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The Best Metrics and Tools for Measuring User Engagement by@Appseecom

The Best Metrics and Tools for Measuring User Engagement


If you are reading this blog, there is a pretty good chance you know, at least to some degree, what and how important user engagement is. The real struggle at this point is no longer whether to measure it or not — now it’s about properly keeping tabs on it, and optimizing it accordingly.

In a nutshell — it’s similar to soccer. Everyone talks about it, but not everyone is really good at effectively enhancing it. That is what this article is about — you’ll learn which tools and metrics to use, to properly measure, and improve, user engagement.

What is User Engagement?

Depending on if we’re talking about products, websites, or in this particular case — mobile apps, the definition can vary. In the broadest possible terms, it revolves around users interacting with your app. User engagement can be measured through many things, from how often users open your app, how long they stick with it, what they do when they’re using it and if they’re recommending it to their friends or not. Basically, if they’re engaged with your app in any way. Some metrics, however, can be more important than others, mostly depending on what your app is about.

Nowadays, user engagement is considered one of the most important metrics for the success of your app. Just monitoring download numbers means nothing without the broader context — when the app is being used, how long and for what purpose. By measuring and understanding these KPIs you can stop people from abandoning your app too soon, keep them coming for more and most importantly — keep them satisfied. Properly monitoring user engagement is one of key ingredients to success and increasing engagment.

Which metrics to keep an eye on:

Daily app launches

What is it: A metric showing how many times your app was opened in a single day

Why is it important: It’s one thing to download an app, it’s a completely other thing to keep using it every day. This metric shows your key users — ones which enjoy your app, keep coming back to it and their view of your app on a necessity level.

Daily app users

What is it: This metric shows how many people open your app at least once during the day. It differs from daily app launches because it does not measure the frequency of app usage from a single person

Why is it important: It can show if your users are quickly losing interest in the app, and can point to possible problems in user experience

Session duration

What is it: Session duration is a metric which shows how much time users spend in your app, once they open it.

Why is it important: It can show the level of session user engagement. A shorter session duration does not necessarily have to mean a bad app. If the user got what he / she was looking for in your app fast, it can actually be a good thing. It is essential not to misinterpret this metric.

Session interval

What is it: This metric measures how much time has passed between two sessions.

Why is it important: As it shows how frequently users engage with your app, it can be a good indicator of the user experience. For example, if your audience is opening the app more frequently on the smartphone than on the tablet, it might mean it’s more useful on the go, and that you might need to improve the content that can be consumed at home. Vice-versa, it could mean that the limited real-estate of the smartphone is hindering the user experience, which is why they opt to use the app mostly on tablet.

Retention rate

What is it: Arguably the most important metric you’ll ever find. It measures if your users are coming back to your app or not.

Why is it important: Helps you gauge whether your user retention is improving or weakening over time. Also great to measure across devices and versions of your app.

User acquisition

What is it: It is the process of turning potential users into actual users. Whenever someone new installs and uses a new app, he or she is considered an acquired user.

Why is it important: Users are the base, the foundation of your app. Without users, your app is completely invisible, as if it doesn’t exist. This metric will ultimately affect your overall user engagement.

Number of screens per session

What is it: Do your users just open the app, and close it immediately? Do they scroll through it, opening different parts of it? That is what this metric is monitoring.

Why is it important: Knowing what users are doing within the app, the screens they’re opening and how they’re using them can be vital to noticing user experience issues, or interface problems. It also shows if some parts of the app are doing better than other, allowing you to focus your development efforts correctly.

Screens with longest and shortest visit duration

What is it: This metric is an extension of the ‘number of screens per session’ one. It goes into more detail about every screen, giving valuable information about the least and most popular parts of your app.

Why is it important: If some features of your app aren’t doing great, you can use this insight to improve it, or remove it altogether, focusing all your resources on what your users find useful.

Screens with most user interactions (gestures)

What is it: It shows on which screens people have most taps, swipes, flicks, drags, and so on.

Why is it important: This is a great metric to understand how users are navigating through your app, and that can be crucial to spotting trouble areas. This information can be vital to planning future versions and helping you bring back users that had given up on your app.

Occurrences of In-App Events (in a certain timeframe)

What is it: In-app events are all the things users can do when they engage with your app. There are countless events, depending on the type of the app. For example, a shopping app could have events such as registration, logging in, going to checkout, adding to wishlist, adding payment info, purchasing something. A mobile game can have events such as completing a level, buying an in-game item, or creating a new character.

Why is it important: There are two important things you can learn from monitoring in-app events. Firstly, you can understand how your audience behaves, helping you transform and optimize user experience. Second, you can create your marketing strategies around this information, to boost user acquisition and retention rates.

Lifetime value

What is it: Lifetime value, or LTV, is primarily a revenue metric, showing how much the users of your app are worth — moneywise. In other words, how much revenue they generated. There are different ways to track your app customers’ LTV, including monthly value, revenue per customer, or value per customer.

Why is it important: With LTV, you can understand your app’s revenue, user engagement, user retention and how many customers are actively engaged with your app. It offers invaluable insight into what you need to do to optimize your marketing strategies.

How to measure these metrics:

When you have a diversified user base, which is usually the case with mobile apps, the best way to monitor these KPIs is through cohort analysis. A cohort is, according to Adeven’s Simon Kendall, ‘a group of users who share some common criteria’.

Through cohort analysis you will compare the groups, watch how they perform either daily, weekly or in any other timeframe, and look for trends in their behavior. There are three main features you should focus on, all available through Appsee: action cohorts, conversion funnels, and retention analytics.

Action cohorts

What is it: It’s one thing for people to come to your app, it’s completely different to understand what they’re doing there. ‘Cohort’ is a term that’s used to describe a group of people who’ve banded together due to the same attribute. In analytics, action cohorts allow you to create groups of users based on what they do in your app within a specific time frame. Action cohorts can help you understand how users are actually interacting with your app and examine trends in behaviors and user engagement over periods of time. Through action cohorts, like Appsee’s, you can group users who perform certain tasks, like in-app purchases.

Why is it important: Action cohorts help you understand what your users need, what they expect from the app, and what you need to do to keep them coming back for more. Action cohorts analysis can help you optimize your app, and prepare future updates.

Example of action cohorts for recurring purchases.

Conversion funnels

What is it: A conversion funnel is the entire process app users go through — from the very first moment they encounter the app, to the moment they make an in-app purchase.

Why is it important: Analyzing conversion funnels allows you to spot issues in the user experience and user engagement. When part of a qualitative analytics platform, conversion funnels also allow you to zoom in on specific sessions of users who dropped from your funnels. If an app is a social media, a forum or similar format, it can help you understand why users fail to complete the registration form. If you’re offering an m-commerce solution, why they abandon the shopping cart. Or, if you are offering a mobile game — why users fail to complete a certain level or a specific boss fight. Appsee also allows you to create ad-hoc funnels after releasing the app, without having to re-submit it. Conversions funnels, especially when paired with session recordings, can help you identify friction points in critical user processes, optimize accurately, and increase user engagement.

Example of a conversion funnel with Appsee.

Retention analytics

What is it: Retention revolves around users who began using your app in a predefined timeframe, and within Appsee, this data is presented through cohort analysis, grouping users who started using the app at a specific point in time. Data about how frequently the app is used in different timeframes, is also available.

Why is it important: Retention analytics can help you understand how inclined users are to return and how many never do. It gives valuable insights on how long it takes for people to return to the app, the average session intervals, or numbers of sessions.

Measure twice, cut once

‘Measure twice, cut once’ an old proverb goes. Back in the day, it meant that you should prepare thoroughly before actually doing something. Obviously, it is relevant in app building as well, but with a big difference — cutting once, and measuring twice will not suffice. When it comes to building a successful mobile app, a more precise proverb would be ‘measure all the time, and keep measuring until the end of days’. Also, ‘cut’ whenever you have the chance. Don’t forget — most successful apps update frequently.

It is no longer a question if you should monitor your user engagement KPIs or not — now it is about monitoring the right ones for your app, understanding them and the broader context, and being able to optimize accordingly.