Lesson 4

Engagement Metrics: An Introduction

At this point, you should have a stable base of core users who visit your app at regular intervals. (And if you don’t, your efforts are better spent improving your app’s foundation and acquiring app users first.)

You also have a clear idea of what user behaviors you want to encourage to meet your goals. Now it’s time to really dig in.

As a refresher, as your app is in the market for a longer period of time, you’ll need to move from solely acquiring new users (and counting downloads) to also building user engagement.

Remember, the metrics that matter most to you will depend on your specific business goals. Paying attention to the right metrics matters more in the long run than simply collecting metrics.

Determining Your Key Metrics

  • Critical Event

A great place to start is to identify your critical event. This is the action you want to drive your users toward, and it’s the one that makes the biggest difference to your bottom line. It could be making a purchase, entering a store, reading a certain number of articles, making an in-app purchase or whatever matters the most to your success.

You’ll want to identify one very specific and crystal clear event, so that you can focus everything on maximizing that one goal.

Here are a few examples. For the meditation app Calm, the critical event is a user completing a meditation session through the app. For Instacart, an on-demand grocery delivery app, the critical event is scheduling a delivery.

It is possible to have multiple critical events. Uber, for example, has to consider critical events for both riders and drivers. But for most apps, and especially at first, you’ll want to hone in on one critical event and use it as a focus for all your other efforts. Whether it's new features, branding or acquisition strategy, everything should be designed to move users closer to executing on the critical event.

  • Critical Usage Metrics

One key metric you’ll want to understand is how often users are active in your app — daily, weekly or monthly — keeping in mind that what defines “active” differs for each app.

For example, social media apps are most likely built around daily critical events, which means that they’re paying a lot of attention to their DAU (daily active users) numbers.

By contrast, a booking app like Airbnb may have a critical event that happens once a month for core users, so it’s more likely to focus on WAU (weekly active users) and MAU (monthly active users).

Regardless of which makes the most sense for you to focus on, together these three comprise the most commonly used engagement metrics.

  • DAU: How many unique users are active in your app daily?
  • WAU: How many unique users are active in your app weekly?
  • MAU: How many unique users are active in your app monthly?

There are a plethora of more advanced stats to track as you continue your app development journey, and we’ll touch on some of them further in this topic, but DAU/MAU and WAU are your foundation.

Unfortunately, there’s no one definition for a great DAU/MAU ratio. Very generally speaking, a DAU/MAU ratio above 20% is considered a success, but that can vary significantly from category to category and app to app. In addition, even apps with low ratios can be successful depending on a host of monetization factors.

Ultimately, you want to watch whether your DAU/MAU ratio is increasing or decreasing, and consider bringing in someone with specific mobile retention expertise who can help you determine the ratio goals that are the most meaningful for your app.

  • Session Times

Session time is another primary measurement for user engagement. In today’s fast-paced digital climate, winning even a minute of someone’s time is a victory to be celebrated.

Longer sessions — the amount of time a user is active within your app — can be a great thing for gaming or video streaming apps like Netflix. Indeed, that’s why Netflix introduced the feature whereby the next episode automatically plays after the previous one. It increases session time.

On the other hand, purchase or delivery apps may want users to arrive, make a purchase, and exit the app as quickly as possible. If people spend long stretches of time ordering a pizza through Domino’s Pizza, that’s an indication that the process is difficult and less likely to lead to sales. So unlike Netflix, Domino’s wants its session times to stay lean.

How many users come to your app, how often, and for how long? Once you answer those questions, you’re well on your way to building a highly successful engagement strategy.


Keep Learning

In the next lesson, we'll focus on app retention.

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