Crossing the Chasm of App Retention

diffusion of ecommerce innovations


Perhaps, “Crossing the Chasm”, written by Geoffrey A. Moore, is one of the milestone references for all marketers. Almost every CEO, VP, VC and Marketer keep quoting its beauty. It happens because if you dig deep you find it universal in nature. Its applications are amazing to the fact that you can attach it to numbers. Since the original graph is focused towards the adoption of high-tech products by a ‘psychographic  segment’ (i.e. segment with defined psychology and demography). It can easily be replicated towards the app adoption or app retention cycle.

You might be open to argue that the law applies to discontinuous innovation  not continuous innovation.

Understanding each segment is the vital need to understand the app retention cycle.


Innovators: (The enthusiastic)

This is the most enthusiastic segment of the user base. These are the people who download your mobile application before anyone else does. They actually spend time searching your app, all you have to do ‘make it searchable’. It happens because technology and ‘new experience’ is the part of their life, regardless of realizing what problem it solves. This segment of users normally has higher acquisition cost because of the nature of exploring new apps and less demand and buying habit.

They are always curious with any new product and service and often make a small purchase with it. They explore the new app features, UI, UX and way you deliver it.

What happens if you retain them:

There are not very many innovators in any given market segment, but retaining them over a period of time is actually the key to assuring other prospects that the product does work.

Key to retain them:

  • Be prepared for higer acquisition rate
  • Cheap and low cost orientation
  • Guru (expert) endorsement
  • Feedback matters- take it seriously
  • They need customer support
  • They act as your product manager
  • They write feedback and reviews for your product.
  • You need an abstract UI/UX
  • They require assistance in making first time purchase in your app
  • Do not hide anything, this is the phase where truth makes to the market.
  • No tricks

Early Adopters: (The visionaries)

They do the most important job of matching your product with a strategic business opportunity.

They also like to test new applications and buy into them but they care least about the anatomy and technology behind it. These users find it easy to understand the value proposition of your mobile application. It is easy for these users to understand any feature in your app  and relate it to their other problems.

What happens if you retain them:

Whenever they find a strong match with their expectation they are ready to spend their money. They don’t need a reference or review to make their first purchase. Retaining them is the key to opening up the early majority.

Tips to retain them:

  • They are serious about their expectation (try to get 100% of that)
  • Use technology to retain them (e.g. In-app messaging, push notification, retargeting, machine learning)
  • They read product reviews to make purchase (Innovators write them)
  • Good design and UI is key win them
  • Fast delivery and operation make them happy
  • Tell them ‘how you did it?’. They love a good story.
  • Learn and implement habitual usages

The Problem:

Innovators like new and cool products that can hardly be translated into value and benefits. Early adopters want competitive advantage. Mobile app must be designed to enable a valuable overlap.

Early Majority: [The Pragmatists]

They do have some common characters of early adopters. They also like new but they relate everything to the practicality. They know that these new application and product will not be able to survive the first fad and big fat marketing campaign. So they sit and look up to other customers and their experience.

What happens if you retain them:

There are so many people in this segment—roughly one-third of the whole adoption life cycle — winning their business is key to any substantial profits and growth.

Tips to retain them:

  • They need solid references or good rating
  • They follow the product/service leader (branding works with them)
  • They search for reviews and ratings
  • They know the problem statement before they try your app
  • They are interested in real world problem
  • They compare your application and lookup for alternative
  • Cost and customer support is key to win them from competitors
  • Continuous innovation in UI to provide better user experience
  • Look up for Quality + cost
  • Need proof of aftermarket support


The ‘pragmatists’ will use the app that are already used by other pragmatists. They generally look up to each other as reference. Get them use your app is the real key here.

Late Majority: The Conservatives


They are like your average customers. They start buying your product if enough number of people are using it. They wait until something has become an established standard, and even then they want to see lots of support and tend to buy.

What happens if you retain them:

This group comprises about one-third of the total buying population in any given segment. They certainly stay with you with lower acquisition cost and highest retention

Tips to retain:

  • They look into cost and benefits
  • They need lots of advertisement and word of mouth to get convensed 
  • They are risk averse
  • Need Marketing buzz to convince them
  • They need people around them using your product
  • They are better with people than technology (personalization is key)

The laggards:

These are the people who hardly use app after years of marketing campaign. They only use your mobile app when there is no other option in market is available.  Laggards are generally regarded as not worth pursuing on any other basis. 

You know these guys who downloaded an app because they will look to buy a product that was not on the market.


difference between visionary and pragmatic app users


Your apps are still in early adopter market:

It is right to say that mobile commerce is still a part of early adopter market. It (mobile + web) hardly contribute to 8% of total retail market. It leads to the conclusion that marketer should focus more on customer retention and control acquisition rate. 



What Causes this big scary Chasm :

  • There is no positioning in the market (Not becoming a benchmark in your category). It is important to position your mobile app on competitive positioning compass. 

competitive positioning compass

  • Focusing on all the customer segment at once and never able to deliver for a single segment
  • Pricing, Distribution and Channels (need to think deep about it)
  • Committing to most common problem
  • Solving 80% of all app user’s problem but 100% of none

Lot of mobile app are not able to cross the chasm because of these generic problems:

  • Your app doesn’t excel at any one task.
  • Your app has too many features
  • Your app doesn’t have a strong onboarding process.
  • Your app isn’t providing strong, relevant content
  • You don’t provide aftermarket support
  • App retention rate is not your core metrics
  • Your customer success team is not good enough
  • Users are irritated with brainless updates
  • Your app keeps crashing
  • Your app is slow
  • Your app asks for ratings at a bad time
  • Users are forced to login without first receiving value.
  • Your app derails users with intrusive advertisements
  • Your app asks for unnecessary (or poorly explained) permissions.
  • Asking for too personal of information upfront
  • It takes too many steps to complete a task
  • Your UI is too ahead of its time
  • You don’t update and improve your app often enough
  • Not addressing user issues

Conclusion: (Prepare for the ‘D-day’ solution)

In Short: Entire focus must turn towards a single segment with a compelling reason to buy, develope a whole product, become market leader.

How hard can it be?



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