The Anatomy of a Successful In-App Messaging Campaign


App marketing is the new frontier in communicating with your prospects, customers and clients. A hugely important piece of that is in-app messaging, or, the messages you send to users while they are currently interacting with your mobile or web app. In-app messaging engages the users who are already active, capitalizing on their behavior and using attributes (such as location, gender, and device) to determine which users will take certain actions.

Sound complicated? Don’t worry – it’s not! Running in-app marketing is surprisingly easy when you have the right tools and insights. Here, we walk you through the elements of a successful in-app messaging campaign, including how to use analytics, what variables to test, and what kind of content works. If you're short on time, we've got some TL;DR (too long; didn't read) highlights at the end of each section!


1. Find the right user segment

No two app users are the same, so messaging campaigns that are sent to all active users will fall short. But, there are ways to find users with similar interests or characteristics and segment them by various attributes and behavior. These segments will help inform your campaigns. Say you want to boost purchases in your mCommerce app; you can segment your users based on past purchasing behavior, like users who added an item to their carts but never checked out, and by session length and frequency. Using these attributes, you’re able to create your target audience for that campaign.

segment your users by purchasing behavior

TL;DR Best practices:

  • Identify the attributes all users in this campaign should share
  • Segment by attribute to create your ideal audience
  • Choose that audience segment when building your in-app message


2. Analyze your funnels

Where are users converting in your app? Where do they typically fall out of the funnel? What is the desired outcome of each funnel? The goal of your marketing is to motivate your users across the golden conversion line, so understanding the various steps within your funnels and if users are completing them will help you create successful campaigns. Using your funnels, you can identify where users are falling out of the desired conversion path and create an in-app messaging campaign that targets that drop-off. Analyzing these funnels will also help you test conversion hypotheses and make ongoing improvements to your marketing over time.

track steps taken and conversions in funnels

TL;DR Best practices:

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


3. Create a personalized offer

With your chosen user segment 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 is targeted to arrive at the right time during the user experience and present an offer in line with that user’s current actions.

personalized reminder of credit to shop on rue la la

TL;DR Best practices:

  • Identify your offer and the conversion step(s) leading up to it
  • Align your offer with the right audience segment
  • Integrate into the funnel for a seamless experience


4. Write compelling content

Unlike push messaging, which is limited in terms of copy, in-app messaging has room for longer content. However, successful in-app messages are able to convey value in as few characters as necessary. To get mobile users to engage and not exit the message, your content should be concise and persuasive. The most important copy element of your in-app message is the explanatory text (but clear headlines are also effective in capturing user attention).

Daily Mirror in-app messaging Example

TL;DR Best practices:

  • Stick to concise copy
  • Make the value add clear
  • Use actionable language


5. Add a clear call to action

Here’s where web and mobile marketing aligns: CTAs are just as important in converting prospects. They also require A/B testing to determine which colors, content, sizing, and format will work best for your brand. Buttons are often a safe bet to draw the user to click through, but because your entire in-app message is clickable, your CTAs can be more creative with formatting and text. Because you typically have a short period of time to engage the user with your message, successful in-app CTAs are visually bold and easily identifiable that the user can immediately act on.

Random House in-app messaging Example

TL;DR Best practices:

  • Make your CTA highly-visual and easily-identifiable for the user
  • Use quick verbs to convey action
  • When using a button, make it large enough to be easily clickable


6. Incorporate visual branding

Your users are highly visual – adding graphics or other illustrative branding to your in-app messages help catch the users’ eye, reinforce brand identity, and convert. You want to avoid your in-app message looking like an ad, and instead present a branded campaign that looks natural within the app. Think of your in-app messages as condensed emails; the visuals should complement the copy in a way that increases brand credibility and improves click-through rate.

Free People in-app messaging Example

TL;DR Best practices:

  • Maintain brand identity with typeface and brand colors
  • Experiment with icons, photographs, borders, and other visual elements
  • Avoid creating messages that look like ads


7. Use marketing automation

Marketing automation is the gold standard today – and for mobile, capabilities are advancing rapidly. With your segments in place, you should use automation to “auto enroll” new users as they meet certain criteria. With that enrollment in place, those new users will automatically receive the in-app campaign that they have qualified for – ensuring that you never miss a new opportunity to convert more users. You should also “chain” messages, so that when users re-engage with or re-qualify for an in-app campaign, they receive additional messages.

TL;DR Best practices:

  • Use automation to “auto enroll” qualified users into existing campaigns
  • Use chain messages to re-engage users so that it’s not a one-and-done campaign


8. 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 test in-app messages in the same way you do landing pages or emails. By using A/B testing, you will know what works best within your campaigns by comparing multiple, varied offers and defining the elements that your users respond to.

AB test in-app messaging

TL;DR Best practices:

  • Use app A/B testing for additional insights and experimentation
  • Test different content, offers, timing and frequency to determine the best combinations


9. Measure and repeat

A marketing campaign is no good if you can’t measure it! Send your in-app messages out through a closed-loop platform that dynamically connects marketing to analytics data. It doesn’t benefit to have your analytics separate from your in-app marketing, as you’ll always loose out on data and you’re not ensured 100% accurate results. By measuring your in-app campaign, you can get insights into initial results like impressions, click-through rate (CTR), and conversion rate, and also into long-term results like customer lifetime value (LTV). This will inform your in-app marketing ROI, and help you assess how it fits into your overall marketing strategy.

user lifetime value by campaign

TL;DR Best practices:

  • Always measure your in-app marketing campaigns
  • Track important initial metrics: impressions, CTR, conversion rate
  • Use a closed-loop system to track LTV

There are many ways to run a great in-app messaging campaign, and once you get the basics down, there’s a whole world of experimentation awaiting you. Whether you use some or all of these suggestions, the most important takeaway is this: measure everything, and you’ll be able to run great app marketing.


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