Daily Active Users, or “DAU”, is a term used for the total number of people who open and engage with a mobile app or web product in a given day.

Your DAU number can reveal many things. It can measure the growth rate of a product. It can reveal trends, and even indicate user behavior.

It is easy to fall into the trap, however, of chasing a DAU goal for the wrong reasons. A DAU can become a vanity number, and many companies like to share impressive DAU data that may have no actual bearing on the success of the business. Be mindful of your DAU, always aim to grow it, and be clear in how you track it.

Why measure DAU?

Every SaaS business is after the same, elusive goal: a solid, sustainable user base. Measuring the daily traffic of your app or website gives a good sense of how many people are checking out your product and, hopefully, valuing what it does for them.

Each active user on your platform is a potential customer. Retaining and serving those customers is key to the success of your business. Watching your DAU will tell you how many people are looking into your service, but it is then your job to engage those people so they will come back day after day, week after week.

Once you establish a baseline for your DAUs, tracking it over time can become a good benchmark for your team to work around. Keep in mind, this is absolutely NOT the only number you should be looking at as you grow. But measuring your DAU and setting goals around it is a simple way to encourage a growth mindset among your team.

Determining your DAU

The term “active user” seems straightforward, but it can be oddly hard to define. It is important for you to establish a definition for yourself based on the goals of your company.
Is an active user someone who has simply signed in to your site or app? Someone who has shared content? Engaged in an action? This can be defined by you, but keep that definition consistent as you measure your data.

Beware of the DAU

It is all too easy to watch your DAU numbers grow and assume success. But be skeptical of the chart that always seems to be up and to the right, especially if business isn’t booming.

Active users don’t always equal engaged users. As I’ve said, you define what “active” means to you. But if the term doesn’t capture the scope of what you’re trying to accomplish with your app or website, it will be impossible to tell if your users are satisfied.

Say your SaaS company is designed to allow users to share content. If your DAU only measures users who have logged in, but not if they’ve shared content, you may see data that shows growth in logins, but neglects the fact that no one is sharing anything. And if they’re not sharing anything, you won’t retain them.

Also remember that because “active user” is defined differently company to company, you shouldn’t compare statistics. Facebook measures active users by any form of engagement. That may mean a user clicking the “like” button in the comments section of an online article somewhere; it doesn’t always mean the user is logged in to their account.

Ultimately, DAU numbers are easy for media outlets to grab onto and share as a metric of success. Be careful when sharing your DAU data, and when reading about other companies DAUs. They may not always mean what they seem.