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User engagement can make or break your app. Here’s how to nail it

PostsDesign & UX
Georgina Guthrie

Georgina Guthrie

May 10, 2024

Ever downloaded an app only to click ‘uninstall’ a few days later? You’re not alone: according to data, a staggering half of Android apps are deleted within 30 days of download. For whatever reason, the app promised something and the user felt it didn’t deliver. So, out it went. 

As the creator of an app or website, you know the aim of the game isn’t just downloads and site visits. It’s about building an engaged group of users who return day after day. This kind of usage often translates into higher revenue, a greater reach, and if you run a website — a better spot on the search engine results page. 

So what is this elusive thing called engagement, and more importantly, how do you nurture it? Read on! 

What is user engagement?

User engagement is all about measuring how actively involved users are with your product or service. 

Clicks and downloads are a good starting point, but true engagement is about understanding how people interact with what you offer. Are they clicking, scrolling, sharing, commenting, or frequently returning to your platform? 

High levels of engagement indicate users who love what you’re cooking up. They’re not just downloading your app and ignoring it — they’re really getting involved in meaningful ways. This could range from frequent usage to active participation in the community features you might offer. 

On the flip side, low engagement points to users who aren’t loving what you’ve created. This can lead to churn — where users stop using the service altogether.

Knowing about user engagement helps you to refine your product, making sure it aligns well with what your users want and need. And that’s the secret to happy customers. 

Why user engagement matters 

User engagement is vital because it directly correlates with the overall success of your business or product. Here are a few reasons why it’s so crucial:

1. Retention

Who ever heard of a happy customer leaving? Engaged users are more likely to become repeat customers. They see value in your product, which keeps them coming back. Higher retention rates often translate into more stable revenue streams, as well as lowering your customer acquisition cost (it costs more to attract new customers than it does to keep old ones). 

2. Revenue growth

Engaged users are more likely to upgrade their services, purchase products, or sign up for new features. This usually translates to more spending, either directly through your product or via affiliate offerings.

3. Feedback and improvement

Engaged users give feedback gold, both directly (comments, customer service interactions, etc) or indirectly (through behavior patterns). This feedback is essential for helping you refine and enhance your product based on user needs and preferences over time (aka continuous improvement). 

4. Brand advocacy

Users who are highly engaged are more likely to recommend your product to others, expanding your reach and potentially increasing your customer base without significant marketing spend increases.

5. Competitive advantage

In a crowded market, having a highly engaged user base can set you apart from competitors. It shows that your users value what you offer over all the other options. This is great passive advertising, but it also helps you know you’re on the right track. 

What’s the difference between customer engagement and user engagement?

Often used interchangeably, these two phrases have slightly different meanings. 

Users are those who have visited your app or site, whereas customers are those who have found value in your offering and parted with their hard-earned cash. Since you probably already have their name, age, address, and demographic information, you’ll know more about them — whereas your user base will be broader and more mysterious. 

What does user engagement look like for different types of business?

User engagement varies wildly across businesses. Here are some common examples. 

Marketing agencies 

In the world of marketing, user engagement is gauged by how people interact with campaigns across various channels. This includes metrics like email open and click-through rates, social media likes, shares, and comments, as well as engagement with interactive ads. 

Engaged marketing audiences are those who respond to calls to action, participate in contests, and actively follow brands across platforms.


For eCommerce businesses, user engagement is usually measured by actions like repeat purchases, the number of product reviews left, and interaction with promotional content like sales or coupons. 

High engagement in eCommerce means customers are not only buying but also actively participating in loyalty programs, referring friends, and utilizing personalized offers.

SaaS (Software as a Service)

SaaS user engagement shows via daily and weekly active use (including feature utilization), and subscription upgrades. Engaged SaaS users regularly explore new features, share thoughts via surveys or forums, and take part in community events or webinars. 

Not-so-engaged users cancel subscriptions, don’t log in, and don’t explore the various features on offer.

Content providers (blogs, news sites, social media pages)

For content providers, engagement shows up in the frequency and duration of visits, comments, shares, and content subscriptions. An engaged audience regularly consumes content, interacts with it (comments, shares), and follows CTAs like signing up for newsletters or downloading resources.


Engagement is important, but all the more so for startups, where it can often signal whether or not the venture is worth following. It generally focuses on early adopter feedback (usually via MVPs and prototypes), product usage, and customer retention rates. Engaged startup users give feedback through surveys, beta testing, and direct communications, helping to iterate the product. The best users are advocates of the product in social settings and are critical in helping the startup pivot and refine its offerings.

Product teams

User engagement helps product teams understand how well their creation meets the needs of its users. Metrics like user feedback and feature usage play a starring role. Engaged users in this context regularly use the product, request new features, and report issues, contributing directly to the product development lifecycle.

Web development agencies

Web development agencies measure engagement through interactions, usage, and project feedback. High engagement means users are actively involved in the development process, sharing their needs/thoughts, and generally show high levels of satisfaction with your offering. When it comes to websites and apps, high session durations and low bounce rates are the things to aim for. 

How to create a user engagement strategy

It’s not rocket science. Just follow these 8 steps and watch the likes, shares, and downloads roll in. 

1. Understand your user’s context

Are they using it during a hectic commute, in a relaxed home environment, or during quick breaks at work? Knowing how and where your users will interact with your offering will shape how you design your app’s functionality and accessibility. 

For example, if your users are often on-the-go, you might prioritize features that are usable in low connectivity areas or simple to use. In short, knowing context helps you to create a product that fits naturally into your users’ daily routines.

2. Work out what your users want to do

When people open your app, what do they want to achieve? Maybe it’s entertainment, gathering info, editing a video —  whatever it is, take note and keep that at the heart of everything you do. 

By identifying these goals, you can create a product that feels relevant to your users. And relevance equals higher levels of satisfaction, and ultimately, better engagement.

3. Define what good and bad engagement looks like

It’s important to take note of both the good and bad, since both offer you insight into how your app’s performing. 

Positive engagement might include things like regular usage, high interaction with content, social sharing, and strong conversion rates. Negative engagement, on the other hand, could manifest as high uninstall rates, poor reviews, or low interaction with key features.

Defining these helps you understand what to encourage and what to fix. E.g. if you spot a high rate of app deletions after a recent update, it could indicate issues with that update that need addressing. Similarly, recognizing which features drive positive engagement can guide you in focusing your development efforts to fine-tune these areas.

4. Create a two-way conversation 

Offer multiple ways for users to reach out and connect, e.g., through social media, dedicated support emails, and in-app messaging systems. This accessibility not only makes users feel valued and supported, but also gives you a bird’s eye view on their thoughts and needs. 

Personal follow-ups can massively enhance user engagement by making users feel uniquely valued. This could involve sending personalized emails thanking them for their business, offering custom recommendations based on their usage patterns, or providing direct support in response to feedback. Communicate often, and make it easy for users to talk back.

5. Deliver what users love

Use analytics to pinpoint what your users engage with the most, whether it’s specific features, types of content, or particular activities within your app or service. These are the things that resonate. Once you identify what’s a hit, focus on enhancing them and consider adding more of what works.

For example, if your data shows that users spend a lot of time using a particular tool in your app, you might develop additional functionality around that tool or create similar tools that could attract further engagement. Giving people more of what they love not only increases user satisfaction but also encourages deeper and more frequent interaction.

6. Prioritize UX and UI design

Spend time creating an intuitive user interface (UI) and a seamless user experience (UX), since both are vital for high engagement. 

A well-designed UI makes your product attractive, while a thoughtful UX helps users navigate your product like it’s second nature. Focus on minimizing friction points that could annoy users and send them running to simpler options. 

  • Make sure your app loads fast
  • Create an easy-to-navigate interface
  • Make the key features easily accessible 

Regular user testing can be handy here, helping you gather direct feedback to continually refine and improve the design. 

7. Continuously improve and adapt

Last but not least — continuously analyze your efforts and make necessary adjustments. Use analytics tools to monitor how changes impact engagement levels. Regularly reviewing these metrics helps you fine-tune your strategies and respond to user needs dynamically. 

A/B testing is a great way to compare different approaches and see what works best. For example, you might test two different homepage designs to see which one results in more user engagement. Based on the outcomes, you can adopt the more successful elements across your platform.

User engagement metrics

Measuring metrics means you have a performance benchmark that shows you how users are engaging with your app or website. They’ll show you both how many people are getting there, and what they’re doing while they’re there.

You’ll want to collect a range of qualitative and quantitative metrics, ranging from analytics data to surveys and interviews. Here are some of the most useful things to measure.

  • Active users: Daily, weekly, monthly.
  • Session length: Average time spent per visit.
  • Session frequency: How often users return.
  • Page views: Total and per session.
  • Conversion rates: Percentage of users completing desired actions.
  • Bounce rate: Percentage of users leaving quickly after arriving.
  • Click-through rate (CTR): For links and calls to action.
  • Social shares and likes: Engagement on social media platforms.
  • Feedback: Through surveys, interviews, and feedback forms.
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS): Measuring user loyalty.
  • Customer Lifetime Value (CLV): Total value a user brings over their lifetime.
  • Churn rate: Percentage of users stopping use of the service.

Tools, approaches, and resources 

When it comes to engagement, you’ll want a two-pronged approach: a good strategy, supported by tools up to the job. Here’s everything you’ll need in your engagement toolkit. 

Segmentation and targeting

Split your users up into specific groups based on their behaviours, needs, preferences, demographics, and so on — then tailor your marketing and communication to match. Platforms like Mailchimp and Constant Contact make it easy to flex communication and increase engagement through targeted email campaigns.

User feedback integration

Regularly collect and analyze user feedback, then use this data to inform product improvements and new features. SurveyMonkey and Typeform are good options for gathering direct user feedback.

Community engagement

Nurture an online community where users can interact and share experiences. Hootsuite and Buffer help you schedule posts, track social media engagement, and manage interactions across multiple platforms, while WordPress and Joomla make it easier to publish, manage, and optimize content on your website.

Reward systems

Set up loyalty programs to reward users for engaging with your product/service.

Proactive support

Offer proactive customer support to resolve issues before they snowball. Systems like Salesforce and HubSpot automatically manage customer interactions and data throughout the customer lifecycle, smoothing out the process. 

Educational content

Offer tutorials, guides, webinars, and other educational materials to help users get the most out of your product. User onboarding software like WalkMe or Userpilot help new users get to grips with your product, improving initial engagement (not to mention long-term retention).

Mobile optimization

Make sure your product is fully functional and optimized for all devices for that all-important seamless user experience.

Regular updates and improvements

Continuously improve your product based on user data and emerging trends to keep it relevant and engaging. Tools like OneSignal or Firebase send timely notifications to users to boost app engagement when you roll outsomething new. 

A/B testing

Test different versions of your product to see which features or designs give the best user engagement. Then, test and test again. Platforms like Optimizely or VWO let you try different versions of your product to see what strikes the right note with users. Meanwhile Google Analytics is the gold standard for measuring website data, and Mixpanel and Amplitude help you track user behavior and engagement metrics.

Product management software was made for user engagement 

Product management software is about so much more than keeping tasks in order. By simplifying the way teams track progress and collaborate, these tools help you quickly respond to user feedback and refine your product on a rolling basis.

Backlog, our own tool, was made for product teams. Developers can log in and track their work, pull tasks through, and get automatic notifications from their colleagues in real time. When it comes to responding to ever-changing customer needs, it’s a real game changer. Give it a try for free today!



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