5 Ways Brands Can Win Using In-App Messaging

Here at Localytics we love talking to prospects and customers about their mobile vision, and more importantly, where they think they need some help. Last year our data showed that up to 69% of app users started only 10 or fewer sessions, and that 25% of users opened an app just once after the initial download. While these numbers may have improved with publishers getting smarter with their development and marketing methods, the fact remains that user engagement across apps is still a major challenge for most companies.

We’ve been getting a lot of questions around the benefits of adopting an in-app messaging strategy to improve engagement and retention, and we wanted to share some ways brands can use this technology to achieve their vision for mobile domination.


1. Discover your “Super Fans”

It’s no secret that the pie-in-the-sky dream for any company is to be able to create an experience so extraordinary that their customers become brand evangelists, or as we like to say at Localytics, “Super Fans."

Building a cult following of Super Fans can be very difficult. It’s important to constantly ask customers for feedback to make sure you're doing it right. Many companies make mistakes early on that end up upsetting customers, or in the case of companies like Facebook (remember the backlash when they considered using Instagram user photos for ad campaigns?) alienating segments of users throughout their product’s lifetime. Fortunately, thanks to the Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey used by well-known brands like Apple, Trader Joe’s, and Nordstrom, marketers have an idea of who their promoters and detractors are across web and traditional channels.

You can use in-app messaging to leverage the NPS model. Once you identify your Promoters and Detractors there are many ways to leverage that data. For example, target Super Fans with a message encouraging them to rate your app, or creating a custom segment filtering all of your dashboard reports by Promoter or Detractor to see the different behaviors of each group.


2. Test for success: Build a sticky user experience

We work with many data-driven organizations. We have learned a lot about what’s important to them, and surprisingly it’s not always the conversion. Instead, the attention has shifted away from a hyper-focus on downloads and conversions, and towards creating a dynamic and engaging app experience that keeps users coming back for more.

In the web world A/B testing became the norm for brands trying to better understand their visitors and improve the overall website experience. In-app messaging is a really smart way for companies to bring the A/B testing methodology to mobile. Now you can let your users and the data tell you what’s important, versus making assumptions and missing out on opportunities to be successful. Here are a few examples:

  • Publishing companies can create an A/B test campaign targeting lower usage users with types of special content
  • Gaming companies can test rewards such as extra lives or a tip to help them in future levels
  • Entertainment companies can link to a new artist or playlist the user should follow

All of these would allow product managers and marketers to determine which content is most compelling, and ultimately drive deeper engagement with the target audience.


3. Push Fence Sitters Over the Edge

There’s one thing that every app has in common: fence sitters. You know, the retail app user who favorites 20 different items without ever making a purchase, or the news app trial subscriber who seems to open just about every article but is reluctant to upgrade to a paid subscription. Many app publishers tell us that a big challenge for them is being able to communicate with anonymous users in order to encourage conversions.

So, if you’re like eBay or The New York Times you’ve probably been trying to coax users to take the conversion plunge with push notifications or email offers. However, companies using push to do this are at risk of alienating users by sending too many generic or untargeted messages at inopportune times. Pushing a flash sale notification on summer dresses to a user who has been researching hockey equipment means you’re doing something wrong.

Instead, start engaging with users in a smarter way with in-app messaging. Convince your users on the fence to trust and interact with you by proving to them that you know who they are and want to earn their business. Here’s a great example for a news app.

The target audience for this would be anonymous trial or free users.

The goal would be to prompt them to upgrade to a paid subscription.

You would segment your anonymous users into a custom segment where everyone has:

a) Read the US Edition of the publication

b) Started a session at least 6 times in the last 3 days

c) Read at least 8 articles in the Politics or World News sections in the last 3 days

Campaign A: An offer for 3 free months of access to premium Political, Economic, and World News content

Campaign B: An offer for 50% off a 6-month subscription, plus a special end of year “World in Review” report normally only available to annual subscribers

You would launch this campaign and monitor closely to see which one is most effective at pushing fence sitters to the actions you want them to take, the refine your in-app messages according to the results.


4. Closing the Customer Loop

For years big brands have been leveraging a multi-channel approach to customer engagement in order to drive conversions and boost revenue. It’s now more important than ever for companies to begin incorporating mobile user data into their multi-channel story.

All of the insights that marketing teams have about customers from all channels can be used to create well-defined user segments. Those segments then serve as the basis for an in-app messaging campaign. For example, a retail company wanting to bridge the gap between brick and mortar, web and mobile channels can pass data identifying their most loyal customers who qualify for VIP status, then create a segment called VIPs and offer those users exclusive early access to products relevant to their interests.

Being able to connect the multi-channel dots and develop richer user profiles based on consumer behavior will put forward-thinking brands firmly ahead of the pack when it comes to driving increased user engagement.


5. Reward Your Champions

In all channels, including traditional channels and mobile, there are many ways to show loyal customers that their business is appreciated. Companies should think of creative “thank yous” to send to their active users as a part of their mobile engagement strategy, especially in an increasingly competitive app market landscape.

Retention is a critical factor in an app’s success, as it is important that acquisition investments yield more than just a bunch of “fair-weather fans.”

Using cohort retention analysis, companies can quickly identify which campaigns or sources are generating their most highly engaged users. It’s then a pretty easy transition to turn that knowledge into an effective, good-karma-generating “thank you” campaign offering anything from free giveaways to coupons for the user and a handful of their friends. What better way to build a Super Fan cult following than to get your most valuable users to be your brand ambassadors?


Wrap Up

From NPS surveys and A/B testing to showing love to Super Fans, there are so many ways brands can win by adopting an in-app messaging strategy. So you’ve heard from us, and now we want to know more about you: if you could run one campaign today in your app, what would it be and what's the potential impact on your business? We’d love to hear from you!