Why do mobile users delete apps?

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Why do mobile users delete apps?


The challenge of mobile retention has recently taken center stage, and for very good reasons. Many mobile professionals have already suggested their take on what makes mobile users swipe away from a product. In the following lines, we will attempt to answer this question from a mobile user onboarding standpoint.

First, let’s start with some bad news. As mobile marketers and developers well know, acquiring users (which is not a real thing, but we'll get to that in different post) is a difficult challenge on its own. It requires time and money to reach relevant users and provide them with compelling content that will convince them to hit install. But the really harsh reality is that even after marketers have managed to “acquire” users, they will only hold onto them for a very short while. Statistics show that most users will abandon an app within three days from installing it. Not only that, but they are most likely to give an app one, maybe two, chances before turning their backs on the product for good.

For mobile marketers, this data means one thing: money down the drain. The following lines will examine a few key point to take into consideration when tackling the challenge of mobile retention, because understanding why mobile users delete apps is the first step at getting them to keep yours.

What does “abandoning” really mean?

The more obvious explanation to app abandonment is uninstalling your product. There are, however, a few other interpretations. Some users will hold onto your product in the sense that they will not delete it, but they will also fail to open and use it. As mobile users tend to cherish their available device space, they are likely to uninstall apps every once in awhile. This means that if yours managed to “float” for a certain period of time, it will most likely be deleted during the next mobile spring cleaning.

It’s important to understand the different levels of mobile abandonment, since there is a way to approach mobile users on each stage. Dormant users are different than former users, and even engaged users who miss out on a specific feature, believe it or not, are at risk of becoming future deleters. This article will focus on users who uninstall a mobile product, but other forms of abandonment deserve your immediate attention nonetheless.

The critic state of mind

Assuming you take your mobile endeavour and app retention rates seriously enough, you must have conducted a comprehensive market research. Chances are, you have soon realized that your app isn’t the only one aiming to provide a certain value to users. There’s competition to face and it is not easy. Many apps enjoy only their 15 minutes of mobile glory because first time users quickly proceed to download their competitor. Even worse - your competitors could already be installed on users’ device, while they try to decide if you have anything better to offer. If users do not see your app’s unique capabilities right away, there is a high probability that they will abandon it for the next in line.

There’s an app for that -but why?

When you set out to build your app, you must have given a lot of thought as to what your product’s value should be. Problem is, your first time users probably do not share the same feeling automatically. You must explain it to users during the mobile user onboarding stage. Many developers make the mistake of assuming that users will be automatically excited to engage with their product, when in reality, users often fail to understand what it actually does. If users downloaded your app because it sounded interesting, or had great PR, that doesn’t mean they are already along for the ride. Far from it. Failing to understand your app’s value is a serious cause for app abandonment, and one you should take into consideration when building your app and crafting your mobile onboarding process. Before you create an app tutorial that will explain to first time users how to use your product - first explain why.

The trust issue

Unfortunately for all of us in the mobile arena, there are plenty of apps that exist for one shameful purpose - absorbing user data. With flashlight apps serving as an excuse to reach private information on users, it is no wonder that serious apps now have to deal with a high level of suspicion from users and a low app retention rate. Asking for too much, too soon and without providing a good explanation is a great way of getting users to run away from your product.

When mobile marketers decide to ask something - anything - from users, they must first realize the sensitive state of mind user are in and address it. An app that feels intrusive to users will suffer from insufficient mobile retention rates, even if its intentions are pure. The way to deal with this problem is by creating a compelling explanation as part of your mobile onboarding process, and letting users know why you need access to certain details, and what they have to gain from it.

Understanding mobile user frustration

If one would attempts to explain why mobile users delete apps in one sentence it would be: because they are frustrated. It could be that they are frustrated with how long it takes the app to upload or provide answers, or that the apps simply crashes regularly (slow and buggy apps suffer from a very low retention rate, and rightfully so). But even perfectly functioning apps are often the cause of mobile user frustration, and here’s why:

First time users expect a simple and immediate solution to a problem. That is the unwritten agreement between app developer and users. However, in order to reach that solution, users are required to go through a series of obstacles; They have to complete the app’s registration process, decide whether or not they should give the app permission to access their most personal data, and then understand how to use each and every feature within the app. That’s already a lot of work for something that is meant to be simple. The annoyed user grows even more frustrated when the app’s creators choose to leave him or her on their own, without a proper mobile onboarding process or app tutorial, and try to figure out how each obstacle should be handled.

Developers and product managers must do their own work in order to minimize the effort required from users, and that’s what mobile user onboarding is all about. When providing a compelling explanation to each permission request, users are less frustrated when having to decide if they can trust the product. A great app tutorial would help them learn how to work with the app right away. In other words: the real source of user frustration isn’t really the initial encounter of mobile users with a product - it is the developer’s reluctance to take steps in order to prevent that frustration in the first place.


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