Jan 5, 2018 by Anand Ethiraj

You have launched your mobile app; with bated breath closely tracking the number of downloads/installations. With the crossing of each milestone number, the excitement increases. After all, the more your product is lapped up, the indicator it is that you have hit the sweet-spot. And we all know that strong metrics are fundamental to building strong products. But, which metrics tell you the real story? How do you actually know that your customers are getting tangible value out of your product?

While the complete story depends on multiple factors, including metrics, reviews & feedback, shares, revenues and even market buzz, user engagement is a good indicator that users are realizing value out of your product. And if users are realizing value, they are more likely to stay, refer and bring revenues… and help you grow.

There are many ways in which user engagement can be measured. The choice of metrics depends on a number of factors, including the type of product, the audience being targeted, the age of the product, and many more. You can read more in our blog on “A simple guide to app analytics.”

Let’s look at a logical structure of metrics for measuring user engagement.

Active users

The unique number of users “active” during a specific time period is a basic measure to see whether and how strongly your product is being adopted (or not). Daily, Weekly and Monthly Active Users is a metric that’s an import from metrics for websites. Now how you define ‘active users’ is central to the relevance of this metric. Merely launching the app may not constitute being ‘active.’ You can look at ‘active’ as sharing / updating / performing a transaction / looking for specific information or service.

A more refined way of looking at active users is stickiness, which is usually gauged by the ratio of daily active users to monthly active users. This gives you an indication of the number of days in a month the average user is interacting with the app.

User retention

Retention is the percentage of users who are active after installing your app. This can be measured as retention rate after Week 1, Week 2, Month 1, Month 3 and so on. This is a very useful way to measure engagement as it shows the value of the app to users. While the numbers may fall initially, they tend to taper down to a rhythm afterwards. But if the number is abysmally low or zero, then the product is in big trouble. The aim should be to hook the users and keep them engaged very early into their signing up.

Acquisition rate

The logical extension of retention is acquisition and/or conversion. Potential users turned into actual users (when someone new installs and uses your app) they are considered acquired users. The percentage of potential customers who started a trial and end up converting to paid customers is conversion rate. Tracking these means you are tracking whether the app is visible in the market or not.


There are multiple metrics associated with interaction, which are essentially about what the users are doing with your app and how they are using it; and they speak a lot about user experience.

1.  Session interval – The time between two sessions. This metric shows how frequently users are engaging with your app.

2. Session duration – The amount of time the users spend in the app. This shows the level of engagement. However, care should be taken to interpret this metric correctly, as short duration may actually be good for some apps as the user is able to quickly get what he/she wants.

3. Screens per session – This measures what the users are doing after opening the app – closing, scrolling, opening different parts of the app, etc. This metric not only shows the engagement, but also helps you take some decisions regarding in-app purchases or advertisements.

4. Screens with longest and shortest visit duration – An extension of ‘screens per session’ this metric goes into detail about engagement in every screen, throwing light on the least and most popular parts of your app. This helps you know what to knock off, what to retain and what to improve on – screen by screen, feature by feature.

5. Screens with most user interactions (gestures) – Identification of screens where users are most active through gestures like taps, swipes, flicks, drags, and so on. This helps you understant how users are navigating through your app, and thereby plan your upgrades/revisions/tweaks.

6. In-app events – This metric looks at all the things users are doing when they engage with your app. For example, a shopping app could have interactions ranging from registration to creating a wish list to check out to purchase. Using this measure, you can understand how your user base is behaving (helping you transform and optimize user experience) and create marketing and engagement strategies around this information, to boost user acquisition and retention rates.

While there are several metrics available, the key is in choosing the right, optimal mix. Tell us how you are tracking the engagement in your product/app. Let’s keep the conversation going.

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