SMS, Push and In-App: Demystifying the Various Mobile Messaging Options

The increase in smart phone usage is important for brands to keep in mind when considering how to market to their customers. Not only are the numbers of smart phone users increasing, but behavior is changing and users are becoming more and more attached to their smartphones. According to Qualcomm, 29% of Americans say their phone is the first and last thing they look at every day.

With users constantly using and interacting with their smartphones, it's important for your brand to be reaching out to your users through the mobile platform by using a mobile messaging technique. However, there are multiple different methods for mobile messaging and it can be hard to determine which is best for what. We've broken it down for you to describe the key differences in thre options: SMS, push notifications, and in-app messages.


Mobile Messaging Platforms

1. SMS

Users get SMS messages they have opted to receive from brands the way they would receive any other text message on their mobile phone. While mobile email is a similar technique in that users opt to receive the messages, many more SMS messages are opened and read than email. According to SlickText, 95% of text messages are opened, which means SMS messages are a good way to reach a broad audience. However, the broad audience is not always a good thing. SMS marketing makes it more difficult to get information on individual users, which means it is harder to segment the user groups. They are also not generally associated with app usage and most times will direct your user to your mobile site, which makes it harder to understand these users through analytics. SMS can be effective for specific types of messages when used the right way. For example, using it to get responses from users or notifying users about a limited time promotion. Starbucks has a great method for using SMS marketing (as seen in the screen shot below). However, there are more effective messaging techniques.

SMS example

Courtesy of Mobile Marketer

2. Push Notifications

Push notifications are messages sent to users on their home screen when they are not in the app. You can use push notifications to drive users back into your app if they are not actively engaged with it. Social network apps do a really nice job of personalizing the messages to users by sending them only when someone has interacted with them through the network. A great way to avoid annoying users with push messaging is to make sure messages are as customized and personal as possible. The important thing to remember when using push is that content, frequency, and timing have to be done right, or it could annoy users and turn them off from your app. Rue La La does a great job with their push notifications in using creative and entertaining content. Though push messages can work, you can't rely solely on push for mobile messaging. Localytics data finds that even among engaged users who have opened an app at least 10 times over 3 months, almost 50% opened the app from a push notification only once or twice. This means that those users are either ignoring the messages or turning the messages off.

Rue La La push message

3. In-App Messages

In-app messages are sent to users while they are in an app. It can be used for many different cases such as getting customers to rate your app, notifying them of an update to the app, offering rewards and promotions, or giving them a tour of new features. You can use it to nurture and encourage engagement from within your app. You can use a user segmentation tool to personalize messages based on cohorts to create a unique experience for each segment. In-app messaging is the best way to create a stronger, richer app experience by getting in touch with specific user groups and making the experience more valuable to them inside your app.

Loca in-app message


Building Your Mobile Messaging Strategy

The ultimate goal of using mobile messaging is to stay connected with users and create a large base of engaged and loyal users. The best way to work towards that is to use a combination of all three in your strategy. The key is to know what to use each for. Push messaging is best used for less engaged users to draw them back in, in-app messaging is best for encouraging more engagement while creating a better in-app experience, and SMS messaging is best for connecting with broad audiences. You have to be strategic in your content creation for each. The most important thing to remember is that segmenting your users is essential when sending out push and in-app messages. You have to make sure you are reaching the right user group with the right type of message and the right content.

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