In-app campaigns are extremely powerful. When targeted to relevant audience, they are a great way to deliver the right message to the right people and drive the behaviors we want to see in mobile apps.

In the example below, for example, a campaign is being used to drive greater opt-in for push notifications – which means more engagement down the line. But of course campaigns like this can take many forms. They can drive sales or subscriptions directly, or they can help users discover new features. In each case, they perform a function too many mobile businesses forget about: marketing to users already in the app but not yet truly customers.

Timing Is Everything

But enough about the right message to the right people. What about the right time? More specifically, when is the right time within a session to deliver that message?

For too many organizations, the default answer is “when the app opens”. But in most cases that is a mistake. Mobile, unlike many traditional ‘broadcast’ channels, is a highly active environment. When we take our mobile phone out of our pocket, we do so with a specific task in mind. So when we open an app and get a face full of marketing we aren’t likely to be too happy about it.

In fact this is a doubly dangerous strategy on mobile, because session lengths are short. This is the ‘coffee line’ test. We open an app expecting to achieve something – even if that something is just distraction – in the two minutes we might wait for a hot drink. If that’s the case, getting in the way is really going to cause irritation.

Timed To Perfection

So what’s the strategy? Well first and most obvious: unless there’s a real good reason for it, don’t show in-app messages when the app opens.

Beyond that, get smart about what actions trigger which events. Here’s three smart examples in which perfect timing of in-app messages can yield big, big results:

  • In a dating app, deliver a message asking users to rate their experience immediately after a user makes a successful match. And make sure to send those who are loving it on to the app store!
  • For publishers, when a user finishes reading a fifth feature from the same author, ask those who have not opted in to push to do so – by reminding them that you will let them know when that specific author publishes again.
  • In retail, deliver an in-app campaign offering 10% off a first in-app purchase to users after they’ve viewed at least one item during their third session in the app.

It should be obvious that these examples represent only the tip of the iceberg. There are an infinite number of ways to get smart about when to deliver in-app campaigns to maximize ROI. Try a few out. And don’t forget to test them!