Beginner's Guide to App Marketing

Move beyond downloads: learn how to engage, retain & convert app users.

An Introduction to App Marketing

So you’ve unlocked the secrets to understanding fundamental app analytics. Now what exactly are you supposed to DO with all this data?




But the real reason for collecting all these different data points is because they are actionable. You could spend weeks or months making strategic changes to your app infrastructure or UI/UX design, but if you want to take immediate action, and we’re guessing you do, app marketing is the way to go.


What do we mean by app marketing? There are two types. The first is when you advertise to people on third-party apps and websites, which we’ll cover in future lessons. But for now we’re referring to the kind of app marketing that aims to drive more revenue and engagement from the people who already use your app.



To really understand app marketing you have to understand the different channels available engage with your users on:

  1. Push Messages
  2. In-App Messages
  3. Inbox Messages 
  4. Geo-Push Messages


Push Messages  

These are messages delivered to your user’s home screen or while he or she is using a different app or perusing other phone features. They’re typically aimed at re-engaging latent users through directing them to desired actions - updates, coupons, offers, etc.


These should be short and sweet, like a polite tap on your shoulder from a friend you haven’t seen in awhile. But be careful not to smother them with messages. It’s a very fine line between not enough and too many push notifications. Put yourself in the user’s shoes. What would be valuable enough for you to click on? This should be a solid starting point for crafting your push notification strategy.


If the user allows, notifications can also appear on the lock screen. Like a banner, they don’t require the user to take action. They hang out on the screen until the user swipes the message (opens the app) or unlocks the phone (opens to home screen).




Over the years, the flexibility of push notifications has evolved significantly. Whereas in the past, marketers could only include a bit of text and a thumbnail in the body of a push message, they now have the flexibility to deliver rich content such as photos, GIF’s, and even videos to the user’s home screen. Some push messages can be expanded to longer content, or action buttons, when the user presses down. Essentially, push messages have evolved to the point where users can now often engage with app publishers’ content right from the home screen - without even opening the app!




In-App Messages

These are messages that are sent to the user while they’re using your app. This is important for a couple reasons: First, not only do you have full control of the copy, you can also customize the styling to match your theme or make more ornate calls-to-action. Second, the user is already engaged with your app. Because you can trigger in-app messages after an event, it allows you to interact with them at a more granular level. The user sees you as relevant and is more likely to respond and take action. While you see it as a targeted marketing strategy, your user sees it as more of a casual conversation.


For example, sending a push message to a user’s home screen asking them to take a survey gives them no legitimate reason to respond. You have the actionable language, but haven’t offered them any real value. How about sending this same request to your users through an in-app message after they’ve just purchased an item? You still have the same actionable language, but now you’ve added a proven value (enough for them to purchase an item from you). The user is much more likely to be open to taking a short survey after a pleasant checkout experience.




Inbox Messages

Inbox messages live within a notification center, or message center within an app. Not all apps have notification / message centers. Unlike traditional in-app messages which disappear after the user clicks or dismisses them, Inbox message persist for a define period of time in the app. Therefore, the content is available for users to peruse on their own time.


Inbox messages are ideal for sending coupons, ongoing announcements, or longer form content that’s not time or context sensitive.  Often, these messages will increase the likelihood that a user will convert by “storing” these incentives for an extended period of time. Inbox also allows for deeper engagement through customizable messages, which could include longer-form content like blogs or articles.  




Geo-Push Messages

Geo-Push messages allow you to deliver real-time notifications to your users based on their location. For instance, if you are a retail brand with brick and mortar stores, you may to leverage geo-push messages to draw users into the store, by notifying them about a current sale as they walk by the store. Geo-push allows app marketers to connect the digital experience with users’ physical location.


Top Five Push & In-App Best Practices 

1. Make it easy to opt in and out of push messages


Make it clear why it’s beneficial for them to opt in. But, at the same time, you have to make it easy to opt out. You don’t want to put off happy users.


Win: “Some secrets are worth sharing. Turn notifications on to make sure you don’t miss out on our secret fall sales!”

Fail: “We are requesting you to allow push notifications. We promise it’s not spam.”


2. Target user segments


There are users in many different levels of your conversion funnel. If you’re offering bottom-of-the-funnel offers to top-of-the-funnel users, you risk alienating them. That’s why it’s important to segment users based on behavior and profile data, and target them with unique messages and offers.


Win: Target users who have abandoned their cart with a free shipping coupon.

Fail: Target all users with a 10% off sale on onesies.


3. Use personalized language


People want to feel like people, not users. Keep this in mind when you’re writing your push and in-app messages. You don’t need to call each one by name, but make sure you’re showing off your brand’s personality and using words that resonate with the different user segments.


Win: “Fancy shoes for winter blues. 2 for 1 (it’s not a ruse)”

Fail: “Deal-of-the-day is now available. Quantities are limited.”


4. Identify the right frequency


It’s not easy predicting how your users will react to the frequency of your messages. It will take time, testing and maybe even a few “miscalculations” along the way. But that’s the beauty of analytics: immediate results that you can use to optimize future campaigns.


Win: Send a push notification after users haven’t opened your app in a few days. Update them with an in-app offer after they’ve viewed multiple categories.

Fail: Send users an in-app message every time they open your app, asking them to rate it.


5. A/B test to see what text works best


It’s finally time to send out that big coupon to your loyal users. But before you push the send button, you get cold feet. You’re not completely sure that the messaging will resonate with your users. There’s no need to worry, though, because you have the power of A/B testing and control groups. This allows you to run one campaign with two alternate messages. It’s like a science experiment for your app.



Message A: “We’ve seen you here a lot lately! Have a 25% off coupon on us!”

Message B: “You must really like us (we like you too!). Why don’t you take 25% off on your next order?”



Message A: “Thanks for being a loyal user, here’s a 25% off coupon.”

Message B: “Thanks for being a loyal user, here’s a 30% off coupon.”





Push & In-App: Teaming Up

If you were the captain of the app team, you’d want to pick them both. Push and in-app perform much better when they play together. While they are two different types of messaging, they don’t exist separately. They both have advantages in certain situations, but neither one is the superstar. The key to successful app marketing is to use push and in-app messages in tandem, building a larger holistic strategy that engages users at all levels of their app experience.


New Call-to-action