5 Hacks to Serve User Retention on the Table for Food Delivery Apps
Written by
Pradyut Hande

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5 Hacks to Serve User Retention on the Table for Food Delivery Apps

Published : November 8, 2018 | Updated : May 21, 2024

The online food delivery market in India is valued at $7.12 billion and is likely to grow by a CAGR of almost 12% over the next 5 years to be worth upwards of $11 billion by 2022. The contribution of orders placed through mobile apps – miniscule in comparison to larger consumer economies such as China and USA – will also continue to grow gradually.

Staggering numbers at first glance, right?

With a host of food delivery apps at the disposal of an ever-demanding and discerning user base across both Tier I and Tier II cities, user retention has emerged as a major challenge for mobile marketers.

Success in this hyper-competitive, discount-heavy industry is dependent upon bringing back carefully acquired users to the app, encouraging repeat transactions through effective user engagement and retention strategies.

Just like any other app, usage for food delivery apps will continue to fall within 90 days of app download. App launches will become fewer in frequency and certain segments will teeter on the brink of churn. It is inevitable!

But, to sit back and accept the inevitable would be the surest way to cook up a recipe for disaster!

Bringing users back to your app is not an exact science. Depending upon the type of food delivery app, retention strategies would vary. Here are 5 hacks that will enable mobile marketers to up their user retention game:

Hack #1: Send timely promotional reminders and calls to action

By leveraging growth marketing platforms like Netcore Smartech, marketers can gain a unified view of their users, gaining relevant behavioural insights into their in-app activity and inactivity. Additionally, user activity drop-offs can be accurately identified and mapped using funnel analysis.

This lays the foundation for the creation of hyper-personalised and contextual retention campaigns. The idea being to adopt a data-driven approach towards bridging the gap between analytics and engagement, ensuring that the right message is sent to the right user through the right channel at just the right time.

Given the discount-driven nature of the business and based on how price sensitive the average Indian customer is, highlighting price drop deals via channels such as push notifications and emails can go a long way in resuscitating flagging user interest.

This is where the power of AI can also be leveraged to maximise Open Rates. Netcore Smartech’s Artificial Intelligence Marketing (AIM) features allow you to custom-build subject lines and messages that incorporate high-conversion keywords relevant to specific user segments, based on their past open behaviour. Deliver these at just the right time and marketers stand to reap the rewards of effectively optimised campaigns.

The objective must be to use smart copy and compelling calls to action, encouraging users to relaunch the app and consider a potential purchase.

Mobile marketers can take their notification game up a notch by employing rich push notifications that include visually appealing images or GIFs of food. Remember, eating is a multi-sensory experience and campaigns such as these seek to stoke users’ “hungry imagination!”

For instance, marketers can run campaigns showcasing happy hour prices applicable on certain items between certain hours of the evening, when on-demand food ordering rates are the highest.

Hack #2: Secure active user feedback, ratings, and reviews

Delivering satisfactory customer experiences consistently is a lot about continually improving the app and user experience. One way to do that is be carefully listening to the feedback from the app user base.

In such a scenario, marketers can leverage channels such as push notifications, in-app messages, or emails to ask for ratings and reviews from users who have ordered at least 5 times through the food delivery app.

The ratings must reflect elements such as quality of food delivered and the restaurant from which the order was placed, consistency in delivery times, turnaround times of customer support, and the overall food ordering experience.

US-based Postmates sends timely push notifications, encouraging relevant users to rate their last delivery.

There is another major reason why marketers should strive to secure ratings and reviews for their apps through such campaigns.

The higher the app ratings and more favorable the user reviews, the higher the app’s ranking on app store searches. Consequently, this results in greater app visibility, encouraging potential users to land on the app store page and indulge in a download. In a sense, a retention campaign of this nature can work wonders for future user acquisition, thereby, completing an important loop.

Feedback-based campaigns have to be perfectly timed and cannot come across as the brand sounding over-eager for ratings. There’s no point bombarding users who have used the app only once with notifications pleading them for a request to rate the app.

All of this has to be seamlessly embedded into the entire user experience, allowing your users to feel like you care about the value that you deliver.

US-based DoorDash accomplishes this in a subtle manner, intelligently scheduling their communication using channels such as push notifications and in-app messages.

Hack #3: Let users know that they’re being missed!

The value of emotional messaging can never be understated. Marketing is a lot about leveraging these emotions to nudge customers towards definitive action.

With one eye firmly on weekly/monthly retention metrics, mobile marketers in such a scenario can choose to leverage the power of email to run personalised campaigns letting them know that they’re being missed. Context can be added by including details about their most popular orders, frequent restaurant searches, etc.

A carefully placed deep-link within the body of the mail can redirect users back to the app.

Additionally, purchase can be incentivised by offering generous discounts, free delivery, or access to exclusive deal. A loss in the short run is likely to be offset by the long-term gains of bringing back a gradually disengaging user to the app and initiating a potential transaction.

UK-based delivery major Deliveroo makes a fervent appeal to their at-risk users through a calibrated and personalised email engagement campaign.

Hack #4: Inform users whenever the app is updated

I spoke about how important app improvement is from a customer experience perspective. But, this is of limited use if your users don’t know about it. While some users will automatically update to the latest app version, there is a large segment of existing users that need to be intimated.

By leveraging push notifications and emails, mobile marketers can inform users about the latest app update, the latest features, and redirect them to the app store page.

The objective is to clearly communicate the benefit that users will receive when they update the app to the latest version. This also helps certain gradually disengaging users with instant recall and instinctive app relaunch.

Marketers can increase Open Rates by coupling app updation message by offering promo codes, free delivery, extra discounts, and more.

Postmates does a great job in this regard by sending out a personalised email campaign, even going to the extent of giving certain users a shout-out.

Hack #5: Encourage User Generated Content (UGC) and social sharing

A hungry customer seeking convenience is an opportunity for food delivery apps to convert him/her into a happy customer. Satisfied customers become powerful advocates of the brand moving forward when delighted consistently.

Today, a large segment of the prevalent target user base includes millennials for food delivery apps. According to an Ipsos’ study – User Generated Content (UGC) is over 20% more influential when it comes to purchasing and over 30% more memorable than other available online data, with regards to the food delivery industry.

By allowing users to post reviews, provide ratings, upload images, and videos, marketers can ensure the following:

  • Greater in-app interaction
  • Higher average session lengths and time spent in-app
  • Increase in retention rates

Here’s how Yelp leverages UGC:

Also, by offering users the option of sharing such content across social media platforms, food delivery app players can amplify their multi-channel presence and reach out to a larger target audience base. Not only does this help brands enhance their overall digital footprint, but it also increases brand awareness, visibility, and positioning as a trusted platform.

By leveraging the engagement opportunity that Instagram offers, Zomato is able to keep its existing users engaged, expand its social media presence, and make their entire platform extremely user-centric.

Relevant Metrics to Track User Retention Success 

Here are some key metrics that mobile marketers at food delivery apps ought to monitor and gauge user retention by:



Industry Benchmark

Average Retention Rate
(for 3 months)
The percentage of users who continue to use your app over a period of time post download

15% – 25%

App StickinessThe ratio of your Daily Active Users (DAU) to your Monthly Active Users (MAU), expressed as a percentage.


A high app stickiness percentage indicates that more number of users keep coming back to your app

25% – 35%

Average Session LengthThe average amount of time spent using the app on every app launch

5-15 minutes

Average Session FrequencyThe average amount of time that elapses between two consecutive app sessions

4-7 days

Never Let it Be the Last Supper!

Given how difficult it can be to build loyalty in the food delivery industry, apps have to bring their A-Game to the table every single day. Also, remember that tolerance levels of users are rather low. Sometimes even a single bad experience through the app can cause a user to churn before one even knows it.

This is why it is so important to engage, re-engage, and engage some more with users to ensure that the best possible customer experience is communicated and delivered. User retention isn’t just about capitalizing on mobile moments, it is also about creating compelling ones that nudge users to undertake a potential conversion action.

This blog was also published here.

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Written By: Pradyut Hande