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In-App Messages for Onboarding and Engagement

Subharun Mukherjee 18+ years of experience leading product strategy, Go-To-Market (GTM), new market entry, value-based sales, analyst relations, and customer experience programs. Expertise in Financial Services, eCommerce, on-demand services, and the SaaS industry.
In-App Messages for Onboarding and Engagement

What’s one of the biggest challenges facing mobile marketers today? For many (most, in fact), it’s getting users to stick around.
On average, users uninstall apps six days after downloading them, and 19% delete an app after the first use.01 To prevent users from uninstalling your app, it’s crucial to keep them engaged. That’s where in-app messaging comes into play.  
When used effectively, in-app messaging increases engagement and retention, making it a great method for countering app abandonment rates.
In-app messages have many uses, from greeting and onboarding your users to keeping them reeled in over time with special offers and updates. To learn more about in-app messages, keep reading this guide, or jump to our infographic below.

What Are In-App Messages?

in app messages definition on a phone screen as an example
In-app messages are notifications that appear within an app while it’s being used. Marketers use these notifications to engage users at various points of the user journey and to enhance the overall experience.
There are different types of in-app messages that can be leveraged at specific points in the user’s timeline, and they each have their own purpose and application. Here’s a quick list of the most common uses:

  • Onboarding — Help users learn how to use your app after they download it.
  • Special promotionGive customers a coupon, discount, or freebie.
  • New featureExplain new functionality users have access to in your app.  
  • TransactionalConfirm a purchase, registration, or any other action.
  • AnnouncementsShare important company news with users.

For the purposes of this article, we’re going to focus on using in-app messages for onboarding and engagement.

In-App Messages vs. Push Notifications

push notifications vs in-app messages
Push notifications are text or rich media messages that appear on your status bar or home screen, whereas in-app messages are notifications that appear as you’re actively using an app. After downloading, you can opt-in (or out) of receiving push notifications.
Similar to in-app messages, push notifications exist to engage users. Push notifications can boost retention rates by as much as 23%, and they are a great way to draw back the users who may have forgotten about your app.03
push notification example
Push notifications can also deter users from using your app. Too many messages and you risk annoying them — especially if you’re constantly promoting a new product or service.
You could also provide too much information in your push message that actually deters someone from opening the app. A breaking news headline, for example, could provide users with sufficient information. 
In-app messages, on the other hand, don’t have a word count. In general, users are more likely to interact with in-app messages because they are more personalized, contextual, and designed to target users at specific points in their journey.   

How To Use In-App Messages for Onboarding

Engagement illustrations with three users pointing at various components of the in-app message
User onboarding is the process of actively guiding first-time users through your app to help them find value in your product. An effective onboarding flow should make users feel welcome and encourage them to take the needed actions to use your app.
One way to seamlessly onboard new users is to greet them with in-app messages. By crafting personalized messages, you can provide users with the necessary instructions, tips, and tutorials they need to derive the most benefit from your app.
Depending on your product, you might give them tooltips or prompt them to take a certain action, like following a friend or posting a profile picture.
Whatever the case may be, users shouldn’t feel lost or confused after they download your app. It should be abundantly clear what steps they need to take so they can start using your app as soon as possible.
In-app messages give you the platform to do this without hindering the overall user experience. When done right, the user should feel confident using your product.  

How To Use Your In-App Message To Increase Engagement

in-app message engagement example with thumb engaging with an in-app message example
In-app messages are also a powerful tool for engaging users over time. These periodic touchpoints are an effective means of introducing new features and updates or conveying important information to your users.
According to a recent study, apps that use some form of in-app messaging see a 40% increase in retention in the first and third months following a user’s first session.02 Additionally, in-app messaging can increase overall retention by as much as 3x.
Users want to be prompted to take certain actions rather than figure the app out themselves. If your app fails to direct its users, they are more likely to leave or lose interest.

In-App Message Examples from Engagement Experts

There are many ways to use in-app messages effectively so that they guide your users. Below are four solid examples of in-app messages in action.

01. Uber: It’s All About the User Experience

in-app messaging inbox example from the Uber ride sharing app
Uber’s value proposition is immediately apparent: Using their service, you can get from A to B quickly and at a relatively low cost — all with the push of a button (or two pushes, but who’s counting?).
To add more value to their offering, they prompt users to apply for the Uber Visa Card at the bottom of the screen (notice how the placement is unobtrusive).
The message placement ensures the offer is visible and gives the user the option to either apply for the card or proceed to the app as they normally would. In a nutshell, it achieves its goal: It presents an offer within the app without hindering the user experience.

02. Twitter: Keep Your Account Current

in-app message example from twitter to review and confirm contact information
Apps like Twitter are so widespread they’ve found their way into the English lexicon. At the time of this writing, Twitter has 326 million active users sending around 500 million Tweets per day. 04,05
With such a bustling user base, people inevitably lose track of email addresses and create new accounts all the time. To prevent you from losing access to your account, Twitter uses an in-app message with a yes/no prompt. This is mainly a security measure to verify your account, but Twitter will also delete accounts that have been inactive for more than six months.  

03. Hopper: Show Users Their Options

In-app message from hopper to onboard users
Booking a flight? You’ll need lodging as well. Hopper gets it, so they made it super simple to book flights and hotels on the same screen. In case it wasn’t immediately apparent, they even pointed it out with a quick in-app message to notify new users.
Notice the “x” button on the far right of the notification. This indicates to the user that they need to push that button to dismiss the message before they can take any further action. It also ensures that users see the message. That’s the smart way to onboard.

04. Southwest: Stay On Schedule

in-app message example from Southwest airlines alerting boarding flight
Ever find yourself scrambling to get to the gate for your connecting flight? Many of us know the feeling all too well. To ease your anxiety and give you some peace of mind, airline apps have begun to take advantage of in-app notifications.
For instance, Southwest Airlines keeps you on time and informed about your flight right up until takeoff by sending in-app messages. This means you can relax rather than worrying about missing your boarding time while ordering food or enjoying a beverage at the bar. Technology is all about convenience, and this in-app notification serves its purpose well.

In-App Messages Moving Forward

In-app messaging is a great tool to add to your arsenal. When applied the right way, you can increase user engagement and reduce app abandonment. For optimal results, keep these best practices in mind:

  • Segment your audience to maximize effectiveness
  • Onboard users with the most important details and information
  • Make sure messages do not hinder the overall user experience

For a more holistic approach to your mobile campaigns, check out CleverTap’s intelligent mobile marketing platform to build amazing customer experiences that last.

infographic with tips for mobile marketers to master in-app messages

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Posted on May 30, 2019