Is your New Year’s resolution to make your app succeed? The first and most important question you need to ask yourself when you are strategising for long-term app success is:

What’s more important to you, lots of downloads or lots of real users?

If the answer is downloads, then you may as well pack up and spend your money on a holiday, as you’ll be profligately throwing it into the arms of mobile networks and Facebook – and you’ll have very little to show for it (apart from an empty bank account).

The only way you can succeed in mobile is to build long-lasting relationships with committed and engaged users. This shouldn’t be a surprise as it’s the same with any brand or business, whether they’re on the highstreet or they’re digital. In mobile, however, we believe this relationship-building has become absolutely essential and should be the #1 focus for any app marketer.

Why? Because the typical mobile app user has changed. They have become more discerning; they aren’t as easily impressed as they have been in the past. They are not as bowled over by new app releases that do the same stuff they think other apps do, even with whizz-bang advertising or being featured on the App Store.

Fewer than 50% of UK app users downloaded a single app in September last year (Comscore, 2016). This is an astounding fact that bears repeating – that’s only 1 app over 30 days for over half of the Brits surveyed.

Equally as jaw-dropping, perhaps, is that even when an app has been downloaded, approximately 77% of users will drop off within the first 3 days (Apptentive, 2016).

This shows that if you manage to get someone to download and use your app at all then you should bloody well hang on to them! You need to treat them like royalty, look after them and nurture them. You would think that most app publishers, keen to make their app business a great success, do this.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. Very worryingly, fewer than 20% of all the apps on which Yodel Mobile ran app retention diagnostics have a retention strategy that even covers the basics.

You simply can’t rely on the quality of the app itself to drive this retention. There are very few apps out there that truly command such control over their users that they will open the app regularly, regardless of the app’s efforts. An app has to work very hard to hold their users’ hands and encourage them to develop the habit of opening it on a regular basis.

As a start, you must make sure that you have a clear understanding of what users are actually doing in your app. Once you know this, you must build out a super strong mobile CRM strategy. This starts with a thorough and progressive onboarding strategy within the app: you need to show users how to get the most from your app and how to find their way around.

This needs to be supplemented with push notifications (and potentially email) at all the key junctures of the early stages of the user journey. These need to be rigorously A/B tested to find the most effective combination in retaining your users.

It sounds easy – it’s not. But it works.

I’ll leave you with a final gulp-inducing stat to help you focus on the importance of user retention: according to Kantar World Panel, 26% of newly-installed apps are uninstalled within the first hour.