Modern marketing has overhauled the way people interact with brands. Now, more than ever, the customer controls that relationship. This has lead to a significant evolution in terms of communication.

Unfortunately, it has also lead to spam; in email, social, pop-up ads. With each new channel there comes the opportunity for misuse and bad marketing. And apps are no different. When done wrong, app messaging has the potential to turn away users with spammy, irrelevant and overly-promotional offers.

But more importantly, tactics like in-app messaging can provide users with content, information and offers relevant to their app actions and attributes, which only serve to improve their app experience and brand relationship.

When used right, in-app messaging is the email of app marketing. And that’s not something to pass up.

Not convinced? We’ve collected nine examples of in-app messages that benefit users and showcase the value of the medium for your inspiration.

1. The Opt-In

Sometimes in-app messages can be used for something as simple as asking a user to opt-in to notifications. The standard in-app template often used in iOS apps to do this is easily overlooked and doesn’t give you the space to speak to the benefits of actually receiving notifications. In order to get more users to interact with your push notifications, you can use in-app messages to make it an appealing offer.

Snapguide, an app that provides DIY how-to guides, uses in-app messaging to highlight that the user will receive personalized notifications about guides applicable to their interests and direct communications from other users. Highlighting relevancy and the end user benefit is a best bet for improving the experience and earning trust.

2. The Personalized Recommendation

Speaking of personalization – it is the definitive way apps are going to start differentiating their marketing and encouraging loyalty. Apps as a medium are moving away from static experiences and, as users evolve, evolving alongside them by integrating personalized content, information and recommendations. By collecting data on user preferences, favorites, attributes and actions, you can put your analytics to work and create campaigns specific to their interests.

The Beats music app provides a playlist based on your listening habits via an in-app message in their “Just for You” section. Instead of spamming all users with notifications of new music, they carefully curate and target based on data.

3. The Level Up

In-app messages are an ideal platform for upgrade notifications, gaming achievements, badges, and other forms of “level up” wins. If you have a rewards program, badge system, or other achievement-based app, you can use in-app messages to keep users engaged in participating more and more.

Wisely, an exploration tool that helps you discover great places based on how people spend, uses levels to to gauge your interaction with the app, and to award users with badges based on these interactions. Not only does this make users feel valuable, it also opens doors to additional offers and potential promotions that they’re looking for.

4. The Easy Share

For many apps, getting their users to share app content across social channels or to their friends via email is an important goal. Not only does it expose your brand to more people, but it engages current users across channels, and deepens your existing relationships. Making sharing in-app easy is necessary to making this happen.

Instead of building sharing screens, you can simply create event-triggered in-app messages.

Clothing brand Uniqlo (which also has lifestyle apps such as Uniqlo Recipe, above, which features chefs and their signature recipes – while they are decked out in Uniqlo clothing) does just this. Their sharing tool is an in-app message that appears when a user simply chooses “share.” It’s an elegant and seamless way to enable sharing (and doesn’t require the user to navigate away from their current screen – a sometimes fatal UX flaw).

5. The Quick Tip

We’re big proponents of mini-orientations for new users to get to know the app – but what about users who skip through quickly, or forget the details? In-app messages are perfect for surfacing quick tips about how to better use the app and get more out of your experience, particularly because they don’t disrupt the UX by taking the user to a different screen just to give them a suggestion.

The Nike+ Running app, for example, serves users an in-app message showing how to change to a graph view by rotating their screen. Simple, visual, relevant and helps the app user gain more value.

6. The Connection Campaign

If your app relies heavily on connecting users for enabling better experiences, you can use in-app messaging to foster these connections. They’re the perfect tool for letting users know how they can interact with others easily, and how they can benefit from it. Consider Pinterest; the incredibly addictive app is successful for a number of reasons, but it relies on the user connecting with and following others to view more content. Facilitating this is pretty crucial to boosting app sessions and time in app.

StoryChimes are a diverse collection of children’s stories designed to be read aloud. Their Three Little Pigs app takes on the classic tale, and is meant to be a story in their collection for parents to read to their kids. This in-app message prompts user parents to connect with other friends and parents within the app to discover what they’re reading.

7. The Feature Update

Here’s the truth: feature updates or other version changes are easy to overlook. Many users set their apps to auto-update and miss out on important releases. This can cause in-app confusion or generally little use of new features out of the gate. Using an in-app message to highlight big changes and how to use these new features draws attention to your hard development work and gives users a better sense of how to go about enabling these new features.

When Instagram launched their location feature in 2013, they clearly outlined to users what needed to happen in order for them to start tagging. They also highlighted best practices (make sure to be careful in terms of privacy) and the all-important ability to opt-out. All of this content, plus corresponding visuals, was nicely packed into an in-app message that triggered when a new-to-the-feature user attempted to add a location.

8. The Cross-Channel Contest

Engaging your app users is also about engaging your customers across their experience on every channel. To do this, many app owners and marketers are utilizing cross-channel promotions or contests to facilitate more interactions. Plus – users love the opportunity to grab deals, win prizes or score free money.

Clothing retailer Free People enlisted Pinterest in their cross-channel contest to encourage sharing (and boost awareness) by offering a $500 wardrobe as the prize. The prompted users with an in-app campaign and a clear call-to-action to enter, plus publicized enough of the details to make it appealing.

9. The Big Reveal

Launching something spectacularly cool and want to capture user attention? Use an in-app message. For things beyond feature updates or upgrade details, in-app notifications – with their advanced design options – are the perfect tool for making a splashy announcement.

Amazon tracking in-app message.PNG

Take Amazon, for example, who announced new package tracking capabilities. For a hugely progressive mCommerce app, Amazon has been slow to introduce a basic mobile necessity – tracking your order from anywhere. So, when they did announce, they wanted a way to introduce it to all of their app users. Using an in-app message enabled them to do this and provide a link to more details.

So, are in-app messages right for your mobile strategy? The answer is yes; no matter your app goal, there are creative and useful ways to employ in-app messaging to create better connections with users and get the right content out.

Want even more examples? Check out our visual guide: