Comparing Retention Data: Absolute vs. Relative
Learn about the difference in retention numbers when using Absolute vs. Relative methods
Retention is the most important metric in the user’s lifecycle. There are different ways to calculate retention, each of which will give you a different result.
With this training, you will learn how to compare retention data using two of the most common interpretations: Absolute vs. Relative.
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Retention is a very simple idea, but several details need to be considered when implementing it—including how to determine when a user is considered a returning user.
There are different methods to calculate retention, which is explained in this article by Applift. For example, Tenjin calculates “classic” retention using relative time for returning users, while some other tools may be using absolute time.
What you will need
You will need access to Tenjin’s DataVault to compare data returned by absolute and relative computation methods. No additional setup is required for this training.
Generally, an N-day retained user is one who returns on the Nth day after acquisition. But there are actually two ways to interpret this:
- Using absolute time -> a user acquired on May 1st and returning on May 2nd is called a 1-day user. However, if that user was acquired at 23:59 May 1 and returned at 00:01 May 2, they really only waited 2 minutes to return.
- Using relative time -> each user has their own “lifetime”, as counted in days after acquisition time. Their “birth” is at acquisition on day 0, and day 1 begins 24 hours later.
Tenjin uses relative time. This puts all users on equal footing, no matter what time zone they may be in, or what their circadian rhythm might be. It also enables us to “normalize” our other lifetime metrics, such as cumulative revenue, cumulative ROI, and cost per retained user.
Based on this method, for Tenjin, an N-day retained user is one who returns between 24N hours and 24(N+1) hours after acquisition, and the N-day retention rate = unique N-day retained users / unique 0-day users.
The Tenjin dashboard shows data based on relative time. If you would like to calculate N-day retention based on absolute time broken down by campaign and country, please contact send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to get access to the query.
Why is my x-day retention value still changing? When will it remain constant?
An N-day retained user is one who returns between 24N hours and 24(N+1) hours after acquisition. As an example:
- Users belonging to the “May 1” cohort were acquired between 2021-05-01 00:00 and 2021-05-01 23:59.
- The latest “May 1” user (user Y) could have been acquired at 2021-05-01 23:59.
- Y’s Day-0 lasts for 24 hours, ending at 2021-05-02 23:59.
- If Y returns at any time between 2021-05-02 23:59 and 2021-05-03 23:59, then they get counted as a 1-day retained user.
- Therefore, the 1-day retention rate for the “May 1” cohort is not finalized until 2021-05-04 00:00.
In general, the x-day retention rate for a given cohort is not finalized until after (x+2) full days after acquisition. Or in other words, on the (x+3) day, it will remain constant.
Do you have any feedback for us?
We at Growth FullStack are always happy to receive your valuable feedback. Whether it’s about requesting additional support on optimizing your workflows, building a customized dashboard, or anything else, feel free to reach out to us and let us know how we can support you further.
Iterate and Maintain
This query can be edited to include additional metrics.
Please be aware that any updates to Tenjin’s default tables might affect this report.