Growth hacking won’t make your app sticky — these 6 fundamentals will

App stickiness is an art. It requires a deep understanding of the end user and the way they interact with the app. It’s hard to achieve for most. However, there are six elements that keep users coming back for more.

A Defined Problem

Facebook fulfills our inherent need to connect; Twitter is great for sharing thoughts quickly and easily; YouTube taps into our desire to both see into each other’s lives and be a star. At the core, they are all solving a real problem or fulfill a desire.

Defining the problem lays the groundwork for building a sticky app and is the first step in design thinking. This approach to development keeps all of the focus on the end user. Concentrating on your users may seem common sense, but many founders make decisions without consulting their target audience first. This leads to many problems down the road, like misunderstood features, useless functionality, and in the worst case, a failed product.

To avoid wasting resources, you’ll need to narrow in on the real problem your users are having. The key is to be specific, but not too specific where you’re defining your own solution. For example, let’s say you received market feedback that the customer experience your retail company is providing to returning customers isn’t up to par with your competitors.

Source: Cielotalent

Here are a few examples of how one might address this problem:

  • “Improve the customer experience.” (Bad — open-ended)
  • “Improve the customer experience during the checkout process.” (Better — context is defined)
  • “Improve the customer experience for returning customers checking out of the site.” (Best — Addresses the user and context)
  • “Improve the customer experience during the checkout process by utilizing live chat popups so the user can be in touch with support at all times.” (Bad — Leaves no room to explore other solutions)

Seamless Onboarding

An app that solves a problem might earn stickiness for being useful in and of itself, but if it’s difficult for users to start using an app (too many requests for information, lack of direction, too many steps to sign up), users will become frustrated and delete the app after one use.

On the other hand, seamless and intuitive onboarding can increase user lifetime value by up to 500% and links to higher retention rates.

Onboarding should give your users a high-level overview of the app, show how it will benefit them, and show what they need to do step by step. Nothing more and nothing less.

Fresh Content

If you want people to come back, you need to give them a reason. Imagine using a fitness app that never adds new routines. You might work out for a few months, but ultimately, you’ll get bored once you run out of fresh content. Adding new features and personalized content to your app on a regular basis re-engages users and keeps them from losing interest. If your users are wondering what they’re missing when they’re not in your app, then you’re doing something right.

Take Snapchat Discover for example. Every day, new, relevant content is surfaced. Although the app has millions of users and a number of established brands using the app, the concept applies to any app.

Tracking Power Users

Power users are users that find the most value in your app. To get the best insight, you need to track them, see how they use your app, and figure out what keeps them keep coming back for more. Take the 5–10% using your app most frequently — for example, those who spend more than 3 minutes in your app 3–4x a week — and see how they’re acting differently.

How do they move through the app? What type of content are they engaging with most? Who are they? Once you have that data, you can leverage that insight and will be able to adjust your features to highlight these experiences to the rest of your audience. You will also be able to adjust your marketing strategies to accurately target your power users.

An Emotional Connection

Building a strong brand personality that resonates with your target audiences can create fierce loyalty among your user base. If you’re delivering authentic, valuable experiences and you’ve branded it effectively, people are less likely to switch to a competitor.

91% of consumers most value honesty about product and services ー including apps. It’s important to stay in line with your value proposition and meet your user’s needs first and foremost.


Ultimately, stickiness is just an engagement metric that indicates long-term mobile app health. Formula: Power Users (% of people who open an app 10+ times per month) + Loyal Users (% of people who return to an app within three months of their first session) = App Stickiness.

Make stickiness one of the key metrics you track regularly so nurturing it stays top of mind. This will play an important part in the decisions you make across any aspect of your app.


To create a sticky app, keep the following in mind:

  • Defining the main problem your users have will lay the groundwork for building a sticky app.
  • Create a seamless and intuitive onboarding experience to decrease churn rate and increase user lifetime value.
  • Adding new content on a regular basis re-engages users and keeps them from losing interest.
  • Track your power users, analyze their behavior, and iterate based on that insight.
  • Build a strong brand presence that connects with users on an emotional level.
  • Measure stickiness to figure out what does and doesn’t work on a continual basis.