In-App Messaging Explained

The only guide you’ll need while working on your app’s in-app messaging.

banner
IN-APP MESSAGES

What is In-App Messaging?

In-app messages (or In-app notifications) are the “pop-up” messages that users see in your app while they’re actively using it. When used well, they can be a part of a highly contextual journey for your users that can encourage engagement, conversions, and loyalty. The versatility and targeted nature of in-app messages makes it valuable both independently and as a part of a larger multi-channel communications strategy.

HOW ARE IN-APP MESSAGES DIFFERENT FROM PUSH NOTIFICATIONS AND OTHER CHANNELS?

When it comes to apps, a typical outbound marketing channel like email, text messages, and push notifications is geared towards bringing the user back to the core product. In-app messages are different in that they do not appear unless the user is already inside your app. Unlike other outbound channels in the marketer’s toolset, in-app messages help marketers engage with users within the app instead of acting as a reminder that the app exists. This opens up some unique opportunities to communicate with your most engaged users while being personalized to the specific user and contextual to their specific actions.

IN-APP MESSAGES

5 BENEFITS OF IN-APP MESSAGES

In-app messages come with their own set of advantages over traditional outbound communications. They include:

EASY TO IMPLEMENT

For a marketer, in-app messages are extremely easy to implement. They can be completely text-focused, image-focused, a mix of both, or completely customized using HTML and JS. In-app messages give the freedom to the marketer to make it as simple or complex as needed, but also act as an extremely easy way to engage with app users without making any major updates to their app code.

HIGHLY ENGAGED AUDIENCE

In-app messages, as the name implies, are shown to users who are already in the app. Hence, the messages will definitely be seen by every engaged user of your app. Low open rates, the bane of other outbound communications, don’t apply to in-app messages. You can even reach those who have opted out of your push notifications and emails.

CONTEXT-BASED MESSAGES

Well-made in-app messages are delivered when your user performs a desired action. For example, an onboarding journey for the app the first time it is opened by a user. These messages can be well-appreciated and non-intrusive since they are triggered based on user actions, seeming like they’re a part of the natural workflow of the app.

HIGHLY PERSONALIZED MESSAGES

In-app messages have the uncanny ability to make your end user feel like they are receiving a personal guide for the app. Unlike emails and push notifications, which are typically sent out in mass, in-app messages trigger based on actions and choices made within your app. With your ability to chart the journey of a user and information on the user, you can tailor messages to “talk” to each user.

INTEGRATED WITHIN THE APP

Due to the nature of in-app messages, they can be styled to look and feel like an integral part of the app, and not another marketing push. Therefore these messages can be used to improve engagement, conversion, and other marketing metrics with much more efficiency.

5 STYLES OF IN-APP MESSAGES

While there are a myriad uses for in-app messages, there are just 4 styles that are commonly used.

STICKY (HEADER OR FOOTER)

STICKY (HEADER OR FOOTER)

These messages occupy in the top third (header) or the bottom third (footer) of the screen. They usually have a background image, text, and two call-to-action (CTA) buttons, and are typically used to ask the user to opt-in to newsletters and notifications. They’re ideal when you don’t want to interrupt a user more than necessary while he/she is browsing through the app.
HALF INTERSTITIAL

HALF INTERSTITIAL

The half interstitial looks like a pop-up that covers the center half of the screen. They usually have a background image, text, and one call-to-action (CTA) button, and are typically used to give the user a message or to guide them through a journey. They’re ideal when you need the full attention of the user but want to assure them that their app journey is still ongoing with the partial view of the app in the background.
INTERSTITIAL

INTERSTITIAL

The interstitial looks like a pop-up that covers most of the screen. They usually have a background image, text, and one call-to-action (CTA) button, and are typically used to offer discounts to app users or to show progress. This style is extremely intrusive to the user and must be used sparingly.
FULL SCREEN COVER

FULL SCREEN COVER

The full screen cover will cover the entire screen, like its name implies. They usually have a background image, text and two call-to-action (CTA) buttons, and are typically used to give action based notifications, to ask the user to opt-in to newsletters, or to have an in-app gamified discount offering.
CUSTOM

CUSTOM

While the former four styles are most commonly used, there has been a recent rise in the use of innovative in-app messages that don’t strictly conform to any of them. App owners prefer to take advantage of custom HTML and JS to create truly unique experiences for their users. For example, Swiggy typically has 3 to 4 unique in-app messages to cover each user type who lands in the app.

WHAT ARE THE WAYS I CAN USE IN-APP MESSAGES?

In-App messages can be valuable in every stage of your user’s app journey, and if used well it can be for your users as well. To be cliché, we can claim that in-app messages are limited by your imagination. We’ve listed a few use cases to help you and can gain inspiration from.

WHILE ONBOARDING A USER

WHILE ONBOARDING A USER

New users can be prompted with nudges and messages to help them along the ideal customer journey. For example, Swiggy asks its users to turn on location with a non-typical nudge.

Similarly, in-app messages can aid in promoting and educating a user of a new feature.

They can also push a user to the first time conversion event.

REWARD, ENGAGE, AND RETAIN

REWARD, ENGAGE, AND RETAIN

One of the primary drivers of your app’s success is the ability to engage and retain your users. In lieu of that, in-app messages can be nearly irreplaceable in its ability to help you set up reward campaigns that delight users.

You could recommend activities, actions, or products based on the historical actions and preferences of the user. This makes it easier for users since they don’t need to browse too long, and it makes it better for you since your application’s engagement and conversions shoot up. Hotstar’s app does this well with the in-app messages merging well with their other movie and show listings, while also providing recommendations.

In-app messages can also guide users who are in danger of dropping off to parts of the app where they would find more value. Swiggy, for example, directs its customers back to list of restaurants once they’ve emptied the cart and are in danger of dropping off.

TO INCREASE CONVERSIONS

TO INCREASE CONVERSIONS

When users don’t perform a desired action that counts towards your conversion, in-app messages can be invaluable in educating and highlighting conversion events. For example, Swiggy highlights its conversion event with a bright green ‘View Cart’ in-app conversion message.

You could also use them to promote a deal that is tailored to them, to encourage more purchases. This may be showing them a deal for the shoes in their wish list, or offers that are specific to the products they regularly use. For example, Airtel’s app promotes Airtel Wallet by offering discounts for accounts associated with the app.

TO INCREASE OPT-INS

TO INCREASE OPT-INS

Marketers have also found that in-app messages are invaluable to drive opt-ins for other outbound channels. For example, you could use them to nudge the user to opt into your push notifications.

You could also run a gamified promotion to encourage your users to opt into future email promotions.

Outside of promotional opt-ins, in-app messages can help to prompt users to fill in your user information forms for tailored offerings.

DRIVE SOCIAL ENDORSEMENT

DRIVE SOCIAL ENDORSEMENT

You might have an amazing reputation with your customers, and in-app messages can help you tap into it effectively. You can run your survey to all your users and nudge the most satisfied to giving you a review.

If you’ve a new sale going on, you could also ask your users to share it on their social media for special discounts or prizes.

You could also ask your users to share the special moments your app generates for your users, increasing your app’s virality. The best example of this is that of fitness apps that actively encourage its users to promote their achievements on social media.

9 BEST PRACTICES IN USING IN-APP MESSAGES

WHO DO YOU TARGET AND WHEN?

The first question you should be asking while designing your newest in-app message is who you’re targeting and when the in-app message will show up. Remember that you’ve limited real-estate on both your app screen and your user’s attention, and you shouldn’t be consuming it with an in-app message unless absolutely necessary. So you’ll need to target the perfect user, personalize the message, and time the message for maximum relevance.

TARGET THE PERFECT USER

For starters you’ll need to segment your users on as many appropriate variables as needed like their demographic realities, like age, sex and location, their behavioral attributes, like purchase amount, purchase frequency and time in app, and other relevant information. With the segmentation you will be able to perfectly describe your ideal user that needs to be targeted with your in-app message.

PERSONALIZE THE MESSAGE

Ensure that the message you show to the user is personalized to them. It might be a simple inclusion of their name, or as obvious as not showing a man promotion for a lady’s shoes. It might be complex, in that it collects a user’s preferences during your app’s onboarding and tailoring the app’s messages to highlight their interests, like with a bank’s mobile application.

TIME THE MESSAGE

Timing is one of the most important factors of getting your in-app messages right. Use triggers with user actions, time of day and year, user location and other such factors to perfectly time your message for maximum relevance. This would ensure that you aren’t wasting your user’s time on your app, and getting your timing right will cause your engagement statistics to shoot up. Swiggy does this well when a user tries to add items from two different restaurants. It shows the user the below message, which is relevant, useful and timely.

DRIVE SOCIAL ENDORSEMENT

HOW SHOULD YOUR IN-APP MESSAGES LOOK?

You must consider your in-app message’s design as an extension of your intense focus on your app’s design. Unlike other outbound channels it turns up within your app, making any flaws jarring to your user’s experience. You will need to ensure that your in-app messages are consistent with your brand and that they are made keeping your users in mind.

BRAND CONSISTENCY

All your in-app messages need to be consistent with your brand. They need to sport your brand’s colors and your app’s style. It helps to make your messages feel like they’re a natural part of your app and wouldn’t take away from its experience. The only exception to this rule is when you’ve special messages that require attention. The jarring effect of a style that is “out-of-app” would shock your users to give special attention. However, you need to make such instances exceedingly rare, lest your users get tired of it, skip it, or (worse) uninstall your app for not delivering on its promised benefits, instead interrupting users with messages.

KEEP YOUR USERS IN MIND

No matter what you say in your message, how you say it, or how you design it, always keep reminding yourself on who the final audience is – your users. If you lose track of your user’s tastes, needs, or, more generally, your ideal customer persona, all your efforts to improve your app will fall flat.

In-app messages need to be fine-tuned keeping your users in mind.

WHAT SHOULD YOU SAY IN YOUR IN-APP MESSAGES?

Keep in mind that your screen space and your user’s attention is a limited resource. To take advantage of both you will need to be efficient in your messages, you need to look great while delivering the message, and you need to drive your user to the action you find desirable for each in-app message

COPY IS IMPORTANT

With limited screen space, you need to be careful not to overwhelm your users with useless information. Pour your efforts into making your message’s copy attractive to the user personas you’re targeting. A concise and attractive title and a catchy yet concise byline that describes your message is all you need to ensure success. The principles of great advertisements also apply to in-app messages.

GREAT VISUALS CAN ADD

As constrained as you are with attention and space limitations, great visuals can add to your in-app message’s experience. If you’ve a travel website, for example, an image of a bright blue beach can grab a user’s attention like nothing else can.

ALWAYS CALL TO ACTION

This one is pretty obvious, but is too important for us to not mention. Always add a CTA button (Call to action) to your in-app message. Whether it is to inform, to guide, to promote or to do anything else, you need to have a call to action that guides the user to the next step – even if the CTA just says “Close”. CTAs are the goals you set for your in-app messages and you need to be careful with its copy, its colors, and its placement.

REMEMBER TO TEST

The very final step to your in-app messaging journey is to test – extensively. Test your assumptions, messages, visuals, timing, targeting, and everything in between. Like we’d mentioned earlier, in-app messages have the potential to give drive up the returns on your app investment, and testing can give you the maximum bang for your user time. A lack of testing can drive your in-app’s potential to the ground, and hence our insistence on using control groups to test your messages’ effectiveness.

CONCLUSION

In-app messages are obviously quite useful to every app owner. We at Netcore understand that, and have deployed multiple successful campaigns around it. If you’re inspired with a use case for your app, do reach out to our team and we’d be glad to help you deploy and test your in-app messages. As with your app, the sky’s the limit.

Schedule a Demo

Join over 5,000 brands using Netcore Smartech to understand their customers and converse with them across channels

Indian brands trusting Netcore Smartech for marketing automation