3 Reasons Your District Mobile App Is Failing & How to Fix It


You’ve heard the mobile stats before. Mobile is king, 90% of U.S. adults have a smartphone, parents want information on-the-go, etc.

You listened to the data, took the plunge, and got a mobile app for your district. I would say congratulations, but chances are it’s too soon for party hats and phone-shaped piñatas. The truth is, purchasing an app is just the beginning of your mobile journey.

To get the full benefits of a mobile app, you have to put in hard work after the purchase to gain adoption. To put this challenge into perspective, let’s crunch some numbers. According to a new report by Leanplum:

  • The day an app is installed, it has a 21% retention rate
  • Ten days after installation, an app has a 7.5% retention rate
  • Ninety days after installation, an app has a 1.89% retention rate

These numbers illustrate the fact that people lose interest fast if they feel the app does not provide value. Your job as a district is to convince parents they cannot live without your mobile app. If benefits weren’t established from the outset, the following scenarios will sound familiar. Lucky for you, we have suggestions for how you can win back (and keep!) your audience’s attention.

Reason #1 – No One Knows Your App Exists

It sounds harsh, but without the proper promotions, your parents won’t use your app because they won’t know you have one. Think back to your app launch. How did you notify your parents, students, and community members about this new communications channel? How many times did you tell them about your upcoming app launch?

Launch communication cannot be a “one-and-done” exercise. It should be a thoughtful,  strategic campaign that builds excitement. Every channel at your disposal should be used to promote the app, including email, website, and social media.

The Fix – Plan a Relaunch

It’s never too late to inform your audience about a communication channel that will benefit them. Plan an app “relaunch” around a big event at your district. Back-to-school, homecoming, and the start of a new grading period are all times you can share valuable information through your app which makes them prime for a “relaunch” date.

Once you have a date in place, start building excitement at least 90 days out.

  • Create a calendar to track communication
  • Aim for two announcements a week and increase the frequency as you get closer
  • Make a district-wide countdown and share it on your website, school marquee signs, and social media accounts
  • Film a short video explaining all the reasons parents should download the app and post the video on social media
  • Consistently communicate the launch through your website, social media, email, PTA meetings, events, newsletters, etc.
  • Set download goals and celebrate with your students when each milestone is met

Reason #2 – You Aren’t Using Push Notifications

Apps can increase retention by 20% by sending push notifications. Translation: You can reach 20% more parents with push notifications. Those numbers are huge!

Don’t be fooled by the idea that push notifications drive people away from using an app because of a perception they are bothersome. Parents want information about their child’s education. Push notifications about dropping grades, for example, will help parents become more engaged.

The Fix – Send Push Notifications

Groundbreaking, we know. But it really is that simple. Are we telling you to send a push notification ten times a day with any information you can get your hands on? No.

We’re suggesting you come up with a list of reasons or situations that warrant a push notification and test it out. You could even create a parent panel to get feedback on what kind of push notifications they find valuable.

A great example for using push notifications is during winter weather. Tell your community that your app will be the first place you will announce delays, cancellations, and early dismissals. Then send a push notification with the official announcement. This strategy will increase downloads and boost retention simultaneously.

Reason #3 – The Information Isn’t Personalized

Custom, relevant information is key to having a successful app. Take a stroll through your mobile app and count the ways your users can personalize the information they see, or view information that strictly pertains to them. Can your users create a custom stream of information to only view news from the school their child attends? Do your parents have a place within your app to see student specific information like grades, assignments, and attendance?

They should.

Personalized content will make your users feel engaged and valued. They deserve an enjoyable experience that delivers the news most important to them – student and school-specific news.

The Fix – Get Personal

Discover what options your mobile app has to personalize the user experience. Connecting your app to your SIS is a great start. Giving your parents the ability to log in and natively view their child’s grades, attendance, and assignments is a big win that will pay off with active app users. You can also personalize your push notifications for even stronger retention.

Either way, your app has to be personal or your adoption numbers will take a hit and ultimately reduce your return on investment. Think about what you look for in your most visited apps and try to replicate that experience for your district audience.

Discover how Blackboard’s Mobile Communications App can help you define your brand, provide personal information to your parents, and integrate with your other communications tools.

Video: Making, maintaining, and measuring a K-12 mobile district