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Strategy

How to Create In-App Messages that Capture User Attention

These contextual best practices will help any loyalty marketer drive conversions using their in-app messaging tools

Evan F.P.
October 11 2018

In-app messaging is perhaps one of the most important tools a tech-savvy marketer can rely on. It allows brands to deliver messages to users when they’re already in the app, which means they’re less likely to be ignored or overlooked as with email or SMS. In-app messaging sees up to 8 times the direct response rates of push notifications, and often increases engagement and user retention rates as well.

Yet while in-app messaging is easy to implement, it doesn’t guarantee you’ll capture user attention. Engagement rates can vary wildly depending on the nature of your business and the audience an app serves. That makes effective messaging all the more important for long-term success.

For that reason, marketers should always consider the following best practices before implementing any messaging tools with their apps:

Messaging isn’t just advertising

One important principle to keep in mind is that messaging is not the same thing as advertising. While there is overlap on delivery methods, for marketing purposes they have different goals. Where advertising is intended to sell a certain product or service, messaging is about cultivating engagement with your brand. Messaging is notifying users about app features, announcing upcoming events, and presenting news of interest to targeted audiences.

The distinction can be subtle depending on the nature of your app, but it remains an important factor. One Localytics report determined that in-app messaging tends to increase customer retention by 40% within a month of an initial session. By the second month, retention had increased to 75%. Meanwhile, a study published in the International Journal of Mobile Communications found that in-app advertising was received negatively by university students in Turkey, a demographic that is commonly targeted by marketers due to high smartphone ownership rates.

When you treat in-app messaging as an engagement tool, customer retention becomes the biggest return on your investment. And as always, loyal customers are far more valuable to a brand than one-time users who decide the app isn’t worth their time.

Build messaging directly into your app’s UI design

One significant benefit of in-app messaging is that you can reach the majority, if not the entirety, of your audience. The caveat is it must be implemented correctly to enhance engagement, which usually comes down to design.

The most effective in-app messaging tools are built directly into the app itself. At a minimum, it should complement the visual aesthetic of your app, including colors and text fonts. Most messages tend to be full-screen displays, but you can also treat them as banners within a specific segment of the screen. Alternatively, you can design a “message centre” that contains all recent notices. If used alongside push notifications, users become aware of them before reading the details at their leisure.

A poorly designed messaging tool is no better than a poorly-designed pop-up ad: intrusive, annoying, and hard on the eyes. The more attention you put into design, the more likely you’ll see messaging tools with a return on investment.

Onboarding is the best opportunity for in-app messages

One key consideration is when an in-app message should be displayed. On the whole, the most effective time frame is when the user first opens the app after installation.

The benefits in-app messaging provides to the onboarding experience cannot be understated. It’s the perfect time to orient users to useful features, making them aware of services they might not have noticed. Brands also see a measurable effect on user retention, leading to a 50% increase in some studies. If used as part of a multichannel approach alongside push notifications or other services, retention figures can increase to 130%.

Once the user has become familiar with the app, similar messages can be displayed after major updates or when new features have been implemented. The key is to consider how much messaging is useful – you want to inform users, not overload them with information that discourages them from using the app. Keeping design considerations in mind should also help mitigate these concerns.

Personalize messages to ensure they are relevant and useful

Mobile apps are incredibly useful to marketers because they make it easy to assemble detailed user profiles. Any demographic information, purchase histories, and usage data that evaluates customer behavior can also be applied to in-app messaging.

In 2017, CleverTap reported that simply adding a user’s name to messages increased click throughs by over 10%, and that’s a fairly easy personalization technique. You could also develop custom contextual messages that are displayed automatically when certain conditions are met: personalized birthday greetings, events being held near your location, and discounts of recently viewed shopping items are all good examples.

Marketers will need to consider other strategies to make in-app messaging relevant to their specific audience. Yet whatever field you work in, these best practices make it easier for users to engage with your messages and find the value in your brand.

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Evan F.P.

Evan is a writer, educator and tech marketer. As content director at Fluid PR Group, he helps businesses tell their stories to the world. He lives in Toronto with his wife, their son and an occasionally well-behaved Australian Shepherd named Islay. Follow Evan on Twitter

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