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How to Drive Users to Your App and Keep Them Coming Back

Posted 2 years ago by Andrew Barabash

7 am. The alarm is going off. You’re waking up. Taking a shower. Getting breakfast. Drinking your morning coffee, reading a paper, watching morning news or just simply talking to your family. But there is one issue with all this stuff – it never happens. It used to happen before, but not any longer. Before the mobile applications era came.

I won’t surprise you by stating that the world is changing dramatically. It is pretty clear to everyone. But only a few of us realize that all these changes influence our lives, lifestyles and habits. That’s why the mornings of billions of people has been starting differently for the last few years.

What is the first thing you do after you wake up? Right, you check all the notifications, Facebook feed and/or Instagram and tons of other information from the various applications. While you were sleeping, people on the other end of the Earth/in another time zone have already liked the photo of your new cute doggy jumpsuit. The life is concentrated there. If you still think that New York is the one that never sleeps, you’re wrong. The social media world – that’s the giant that never sleeps.

All successful apps cue habits

According to statistics, “as of 2017, daily social media usage of global internet users amounted to 135 minutes per day, up from 126 daily minutes in the previous year. Global social networking audiences surpassed 2 billion users in 2016.” The increase in time spent means that such behavior establishes the roots in our minds and changes us.

Have you ever seen an ad for Facebook or Instagram? I think not. But we keep using these applications daily giving them a chance to make billions of dollars on their in app commercials. Why does this happen? It’s pretty simple. They have created a sort of addiction that keeps us spending most of our time in the application or on the website.

All successful applications strive to engage a user to stay in the application as long as possible. The longer the online session, the higher chance of a user to see ads and as a result produce a higher profit for the company-app owner.

Habit developing is cheaper than marketing

It is not a secret that an advertising campaign directed to launch a new product or service costs an arm and a leg. Keep in mind that it’ll be a partly simulated interest to a product. It means if the application’s idea is poor itself, the interest will decrease without any additional investment. Sales will drop as well. The application literally won’t be downloaded.

The most efficient way to check an idea is to do it at the first stages of the development process – the application must be useful (we’ll talk about it later). You need to create an application that stimulates people to return and use it again, every day. This approach will make people talk about your application – you want them to tell their friends about it, involve their family and spread the word. The number of users alongside a session time range will increase. The most important thing here is that it will be absolutely free for you.

Four steps in creating a habit forming mechanism

The goal of this article is to explain the necessity and importance of the user habit development process rather than describe the neurophysiological process of this mechanism. Therefore, I’ll just tell you a few must-know facts. For those professionals who work on application development and the implementation of a habit mechanism, visit the sources at the end of the article.

The habit formation mechanism comes in 4 stages: trigger, action, variable rewards and investment.


This is your call-to-action “button” that captures a user into the habit formation loop. There are two types of triggers: external and internal. External contains everything that notifies a user about any changes. For example, a badge sign informs you about a new photo comment. The internal triggers happen inside the habit formation system and are formed when a user follows the step to step stages while using a product.


The action that leads to gratitude. For example, when leaving a comment or like under someone’s photo on Facebook, you’re waiting for feedback. A response which will be a similar follow-up action like a comment or a like on your page. At this stage, you need to create a balance between an anticipating benefit and an action complexity.

Variable rewards

This part aims to keep your user wanting to act. The goal is to provide ambiguous feedback. If a person already knows what to expect he loses his passion to explore something new. Let’s say, you’ve started following a cool Instagram profile. The system keeps recommending you related profiles with more interesting content so you never stop looking for new photos.


This is the moment when a user carries out some actions and becomes a part of the system. It can also be considered as a service improvement from a user’s side. Such involvement can take different forms: time, data, efforts, social fund or money. The investment doesn’t always mean a purchase process. The time you spend learning how to use the app functions is also an investment. Whilst inviting friends to the application is a social responsibility. Afterwards, once everyone’s joined the app, it’ll be more complicated to quit.

Your service must be useful

Habit alone doesn’t attract people to use a product. It works as a tool that ensures an unconditioned reflex. Therefore every application must be useful. If a user doesn’t see any problem-solving ideas or the application doesn’t meet users needs, they’ll download it, get disappointed and delete it. To avoid this scenario you need to check the relevance of a service idea at the very beginning before launching a website or an application.

The issue is that all people are different, have various tastes and just think differently. It means you can never be sure that your idea will be approved by anyone or that they’ll pay for it. That’s why the first thing on your to-do list is a deep research. Show people your idea. Show them only the benefits they can gain from it. Start with your family and friends, but don’t just stick to their opinion. You need the real statistical data. Ask proper questions. Don’t be too subjective. It will help you to polish your idea or realize it’s not worth it.

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough. “ – Albert Einstein.

Emotions matter

People are based on their emotions. Therefore it is very tricky and careless to skip this when you are creating a new product or service. Use emotions as a tool. If you can do it, you’ll get a faithful army of fans who will not only pay for your service or product but will also promote it like a religion. Case in point, the overly obsessive Apple fans. Below are the two things that will catch someone’s attention at the first contact.

WHY do you provide a service?

That is the exact question that evokes the emotional part of the human mind. Everybody knows WHAT service they provide. They also understand HOW they do it. But most people forget WHY they do it. Why? Apple is a perfect example.

When Apple launched their first products to the market, there were a lot of other giant IT companies like Hewlett-Packard and Dell. There seemed to be no reason to compete with them. But Apple captured their audience with a catchy motto “Think different”. As soon as they got a piece of the market, they kept growing. This emotional affection still keeps a huge army of loyal customers and gives a company an endless source of revenue. That is why as soon as you get to the development stage of a new service, ask yourself WHY you do this and share these thoughts with your customers.

Let people have fun

People love having fun. No one denies it. Moreover, positive emotions always boost sales (Thanksgiving and Christmas sales are great examples). The positive emotions are the memories that push people to repeat their past experiences because it is joyful. People always try to get rid of negative emotions and the moments related to them. Instead, everything that makes them happy will be repeated again and again. How happy are you to see tons of likes and comments under your new photo from the Grand Canyon? Let people feel the positive vibes and you’ll capture them.

Last but not least, never forget who you created the product or service for. Be open-minded, learn to feel your audience’s emotions, try to walk in their shoes, resolve their problems, and always listen to their feedbacks. Remember that sincere loyalty is exactly what ensures the success of your service development.

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Andrew Barabash is a project manager at Messapps. Having a UI/UX and development background, he is striving to ensure our clients become successful.

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