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Retention and App Success: The Skylab USA Experience

Most apps are abandoned within the first 90 days; in fact, apps lose 80% of their users by that time and even more striking is the fact that 50% of all users who uninstall an app do so in the first 4-5 days. Another sobering statistic is that half of all apps are abandoned after only 10 logins.

Successful apps are those that do an excellent job of providing users with experiences that fulfill their needs. The key word here is Engagement or perhaps more accurately, the lack of engagement.

Engagement has been defined as a cognitive, emotional and behavioral connection between a user and technology such as an app or a social media platform. A related term is “stickiness” or how often users come back and use an app. Although there is some disagreement about how to measure engagement, stickiness has a precise formula for its calculation

Daily Active Users

According to M. Lalmas-Roeleke, Yahoo’s Director of Research, there are core user engagement metrics that every app owner must track:

  1. How many people uninstall the app on a daily basis

  2. How many people return to the app after launching it, within 1, 3 and 7 days

The uninstall rate for Android apps is 33% for new users and 31% for existing users. The uninstall rate for IOS apps is 15% for new users and 13% for existing users. Another important metric to track is the average times users spend in each session. The longer they stay on the app each time they access it is a sign of how much value they find in the app. Longer session lengths are signs that user is happy with the experiences provided to them. Furthermore, longer sessions are a good measure of the effectiveness of marketing and promotional campaigns. “If a product doesn’t form a habit, it’s going to be abandoned” Nir Eyal, product psychologist.

Skylab USA is an example of a social media platform that has been “habit forming” for its users; it has had consistently high levels of brand engagement averaging over 600 times greater brand engagement than Facebook (based on Forrester research studies 2015-16). In addition, Skylab’s many business units (or planets as they are called) exhibit high levels of “stickiness” as evidenced by a number of incredibly long streaks (defined by Skylab as the number of days in a row a user launches the app); its not unusual to observe consecutive days well over 365 days in a row or more. In fact, Skylab has created new metrics for tracking beyond DAU and MAU (neither of which adequately reflects the very high level of engagement exhibited by users on the various Skylab apps).

These new metrics are SEU (Super engaged users; those users with a high number of sessions during a given time period, day, week, month), SCU (Super Consistent Users, those users who display very long active streaks- number of consecutive days on the app) and SLU (Super Loyal Users; those users who continue using the app over an extended period of time).

Skylab also has above average retention with significantly more than 5% of users for each of the unique apps still using the apps after 120 days (as the table below illustrates) compared to the average app which has an abandonment rate on average of 95%. The average % of users at 120 days for Skylab users is 33% or 6 times higher than the usual retention %.

Skylab Average Monthly Users Feb 1, 2018 through May 31, 2018

Planet30 days120 daysHybrid Central88%38%Powur PBC86%41%TEM86%66%Elevata84%20%Cheer48%30%Ultimate Game47%22%Gravity47%24%Mind Movies45%42%Allysian19%28%Trilogy8%17%

6 times as many Skylab users are still using the app over 90 days from launch compared to the average app user (33% vs 5%).

Perhaps even more surprising is the fact that several older Skylab planets(which first launched their apps over two years ago; Allysian and Ultimate Life) have more than 5% of their users still on the app after 700 days which is significantly above (i.e., 139 times) the global averages cited by Business of Apps and other app research providers.

What makes Skylab USA’s retention numbers so much greater than the average app? The answer lies in its adoption of social-cognitive learning methodology including self-reinforcement, self-efficacy and modeling. The planet architects at Skylab make sure that the user experience is optimized by a gamification platform that follows the principles of self-determination theory where the users’ autonomy, competence and relatedness are emphasized. In addition, Skylab utilizes its own unique form of contextual gamification termed “value-based gamification” which maximizes the positive motivating effects of rewards but controls any de-motivating effects by using effective schedules of reinforcement and preventing over-justification from occurring. In summary, Skylab has achieved such high retention and high engagement by designing the user experience to be highly self-reinforcing and internally motivating (i.e., generating high levels of intrinsic motivation and very low levels of extrinsic motivation).


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