Driving Lifetime Retention of Users for Emerging Indian Short Video Apps
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Driving Lifetime Retention of Users for Emerging Indian Short Video Apps

Published : September 30, 2020 | Updated : May 22, 2024
Short Video Apps

Short Video Apps!

Love them..Hate them..Can’t get enough of them! There is something about these apps that both my 6 year old niece and her 40 year old mother are absolutely hooked on to making videos and consuming them! 

These apps offer an opportunity to millions of Indians, to become stars in their own right – something that was till only a few years back, restricted to the “Social Elite”. Which other platform could make you go viral by singing duets or lifting weights or enacting scenes from movies!

The likes of TikTok have entertained masses and truly given a platform to millions of talented content creators, who otherwise would probably never get a chance to showcase their genius (remember the Carrom guy who could literally score any point in the world or the Car Wash guy who enthralled everyone with his dancing prowess!)

Now, with the Chinese app ban by the Indian Government, there is a massive opportunity field created for Indian Short Video Apps like Trell, Chingari, Elyments, Mitron, Roposo etc. to not just step in, but to step up the game further! Over a 100 million content creators and users now find themselves exploring newer avenues for both entertainment and a source of livelihood.

Let’s talk potential:. According to a Times of India article, Indians clocked 5.5 billion hours on TikTok in 2019, an increase of over five times from the 900 million hours spent in 2018. Now consider this: Chinese users are online for six hours a day, mostly to browse content, particularly social media —-Although only 4% of their time is spent on e-commerce, it’s enough to drive $1.5 trillion in annual online sales. The smaller Indian market, with online sales of $40 billion, will want to copy the playbook. 


Now while these new apps will save millions of dollars on user acquisition cost (there is a ~200 million active user base up for grabs), the real test of time would be how many of these apps will be able to drive lifetime retention.

What these apps need to keep in mind is that the number of initial downloads is not a KPI that counts. Retention is the new growth. What will ultimately differentiate a successful app from the others is its ability to engage and retain its users in the long run.

Short Video Apps in the top charts.

While each app is trying to out-do the other and come up with innovative features, all it takes is one poor experience for a user to switch to another option, now that the market is inundated with choices.  What it also means is that the creator base that enjoyed unprecedented fan following and engagement on a single platform earlier, is bound to get split up amongst 8-10 apps.

What can such apps do to make the user come back again and again? How do they ensure that users get a superlative experience while creating and consuming content? Here are some pointers to keep in mind!

1. Day 0 Experience is Key!

Did you know that the average rate of uninstalls on Day 0 of installing an app is a whooping 40%!

With ever-decreasing attention spans, it becomes paramount for an app to leave a lasting impression right from the get-go. If a user downloads an app and is not impressed with the functionalities or gets confused with the UI/UX, they will not hesitate even for a moment to uninstall the app immediately. 

The plethora of choices available in the market today also makes it even more difficult to get such a user back to your app. Chances are that such users will probably not give your app another chance in the future if their first experience was unsatisfactory. Which means that designing the Day 0 experience becomes key to long term retention! 

Get the user involved from the moment he launches your app for the first time. Ask them to choose topics of interest when they launch the app. This exercise can be done even without the need to log-in and can help you personalize the D0 experience by showing content that really excites them. Spotify does something very similar – it asks for my music preferences upfront and starts giving me a highly contextual music feed from the get-go, ultimately making my user experience highly engaging from Day 0.

2. Contextual Push Notifications to boost repeat user sessions

Now that you have aced your Day 0 experience, the next step would be to get users to engage and re-engage with your app. Push Notifications can be very powerful tools to get the user back to your app. 

Contextual Push Notifications to boost repeat user sessions
Contextual Push Notifications to boost repeat user sessions

Personalize your app push notifications as per the user’s name, place, time, interests and choices. Users are more likely to find value in notifications that are contextual and entertaining, or that feel like extensions of the app rather than generic content trying to get them to engage. A thoughtfully designed, highly personalized App Push Notification can create a memorable experience for the users and encourage them to click on them to engage with the app. 

Go beyond sending plain text based campaigns. Wow both your known as

well as anonymous users with rich, interactive elements such as images,  

videos, GIFs, emojis, and audio! The more engaging and personalized your 

messages, higher the chances of app relaunch, better your DAUs and 


3. Define your “North Star Metric”

It is extremely important to recognize and define your ‘North Star Metric’ in order to drive long term user retention. These metrics will help you identify the most important user behaviors for your business. 

Identify the desired user behaviour that leads to user retention on the app e.g. consuming 30 videos in 2 days or creating a video within the first 2 hours of app install or completing a profile sign up within the first day. 

Once your North Star Metric is defined, it becomes a reference for optimizing the app and user experience. Nudge users to perform activities that improve your North Star Metrics. Contextualize their feed to show them content of their choice, to encourage them to consume more. Create contextual walkthroughs within the app to educate users on how to start creating videos quickly. Get users to start creating content by recommending trending hashtags and exciting challenges. 

Remember, Retention is the new growth – chase metrics that will ultimately lead to long term and sustainable retention of users!

4. It’s all about creating a personalized feed

Personalizing content is passe’. Hyper-personalisation of content is what can make you really stand out from all the noise. Arguably, the best way to outperform the competition is by personalizing your app experience for each user. Giving your users a customized experience will keep them coming back for more.

Utilize the power of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to personalise your recommendations. Intelligent personalisation happens when your algorithm not only understands the user but also the content. Video information (tags, title, sub-title, music, hashtags) becomes as important as user activity and user attributes when it comes to fine-tuning the feed that is shown every time a user browses the app. 

Go beyond just explicit understanding of the user’s interest – look for implicit indicators (e.g. user did not click on the 1st 5 videos, but clicked on the 7th and 10th ones) and feed these to your algorithms to make it more robust. 

Take it one step further and personalise user experience across all touchpoints – App Push Notifications, Emails etc.

5. Build for the future superstar

While leveraging the “star power” of the existing TikTok heroes to drive user engagement to your app can be a clear go-to-strategy, it is also important to not get restricted by that. Give these famous stars a home and, in turn, bank on their followers to follow suit, but also build for the next super-creator.

Invest in new talent that will stick by your platform and create their own following by adopting your app. Reward such creators, recognize the future stars and promote them, allow them to share their content easily on other social media sites – you make them superstars and they will end up being loyal ambassadors of your app. 

Help creators become the “next big thing” by recommending their content and making them discoverable by users easily!

Closing thoughts

Quoting Jonah Berger from his book ‘Contagious: Why Things Catch On’: 

“Going viral isn’t random, magic, or luck. It’s a science”. 

As content creators keep chasing the ever elusive virality, they will continue to experiment across platforms. There is no doubt in my mind that they will soon figure out which platforms work best for their content and will then eventually settle down to their platform of choice. The ‘chosen’ platform will then have a huge responsibility on its shoulders to drive lifetime retention of such users.

Providing users with an experience that surpasses expectations can really catapult such app to the big leagues. It is easy to fall prey and imitate other successful apps, but the market has never been more receptive to new, refreshing and path re-defining ideas, than today. 

For all of these  new age, Indian apps, the entire world is their playground. As Peter Drucker says – “If you want to do something new, you have to stop doing something old”. After all, you will never become indispensable if you are only trying to play catch-up! 

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