Engagement doesn't replace building a robust product that customers want. The first step in engaging customers is to build a product that resonates with your target market, incorporating customer insights.

Once you've crossed that bridge, the next step is to ensure your relevant customers stay with you on the longer term, rather than exiting just after checking out your mobile app.

In the ever-changing, fast-paced landscape, here's what you need to do to engage customers for your mobile app in 2016.

1. Use push notifications effectively

It's done over and over again most would say. But the fact is that it's still pretty effective if done right. The most common and also possibly the worst use case of notifications is when people send one asking their customers to open the app.

It's got no relevance and doesn't draw any engagement. This is how push notifications get a bad name. However, there are ways to bring relevance into push notifications that further the engagement of your app.

The push notifications strategy needs to account for where the user current is and what they're doing and how the current push is relevant to them at that point in time.

The push has to be very specific and typically those that do well are reminders or provide some sort of an incentive. To be able to do this, you'd have to have integrated analytics within the app that helps you track the user's in-app activities so you can create segments of users and send relevant and different pushes to different segments.

2. Focus on quick wins during onboarding

One of the most important factors in retaining or engaging users is to have them realize the potential or value of your app as quickly as possible from the time they've been onboarded.

This includes the onboarding experience as well, since there's a fairly large number of dropout that happens right during the onboarding stage itself. Samuel Hulick, founder of UserOnboard and author of The Elements of User Onboarding shares some of the best app onboarding experiences in this video.

Study the behavior of your users again through analytics to see how long does it take for them to realize the app's value. Once you've realized the time-frame, you can then begin to focus on shortening it--for instance, if it takes a week for your users to get to value within the app, you need to figure out how to bring it down to two days.

This would mean relooking at the UI/UX and even the workflow within the application.

3. Have a mobile-first approach

Lot of people are confused or unsure whether they should have a mobile responsive website or a mobile app, they often do both and completely screw up the experience by not customizing for the individual platforms.

If your customer or market insight points to building a mobile app, take on the mobile-first approach wholeheartedly. Design for mobile keeping in mind the use cases that emerge out of mobility.

Poor user experience is a major contributor towards little to no engagement within apps, especially when they're built as a value add to a website or designed thinking about the web user.

4. Build a habit-forming product

Needless to say, a habit-forming product naturally drives engagement. Nir Eyal, author of Hooked: How To Build Habit Forming Products explains in this video that if the way you create and deliver value to your customer requires unprompted engagement, then you need a 'Hook'.

"A 'Hook' is a four-step process that connects your users problem to the product with enough frequency to form a habit. The first step is a trigger, then an action, then a reward, and finally an investment. Through successive cycles of this 'Hook', customer's preferences are shaped, their tastes are formed, and these habits take hold."

A core component towards building engagement in apps is to test whatever you're implementing (by tracking data through a third-party analytics tool), then getting and processing that feedback for further iteration on the product.