This article was published on April 15, 2018

7 signs your app is on its way to the cemetery and how to revive it

Don't let your app die!

7 signs your app is on its way to the cemetery and how to revive it
Sabih Javed
Story by

Sabih Javed

Freelance Writer

Sabih Javed is a certified inbound marketer and a professional freelance writer who writes on digital marketing. He has worked with leading Sabih Javed is a certified inbound marketer and a professional freelance writer who writes on digital marketing. He has worked with leading marketing blogs, businesses, and digital marketers. You can contact him via his blog

Making users stick with your app is getting more and more challenging as their choices keep increasing. There are well over 2.8 million Android apps and 2.2 million iOS apps out there and still counting. The competition is fierce and there is little room for mistakes.

In most cases, you’d never know that your mobile app is on its way to the cemetery. Even if you know it, there’s little you can do when users start losing interest in your app. It calls for proactive planning, in-depth analysis, and regular monitoring right from day one that will help you stay ahead of your competitors and to save your app from getting lost (or uninstalled).

The big question is: How to do it?

Below are the signs that will help you determine if your mobile app is on its way to the cemetery and what steps you can take to revive it before the damage is done. The whole point is to be proactive and take precautionary measures on-time so you can avoid losing your entire user-base.

1. Decline in revenue

Is your mobile app performing poorly in terms of revenue that it generates? Is revenue declining every month?

It’s a clear sign that your app is not doing well and is moving towards the graveyard. The worldwide mobile app revenues are increasing every year and are expected to hit $188.9 billion by 2020.

According to Fortune, App Store and Play Store mobile app revenue rose by 35 percent in 2017. So a declining app revenue is a reason to worry.

To fix this revenue issue, you need to find average revenue per user (ARPU) which refers to the average revenue generated per user. Here is how to calculate it:

Total revenue (in a specific period, say a year) / Total number of users (in that specific period)

For instance, the ARPU for last three months is $50. Here is what to do next:

  • If the number of users declined in the past three months, you need to bring more people onboard as it will increase overall revenue
  • If the number of users remained constant or increased gradually but total revenue kept on declining in the past the months, try increasing ARPU by push notification, in-app purchases, etc.

2. Not enough app downloads

A decline in revenue itself won’t show you the complete picture. Therefore, you have to look at other factors to figure out why your app is failing.

A decline in the app download is one of the biggest reasons that will ruin revenue and will negatively impact your app. Getting people to download your app is challenging.


Because the app industry is huge and your users have a lot of options to choose from.

There are several ways to increase app downloads. Some of the best ones are discussed below.

Price drop If your app is paid, the best approach is to reduce its price. A study revealed that games that reduced the price for a week had their revenues increased by a whopping 437 percent in a week.

Simply reducing price won’t work but you have to promote your app during price drop to boost downloads. It’s an awesome strategy but use it with extreme caution as it can backfire.

Influencer marketing Asking an influencer to promote your app is a cost-effective and powerful technique to increase downloads (exponentially). Influencer marketing delivers 11x higher ROI than any other form of digital marketing.

Bejeweled hired top Instagram influencers for promotion. Influencers posted their pictures playing the game with hashtags and asked their followers to download the game.

This one campaign moved Bejeweled from 545 to 135 position in top-grossing iPhone games chart in the US and it jumped to 182 top-grossing apps in the Apple store.

Try hiring a few influencers to see similar results.

Guest post You can publish high-quality guest posts on a few famous sites to increase app downloads. This won’t cost you any money but it’s sure to work.

You need to make sure that you publish guest post on a website where your primary target audience hangs out. For instance, if you’re promoting a game, publish a guest post on a site where gamers hang out such as PC Gamer.

A mediocre guest post on a highly relevant website is way better than a killer guest post on an irrelevant website. Relevancy should be your top priority.

3. User inactivity

Statistics show that the average app retention rate jumps to 22 percent by the third month while retention rate for the first month stands at 37 percent. This means users will stop using most apps with the passage of time (for several reasons known and unknown).

User inactivity is known as churn and is defined as the number of inactive users who don’t return or use your app in a specific time period — which is normally 30 days. This means if a user doesn’t use your app for 30 days, he will be considered an inactive user (known as churn).

Churn is directly related to your app and user experience. Why?

Because a user downloaded your app and then stopped using it. There could be several reasons why a potential user will stop using your app but it will most likely fall into one of these categories:

  • The app isn’t what a user thought it will be. This issue can be solved by making your marketing message clear. Don’t create hype. Clearly communicate the unique selling proposition of your app.
  • A user doesn’t know or understand how your app will solve his problem. Focus on user onboarding by helping users how they can use your app and how it will help them solve their problem (the reason why a user downloaded your app). More on user onboarding coming next.
  • Your app lacks stickiness. You need to work on making your app sticky so it retain users and don’t let them go. More on this later in this guide.

If you manage to get control of these three challenges, you can reduce churn rate effectively.

4. Poor onboarding process

A poor user onboarding process will drive your app to the grave without you getting a hint of it. A high churn rate (as discussed above) is an indicator of a failing onboarding process.

If a major chunk of users doesn’t return after first few sessions, it means you need to fix your onboarding process. In order to make user onboarding a breeze, help users achieve their first success with your app quickly.

The moment they achieve their first success, their engagement increases and they’re more likely to return. That’s one sure way to reduce churn.

Here’s an example from Clash Royale. As soon as you download the game, you’re pushed to a mock battle. The user learns everything in the mock battle and that’s where he achieves first success with the game.

Here are a few immediate steps you can take to improve user onboarding:

  • Help users achieve their first success with your app in the very first session
  • Guide and train users on how to use your app
  • Clearly communicate (and show) how your app will help them
  • Only show critical features of the app — let them discover rest themselves

5. Decline in app stickiness

Fun and helpful onboarding process is the beginning. A great onboarding process will definitely reduce churn but it won’t increase sessions. If your app doesn’t have the potential to keep users stick and to retain them for a decent time period, it will eventually fail.

Stickiness is an indicator of popularity that is measured by dividing daily active users by monthly active users:

DAU/MAU = Stickiness

Low stickiness means users don’t like having sessions with your app, and it will eventually make them inactive. You have to keep users engaged once they have installed your app and are using it.

The best approach to make your app sticky is to use FOMO (fear of missing out). People don’t like experiencing FOMO, and this is what you can use to make your app sticky.

All you have to do is create a fear of missing out so users stick with your app. Here’s an example of how Spotify uses FOMO to make its free users realize what they’re missing.

There are three ways you can make the best use of FOMO, according to Walter Chen:

  • Get free subscribers to upgrade by showing them what they’re missing
  • Re-engage with idle app users
  • Stop users from canceling their accounts

Besides, you can use other tactics to keep users engaged so they don’t stop using your app. The two best tactics include push notification and app iterations.

Push notifications Statistics show that push notifications increase user engagement by a whopping 180 percent. So start using push notifications to keep users hooked.

App iterations Continuously add new features that don’t let users go. This is one critical aspect of app stickiness. If there isn’t anything new in your app and a potential user has tried everything, what’s the point for him to use your app?

You need to provide something new every now and then to ensure users don’t lose interest.

6. No major app update for ages

If you haven’t updated your app for months, it is one clear reason why it’s underperforming. If you haven’t added new features (as discussed above) for a few good months, there isn’t anything new in your app for users.

That’s the point where loyal and engaged users will churn and your app will soon end up in the cemetery.

Lack of app iterations and updates don’t just increase churn rate but it negatively impacts new downloads. Users can see when an app was updated.

Who in the world will download an app that hasn’t been updated in last 6 months? It shows the developer isn’t interested in the app anymore, and this makes new users switch.

That’s why it’s extremely important that you keep updating and tweaking your app.

It has several benefits but the best part is that every new update acts as a reminder and might bring a few (otherwise inactive) users back. After your app has been updated, users receive a notification.

This gives you a chance to re-engage with users who somehow stopped using your app. It helps improve retention rate and reduces churn.

7. Increase in customer acquisition cost

Are you experiencing an increase in customer acquisition cost and cost per acquisition? Is it getting hard and expensive to acquire new customers?

A sudden or even a gradual increase in customer acquisition cost means your app isn’t doing well and will soon make you bankrupt. According to Chase Hughes, customer acquisition cost is one metric that determines the fate of any company.

And Neil Patel says that customer acquisition cost can destroy a company.

Don’t ever ignore it.

Generally, average customer acquisition cost (CAC) decreases as your app ages due to brand awareness, word of mouth, referrals, exposure, etc. However, if you’re trying really hard to bring new visitors to your app and marketing budget is on the rise, you need to fix it before it gets too late.

An increase in CAC itself won’t show you the root cause of why acquiring new customers is getting expensive, so you have to look at a few other metrics to find the core issue:

  • Poor marketing strategy
  • Use of wrong marketing channels
  • Lack of understanding of target audience and their needs
  • Poor brand image
  • Negative (or poor) app rating

If it’s a marketing or targeting related issue, your marketing team can fix it.

But if it’s an app-related issue, that’s something to worry about. A bad reputation is your app’s worst enemy and you need to get it fixed as soon as possible.

Here are a few techniques that you should focus on:

  • Ask users what they don’t like about your app
  • Conduct surveys and interviews
  • Ask current users for feedback
  • Read negative reviews and try fixing problems
  • Reduce churn rate as it correlates to CAC — a high churn rate means every new customer you acquire leaves your app without buying
  • Focus on your app’s unique selling proposition

Unfortunately, there isn’t a quick fix to improve app reputation and brand image. You need to give it your best to make sure your app doesn’t wipe off the market.


App industry is one of the fastest growing and most competitive industries out there. Entry in mobile app market is easy but survival gets tough. Your app can end up in the cemetery even if you have the best app if you’ll ignore red flags discussed above.

To stay ahead of the competition and to ensure your app lives, you need to analyze and monitor stats and numbers every single day. The moment you see a red flag, get it fixed.

This is one golden rule that will never disappoint you.

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