How to Hack Your App Retention Strategy: Before Launch

This is part one of a 3-part series How to Hack Your App Retention Strategy: Before Launch, After Launch, and At 20,000 MAU.

An app’s beta is the moment where developers want to know whether their idea is worth turning into a lasting product. But you’re worried that no one will download the app in the first place, let alone talk to you about its merits. Focus groups or paid testers are costly when most developers build apps out of their own finances. How can you make a product users love before your bank runs dry?


Create a User Relationship

No matter what your monetization strategy is, the amount of time that a user spends in your app is the most relevant metric to focus on during beta. Stop using cost-per-install as your primary measurement. Getting users to download your app is not the same as getting them to use it. Try reading a user’s lifetime value (LTV) instead.

It’s important that you build a relationship with your users to increase LTV. ⅓ of app engagements last less than a minute, because no one is really invested in an app that they instantly downloaded for free. You don’t have the luxury of a large sample size for data right now. Make them stay by simply asking what they want.

Remember: Your friends and family are not your app market. Their advice, while perhaps useful, is a world apart from an actual user.

“You don’t need to research what your family wants for dinner…you just talk to them!” -John Riccitiello, CEO Unity Technologies

That means the first priority is to make your app’s feedback loop irresistibly human and approachable. You have an advantage here–a low amount of users means that you can take time to address them all personally. Get everyone to talk. Use their names when responding. Let them know that they’re speaking directly to the app’s team.

Target Satisfied Users

Research 3rd party in-app tools immediately to accurately target and measure users. Most SaaS products are free while you are in beta. It’s proven that users are far less likely to contact you via email or when made to leave the app. You also want solid analytics to back up what users are saying.

Make your “Help & Feedback” button embarrassingly obvious. Every user whose problem you solve is very likely to keep your app and tells others about their great experience. Never underestimate the power of a good review, even before launching in the app store.

Create a way for users to share or talk about your app organically. This is a great time to establish social media accounts and referral UI. You’re not in the store yet, so it’s crucial that users have a simple way to discover the product. It’s important to ask users to share your app after successfully helping them. A personal ask will always be more convincing than a push notification.

When you encourage feedback early, your app grows in two major ways. The feedback you receive helps you make product choices, kill bugs, and improve features. Feedback makes the app become a better planned product overall. Secondly, solving your users’ issues will create evangelists that talk about your app and grow your userbase. Without those things happening, your app will have trouble getting to an app store launch.

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