Get relevant information on mobile marketing delivered to your inbox.
Back to blog

In-App Messaging: Best Practices for Campaigns that Fuel Retention & Revenue

Shivkumar M 20+ yrs shaping technology Product & GTM strategy. Fintech, healthcare & retail industry expertise. Leads product launches, adoption & GTM as Director, Product Marketing.
In-App Messaging: Best Practices for Campaigns that Fuel Retention & Revenue

Savvy mobile marketers know that using the right messaging channel at the right time is a must for creating an engaging user experience. 
But not all channels are created equal. Our data shows that in-app messages have over 100% higher engagement rates than push notifications. 

Ready to take on in-app notifications for your mobile marketing strategy, or looking to improve on what you’re already doing with these messages?

Keep reading to learn in-app messaging best practices on how to make this channel an effective part of your mobile engagement strategy. Plus, get in app messaging examples and ready-to-use templates to help you build your own campaigns.

Learn the art of onboarding mobile app users

Click here


What are In-App Messages? 

What is an in-app message
In-app messages are native content that appears within your app as a pop-up or full-screen UI overlay. These highly personalized messages do not require users to opt in, making them an essential communication channel. 
Here are some common in-app messaging use cases:

  • Onboarding: Help new users learn how to use your app and quickly experience value.
  • Special Promotions: Give customers personalized coupons, rewards, or incentives.
  • New Features: Explain new functionality or highlight fresh content.
  • Transactional: Confirm a purchase, registration, or any other essential in-app action.
  • Announcements: Share important company news with your customers.

In-App Messaging vs. Push Notifications

What’s the difference between in-app notifications and push notifications? When should you use each messaging type?
It boils down to this: external vs. internal channels.

Push notifications appear on a user’s home screen and notification menu, and users have to explicitly opt-in to receive these messages. Push is an incredibly effective way to reach users when they’re not in your app to bring them back or persuade them to take a specific action.

In-app messages appear to users while they’re active inside your app. They can be a powerful way to enhance the user experience by helping users discover more value, whether that’s personalized product or content recommendations, new feature announcements, or special discounts and promotions. 

In-App Messaging Benefits 

In-app messages aren’t just about user engagement — they’re about creating a stronger, richer app experience.

By tailoring in-app messages to specific user segments, in-app notifications add value by informing users of important updates, sharing brief tutorials, encouraging user habits, offering personalized rewards, and much more. And because they tend to be content-rich and address a user’s immediate needs, they can prolong session time, improve the user experience, and increase retention.

In-app messages are an effective way to successfully onboard new users, encourage more frequent app launches, connect with power users who spend the most time in your app, convert active users into paying customers, and improve retention rates. 

In-App Messaging Best Practices

In-app messages should feel like a natural part of the in-app experience, not additional marketing. Notifications should be: 

  • Content-rich
  • Personalized
  • A response to the user’s immediate needs

Follow these in-app messaging best practices to create effective campaigns.

Segment & Personalize Messages
Instead of blasting generic messages to your entire user base, create campaigns for specific types of users.
Only send your customers messages they actually want to see by segmenting your audience based on their interests and their in-app behaviors. For example, send new users in-app notifications that help them discover your best features or most popular content. Or reward repeat customers with in-app messages that offer personalized discounts or loyalty program perks. These personalized messages will improve your user experience as well as bump engagement rates.

Get the Timing Right
When should your message appear? To avoid annoying users or interrupting their experience, the best time to show in-app messages is when a customer launches the app or immediately after a trigger event like creating a profile, earning a certain number of loyalty points, or navigating out of the purchase process.

Write Strong Headlines
Much like an email subject line, effective headlines and subheads grab a user’s attention and encourage them to read the entire message, rather than automatically closing the notification.

Keep Copy Concise
In-app messages don’t offer a ton of space, so keep notifications clear and to the point. This is especially important if you’re including an image, as messages can quickly start to look crowded.
To help your message pack a punch, focus on a headline and CTA that tout the benefits of whatever you’re bringing to their attention. Here’s a perfect example from popular travel app Hopper:

Highlight the CTA
What do you want users to do immediately after reading your notification? To create a CTA that stands out, keep copy short and select an eye-catching button color.

Get Visual
Spice up your messages with images or gifs. Notifications with images see 650% higher engagement rates than text-only posts.

Turn Notifications into Conversations
Too many brands use in-app messages to blast information at their users. Don’t forget that this is a prime channel to talk with your customers — not just at them. In-app notifications are perfect opportunities for short, one-tap feedback surveys or ratings prompts that let your users know you care about their experience.

Test & Improve
A/B testing your in-app message copy, creatives, and CTAs is a must for learning what works for your specific customer segments. Everything from message placement, timing, color schemes, and images can help you figure out what your customers respond to and drive higher engagement. 

In App Messaging Examples and Campaigns

Here are 20 examples of in-app messaging campaigns that you can use at every stage of the customer lifecycle.

In-App Messages for Onboarding

New User Orientation
Greet new users with a friendly welcome message or simple product tour.  Provide a successful first-time user experience and quickly showcase your app’s key features and benefits. Just keep it short, and make the exit option prominent.
New User Onboarding
Show users how sharing their preferences will improve the app experience. Then make it easy for them to complete a profile by saving the information they’ve already provided, rather than starting from scratch.
Onboarding Flow Completion
Re-engage users who started the onboarding process but never finished. Help new users discover key features that set your app apart.
New User Activation
You don’t just want users to install your app, you want them to use it. An activated user will mean something different for every app: connecting with or following a certain number of people, completing a first purchase, registering an account, etc.
Starbucks, for example, activates new mobile app users by enrolling them in Starbucks Rewards. It persuades them to sign up by tempting them with free food, drinks, and a time-saving order-ahead feature.

First Purchase
Most new users are more engaged with your app than they’ll ever be again. So strike while the iron is hot! Tempt new users to complete a first purchase with a special discount or bonus offer.

In-App Messages for Engagement

Personalized Content
Users expect a personalized app experience. So send birthday or holiday messages, share relevant content based on past behavior or user preferences, and notify them of recent friend activity.
Newly Added Content
Highlight your growing content library, notify users of the latest episodes, seasons, or movies in a series they’ve watched, and help users discover new favorites.
Engagement Milestones
What behaviors do you want users to repeat? Use in-app notifications to highlight milestones and encourage habit formation. Congratulate users for creating 5 playlists, inviting 10 friends, completing a new game level, etc.

Help Stuck Users Complete a Key Action
Unless your app is 100% intuitive for every user, some actions can cause confusion or annoyance. Do users have to log in to do certain things? Are some features or content only available to paid users? Are graphs or reports difficult to read without a brief explanation? An in-app message can prevent frustration for users trying to complete that action for the first time.

In-App Messages for Conversions

Sales and Personalized Promotions
Personalize promotional messages by sharing sales on product categories a user has browsed, a discount on a wishlist item, or related products based on past purchases. Consider deep linking these notifications to specific product pages (or even straight to checkout) for even more personalization.
Subscription Renewal Reminders & Incentives
Nudge customers about upcoming account expirations to lock them in for a renewal. Remind them of the benefits of their subscription, or include incentives to get them to take action. 
Upsells & Cross-Sells

Offer free shipping or goodies on a minimum purchase amount, cross-sell users on a new release, or persuade free users to upgrade to a paid subscription. Take Spotify — the app triggers an in-app message when free users try to skip too many songs to nudge them to upgrade to premium.

Deliver personalized in-app notifications based on user actions via the CleverTap customer engagement platform

Talk to us

In-App Messages for Retention

New Features & Performance Upgrades
Let users know that you’re actively adding new features and improvements to your app, and encourage them to upgrade for the best user experience.
Share Social Proof
Chosen as App of the Day or Editor’s Choice in the App Store? Received a flattering review from a high-profile publication? Remind your users that your app is best-in-class by sharing awards, special recognition, and significant milestones.

Loyalty Programs
Paying customers are great. Repeat customers are even better. Let users know you have a loyalty program and persuade them to join with a personalized in-app message that highlights what they have to gain.
Help Users Discover Advanced Features
Bombarding new users with every available feature isn’t a smart onboarding strategy. But customers who have been actively using your app may appreciate learning new tips and tricks to get even more out of it. Showcase bonus features to keep impressing even long-time users with an amazing app experience.
Tell Users What’s New Since Their Last Launch
Even if your app is meant to be used every day (and many aren’t), not every user is going to launch it that frequently. Re-engage users who may be going dormant by highlighting what you’ve improved or added since they last launched.
Gather Feedback
Ask for valuable user feedback. You can learn about problems before they show up in App Store reviews, and build stronger relationships with your customers.

In-App Messages for Referrals & New User Acquisition

Ratings & Reviews
High app store ratings and reviews not only boost your app’s visibility, they provide powerful social proof to fuel new downloads. But getting the right users to share their positive experiences with your app can be tricky. Target your most successful users to ask for app store ratings and reviews.

Encourage users to invite their networks and keep them active on your app with referral rewards. Think cash back, account credits, or discounts on future purchases.
Mutual incentives can also be a powerful way to keep current users engaged while attracting new users. In-app messages are ideal for capturing users’ attention and giving them a quick way to share their unique referral link.

In-App Messaging Templates: PDF Download

We’ve created 29 customizable in-app notification templates built for each stage of the customer journey. They’re ready to use, complete with copy, image suggestions, and CTAs. Just copy/paste, customize to your audience, and go! 

Building Omnichannel Engagement Campaigns

When building your messaging campaigns, it’s easy to focus primarily on push and email to bring users back to your app. But without effective in-app messaging to add value once those users are in your app, it’s a wasted opportunity. 
This is why you need to approach your messaging strategy from an omnichannel perspective, with each messaging channel complementing the others to create a powerful, seamless user experience at every touchpoint. 
Learn how CleverTap Journeys makes building automated omnichannel marketing campaigns that span push, email, SMS, and in-app messages simple.

Deepen customer relationships with in-app messages that enhance the user experience

Learn more

Last updated on May 2, 2024