Standing Out in the Crowd: 7 Causes of Slow or Low User Growth
What is a good user growth rate, how to measure and track it, 7 reasons for slow or low user growth and some strategies to increase your app users. Here’s how to ensure you keep growing your user base
Are enough new people using your app?
This is important, even before you start developing your app because, while the market’s huge, with close to 7 billion smartphone and tablet users worldwide, spending up to 88% of mobile time on apps, there’s a lot of competition.
With almost 5.6 million apps available for download, Gartner estimates that between 40% and 80% of commercial apps fail (Forbes says it could be as high as 99%).
So, to ensure your app is successful, we delve into user growth – especially asking: What causes low user growth, and how do we fix it?
First, though: What is user growth?
Apps are built for people. That’s why the success of a new commercial app will hinge greatly on 1) how many people download it and 2) how many people use it because that’s how it makes money.
User growth is seeing an increase in the number of active users over time. A growing user base can indicate that the app is resonating with its target audience and that it has the potential to become successful in the long term.
How do you measure it?
Owners will always have an app analytics tool – from Google Analytics to Amplitude, Mixpanel, AppDynamics, UXCam, AppFollow etc. And, for user growth, it’s just a matter of following the right metrics:
- Daily Active Users (DAU) – people using your app in 24 hours
- Monthly Active Users (MAU) – number of unique users per month
- DAU/MAU rate – your DAU divided by your MAU gives you a stickiness ratio (anything above 20% is good, and over 25% is excellent!)
- Engaged users – number of users who took the target step (clicked on ad, upgraded – whatever your main goal is for users)
- Sessions, screen views and time spent in-app
- Retention rate – users coming back to your app
- Churn rate – lost users who’ve uninstalled or stopped engaging
But (arguably) the most important metric is the User Growth Rate. You calculate, on a month-to-month basis, for example, by subtracting your total MAU of this month from the MAU of last month, then divide it by last month’s MAU again, and times the answer by 100, to give you a percentage.
January: 1000 MAU
February: 1200 MAU
Growth rate = 20%
What is a good user growth rate?
Benchmarking growth rate depends a lot on your niche, industry and goals. But in general, new apps should grow by at least 5%–10% per week, while established apps usually slow down to around 1%–3% per week.
What causes low user growth in apps?
Though there might be multiple and overlapping reasons for low user growth, they’ll generally fall into these main spheres:
1. A lack of discovery
If people don’t know about your app, they can’t download and use it. This usually comes down to your marketing strategy. Maybe your product doesn’t have good search engine optimization (SEO). Or it’s not showing up in the app store. Or your marketing is not reaching enough of the right people, and it’s just not effective.
2. Poor user experience
Often touted as the number 1 cause of app failure, user experience (UX) can make or break your product. If people don’t enjoy using your app, they stop using it and won’t recommend it to others.
This can happen when an app is slow or buggy, with frequent crashes and a confusing interface or navigation – all things that come down to architecture and UI design, by the way (see how to design an app the right way and learn about the value of great app design).
3. Unsatisfying value proposition
If people can't see the point of your app, they also won't tell others about it, and they won’t be motivated to download it. This often happens if your product is too similar to others, and doesn't solve a real and significant enough problem.
See more on validating your app idea.
4. Confusing onboarding
If people don't understand how to use your product, they won't stick around long enough to figure it out. This can happen if the onboarding process is too complex, doesn't provide enough context, or doesn't effectively explain the app's value.
5. Lack of engagement
If you don’t give people a good enough reason to come back to your app, they might stop using it. This often happens when you don’t have engaging features that make people want to use it regularly.
See our post on the critical causes of low app engagement.
6. Poor retention
If users aren't coming back to your app after their first or second visit, your product might be lacking engaging features or, again, it’s not solving an important enough problem for them to come back.
7. Inefficient marketing
If you’re targeting the wrong audience, your messaging is unclear or confusing, or you’re advertising yourself on the wrong channels, you won’t see many new users either. Although a great marketing strategy alone can’t “save” a poorly created app, even great apps need good marketing.
How to investigate low user growth in your app
Start with a three-pronged approach:
- Look at your competitive landscape
Before you look inside your app, look outside – what has changed in the marketplace? Look for news reports on your industry, new competitor apps and websites or algorithm changes (Google, app store or socials). Try and see if there’s a breakdown in your visibility, or somewhere else people can suddenly get your service better/for free?
- Look at your data
Now, look at your existing users and their retention rates. Are there drop-offs? Is there a pattern? You can even take a look at your support logs or social media, to see if there are any clues inside people’s complaints/queries. And then also look at your traffic sources data and review your marketing channel data – look for anything that could indicate a breakdown in user traffic.
- Ask your users
Easier said than done, but it's proven the most effective method time and again. If existing users disengage, contact them – email, phone, whatever! Try and get information directly from the person – only they can tell you the why.
How can I increase my app user growth rate?
There are literally hundreds of different strategies and playbooks on how to grow a product. From a better value proposition to a UI redesign, to better marketing.
But the most important part of user growth is knowing what causes disengagement and focusing on fixing that – and that’s where a proper app audit and optimisation comes in.
Let us help you fix your user growth
You already know that we at Specno build some of the coolest, high-engagement apps. But did you know that we also have a specialist team that helps you boost your existing app?
Yes! We use our best-practice expertise ad insider know-how to run extensive app audits, user research, app optimisation and even app redesign – contact Specno now.(You’ll get a response immediately.)
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