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Jared Fleitman
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Digital Health
How Leading Brands Capture User Attention

A Deep Dive into Headspace’s Mobile App Engagement Strategy

So, how do leading mobile brands capture user attention? More specifically, how do they not only convince users to download their app but also successfully encourage them to continue coming back for more?

Those are questions that we, as mobile marketers, all want to know the answers to, right?

Well, once we noticed a huge gap in the retention curve between the top 10% of apps and the rest, we set out to discover what those leading brands do differently. We reverse engineered some of the most successful mobile apps and uncovered crucial insights about their engagement strategies.

One of the most interesting analyses we conducted was on the leading meditation app Headspace. We monitored and analyzed their user engagement strategy in the critical first few weeks post-install, breaking down their strategy into the Good, the Not-So-Good, and the Lucky, as well as identifying areas for improvement. To read our full data analysis from this study, read this.

But, if you’re also interested in diving into the unique frameworks and specific tactics that Headspace employs to effectively capture users’ attention and maintain high retention, you’ll love our latest webinar.

The Current State of Mobile App Retention

Before jumping into the webinar, it’s important to understand the current state of mobile engagement and retention.

As we all know, user acquisition is expensive. And despite investing a significant amount of resources and dollars into driving users to download your app, the average 30-day post-install retention rate for mobile apps is only around 7%

And as you can see in the graph above, user retention is tied to revenue. With 1-2% changes in retention resulting in millions of dollars lost or gained, it’s clear that each retained user has a significant impact on your mobile app’s bottom line.

So, what do mobile brands like Headspace do to drive retention, and what can we learn from them to (hopefully) achieve the same results?

Let’s dive in.

What Headspace Does Differently

To start, Headspace creates an effective new user onboarding flow in which they ask questions about a user’s preferences (e.g., meditation habits, free time during the day, how often they want to be contacted, etc.). This gives users control over when they receive notifications, which in turn significantly reduces opt-out behavior.

Additionally, Headspace is effective at habit stacking, or understanding which two actions coupled during the day lead to the most engagement (e.g., meditating after waking up, after eating breakfast, after brushing one’s teeth, etc.). Again, by placing control in the user’s hands to determine when they want to meditate, Headspace helps the user feel personally invested in forming this new habit, making it much more likely that the user will continue with this action.

But, that’s not all they do well. To learn more about Headspace’s effective engagement tactics, watch the full webinar.

Key Takeaways

Despite the many positive elements of Headspace’s engagement tactics, they are still missing out on significant opportunities:

1. Human-driven segments

Time of day fuels many engagement campaign triggers, and this poses a problem. Humans are unpredictable, so even if a user says they are available at 9pm every day to meditate, what happens when a last-minute event pops up in their calendar or if they are out with friends one night? How can you ensure your marketing automation will adapt to each human?

The answer lies in leveraging human-driven segments, which means understanding the users’ real-world context (i.e., have they just woken up, did they just arrive home, etc.). In fact, we’ve found that human-driven reminders have a 3x impact on retention. You can learn more about how to leverage this critical real-world behavioral data in our blog post.

2. Segmenting based on a user’s unique lifestyle

The most commonly used segmentation attributes (e.g., demographics, zip codes/location, and in-app events) are important, but they still aren’t enough. Lifestyle data reveals more about your users, such as whether they’re active, early risers, fitness enthusiasts, etc. Each of those behavioral traits will influence not only the messaging of your notifications but will also help you understand your users’ motivations so you can better personalize your offerings.

Lifestyle data is dynamic and changes with each user, opening up the opportunity for brands to reach specific audience segments that they previously had no visibility to. Plus, this data can integrate into any CRM for easy use (which you can read more about here).


If you’re interested in learning more about how you can utilize real-world data to drive higher engagement and retention, watch the full webinar here

If you’d like a similar analysis conducted on your own mobile app, get in touch with us.