First and foremost, no mobile application metric or KPI is going to be more important than the star rating. Before we can delve into the crowded world of digital marketing statistics, let’s just get it out of the way: the star rating’s superficiality is what will enable many users to decide whether an app is downloadable or not.

 

A star-rating is so important that it could even deter users from downloading the app of a brand they like. When you see low stars, what immediately comes to mind? Probably crashes, long load times, misleading features; an app that doesn’t deliver what it promises.

 

So to reach the point where an app’s star rating is high, developers and whoever else is in charge of production, execution, strategy, etc. needs to focus on the numbers that will facilitate optimized performance and relevant, helpful, and engaging content.

 

Only through optimization and delivering a polished, quality product can you expect people to download the app and, most importantly, to continue using it.

 

It’s natural to assume downloads would be the key metric. After all, that’s how developers make some of their money back if they did in fact create an app that charges for use. However….

 

“‘The number [downloads] means nothing without context. Downloads only enable an app to succeed, they do not indicate actual success,’says Brant DeBow, EVP of technology at BiTE Interactive. Too many brands are still concerned with eyeballs, treating apps as if they were a TV ad.

 

The best ads have stickiness and offer something inherently valuable to users.'”

 

That term stickiness is going to show up frequently here. What Brant says makes perfect sense. You can’t simply create an app just for it to be downloaded. It needs to offer a “clear solution to a problem their users face with success affirmed by users visiting the app repeatedly.”

 

It needs to have Lifetime Value (LTV), which is “the value of a mobile user as compared to a non-mobile user – if your mobile user is more loyal, spends more, and/or evangelizes more than your regular consumer, your mobile strategy is working.”

 

Is someone going to recommend an app or give it a five-star rating simply because they downloaded it? Or are they going to give it that premier rating because of the features within the app? Getting an app downloaded is just good marketing. Retention within the app is the key KPI to measuring success:

 

“Retention is one of the biggest challenges of mobile apps today, as 65% people stop using them three months after install,’ says Cezary Pietrzak, director of marketing at Appboy…Anyone can download an app, but it takes a special kind of app to compel people to use it with regularity. Your monthly active users (MAU) or daily active users (DAU) are your key users.”

 

Now the question is how do you retain users? To start off, you need to consider the app you’re marketing and which KPIs are more applicable and significant to that type of app:

 

“For games where ARPU (Average Revenue Per User) is naturally very low per individual user yet there may be many active users, a good KPI may be focused on keeping users engaging as long as possible. For a SaaS (Software as a Service) app where most users are freemium users, the best KPI is most likely focused on how well you can convince free users to become paid users.”

Here’s a few KPIs that every app should consider:

 

 

  • Session Time
      • “Just like page views versus time spent on the web, session length on an can help mobile strategists quantify the depth of a person’s relationship with an app, says Pietrzak. You want a sticky, compelling app; stickiness lends an app toward longer sessions.”

     

    • “Measured as the time period between app open and close. It indicates how much time your users are spending in your app per individual season. The more engaged they are, the longer their session length.”

 

  • In-App Purchases

 

Basically what this means, and let’s use a game as an example, is delivering the most basic tenets of the app, but holding out the best stuff for those that either play the game long enough (Retention!) or cave in and buy those extra incentives.

 

Take for instance a free Poker app I’ve become accustomed with. Now I can play hand after hand, day after day to reach a certain chip count so I can play with the high rollers, or I can shell out $10 or so and reach that point in a single transaction.

 

Or, as another example, the extremely popular The Simpsons Tapout game where you get to build your own version of Springfield. I can spend day after day giving characters tasks to complete so that I can have the money and XP to buy certain items. Or I could just spend $20 and get those items with a click.

 

These are the hallmarks of an effective gaming app. The games are addictive, entertaining, and free, at least to start off. It’s not until you play for so long, however, that you’re almost required to pay if you want to keep playing. You’re left with the choice of either trudging your way through task after task or game after game, just paying to move up a level, or quitting that highly-addictive game.

 

  • Number of screens/pages visited

 

This KPI speaks not only to how engaging the content is on the app, but how high-quality the app’s performance is as well. A user should be able to seamlessly launch the app, load new pages, make purchases, play the game, or whatever it is the app promises, without thinking, “What’s taking so long?”

 

That momentary delay in seamless transitions can disrupt an entire experience. It’s like reading a good article and stumbling across a grammatical error. It just throws you off. Even worse, it makes you want to experience something that isn’t buggy and filled with problems that should have been worked out before.

 

  • Grant Permission
    • “A surprising yet important engagement-based KPI is when users grant permission for the app to access personal information. This KPI is important because it signifies a bond of trust between the user and the app which isn’t inherently given to every app.”

 

  • Performance
    • App crashes, app load per period, network errors, etc.

 

The number one reason an app gets deleted is because of technical issues.

 

This is where the editing and fine-tuning process play a critical role. It doesn’t matter how much you strategize, how quality the content is, how addictive the game is, or how engaging the material is, your app will be deleted if it does not work, is laden with errors, or crashes upon opening.

 

  • Retention Rate
    • Highlights your most engaged — and valuable — users, creating better targeting opportunities and personalization of the app experience.

 

This, no matter the type of app you choose, is the most valuable KPI to build off of. It’s how you know users are satisfied with the app because they’ll keep coming back. Your app’s accessibility, navigability, performance, content, and longevity have all passed the test if that’s the case.