21 February 2023

Making your mobile app stand out: Five simple steps to achieve ‘stickiness’

Making your app stand out

Subscribe to our informative Newsletter

Learn about new product features, the latest in technology, solutions, and updates as well as company news.

Andrzej Schmidt

The mobile apps market is one of the most competitive on the planet. Despite the existence of around seven million apps across the two main platforms, Apple and Android, a 2021 Simform study showed the average mobile user has just 40 apps on their phone. That’s why having a hidden ‘it’ factor is so important.

Not only that but the same study showed 89% of a user’s time is split between just 18 of those apps – meaning more than half of these apps are installed but hardly used, or ignored completely.

And, for our team at GearedApp, that secret ingredient isn’t about adding fancy features at every turn – it’s creating an app your target audience appreciates so they keep coming back. Make it ‘sticky’.

What is ‘stickiness’?

Ensuring your mobile app’s stickiness is integral – whether you’re launching a new app or improving an existing one. It’s making sure your app is being used frequently, regularly and driving repeat users.

Ok, so that’s just the same as retention then? Well, no – not exactly. Retention is similar, and a good mark of success, but stickiness is more powerful. It means users are actively engaging with your app and then coming back because they want to, rather than being driven there by marketing efforts or push factors.

Your app has become an integral part of their mobile experience – you’ve achieved stickiness.

Why is stickiness important?

It’s a virtuous circle – the better your app performs, the easier it is to retain existing users and the more likely you are to attract new ones. It’s the ultimate proof that your app is doing what you intended.

More users, who are more engaged, also means richer data for your developers to finely tune updates for even greater future success.

That goes for new app projects as well, ensuring you can grow your portfolio of associated apps and products in a way that’s going to be helpful and rewarding for your target users.

How can you make an app sticky?

Now we know what we’re trying to achieve, and why it’s so crucial, how do we make an app sticky?

There’s no specific one-size-fits-all answer, but the overarching theme to achieving stickiness is simple – make your users happy. By adding value for them every time, you’re encouraging them to keep coming back.

A simple illustration of how to create this voluntary, high-frequency engagement is behavioural economist Nir Eyal’s ‘Hook Model’.

The four-phase process begins with a Trigger (1), which prompts your users to take Action (2) – in this case, by engaging with your app. Their Action produces a Reward (3), which could be anything from self-gratification to peer appreciation, before concluding with an Investment (4) that will improve your user’s experience next time they are Triggered to engage with the app.

Posting on social media is a good example of this model in practice. Say you have a funny video or a holiday photo you want to show your friends (Trigger), so you upload it to your social networks (Action). Your friends like and comment on it (Reward), which prompts you to interact with more people and results in mutual friends asking to connect with you so they can see your posts in future (Investment).

The gratification, or happiness, you get from that process encourages you to engage more frequently and regularly – besides any push notifications or adverts that might drive you back.

Top tips for stickiness

Of course, there are lots of ways to make your users happy, triggering them to engage. But, with the Hook Model in mind, here’s a few factors to consider when it comes to ‘sticky’ app development:

  • Solve a problem

There’ll be specific reasons every user downloads your app – aiding their communication with others, helping them do something, or even just filling their downtime. If you can achieve that aim then stickiness might not be far away. Take one of the most downloaded apps in the world, Whatsapp, which taps into its major advantage over traditional SMS – easy text message communication between groups. Any features over and above this are just creating additional triggers and future investment.

  • Seamless UX

This almost certainly won’t be a trigger factor for your users to engage, but anything that means your app isn’t easy to use and free of unnecessary barriers hinders them taking action. That means they’re less likely to continue investing in your product.

  • Understand your audience

If you know what your target market wants, you can tap into exactly what turns them into regular, voluntary high-frequency users. Ask what it is they need from your app? Why would they come to you to fulfil that need? If you can do those things, they’ll keep returning.

  • Adapt…

As the needs of your users change, your apps should keep up – even if you’re performing well. New features keep engagement levels high and make your product fresh and vibrant, not to mention responding to competition. Facebook and Instagram are models of success but even they’ve done this recently – adding Reels short videos in response to the rise of TikTok.

  • …But not too much

Adapting is important, but do it in a considered way and not to the detriment of your core purpose. After all, that’s why you achieved the holy grail of stickiness in the first place, right?!

Build your ‘tech for good’ with GearedApp

Our in-house team of curious self-developers work with organisations big and small to develop digital solutions that make a difference to our world.

You’ll feel supported by our friendly team of GearedApp pros from our initial sit-down chat all the way to releasing your finished product.
Get in touch today to find out more about how we work and how we can help turn your awesome ideas into a digital reality.