But in the conventional app ecosystem that isn’t always easy. Native apps are hard-coded, submitted to the app store, and ultimately the same for each and every user. An onboarding process, for example, is the same for everyone. And changing it involves months between having and idea and getting it into the live environment. As a result, apps are restricted in key areas to the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach - which greatly restricts their ability to drive the metrics that add up to success in a multi-channel environment.
Enter in-app messages - one potential solution to all of these problems. In this piece we’re going to take a detailed look at the subject of in-app messages. Let’s start with a few definitions.
What Are In-App Messages?
Before getting into the detail it might be worth starting from the end result. In a sense in-app messages are best defined as:
“Custom screens, tailored to the individual and served dynamically in response to specific in-app triggers within the app experience”
In-app messages in this form can deliver significant benefits in terms of helping users get value from mobile apps, and thus improving the retention, engagement and revenue rates associated with the apps themselves. We’ll look at how this can be done later, but first let’s look at the detail behind some of those phrases in our definition above:
- “Custom screens”: In-app messages are typically screens that to a user feel like a native part of the app experience (nothing makes people switch off like something that is obviously an advert after all). But they are not defined as part of the core app experience and are thus custom - designed and delivered independently of the core app. We’ll talk a little bit more about this distinction later.
- “Tailored to the individual”: As they are not part of that core app experience, in-app messages can be built and displayed only to targeted groups of users, or indeed ultimately displayed on a 1-2-1 basis. We’ll see exactly how in a couple of examples below.
- “Served dynamically”: In-app messages are served from a cloud-based platform, and as such they can be created and amended ‘live’. That makes a huge difference, because key aspects of the app experience can thus be changed in real-time (rather than waiting 6 months). In addition, dynamic messages also support A/B testing: by serving competing variants we can discover quickly exactly what works and what doesn’t.
- “In response to specific in-app triggers”: In-app messages aren’t simply shown at pre-defined times such as (worst of all) the moment the app is opened. Or at least, good ones aren’t. Instead they can be delivered precisely when a user within a certain group triggers a specific event - whether that’s an activity in the app or even entering or leaving a geographical location.
“Within the app experience”. As noted above, the more in-app messages look and feels like a part of the app, the more effective they will be. That means a firm ‘no’ to loading screens and clunky off-brand designs.
To summarise, an in-app messages are typically created as stand-alone screens, or a series of screens, and in turn delivered to a specific audience of users upon a specific trigger within the app.
The list above can also be useful when it comes to choosing (or building) a platform for delivering in-app campaigns. You’ll want to be able to ensure that you can control creative and choose trigger events without restrictions, for example.
In-app messages are also more powerful when designed and delivered within a broader omni-channel marketing solution. When integrated with push notification campaigns (either mobile or desktop) and advanced segmentation capabilities, in-app messages and campaigns deliver even better results!
Let’s look at some further detail about the campaigns in-app messages can be used in - and the uplift they can deliver for your business.
Typical Use Cases And Campaigns For In-App Messages
In-app messages are often an ideal way to handle a variety of common tasks within apps. As they are easy to change, easy to test, and easy to target, they can deliver more personalized and optimized experiences than would be possible through a ‘one-size-fits-all’ app.
To demonstrate, it is probably easiest to show some examples of those campaigns, flowing through the typical customer lifecycle from acquisition to churn (or better, preventing churn!)
In-app messages can be used to deliver initial app onboarding screens that are customized to the specific offer (for example on a Facebook ad) that the new user responded to before downloading the app.
In this example, a response to a student banking offer within a Facebook ad delivers an onboarding experience specific to that offer. When compared with the alternative - a generic onboarding process - this greatly increases the percentage of new users ultimately opening accounts.
In-app messages are an effective way to request opt-ins (such as push) that many apps and businesses rely on. Relying on the default, minimal opt-in request will deliver the minimum possible opt-ins in return, as users may be unclear what benefit opting-in delivers.
By using an in-app campaign ahead of the default, it is possible to provide reassurance around how opt-ins are used and outline the benefits to the user. It is also possible to rapidly test creative and timing, and deliver personalized opt-in campaigns to different user groups.
Using in-app messages in this way can double opt-in rates and deliver significant benefits downstream for the business.
Cross-Sell And Up-Sell
We often want to let our customers know about other services we offer or even other apps they may be interested in. In-app messages are the single most effective way to make that happen.
Whilst we could use techniques such as push notifications or email, nothing is more immediate than the in-app experience, and nothing is more effective either. After all, users spend the majority of their ‘digital hours’ in the mobile app, so that’s the best place to talk to them.
Hard-coding these campaigns into an app is clearly a non-starter. In-app messages, on the other hand, enable them to be designed, delivered and tested ‘in the moment’, driving successful cross-sell and incremental revenue as a result.
In-app messages are the ideal way to let users know about new features within the app, or indeed those introduced by a business elsewhere. That matters: every year huge amounts of time and money are invested in new product and services that don’t get used (or don’t get used enough) by customers. In turn those customers do not get full value from the product and are less likely to renew or buy again.
Again, in-app campaigns are the most effective and impactful way to introduce those features to customers - particularly when those customers typically interact with the service in the app. They can be created and delivered within moments, tested and adapted rapidly, and creative can be personalized for the relevant audience. In addition they can be shown only to those users who have not already discovered these features for themselves.
As a result your customers get greater value from the product - and are even less likely to churn.
In-app messages are the smart way to deliver surveys, and not just because the mobile app is where most customers spend the majority of their time these days. Surveys delivered within in-app campaigns provide for intuitive, ‘native mobile’ interactions that mean higher completion rates and thus more accurate, representative results.
In-app campaigns can consist of multiple screens, served dynamically according to the answers given on previous screens, and can thus deliver sophisticated survey experiences. There are no restrictions on the type or format of survey and no restrictions on how much information is collected. Interactive surveys delivered in this way can even route people directly to customer support services if there’s an issue that needs to be resolved immediately.
Offers And Incentives
Lastly, in-app messages are the perfect way to deliver specific, personalized offers and incentives to customers. After creating target audiences (such as those who are showing propensity to churn), these individuals can be delivered messages upon specific triggers within an app (on any channel). These messages in turn can be used to communicate offers, discounts, rebates: whatever is felt can help reduce churn.
Of course in-app campaigns can be used throughout the lifecycle, as we’ve noted above. But they can be particularly effective to keep regular customers - and those who may otherwise become disengaged - as active as possible