Getting people to download an app is one thing, but if you want to monetize mobile apps, you need to keep users engaged. This is especially true if you’re using in-app purchases or advertising to monetize your apps. Users who don’t see ads can’t click on them, now can they?

On the one hand, you could say that high quality apps will keep users engaged. But on the other hand, there are a million and one apps out there competing for people’s attention. A few marketing-savvy design tricks never hurt anyone.

Engagement is just one more item to check off on your app marketing list.


1. Search Ads

Don’t just advertise to new users: remind existing users that they have your app. With dozens of apps crowding the typical user’s screen and over 1.2 million apps available on the iOS store alone, it can be hard to keep your customers’ attention.

Engagement ads were released recently by Google, and are on their way to becoming mainstream. With these campaigns, you can create ads in the Google Ad Network that only appear to users who already have your app. 

2. Social Media Ads

Facebook also released engagement ads to help keep users engaged with your app. These ads support deep-linking, so you can link directly from sponsored Facebook posts into your app. You’ll need to register your app with Facebook and ensure your app settings are configured properly. Documentation is available on Facebook’s website.

Recently, Twitter has followed suit with its own engagement ads that work along the same lines as Facebook’s. These ads use deep links to take users to a download link or into the app itself if the app is already downloaded.

3. Use Push Notifications

Just because someone’s not using your app doesn’t mean you can’t get in touch with them. Here are a few strategies for drawing them back in:

  • Triggers – If your app depends on geo-location, then have your app send notifications based on location triggers. Coupon apps, for instance, can notify users of bargains when they near a relevant store location.
  • Regular Reminders– Keep your users updated with useful information or relevant content from their app. Social media apps, for instance, can send out notifications about what their contacts are doing without them.

4. Gradually Introduce Your App

If your app has any depth, you can introduce that gradually to the user as they explore the app. Not every user will start out exploring every nook and cranny of your app, so certain features and functions may not be immediately apparent.

Here are a couple ways to do this:

  • Tips – Using little help bubbles, interstitial screens, or start-up tips are common in desktop software.
  • Notifications – If you obtain users’ email addresses, send out tips or features by email every so often after your app is downloaded. Push notifications are also a good way.

5. Offer Incentives

Incentives can be real-world incentives, like coupons, bargains, deals, or discounts. They can also be in-app incentives: video game power-ups, unlockable features, and “gamification.”

To gamify an app simply means to add a competitive element to the app, even if it’s a single-user program. For example:

  • Scores – If the app involves some sort of learning, then score or grade the user based on their performance. Awarding points, badges, and so on all tap in to a primal competitive drive to become Number 1.
  • Rewards – In-app incentives, such as unlocked features, can also help to gamify an app and further engage users. Even if the reward is a virtual medal that only exists in the app, users will still be more inclined to chase after that reward.
  • Competitions – Real-world competitions with other users adds to the fun of any app. Massively popular video game companies, such as Blizzard, have perfected the art of competitive gaming, by keeping extensive scoreboards and player rankings.

If you shoot for one metric, make it “exposure.” The more exposure your app gets, the more attention it receives, and the more likely it is to be downloaded. But that’s just the beginning.

Creating a great app is the first step to keeping users engaged, but you’ve also got to get a little bit sales-savvy with your app. Since 80% of apps receive fewer than 1,000 downloads, it’s in developers’ best interest to do everything they can to keep users engaged. More user engagement means more monetization potential, and more word-of-mouth marketing.

Get yourself set up with some in-app analytics and track your users’ engagement.

Test app design changes, interface changes, and new engagement tactics to keep users on board longer. The longer you keep your users, the more your audience will grow, and the easier it will be to monetize your mobile apps.