Increasing retention for social games
Retention is a tough topic. Every consumer app startup is concerned with it but no one really knows how to move it. Executing on retention can be brutal. You can try hundreds of different tricks, changes, tweaks, and pivots and still not see the needle move. It’s also a really important piece of data. For free consumer apps, your retention is a key factor in your customer lifetime value. Retention is one of the hardest and important metrics to move in a startup.
As Nabeel Hyatt points out, most people cannot move the needle on retention unless something is fundamentally wrong.
… in general you will not make retention go up materially post launch. I have seen virality increase materially, engagement go up, monetization improve, but rarely do you see retention really pop after launch.
Retention is a really hard problem.
At MinoMonsters, we’ve also struggled with retention. Our initial alpha product was a leaky bucket, shedding over 95% of new users within the first few minutes of play. Since then, we been ruthless about improving retention. Through strategic product changes, we’ve been able to raise our Day 1 retention to over 50%, where we sit today. The process has taken over a year and we’ve learned a lot along the way. Here are some of the things we did that helped.
- Have great aspiration. You want players to feel like they’re working towards something grandiose. You want them setting their own goals.
- Craft a clear, fun, first time user experience (FTUE). You need to teach players the game and how you teach it makes all the difference.
- Don’t make me read. Communicate visually in your game as much as possible. Show, don’t tell your players how to play the game. If players have to read just to understand what’s going on, you’ll lose them.
- Play with friends. Connecting and interacting with friends allows players to bring each other back into the game. Make this core.
- Build a fun game. There’s not much to say here. Fun games help retain players.
There are also some tactics you can use to increase retention. These aren’t silver bullets, but they apply to a broader set of consumer apps.
- Email lifecycle marketing. Email is an engagement channel that has stood the test of time.
- Constant content updates. If players know that you are constantly curating the game, they’ll come back to see what’s new.
- Timers. Give the players game content where coming back is part of the core game loop.
- Notifications. Use the notification channel of your platform to send relevant messages to your players.
And lastly, there are some things that are guaranteed to hurt retention.
- Slow load times
- Being confusing
- Being boring
We’ve used these strategies and tactics over the last year to 10x our Day 1 and Day 7 Retention. If you’d like to start moving the needle on retention today, here’s the best place to start.
- Do a funnel dropoff analysis of your FTUE. Fix the steps that are broken. If you don’t have a FTUE, build one.
- Start tracking Day 1 Retention. Make tweaks to your core game loop until it goes up. Do not focus on anything else until you reach 30%.
- Put the game in the hands of random people from Craigslist. Just watch how they interact with the game. Give them as little instruction as possible. Fix the user experience issues you observe.
Retention is a complex topic and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. We increased retention through focus, hard work, and bold changes to our product.
This post was originally published on Quora.
Thanks to Nabeel Hyatt for reading a draft of this.