid audiences that discover content across a range of mediums, devices, and platforms.”

Yet, the most important takeaway of the research revealed that 54% of media execs see ad clutter as the biggest reason for bad digital advertising UX’s. In other words, if users aren’t trying to block cluttered ads, they’re at least troubled by them, and more likely than not willing to abandon your product because of it. Other varieties of bad ads such as abusive ads, technically flawed ads, low quality ads, and offensive ads can easily lead to app abandonment as well. But, the solution to all of your advertising woes is relatively simple. Just keep a close eye on your ad placements (keep them spread apart), monitor your ad types and watch how users actually react to your ads, and above all else prioritize the user experience (or you won’t have any users to monetize).

Instagram App
Instagram offers a style of in-feed ad that looks like native content and doesn’t disrupt the user experience. Image:


5. Technical Flaws

Technical flaws will always exist, and it would be unfair to blame your team for occasionally allowing them to happen. However, it would be equally unfair to ignore that technical flaws are a major reason why users abandon mobile apps. Mobile app crashes and freezes are actually the most common type of technical flaw that immediately sparks outrage in users. And, as you probably already know, once your users are emotionally-charged (in a bad way), that’s when they’re most likely to do something harsh, like uninstall your product (but not before leaving a one-star rating and scathing app review).

To get to the source of your product’s crashes, and limit the odds of your audience abandoning your app for good, you have to accurately analyze your app’s crashes as soon as they occur. The best way to do this is by watching user recordings of crashed sessions so that you can see the exact sequence of events that led to a crash. Viewing your app’s crashes from the real-life perspective of your users will allow you to pinpoint the root of your product’s technical flaws and fix them at lightning speed.

Being quick to fix product flaws will protect your brand image, deter angry ratings and reviews, and prevent people from abandoning what you’ve worked so hard to create in the first place.

App crash
Crashes are a leading cause of mobile app abandonment. Image:


6. High Barrier to Entry

Pinterest’s sign-up screen appears quick and welcoming at first glance which works as a great tool for user conversion. Image:

Does your app’s sign-up screen look like an intimidating obstacle that has to be overcome? Hopefully this isn’t the case, because you need to embrace the principle of least effort when it comes to your sign-up screen design. What this basically means is that humans are innately lazy, and want to breeze through your app’s sign-up process without having to put forth much effort. So, if the barrier to enter your app even appears to be high, most users won’t hesitate to abandon your product before registering to use it.

A great way to make your product appeal to even the laziest of app users is to actually do away with your sign-up process altogether. Getting rid of your sign-up screen eliminates the second biggest barrier to using your app (after downloading it), so this has the potential to provide your product with a nice increase in retention. But, if eliminating your sign-up screen isn’t feasible, and your brand requires users to register for your app, then using minimal sign-up fields, smart captcha alternatives, and seamless flow between your app and email confirmation screens are great ways to increase user conversion and boost your rate of retention. Mobile app users experience a lot of subconscious thoughts and feelings as soon as they encounter sign-up screens. So, managing your sign-up process down to every last detail, and figuring out why users may not be filling out your sign-up screen will have a powerful impact on how often your product is used.

Pinterest App
Pinterest’s sign-up screen appears quick and welcoming at first glance which works as a great tool for user conversion. Image:


7. Overall Bad User Experience

Bad UX’s happen for all kinds of reasons. But, they occur most often when people install a mobile app under the belief they will receive some specific type of value or feature in return, only to feel let down after downloading the product. This is the worst kind of “buyer’s remorse”, because you’ll almost always lose users each time that this happens without any time for reconciliation. Sometimes, the value or feature that users want to take from your product already exists in your app, and they may have missed it somehow. Mobile app users can be relentless and impatient in this way, and they normally aren’t going to give your app much time to deliver the goods before they give up on your product entirely.

On the other hand, products with great UX’s take these harsh realities into consideration for every single screen, function and button. Great UX’s are built to accommodate your users’ highly-targeted needs.

But, once you’ve built a solid UX as a starting point, you still have to continuously analyze your user experience and adjust your product to your user’s unique needs, behaviors, and standards.

In order to effectively do this, you need to have a tool that will provide you with straightforward, actionable insights on your app. Due to this need, many top mobile teams are turning to qualitative analytics in preference to traditional analytics. What’s unique about qualitative analytics is that instead of using numbers to define something as nuanced and objective as “user experience”, qualitative analytics employs visual tools such as user session recordings and touch heatmaps to show you exactly how users are experiencing your app. Maybe a particular screen within your app has a high quit rate? Or maybe you have an irregularly low number of new users completing your sign-up screen?

Qualitative analytics completely alleviates any guesswork when it comes combatting user abandonment and improving your product’s UX over the long-term.

slow loading app
Making users wait while your product loads can harm the UX and increase your abandonment rate. Image:



In order to effectively boost your retention rate you need to take a hard, objective look at your app and assess whether your app is guilty of contributing to any of these 7 reasons. Moreover, you need to make a dramatic shift in focus (if you haven’t already). Downloads don’t equal value (especially if those downloads all end up leaving). Happy, active users are the key to success. So, start attacking your app’s abandonment issues at its core, and start gaining users who actually look forward to each session with your app.


This blog post was originally featured on Web Analytics World’s blog

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