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Making the next billion dollar app? Create a habit that becomes a craving


3. Behavioural Cohorts

Finally, this is something that deserves its own post, but behavioural cohorts are fundamental to unlocking high retention in any app.

You can find out where and how your users are activating by bucketing new users that performed specific actions into groups or “cohorts”, and finding how much retention lifts when those actions are repeated.

In lamens terms, it means finding the exact point where your users find value in your app. The more they repeat your core action, the more retention should increase.

For example, Facebook in its early years found that if you connected with 7 friends within 10 days of signing up, you were almost guaranteed to be a long-term user of their product. Their data showed diminishing returns after this point, so Facebook knew all they had to get you to do was make 7 friends in 10 days in order to activate you.

Points of activation for various unicorn companies — the term “AHA! Moment” is often used to describe the inflection point on retention curves. Image credit: Aplitude.

At Fling, we found our core action to be sending a chat message. Whilst sending media gave you dopamine, the end reward and aim was always to get a reply and start a serendipitous chat thread with a random person. You also did not need to be a content creator to begin chats, you simply replied to other peoples’ Flings.

Activation point in Fling: When new users sent more than more than 3 messages in a single chat thread on their first day

The long-term retention of new users who on Day 1 had a chat that was more than just “hello” was significantly higher than that of other cohorts.

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In real-world terms, this made sense; new users who engaged in meaningful conversations suddenly understood the whole point of the app and returned to find that value in the long-run. Many built long-term connections and friendships through serendipity, and some even ended up married!

To this day, I still get messages from couples and friends who met on Fling:

At Gig FM, we were initially surprised to find that retention was linked to sending gifts, not receiving them. Our biggest lift in retention came from users who sent at least 1 gift within their first week of joining:

It made sense: this interaction gave the sender the joy of recognition and instant gratification as the broadcaster vocally thanked them in front of every other viewer. It also gave the artist financial payoffs from the virtual gift and gave the other viewers in the room entertaining content.

Users thus understood the core purpose of the app after sending a gift to an artist. Hacking retention became easy after this data analysis, and as part of our onboarding we made it almost impossible not to send a gift (with free credits) as part of users’ first sessions.

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