If you’re marketing an app, you likely keep a close eye on how many daily active users, or DAUs, are taking action within your app.

Why? Well, many companies consider DAUs to be the most significant measure of product stickiness and growth – two factors imperative to measuring the success of your app.

Okay, so you have your DAUs. Any app does. What’s the issue?  It’s how, over time, the retention stats don’t look great for a typical app.

According to an in-depth study by Quettra, the average app loses 77% of its DAUs within the first 3 days of installation. Within 30 days, it’s lost 90% of DAUs. That’s pretty drastic.

Now before you think “that study has to be incorrect; our own experience is different, we’re seeing lots of regular engagement,” note that a lost DAU is not completely inactive – it may be a user that’s taking action a few times a month. Losing a Daily Active User isn’t the same as losing a Monthly Active User, but they do correlate.

So how do you bolster and sustain meaningful engagement with your app, and retain existing DAUs and even convert others into using it more frequently?

Why use email to drive DAUs?

As we’ve mentioned before, email isn’t going anywhere. With a predicted 255 million users in just the US by 2020, email is a channel that retains enormous reach and effectiveness. After all, it’s all about reaching your audience, and chances are pretty high that your audience is looking at their inbox at least once a day (if not constantly).  And a lot of younger or more app-savvy consumers view email as a key channel.

What’s wrong about relying mainly on push notifications? With the number of apps on individual devices soaring, consumers are growing more likely to download apps and then abandon them. Email is a channel to reach them that’s both non-intrusive and effective because of the fact its users feel they’ve got more power over it.


Push notifications, on their own, may not be enough to recover users who have forgotten about your app or may be slacking off in usage.  They’ve got a short character limit and rigid structure; even with emojis, there’s only so much a marketer can do with that. Plus, once they’ve abandoned the app, users are likely to turn off notifications, if they haven’t already. Some users simply don’t want to see them.

Email offers way more leeway in grabbing the user’s attention. As a marketer, focusing on optimizing what you do within their inbox opens up a world of possibility with images, messaging and personalization options.

We aren’t saying you should overlook other channels – omnichannel marketing succeeds by integrating different ones seamlessly. Stir in your push notifications and targeted ads, but with its wide reach and range of possibilities, don’t neglect email.


Types of DAU-directed emails

Here are some of the building blocks of a campaign aimed at retaining DAUs, or turning other users into DAUs. But one reminder: Don’t forget to test. No matter what type of email program you mount, A/B testing of different message types, timing, frequency, copy, creative, and incentives is always the key to success.


A simple welcome email can bring your app to the front of mind for users and tip some of them into usage.  Beyond reminding them why they downloaded your app, you can offer help with set-up, quick tips for using or navigating the app, or just thank them for their download.

Thank-you emails have an engagement rate of 62% and every marketer pulling his/her weight should be tapping into that. Everyone likes being thanked!


Sending users step-by-step instructions helps them become comfortable with your app, making them more likely to engage with it. Depending on your app’s functionality, you may want to have a more protracted onboarding campaign to get them really enmeshed in the orientation process over a longer time.

There may be hidden features or options and settings that are tricky to navigate, or that you can deliberately “reveal” at later stages of the campaign.


Whether a user didn’t complete signing up or has simply been inactive, email can provide the perfect tool for re-engagement.

This example from eFax, for instance, doesn’t offer anything new – the free trial is always included on signup – but it serves to remind the user why they signed up in the first place. They highlight some of the major features they offer, but place emphasis on messaging that’s structured around a keen financial motive: Stop wasting your money. Hard to argue with that, isn’t it?

Plus, eFax offers an incentive (more on these below) for customers to re-engage with the app: they’ll get a free month of service.

Here’s another approach to re-engagement: Cornerstone cares enough about the user’s reasons for not engaging with the app that they want them to fill out a survey. And by the way, they’ll give you free store credit for doing so.


As we’ve just seen, another popular method of encouraging DAUs? Offer incentives. We’re only human, after all, and putting something in our pockets, or helping us save, always draws attention.

Emails that offer users a reason to return (particularly for financial reasons) get traction with users. While many products offer sign-up incentives, using them, later on, can lure a user back to engagement. Motivating customers to come back is crucial and it doesn’t have to be costly; a discount, free upgrade, or “Exclusive! Limited availability!” feature unlock might do the trick without breaking the budget.

One good point to remember about using incentives? A DAU isn’t necessarily generating value for you unless s/he’s taking specific actions that drive revenue, like buying stuff or shelling out for upgrades. Incentives help steer them down that path.

One company that constantly sends rewards and special offers through email is Starbucks. While the rewards are easily loaded into the app, most are first sent to the inbox and require users to engage before they activate.

Community Announcements

Everyone wants to think they’re hanging out with the popular crowd, right? So as your user community grows, make sure members know they’re part of a burgeoning bunch of fellow cool kids. Or at least like-minded people.

This accomplishes a few things: It lets the user know you value him/her, and that others have ratified that user’s app choice – the sheer popularity of a product can be motivating for some users. Also, it makes you look successful and stable, implying the app will be more likely to be updated and supported in the future.

Here’s an example from Readdle that hits that mark:

Usage Updates

One personalization tactic? Celebrate user engagement! This shows a user you’re paying attention, and you’re going to recognize them for engaging with your app. Or you can go even farther, in an entertaining way. Lyft provides a great example below: their “year in review” emails are really just showing users their own usage data, yet it’s a fun way for them to feel connected to the company and the use of its app.

By providing your users with a sense of accomplishment, you give them a reason to come back to you every day.  Create some usage mileposts as the basis of a DAU-targeted campaign, even if they’re arbitrary or whimsical ones, to power emails that reward users with recognition so they can celebrate with a smile or a fist-pump.

~ Jen