Seasonal Retention and Engagement Strategies for Your App

Boosting Retention and Engagement in Apps During the Holiday Season

The holiday season is almost here. This Black Friday and Cyber Monday, people in the UK are estimated to spend £3 billion on purchases. This is where seasonal retention and engagement app strategies can ensure you get a slice of that pie.  

Specifically, e-commerce, music and health and fitness apps will all see an increase in downloads around the holiday season. As users navigate through a flurry of holiday promotions and offers, it’s essential that you are cutting through the commotion and getting your app seen. But it is also a period of heavy competition, and getting your app in front of your relevant audience may be even harder than normal.  

Effectively applying seasonal retention and engagement strategies won’t just see you capitalise on this spike alone. If done well, you can propel your app into the new year with an extra boost of momentum, setting the stage for continued growth and success. It’s like giving your app a festive head start for the upcoming year. 

Develop an effective seasonal push notification strategy 

The average smartphone user receives over 40 push notifications per day. During the holiday season, this number increases significantly. Therefore, it is crucial that you complete two objectives when you create a push notification.  

  1. You need to engage your users and let them know what you uniquely have to offer them this holiday season.  
  1. More importantly, you need to make your push notifications stand out beyond your competitors. 

Travel apps are particularly impacted by seasonality and the holidays, which tend to determine travel peaks. A great example comes from TripAdvisor, a travel research app. It has leveraged holiday-based push notifications to re-engage users during certain peak times. As seen below, TripAdvisor is urging users to come back and check out places with ‘festive vibes’. Focusing on notifications that promote seasonal excitement helps remind users to return to the app and use it during periods of high intent and value. You don’t want to miss out on re-engaging users at such a critical time of the year. 

B&Q Black Friday & Trip Advisor Festive Notification 

Especially around Christmas time, e-commerce apps may struggle to retain users when so many brands offer deals and promotions. An easy win is driving abandoned cart users to purchase. As the holiday season may drive higher product browsing levels, you want users to commit to their purchases. To ensure your users don’t churn at such a pivotal point in the user journey, you can provide users with relevant push notifications about items in their cart or products they’ve previously shown interest in as a valuable re-engagement tool.  

We recommend utilising your Marketing Automation tool to create automation to notify users when they have left items in their basket. It’s always worthwhile testing your campaigns to find the optimal send time for purchase conversion, which for some of our clients is up to 4 hours after cart abandonment. This reminds users to return to the app and finish their purchase, increasing your conversion rates and boosting your app revenue.  

80% of consumers under 35 place a high value on personalised recommendations, emphasising the importance of tailoring content to individual preferences. You can do this effectively by utilising in-app product features like a Wishlist to pinpoint what a user has interacted with before. Leverage this data for your push notification strategy by asking users if they are still interested in the product. To make your strategy even more effective, set up a deep link that will take the user to the specific page where the product is, rather than just to the homepage, to reduce friction in the purchase journey. You can learn more about deep linking here on our blog

Use in-app messages to increase retention

In-app messages are slightly different from push notifications but are still designed to help retain and engage users. If you’ve ever received a welcome back message after not opening an app for a long time or a message in-app referencing new features the app has added, then you’ve seen an in-app message before. Telling users about events you are hosting and reminding them about already existing tools that would be important around the season can help to engage users.

Joe & the Juice’s recent in-app message is an excellent example of a compelling seasonal in-app message. Through effective design and copy, they foregrounded their seasonal Halloween campaign collaboration with Gym Shark to engage users and drive traction to in-life events. In-app messages show an average open rate of 75%, indicating their effectiveness. By incorporating in-app messages, Joe & the Juice has increased its ability to engage users for its seasonal collaborations.

Source: Joe & the Juice in-app message 

Do keep in mind that bombarding your users with notifications can have the opposite effect and turn them away. Make sure to strategically optimise your notification cadence to balance when and how many notifications you send to your users. You can use tools like Braze, Clevertap and Airship to create notification journeys around these seasonal holidays to get maximum visibility. You can dive deep into how to effectively use in-app messaging here.

Incorporate seasonal gamification

Gamification is the process of adding a game mechanic in a non-game environment to engage users in using your app and make it stickier. Gaming apps have used this strategy for a long time to engage and retain users. But this strategy is not locked behind just gaming apps. Famously, Duolingo uses limited-time badges to bring users back to their app and keep learning a language every month. They have driven virality around the ‘Duolingo Streak’, which users can share on social media – a great acquisition strategy to drive further organic and brand traction. 

Duolingo October Badge Event 

There are many ways to gamify your app with seasonality in mind. Some examples include: 

  • Advent calendars 
  • Seasonal badges and rewards 
  • Spinning a wheel to get a limited-time seasonal offer 
  • Offering increased points on a loyalty scheme during the seasonal period     

These features not only increase the avenues for engagement with your app, but they also offer the opportunity to leverage seasonality for a more sticky app experience. Implementing gamification elements for your app could result in higher retention rates, but ensure that it makes sense in the context of your app. Gamification strategies must still correlate with the app’s functionality purpose. 


Boosting retention and engagement in mobile apps during the holiday season is critical. Capitalising on the increased consumer activity during this period will increase your chances of ending the year on a high note.

As we have explored, push notifications can serve as a valuable communication channel to keep users engaged and informed about special holiday offers, events, and promotions. Also, making sure that notifications are personalised can help further engage users. Think about how your product can adapt during this time. Gamification can incorporate game-like elements into the app experience, which can encourage users to engage with promotions of features. You can see further success by tracking how users behave with your push notifications or gamified element and improving product and CRM strategies that aren’t driving as much engagement throughout the year.

By applying these strategies, you can create a festive and engaging environment that keeps users returning for more, leading to increased conversions and a loyal user base. This way, you can ensure your app’s holiday season is a success.

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Smokehouse Yard, 44-46, St John Street, London, EC1M 4DF 🇬🇧