Incipia blog

How to Prevent Hollow App Installs

Gabe Kwakyi | August 25, 2016

Feature Image Credit: TechCrunch (Facebook Lifestage) Following up on our earlier article introducing the concept of Hollow App Installs, today's post focuses on how to mitigate the impact caused by these types of installs. While the nature of mobile apps (i.e. having to download them from an OS-specific app store, discoverability challenges, limited phone storage space, etc.) means that the majority of apps will experience significant numbers of hollow installs, there are several strategies that you can implement to help reduce the number of hollow app installs your app receives compared to the industry average. Here's how:

Acquire Better Installs

Starting from the top of the funnel, target users who are more likely to be your target market. Here are some specific ideas on how to fill your funnel with quality users:
  • Organically-sourced installs typically have higher retention and revenue user rates vs inorganically-sourced. Set up a sound app store optimization strategy to capture as large a percentage of organic-sourced users as possible.
  • For Facebook campaigns, utilize event-optimized bidding or lookalike campaigns to acquire only users who have a higher chance of taking additional actions in your app beyond installing.
  • Reserve part of your advertising budget for the upcoming app store search ads and target keywords that provide the highest percentage of quality installs.
  • Consider running re-engagement campaigns to bring less hollow users back into your app, and welcome them back with a custom message or incentive (see point #4 in reduce user churn below) to encourage them to stay. Target users who:
    • Spent a significant number of minutes in your app.
    • Opened your app more than once.
    • Took a key action or at least started a key pathway.

facebook app engagement ads

Image Credit: Facebook Ads

Reduce User Churn

One of the best ways to combat hollow installs is to get the users you do acquire to stick around longer. Consider some of these ideas to improve your user activation and retention rates.
  • Utilize technology that helps you analyze how users interact with your app (e.g. appsee or mixpanel) to identify bottlenecks and address those issues in future versions of your app.
AppSee Image Credit: AppSee
  • Boost your user activation rates by improving the onboarding process (e.g. remove extraneous steps, provide a more interactive onboarding flow such as coaching tips or test more engaging text/images in the onboarding process). You can either build a custom optimization system or use a service like Apptimize.
apptimize Image Credit: Apptimize
  • Provide users with a way to solve problems before they churn out by setting up a customer feedback and issue resolution service like Zendesk.zendesk
Image Credit: Zendesk
  • Implement push notifications targeted to raise engagement from lesser engaged users and nurture them to become power users, or resurrect inactive users who still have your app installed with word of updates/incentives/utility. Many companies opt to build push infrastructure themselves, but there are also a great many push vendors available to facilitate the task, like Appboy or Urban Airship. Compliment your push campaign with an email marketing campaign to maximize the chances of your messages being seen.appboy
Image Credit: AppBoy
  • Provide users with discounts or free content/features; but don't make a habit of frequent freebies, otherwise you'll train users to expect free handouts. Instead, try giving users discounts:
    • For referring new users
    • That must be consumed over several purchases
    • On higher margin items
    • Freebies that have high rates of upsell
    • Allow limited access to premium features

Constantly Provide New Sources of Value

In addition to filling your funnel with quality users and plugging holes in your app's UX, you can also reduce the number of hollow installs by providing users with additional value:
  • Add features and functionality to your app to keep users interested, engaged and paying. Any successful app makes a habit of continually adding new features that improve the value they provide to their users (e.g. Twitter "while you were away," Spotify mood playlists, Snapchat filters). Don't forget to notify all of your existing users when new features have arrived to boost uptake.
  • Strike partnerships to offer more value to users - unicorn startups Slack and Evernote are two quintessential examples of apps that have seen their partnerships-centric strategies pay dividends in acquiring and retaining users.
  • Launch new apps - in addition to adding features and functionality, successful apps also expand their product base as a whole in order to retain users at the umbrella level by launching new, standalone apps. Facebook is a good example of this, recently launching the high school targeted Lifestage app. Launching standalone apps is a good way to capture and retain niches who may have needs or wants that would conflict with your app's main userbase.
slack app integrations Image Credit: Slack That's all for now folks! Thanks for reading - stay tuned to the Incipia blog or subscribe to our email list for more app store optimization tips, tricks and hacks. Incipia is a mobile app development and marketing agency that builds and markets apps for companies with a development specialty in high-quality code architecture and keyword-based marketing optimizations. For blog/video or speaking requests, business or press inquiries please contact us at