When communicating with customers through a mobile app, it’s crucial to have a smart digital strategy to deliver relevant interactions in real time that increase engagement, reduce churn, and drive revenue. But businesses often struggle to do this, let alone global brands with hundreds of millions of users. Do not despair! By implementing a customer engagement platform like Swrve, personalized communications become possible at huge scale, providing your customers with the kind of great app experiences they now expect. 

We’re starting a Product Spotlight series to take a deeper look at the core features in our platform that help you achieve real-time relevance with your app users. And this series is not just for newbies—even seasoned pros will learn a thing or two. 

First up is in-app messages: what they are, how they work, and how to use them effectively?

What Are In-App Messages?

Swrve defines in-app messages as: The process by which custom screens, tailored to the individual and served dynamically in response to specific in-app triggers, are included in the app experience.

Let’s break that down a little:

Custom Screens: In-app messages should feel like a native part of the app experience to a user, and not a random pop-up that feels like an advertisement. This is achieved by custom building screens that match the look of your app perfectly, even though they are delivered by a customer engagement platform independently of the engineered app.

Tailored to the Individual: As they are not part of the hard-coded app experience, in-app messages can be designed and sent to targeted groups or users, creating a 1:1 experience in the app, based on individual user behaviors within the app and other channels. 

Served Dynamically: Serving in-app messages from a cloud-based customer engagement platform means that they can be created and amended on the fly. This makes a huge difference, as key aspects of the app experience can be changed in real time. Dynamic messages also support A/B testing, so by serving variants you can quickly discover exactly what works best for your goals.

Respond to Specific In-App Triggers: In-app messages aren’t simply shown at predefined times such as ‘app open’. Or at least, good ones aren’t. Instead they can be delivered precisely when a user within a certain group triggers a specific event. 

Included in the App Experience: As noted above, the more in-app messaging looks and feels like a part of the app, the more effective it is. That means a firm ‘no’ to loading screens and clunky off-brand designs.

The process by which custom screens, tailored to the individual and served dynamically in response to specific in-app triggers, are included in the app experience.

How Not To Use In-App Messages 

Like a lot of new technology, you can either use in-app messages to deliver great experiences, or you can misuse them and underperform. The latter is typically due to a lack of nuance around approach and a lack of relevance within messaging. With that in mind, here are some best practices of what not to do:

  • It’s best to not serve an in-app message when the app opens, as users are typically opening the app to do a specific task. There are exceptions, however, such as if the message is an important operational one, like notifying of downtime or a security alert.
  • Likewise it’s best not serve the same in-app message to all users, as it is highly unlikely that it will be relevant to everyone., A lack of relevance is one of the main reasons customers say they switch brands.
  • Don’t use in-app messages as a way to deliver aggressive sales messages. Customers want apps to deliver value, not sales pitches. And it’s extremely easy to delete an app from a device if it doesn’t provide valuable content..
  • And of course don’t serve the same in-app message more than once, especially if a user has already interacted with it. 


How To Use In-App Messages Effectively

In-app messages are incredibly powerful across the whole customer lifecycle, when used strategically, from the first time a user opens the app through to gathering customer feedback from a seasoned user. Let’s take a look at a few examples:

1. Optimizing Onboarding

Onboarding is absolutely vital in the world of mobile apps. You usually only get one chance to impress a user, and keep them coming back for more. On average 20% of users will only use your app once. But improving onboarding can significantly reduce this figure. And in-app messages, rather than static hard-coded screens, are the perfect way to do this. 

Create a series of in-app messages to act as welcome tours, that can be fine tuned to perfection by tracking how users interact with them. Dynamic screens can be changed and tested quickly, to compliment any of your other existing marketing campaigns across all channels. Add or remove a screen on the fly, if testing proves the welcome tour to be too long or too short, for example. They can also be delivered depending on the acquisition source of each individual user, matching the onboarding creative to the ad the user has clicked on to download the app. We’ve seen results of 20% uplift on the number of users who get to purchase, as a result. 

 2. Driving Actions and Conversions

Great conversations, in any medium, start with listening. In this case ‘listening’ means utilizing the huge amounts of individual’s behavioral data. Delivering in-app messages based on user data means genuine targeting that makes messages helpful, leading to more effective campaigns that drive engagement and conversions. 

There are a huge amount of use cases for this type of message. For instance a retail app triggers an in-app message to users who left an item in their cart the last time they used the app, reminding them about the item, and deep-linking them to the purchase page. One retailer we work with added $1.8 million to revenue in 2018 through simple cart abandonment campaigns. 

And an airline customer increased ancillary revenue, by $1.7 million in 2018, by delivering triggered in-app messages when customers checked in, or broke a geofence at their departure airport, upselling ancillary products such as seat and meal upgrades, and security fast tracks. 


 3. Customer Satisfaction

It’s vital for any business to have a clear handle on customer satisfaction. You don’t need to be the world’s greatest NPS disciple to be aware that happy customers lead to success. Unfortunately, as our users and customers flock to the mobile app, the old techniques we used to perform this task don’t function so well.

That’s why we should rejoice about the in-app message survey. There are many ways in which a message like this can be triggered. It could be based on the user breaking a geo-fence as they leave a physical branch. It could be delivered following the user completing a specific process (such as purchasing) for the first time. Or it could simply be randomized in order to get a snapshot of app user opinion.

These campaigns can also be used, as shown, to both collect feedback on the app itself and - if the feedback is positive, then send users on to the app store to rate in public. This simple process has seen a significant impact on average ratings. We’ve worked with customers who have seen ratings of 2.7 increase to 4.2 within weeks. And perhaps even better, this interactive campaign can collect further data from users who are not enjoying the experience, and improve product as a result. 

These are just three examples. But the truth is in-app messages enable smart app businesses to optimize and test a huge variety of common processes within the app, in addition to supporting targeted delivery of an almost infinite variety of marketing messages. They are the single smartest way to deliver relevant experiences, and as a result, drive success on mobile!

To learn more about how Swrve helps global enterprises deliver better, more relevant in-app messaging in real time and at scale, schedule a demo here.