With so many apps available to today’s mobile users, there’s a strong risk that your users might be distracted or wooed to some other app – or simply become inactive. In fact, 58% of app users churn in the first 30 days after they download your app, on average. And, over the first three months, 75% of app users will churn.

App User Churn - On Average - Localytics 2015

While this is a scary proposition, the news isn’t all bad. As it turns out, there is a high correlation between app success and how often your app is launched in a certain timeframe. We call it the 3×3 rule.

The More Sessions, The Less Churn

Before we dive deeper, let’s start with the definition of churn. Churn means “inactive” and is usually described in terms of users – i.e. “users who churn” or “users who are inactive.” In the case of an app, churn is further defined by a given timeframe, most commonly a 30 day period.

Our recent research suggests a strong negative correlation between the number of app sessions (a basic unit of measurement for apps) and user churn. In other words, the more sessions app users complete in the first 30 days after downloading an app, the less likely they are to become inactive.

In the chart above, the X axis is the number of sessions per user in the first 30 days after a user downloads an app. The Y axis is the percent of users who will churn (and return) to your app in the same timeframe.

The data shows:

  • 75% of users who log just one app session in the 30 days after the app download will churn.
  • Only 14% of users who complete 11 or more sessions in the first 30 days will churn.

The 3X3 Rule: 3 Sessions X The First 3 Days

For some apps, like travel apps, 11 sessions in one month is simply unrealistic. Other apps strive for less frequent but longer sessions but, even for these apps, their ultimate goal is still to keep their users engaged over time.

Digging into the numbers even further, we can identify a minimal threshold – or the minimum number of sessions a user must complete – to suggest they have seen value in your app and thus be considered an active user.

If the average percent of users who churn is 58% then, using the graph above, we can deduce most people only use an app 1 – 2 times in the first 30 days.

That means, on average, the critical hurdle is 3 app sessions a month.

Yet, knowing you need users to log 3 sessions may still be not enough. The harsh reality is you’re still facing the potential loss of over 50% of your users. Measuring churn within a 30 day window is the most common benchmark for user churn and retention, but our research found a more critical window to concentrate on when trying to influence retention: the first 3 days after an app’s download.

Why? Because only 29% of your users will churn if you can encourage them to have 3 sessions in the first 3 days after they’ve downloaded your app.

Thus, the 3X3 rule.

3 Ways To Encourage 3 Sessions In The First 3 Days

1. Nail the first session – i.e. the initial onboarding experience – with in-app messaging.

We all know the importance of a good onboarding strategy: using funnels and screenflows, you can track your users through the first steps they take to understand and optimize their first interactions with you. But while you test and optimize, you need a tool to lean on that helps your users get to that a-ha moment.

Enter in-app messaging. Apps that send in-app messages show 2-3.5x higher user retention and 27% more app launches than apps that do not. In-app messages serve as navigational beacons to the app and they can incentivize future use with things like special offers.

2. Remind users of your app with a remarketing campaign.

Forrester recently found that mobile users spend 80% of their time in five apps. While you are growing your userbase and introducing new users to your app, borrow those “mobile moments” by targeting new users with remarketing campaigns on Facebook. After all, it costs more to acquire a new user than it does to keep an existing one.

3. Offer a “new friend” promotion with a targeted push notification or email message.

Push notifications and emails are great communication tools to reach users who are not currently active in your app – when used appropriately. The key is using all the data you have about your users. You can then send a “new friend” promotion with content personalized to them (and personalized just enough to not be creepy).

With 3 sessions in 3 days, you’ll overcome a critical hurdle for retaining your users. But, the 3X3 rule is only the beginning. Churn is a complex challenge that can happen at any stage of a user’s journey with your app. There are many additional strategies for reducing user churn, including predictive app marketing, but regardless of what strategies you employ, the critical next step is to identify your churn risk factors. Learn more about the reasons why a user may churn here.


Localytics is the leading lifecycle engagement platform across more than 2.7 billion devices and 37,000 mobile and web apps. Localytics processes 120 billion data points monthly. For this study, Localytics used retention cohort analysis to examine the number of users who were still engaged with the app 30, 60, and 90 days after download. Further, for the 3×3 Rule, Localytics examined the effect of app engagement specifically in the first 3 days and it’s overall impact on 30, 60, and 90 day retention. The timeframe for this study was users who downloaded apps in May 2015 and their retention in the subsequent 3 months. The sample is across over 40 million Android and iOS devices.