What a Successful In-App Messaging Campaign Looks Like


Up to this point, we’ve proven that:

  • Only sending push notifications isn't enough
  • In-app messaging is essential to nurturing your active app users
  • In-app messaging increases user loyalty, engagement, and conversions
  • In-app messaging is completely different from mobile ads and in-app chat

A strong app strategy needs in-app messaging as part of the mix, but not all in-app messages are created equal. 

In this section, we’ll walk you through the anatomy of a successful in-app messaging campaign, including how to use analytics, what variables to test, and what kind of content works. 

 

1. Find the Right Target Audience

 

No two app users are the same, so an in-app messaging campaign that is sent to all active users will fall short. You need to segment people by their interests, attributes, and in-app behavior.

For example, let’s say you want to boost purchases in your mCommerce app by giving people a free shipping promo code. As enticing as this offer sounds, it likely won’t appear relevant to people who have never browsed your in-app products (a better offer could be a message that encourages these users to view the latest in-app sales). And it especially won’t please people if they receive this free shipping promo after they’ve completed the in-app checkout process. 

bespoke-in-app-messaging

The best target audience for this free shipping in-app campaign is the group of users who were on the cusp of making purchase, but never checked out. This user segment could look something like this:

All users who have visited a product screen at least twice in the last 14 days, but have not added an item to their cart.

You could further slice and dice this audience by session length, country, etc., but the point is: in-app messages need to be targeted to the right audience based on their actions and characteristics.

Key Takeaways:

  • Do not employ a “one size fits all” strategy
  • Identify important user attributes and behaviors, and then create relevant target audiences
  • Choose this audience when crafting your in-app messaging campaign

 

2. Trigger In-App Messages in Real-time, Based on Events

 

Once you have your target audiences selected, think about what these groups of users are likely to do next and set up in-app messages that trigger when they complete that action (i.e. event). In-app messages triggered from an in-app event are 4x more effective in converting users.  

If we return to the target audience from the previous section (the users who had viewed products at least twice in the last two weeks, but failed to actually add those items to their cart), the best time to show these users the “Free Shipping!” promo would be when they view another product. 

In this moment, the user would be actively thinking about something they like and want to purchase – they would be mentally primed for conversion. In this moment, the user would also be facing buyer’s dilemma – they would be teeter tottering on what to do next. And your in-app offer would be most welcome because it would sway them to buy. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Think about what your target audiences will likely do next in your app 
  • Set up in-app messaging to trigger in real-time off an event (i.e. an action taken inside the app) 
  • Do not simply trigger all your in-app messages as soon as users re-open your app (make them contextual to specific scenarios)

 

3. Analyze Your Funnels

 

How do people flow through your app? What screen do they start at? Where do they go next? How do you want them to navigate through your app? What do you want them to do?

All of these questions pertain to your app funnels – the pathways in your app that lead to a desired outcome or action. The goal of your mobile marketing is to move users across the golden conversion line, to the “ultimate” in-app action. So, understanding the various steps within your funnels, and whether users complete them or not, will inform your in-app messaging campaigns.

By analyzing your funnels, you can pinpoint where users are falling out of a desired path and create an in-app messaging campaign that targets that drop-off. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Determine the most important user actions in your app
  • Analyze how users are currently moving through your funnels
  • Create your in-app messaging campaign to correspond to conversion steps within important funnels

 

4. Create a Personalized Offer

 

With your chosen target users in hand and an idea of where in the conversion funnel your campaign will work, create an offer targeted to address that audience specifically. 

The best in-app messaging campaigns are those born from data. Whether it’s an exclusive sale or discount code, access to premium content, or a prompt to follow your brand on social media, your offer should speak to your audience, fit the funnel, and serve to increase engagement and improve usage. 

It should also feel as though it’s a natural part of the app, and not an additional marketing initiative. A great in-app message arrives at the right time during the user experience and presents an offer in line with that user’s current actions. It speaks to their immediate need and feels like it was designed just for them.

Key Takeaways:

  • Identify your offer and the conversion step(s) leading up to it
  • Align your offer with the right audience segment and personalize it for their current actions, needs, and wants
  •  Integrate your in-app message into the funnel for a seamless experience

 

5. Write Compelling Content

 

Unlike push notifications, which are limited in terms of copy and emojis, in-app messaging has room for longer content and richer creatives. Still, successful in-app messages are able to convey value in as few characters as necessary (nobody wants to read dense paragraphs on a small mobile screen!).

To get users to engage with the message and not simply exit out of it, your content should be concise and persuasive. The headline should be clear and bold to capture attention, and the explanatory text should summarize the benefits of the offer and tell users how to redeem it. In short, the copy should answer the “What? Why? And how?”—what is the offer, why is it worthwhile, and how do I take advantage of it?

Key Takeaways:

  • Write a compelling headline that summarizes the offer
  • Stick to concise copy that makes the value-add clear
  • Use actionable language that creates urgency

 

6. Add a Strong Call-to-Action

 

Just like in the online world, your in-app message also needs a prominent call-to-action (CTA) to point the user to the next step or action they should take. CTAs are essential to converting people into loyal app users.

Usually, CTAs that appear in in-app messages look like buttons; they are large, distinctly colored, and look “clickable.” Because you typically have a short period of time to engage the user, successful in-app CTAs stand out and prompt immediate action using quick verbs.

Key Takeaways:

  • Make your CTA highly visual and easily-identifiable for the user
  • When using a button CTA, make it large enough to click
  • Test out different verbs, phrases, colors, styles, etc. to see which CTA drives the highest click-through rate

Pro Tip: Two CTAs can be better than one

There is no cardinal rule that says in-app messages can only contain one CTA. Secondary CTAs can provide an extra conversion opportunity for users who aren’t interested in what the primary CTA offers (as long as you add them in a clutter-free way).

Take a look at Hopster’s in-app message below, which gives users a whopping four ways to convert. 

7. Incorporate Visual Branding

 

People respond better to beautiful visuals versus text-heavy in-app messages. So, add graphics, images, and other illustrative branding to your in-app creative. You want to catch your users’ eye, reinforce brand identity, and compel them to convert. You do not want to make your in-app message look like an intrusive mobile ad that feels out of place.

In-app messages usually happen in webviews, which have access to HTML and Javascript. This makes it possible for them to be interactive and engaging with videos, navigation, and other well-designed tie-ins back to the app.

Remember, the accompanying visuals in an in-app message should complement the copy in a way that reinforces the main point, increases brand credibility, and improves the click-through rate.

Key Takeaways:

  • Maintain brand identity with typeface and brand colors
  • Experiment with icons, photographs, borders, and other visual elements
  • Do not make your in-app message look like a spammy ad that looks and feels unrelated to your app

Pro Tip: Use different fonts and font sizes to make the main point big and bold

We’re living in an attention-deficit era. Marketers have a few meager seconds to make a statement before your customer’s mind wanders off. When it comes to mobile, it’s even harder to make messages stick so you need to communicate quickly. That’s why you should use different fonts and/or font sizes to make the most important part of your in-app message stand out. 

When people look at your in-app message, what is the first thing you want them to notice? Make this big. And if they only stared at your creative for three seconds before hitting the “x” to close, what would they remember? Make these words different from the rest.

For example, Free People uses varying colors, typefaces, and font sizes to make their offer pop right away.    

Key Takeaways:

  • Maintain brand identity with typeface and brand colors
  • Experiment with icons, photographs, borders, and other visual elements
  • Do not make your in-app message look like a spammy ad that looks and feels unrelated to your app 

Pro Tip: Use different fonts and font sizes to make the main point big and bold

We’re living in an attention-deficit era. Marketers have a few meager seconds to make a statement before your customer’s mind wanders off. When it comes to mobile, it’s even harder to make messages stick so you need to communicate quickly. That’s why you should use different fonts and/or font sizes to make the most important part of your in-app message stand out

When people look at your in-app message, what is the first thing you want them to notice? Make this big. And if they only stared at your creative for three seconds before hitting the “x” to close, what would they remember? Make these words different from the rest.

For example, Free People uses varying colors, typefaces, and font sizes and to make their offer pop right away.    

8. Use Marketing Automation

 

Marketing automation capabilities (i.e. event-triggered) for mobile are advancing rapidly, so don’t let manual roadblocks slow you down!

With your target audiences in place, use automation to “auto-enroll” new users into existing campaigns as they meet certain criteria. This way, new users that fulfill these conditions will automatically receive the in-app campaign as soon as they qualify for it – ensuring you never miss an opportunity to convert more people.

You should also “chain” messages together in a series so it’s not a “one and done.” When users re-engage with, or re-qualify, for an in-app campaign, they receive additional messages giving you insight into how linked offers impact behavior.

Key Takeaways:

  • Implement marketing automation to “auto-enroll” newly qualified users into existing campaigns
  • Chain in-app messages together to continually nurture users

 

9. Don’t Forget A/B Testing

 

A/B testing your mobile app used to be a complicated process involving engineering time and app store re-submissions. Now, you can A/B (and even C/D/E!) test your in-app marketing as easily as you do landing pages or emails.

By using A/B testing with the addition of a control group (i.e. an unaffected, neutral segment of your users), you can get bulletproof insight into how different versions of an in-app message boosts engagement compared to a baseline measure. In essence, you can see the true impact of your in-app messaging campaigns.

Here are some of the things you can test:

  • Different types of offers
  • CTA colors and text
  • Headline copy
  • Phrase lengths
  • Adding time sensitivity (for example, does “this week only” resonate better than “code expires in two days?”)
  • Background or supporting visuals
  • The number of CTAs
  • The timing or trigger event, and the frequency (when and how many in-app messages a user receives)

Key Takeaways:

  • Use A/B or multivariate testing to gain additional insight – don’t be afraid to experiment!
  • Test different content, creatives, offers, timing, and frequency to uncover the most effective combinations
  • Compare the results of each test against a control group to determine which in-app messaging campaigns are worth running

 

10. Measure and Repeat

 

A marketing campaign is no good if you can’t reliably measure it. Send your in-app messages out through a closed-loop platform that dynamically connects marketing to analytics data. It doesn’t benefit you to have your app analytics separate from your app marketing because you’ll loose the power to act on your data with 100% confidence.

And what’s the point of having data that you can’t act on? Smart app marketing is based on deep analytics that help you assess the health of your app based on initial campaign performance metrics (like impressions, click-through rates, conversion rates, etc.) as well as long-term metrics (like customer lifetime value).

Which in-app message earned the most clicks? Which creative resulted in the highest lift in engagement? Which in-app campaign moved the needle on retention? These are the types of things app marketers should measure, and then based on the answer, repeat, refine, and move forward.

Key Takeaways:

  • Always measure your in-app marketing campaigns
  •  Track important initial metrics, but also look at long-term effects of campaigns on user behavior, engagement, and value
  • Use an integrated app analytics and marketing platform to measure app ROI over time and improve your messages