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Everything you need to know about in-app messaging: Benefits and best practices

In-app messaging is a critical marketing and communication method that mobile marketers can’t afford to ignore. By identifying in-app messaging as a successful way to offer free trials to potential customers, product-led growth platform Appcues was able to increase sales demos by 50 percent. Mobile marketing platform CleverTap has seen CTRs (click-through rates) increase by more than 100 percent by utilizing in-app messages instead of push notifications. This marketing channel is a great way to increase engagement, build brand loyalty and improve the user experience. In this guide, we cover everything you need to know about in-app messaging, including the essential benefits and best practices.

What is in-app messaging?

In-app messages are notifications that appear inside your app. They are an essential tool for app developers that will improve the user experience. In-app messaging can be highly personalized. For example, they can be full-screen messages or pop-up notifications as a banner. You can also include action buttons that will determine different user paths, such as ‘learn more’ and ‘cancel’. In-app messages can also include rich media such as videos and images to be more engaging. This type of messaging is used by app developers for several purposes, including:

Onboarding: You can use in-app messaging to optimize your onboarding, giving your users everything they need to know to get the best user experience.

Promotional highlights: In-app messages can be used to share benefits and incentives with your users. These promotional messages can also be personalized by segmenting your audience.

New feature announcements: When you have updated your app, you may want to notify your users of what has been improved. You can use in-app messages to keep your existing users up to date with your app’s latest features.

Company notifications: Let your users know about essential updates related to your company.

Customer service/transactional updates: In-app messaging enables you to provide the best possible customer service. For example, you can use in-app messages to confirm a purchase and provide essential updates relevant to their transaction.

Rewards: If you have developed a gaming app, you can use in-app messaging to reward users. For example, you could send a user extra lives for completing a level. Depending on the nature of your game, this can be a more satisfying way to receive rewards and build brand loyalty.

In-app messaging is a powerful communication tool that can increase your app’s response rate. Although in-app messaging is a critical component of an app marketer’s communication strategy, this method should be used in conjunction with other messaging tools such as email marketing and push notifications.

In-app messaging vs push notifications

It’s important to know the difference between in-app messaging and push notifications so that you can use both communication tools for best results. While in-app messaging is used to communicate with users internally, push notifications are sent externally to the user’s device.

Push notifications will appear on a user’s notification menu and home screen. However, the user must opt-in for push notifications to be sent successfully. According to customer engagement platform Urban Airship, rich push notifications can increase direct open rates by 56 percent – making them a useful tool that can help you retain users for longer. In-app messaging is restricted to in-app communication, but that doesn’t make them less useful to your overall strategy. For example, sending a company update as a push notification may be intrusive, causing users to opt-out for future notifications. However, the same update may be perfectly suitable as an in-app message.

You should use push notifications and in-app messaging to craft a complete communication strategy that provides users with everything they need for the best possible experience. You can find more information on how to develop a push notification strategy with our complete guide.

What are the benefits of in-app messaging?

In-app messages are a valuable way to provide critical information and communicate with your users – especially when your messages are personalized for different user segments. Here are two essential ways in-app messaging are beneficial to you and your company goals.

In-app messages can be highly personalized: Your in-app messages can be tailored to suit your brand with far more detail than push notifications. This also means you have more ways to personalize your targeted messaging and optimize results.

In-app messages don’t require users to opt-in: According to VWO Engage, 57 percent of app users opt-in for push notifications from social media apps but this percentage is much lower for other verticals: 19 percent for mobile games apps and 10% for travel apps. Unlike push notifications, in-app messaging does not require users to opt-in. This enables you to reach every user that opens your app.

In-app messaging best practices: ten things every marketer should know

When done right, in-app messaging is a powerful tool that can streamline your customer services, brand loyalty and user experience. Here are nine ways to make the most out of in-app messages.

1. Invest time in choosing the best tools for your app

In addition to implementing in-app messages, it is critical that you invest time in learning which mobile analytics tools will work best for your marketing strategy. This means learning which tools can facilitate your needs, such as which companies enable you to personalize messages with user segmentation and how to implement a two-way in-app chat.

In order to optimize performance, it’s important to measure the success of your in-app messaging strategy. You can use mobile analytics tools to learn over time and make data-driven decisions that will improve results.

2. Develop a unified strategy for your messaging copy

Your in-app messages are an extension of your brand. These messages are being sent directly to users as part of the app experience, so it’s essential that you develop your messaging copy to match your brand for best results. In-app messages perform best when they are straightforward and your word count is kept short.

You should also maintain consistent messaging that uses your brand’s color schemes and design guidelines. This will help beautify your in-app messages and create strong branding for even the most straightforward in-app message.

3. A/B test your in-app messaging

It is an essential practice to test your messaging before communicating with every user in your app. This enables you to learn what makes a successful message and helps you avoid sending unwanted messages to your users. A/B testing your in-app messages means that you can continue to learn what works for your audience over time. For example, you should test different messaging formats to learn what works best.

4. Personalization

It’s important to personalize your in-app messaging as much as possible, so be sure to send messages that have been crafted for a specific audience. For example, gaming apps can reward their most valuable users with in-game currency to increase engagement. By rewarding the user with a personalized in-app message, this can build brand loyalty and increase retention and engagement.

5. Timing is key

It’s also important to identify the best time to contact your users. Your analytics will reveal the best timing for in-app messages over time. For example, you may learn that messages are more likely to be engaged with after a specific in-app action or immediately upon opening your app.

6. Focus on your CTA (call to action)

When creating copy for your in-app messages, your job is to find the best CTA for your desired action. This is an all-important component of your message that will determine its success in achieving your desired goal. Focus on your CTA and develop a hypothesis on what works best for your users. HubSpot’s “39 Call-to-Action Examples You Can't Help But Click” is a useful starting point that has detailed examples of how different brands found the right CTA for their campaign.

7. Use rich media to beautify your message

It’s important to test rich media such as images and video to see how this will affect your open rates and CTR. Just like with mobile ads and push notifications, the user of rich media can significantly boost the performance of your campaign.

8. Use in-app messaging to reward users

It’s important to recognize the difference between an in-app message that serves your company goals and a message that is valuable to your user: the best in-app messaging will be both. You can reward your users via in-app messaging, offering something of value (such as promotion codes or in-game currency) as a reward for their in-app activity. You can also send personalized messages to your users to congratulate them for milestones. For example, if a user has used your fitness app every day for a week, this is an opportunity to give them a discount code for your premium service. This rewards the user with something of value while also serving your company targets.

9. Request user feedback

In-app messaging is a great way to acquire user feedback that can be invaluable to your company goals. For example, you can use in-app messages to ask users to take part in a survey. You can also prompt users to rate your app or post a review. This enables you to learn new ways to improve your user experience while also identifying users who would rate your app positively.

It’s also smart to show users that their feedback has been received and acted upon. Sending a follow-up message can show that you have taken feedback onboard, building greater brand loyalty with your audience.

10. Use in-app messages in conjunction with other channels

Although in-app messaging is a powerful tool with several benefits, you shouldn’t rely on just one communication channel for best results. Instead, you should use in-app messages, push notifications and email marketing to achieve your goals.

Contact via in-app messaging is limited to when a user opens your app. This means there is still a need to use other channels to reach your users. By using all three channels for specific purposes, you can create a cohesive marketing plan that can reach users in several ways. You can also use in-app messaging to optimize your performance via email marketing and push notifications. For example, you can send users a prompt to opt-in to push notifications on their device, or encourage them to subscribe to your newsletter. To get the most out of your email marketing campaigns for mobile apps, learn the benefits and best practices with our guide.

For more insights into how to develop your mobile marketing strategy, read “App Marketing Strategy: Nine methods every marketer must know”. You may also be interested in our guide to everything you need to know when joining a new startup.

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