What is User Engagement and 5 ways to increase it on Apps

Are you as a mobile and web app owner looking to increase your user engagement?

Then, you should ask yourself a couple of questions such as: 

  • Why do you download an app in the first place?
  • Can you find what you are looking for in that app?
  • What makes you keep using that app?

If you can find a satisfying answer to each of these questions, then I can say that you have the fundamentals for users to engage with your app.  

You should keep in mind that user engagement comes out of a need and is sustained through a better user experience.

If you can tell yourself that you can satisfy the needs of your users, you can be sure that your engagement rates will increase.

Let’s begin with diving deeper into what user engagement is and why it is so important for SaaS businesses, 

And later, I will elaborate on the three questions that will give you a better understanding of user engagement and what you should look for to increase it.

What is User Engagement?

User engagement can be defined in various ways in relation to the context it is used in. In the world of applications, user engagement refers to how your users interact with your app. It answers various questions about user behavior, such as how often and how long your users use your app and to what extent they use it.

what is user engagement

The name user engagement can be tricky in the sense that you may perceive it as the way businesses engage with their users. However, as I said, user engagement means users engaging with your app. 

Having that in mind, let’s talk about the three questions that I emphasized in the introduction of the article.

1- Why do you download an app in the first place?

You may have thousands of reasons to download an app, and the reason you download an app tells a lot about user engagement. 

Let’s say you are a bit lazy or too busy to cook for yourself, you are not able to find options easily, and you don’t want to constantly search for food and call for delivery. Yet, on the other hand, you don’t want to spend too much money to eat as well.

You decide to look for food delivery apps to satisfy your need and download one.

Since it is a food delivery app, you will be using the app when you want to eat. So, unlike social media apps, food delivery apps have limited potential when it comes to the amount of time spent on the app. 

In this regard, users engage with a food delivery app for a specific need that comes out during specific times of the day. 

Can you find what you are looking for in that app?

Let’s keep going with the assumption that you are a bit lazy or too busy to cook, you are not able to decide what to eat easily, and you don’t want to search for food all the time.

What would you look for in a food delivery app?

Exactly! You would look for an app that is easy to use because you don’t have much time, an app that has many options, and an app that offers you promotions and affordable prices. 

Between a food delivery app that offers 2 promotions a day without many options and an app that offers 10 promotions a day with various options, it is highly likely that you will engage more with the second one. 

You will use it more often, and you will spend more time on that app because you want to discover more about the promotions and the options.

What makes you keep using that app?

There are a lot of factors that play an important role in keeping you use an app. 

These reasons may be its services or opportunities and conveniences it provides, such as promotions and options of a food delivery app.

In addition to what an app provides to you, how they provide it is also crucial.

This is why easy-to-use features can also help you increase your customer retention rate. 

To put it simply, the more you can increase retention, the more user engagement you will get.

What is the difference between engagement and retention?

Customer retention is the ability to get your users to revisit your product or service (app, website, etc.). In comparison to customer retention, user engagement refers to the time and the ways in which your users engage with your product.

Retention can be seen as an important metric to track user engagement.

If you cannot get your users to revisit your app, this simply means that they will not engage with your app anymore. 

Why is it important to track and improve User Engagement?

It is important to track and improve user engagement because it is a powerful indicator of success. 

Higher engagement rates show that your users find value in your app. 

With that being said, the more highly engaged a user is with your app, the more likely they will buy from you, promote your business through word of mouth to family and friends, and come back for more.

User engagement also tells a lot about user behavior. 

It is important to know when your users use your app the most and when they stop using it, and which features of your app are the most used ones. Knowing about these, you will have a better idea about how to provide a better user experience.

By analyzing these, your product team will be able to adjust better to user behavior, therefore needs and expectations. 

In doing so, they will create a better opportunity for your marketing team to know to which needs and expectations of your customers they should speak, which in return will increase the profitability of your app.

In other words, thanks to user engagement data, you will be better able to segment your users and interact with them accordingly.

Tracking User Engagement: Metrics and KPIs

Let’s look at some metrics to track user engagement.


The number of downloads doesn’t necessarily mean that users will engage with your app. However, it can give you an idea about how many people download your app and not even use it for some reason.

Research shows that there are between 60 and 90 apps installed on the average smartphone, while the average person uses 25 apps per month. And just ten out of these apps are used during %96 of that time.

The majority of people use apps just for once.

However, having engaged users is one of the keys to having a successful app. Your product should attract many different people, keeping them logging in to your app and staying active.

Active Users

Having looked at downloads, you should then focus on your active users. 

Active users don’t refer to the number of people who download your app and use it for once. Each app should measure active users in accordance with the expected frequency of the use of their app. 

Let’s say you have a reminder app and it requires your users to use it once a month. In this situation, you have to calculate active users on a monthly basis as well. 

This is why you should measure your active users daily, weekly, and monthly. 

Analyzing the number of active users, you can calculate your app stickiness, a metric that shows how likely your users are to engage with your app in the long run.

app stickiness calculation formula

The Number of Sessions

This metric measures how frequently your users interact with your app. 

The more frequently your users use your app, the more you can be sure that you are on the right path because this means they can find something to engage with your app.

number of sessions

However, if you see that the number of session decrease over time, you should find a way to get the attention of those users who lost interest to your app.

To do so, you can send push notifications and remind yourself to users informing them about new updates. 

You can also offer them discounts and rewards to attract them back to your app.

If you can constantly increase the number of sessions, this shows you are successful in what you are doing.

Average Session Durations

average session duration

It is often considered that the more a user spends time looking at the screen when using an app, the better the app is. 

This can be true for social media or news platforms. However, if a user spends so much time, let’s say in an app like Uber, then this doesn’t show success because it possibly means that the user is having a hard time finding a ride.

So, depending on the type of your app, you should analyze session durations and decide whether is good to have longer or shorter sessions. 

If your app is a similar app to Uber, an app that users should be quickly able to get what they need, you wouldn’t want your average session durations to be long.

However, let’s say yours is a media app, in this case you would want your users to look more on the screen because this is an indicator that they engage with your app. 

In this situation, it is your responsibility to produce engaging content so that you can increase average session durations which can be seen as a success for a media app.


One of the best ways to increase user engagement is to know how your users navigate through your app.

In this regard, screen flow helps you visualize your users’ journey through your app.

If you know how your users navigate through your app, it will be easier for you to detect the less attractive features of your app. It gives you the opportunity to make changes to make them more attractive to your users.

screen flow

By analyzing where your users spend most of their time or where they don’t spend time on your app, you can focus on improving your weaknesses. 

Session Interval

This metric gives you an idea about how much time passes between your users’ first session and the next one. 

It helps you understand user behavior of different types of users. 

Looking at this metric, you can also better segment your users and send push notifications accordingly. 

As in other metrics, the length of session intervals should be evaluated in accordance with the type of the app that you have.

A music streaming app like Spotify will probably have less session intervals whereas a platform like Airbnb will have more. 

The reason for this is that people are more likely to listen to music than go to holiday.


Retention is one of the most important processes of a business if not the most important. 

If your existing customers do not keep engaging with your product or your app to be more specific, then you should know something is wrong.

According to research, 65% of the profits of a business come from their existing customers.

It is vital to take care of your existing customers not because it reflects the success of your app but it also reflects the success of your business; in other words, how you take care of your customers.

It is really easy to calculate customer retention rate and you should always keep an eye on it. 

Here is how you can calculate your customer retention rate:

Top 5 Ways to Improve User Engagement

This is where you distinguish yourself from your competitors. The better you do what is suggested in these tips, the more user engagement you will get.

Let’s get into it the best user engagement strategies and practices!

#1 – Make a great first impression

Each day is a new chance to meet new users who will voluntarily log in to your app. You should keep that in mind and create your app to make them fall in love with you at the meeting stage.

So, the most crucial thing turns out to be the landing page. Your landing page and the message you are trying to deliver should be easy to understand, helpful, and beautifully designed to motivate your new users to visit your app more. 

You must make your customers feel welcomed!

You can send them a welcome message to greet them for becoming your users, or you can kindly invite them to your user onboarding flow.

welcome message

These are some of the best ways to leave a great first impression and establish a bond of trust between you and your users. 

#2 – Onboard your users like a PRO!

Creating the perfect user onboarding process is actually the best way to increase user engagement.

Because it is the part where you teach your users what your product does, how they can use it, and the value it offers. This is the part where you take new users to their “Aha!” moments and convert them into the masters of your product.

A good user onboarding process should be interactive to keep users engaged.

As they start their journey with your product by engaging and see that your product delivers what it promises as they use it, they will come back whenever they need the solution you offer.

user engagement tips

#3 – Offer relevant content and friendly design

Having relevant content parts is an excellent way to keep your users engaged because they want to add value to their life through your app.

When you provide them with valuable and relevant content, they will be staying with you to access more content. This is a great way to increase user engagement in-app. 

Along with the content itself, your presentation of content matters as well. Users want to be precise and goal-directed.

They must find and access what they want quickly. Hence your app’s design, in general, should be descriptive and specific, which is the short definition of being user-friendly. Users should easily find out the features that will contribute to their lives.  

#4 – Announce new and useful features in the right way

Change is the nature of tech products.

If you have an app, you will need to update your product, add new features, and remove the bugs constantly.

When there is an update, it is always good to let your users know about it. You should master the art of announcing features in the right way.

In-app messaging, emails and push notifications are proper tools to make your users active and engaged.

Third-party user onboarding tools such as UserGuiding offer you the chance to easily highlight new features and increase feature adoption.

Also, your new feature can be so attractive and useful to a user that they can come back when they are about to uninstall your app. See every new feature or even simple update as a chance to contact your users to encourage them to engage. 

#5 – Don’t forget to collect feedback

You can collect quantitative data from your users, but these numbers need analysis to gain meaning.

Instead, you can ask your users how you can improve the components of your app, including even the fonts and your style or why they do not like one feature.

Here’s our article on collecting, analyzing, and using feedback effectively.

These why and how questions will provide you with critical insights. You will know your mistakes and how to fix them. By adjusting your errors and making improvements through the feedback you have collected, you will encourage your customers to visit your app more.

All of these tips will help you take a step in creating a more interactive app that your users love. Increasing the in-app user engagement will provide you with active customers that support your business.

You can increase user engagement by activating your users right off the bat.

If you want more tips to increase user engagement, you should definitely take a look at our ebook to have a wider perspective on user engagement.

Best User Engagement Platforms for 2021

I will share with you the best mobile and web platforms to help you increase user engagement.

They will help you get work done much easier.

1- Firebase – Boost User Engagement for Mobile Apps

firebase user engagement platform for mobile apps

Firebase has so many useful features to help you increase the user engagement of your mobile app.

Here are some of these features:

  • Google Analytics > Lets you monitor app usage and gain insight into who your users are.
  • Predictions > Helps you predict future user behavior.
  • A/B Testing > You can run experiments to test ideas and learn how they impact metrics.
  • Dynamic Links > Helps you organically grow your app by deep linking users to the right place.

2- CleverTap – Personlized Omnichannel Campaigns

CleverTap user engagement platform for mobile apps

There are more than 10,000 brands that use CleverTap’s platform for a reason.

CleverTap has the following features that will give you the best abilities to increase user engagement via personalization:

  • You can group your users based on their intent, behavior, preferences, etc. to send hyper-targeted messages.
  • It helps you deliver a consistent experience across channels such as email, SMS, push, web push, in-app, WhatsApp, and more.
  • It lets you track uninstalls and other key metrics to understand churn and so that you can create effective win-back campaigns.
  • Help you connect with your users while they are in your app or on your website with in-the-moment relevance.

3- Airship – App Messaging Solutions

Airship is a user engagement platform mostly focused on mobile app messaging solutions.

As I put forward throughout the whole article, messaging is among the most effective ways to retain users and increase engagement.

The better you can use messaging, the more you will be able to increase user engagement.

4- UserGuiding – No-code Solution to Increase User Engagement for Web Products

UserGuiding’s easy-to-use tool helps you provide an all-around experience to your users and increase feature adoption, therefore user engagement.

Here are the use cases of UserGuiding’s tool:

UserGuiding use cases to increase user engagement
UserGuiding use cases to increase user engagement
UserGuiding use cases to increase user engagement

Making use of UserGuiding’s features, you will have an all-around solution to help your users make use of your product to the fullest. This way, you will give a reason to your users to engage with your product.

Here, you can take a look at the ways you can change the way you interact with your users and increase user engagement.


Now that you know increasing user engagement is up to you, your efforts, and the help that you can get through a third-party tool, you will be much better able to provide a better experience to your users and increase user engagement.

I love to emphasize throughout the all articles that I write that the best way to do something good for yourself is to start with an excellent user onboarding process and keep providing a great user experience to your users.

If you know how to go through all these processes, then you will definitely be good at increasing product adoption and user engagement rates.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the five levels of user engagement?

The five levels of user engagement are: discover, shop, buy, own, and advocate.

How do I get user engagement?

You can get user engagement by providing an excellent user experience for your users. Starting from a perfect user onboarding process, you should constantly help your users make use of your app in the best way possible.

What is user engagement in digital marketing?

User engagement in digital marketing usually means people clicking on the content that you are marketing. The term engagement may not correspond to the exact meaning of engagement when it comes to app usage because for an app, engagement means much more than just clicking or downloads.

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Mert Aktas

Mert is the Marketing Manager of UserGuiding, a code-free product walkthrough software that helps teams scale user onboarding and boost user engagement.