The mobile ecosystem is dramatically growing towards an unprecedented scale, with an extremely crowded market and fierce competition among app developers. Today, keeping users engaged with a mobile app is key for its success since users can remain active consumers of services and/or producers of new contents. However, users may abandon a mobile app at any time due to various reasons, e.g., the success of competing apps, decrease of interest in the provided services, etc. In this context, predicting when a user may get disengaged from an app is an invaluable resource for developers, creating the opportunity to apply intervention strategies aiming at recovering from disengagement (e.g., sending push notifications with new contents). In this study, we aim at providing evidence that predicting when mobile app users get disengaged is possible with a good level of accuracy. Specifically, we propose, apply, and evaluate a framework to model and predict User Engagement (UE) in mobile applications via different numerical models. The proposed framework is composed of an optimized agglomerative hierarchical clustering model coupled to (i) a Cox proportional hazards, (ii) a negative binomial, (iii) a random forest, and (iv) a boosted-tree model. The proposed framework is empirically validated by means of a year-long observational dataset collected from a real deployment of a waste recycling app. Our results show that in this context the optimized clustering model classifies users adequately and improves UE predictability for all numerical models. Also, the highest levels of prediction accuracy and robustness are
obtained by applying either the random forest classifier or the boosted-tree algorithm.
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