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

Last updated on June 29, 2020

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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? Learn how to make this channel an effective part of your mobile engagement strategy, plus get in-app messaging examples and templates to help you build your own campaigns.

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.
Get 29 In-App Messaging Templates complete with copy, image suggestions, and CTAs. Download the PDF

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.

For example, new users should get messages that help them discover key features of the app. Customers with higher average order values can be notified of your rewards program or exclusive, limited-edition products. 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.

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.

Ask for Feedback

In-app messages aren’t only good for delivering information, they’re also a great way to gather customer feedback. Use in-app messages to run short surveys, ask for ratings and reviews, and invite users to start a chat. 

Test & Improve

Before you send an in-app message, you should A/B test a few variants to determine which is the most effective. A/B tests involve changing one variable like the text, image, call to action, or notification placement (banner, interstitial, overlay, etc.) 

In-App Messaging Campaign Examples 

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.

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.

Referrals

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! 

Get all 29 templates now as a PDF download. (We’ll also send you other good stuff as part of our blog’s mailing list) Download the PDF

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.

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