in-app messaging

Software marketers spend lots of time and energy finding potential customers, driving them to their sites and encouraging them to convert to leads or free trials and eventually become paying customers. But once a person or account becomes a customer, there may be a steep learning curve. Users will not immediately know everything about your product or service. Ideally, a customer success or support representative would provide every customer with personalized onboarding and be there to assist in their moments of need, but that’s not usually feasible. That said, users shouldn’t be expected to effortlessly navigate your app or logged-in experience without any assistance — that’s where in-app messaging comes in.

With in-app messaging, companies can target messages to customers in real-time as they use their product or service. In contrast to push notifications, which allow companies to reach users outside of the app, in-app messaging serves to guide users and improve their experience while they are logged in. Good in-app messaging is highly contextual and strives to deliver relevant, helpful information for the user.

In this blog post, I’ll show you how to take advantage of or optimize your current use of in-app messaging by leveraging customer data, focusing on solving problems in the moment, and picking the right moments to do so.

Use your data

Marketers can accumulate a wealth of data about their users from a number of different sources including app usage, behavioral tracking, CRM, marketing automation, and more. When that data is brought together (often in a unified customer profile), you can use it to ensure your in-app messaging is tailored to each individual.

Use your data to identify each customer’s preferences or goals. Then, simplify the user’s experience by personalizing your in-app messaging as much as possible, providing a real-time, 1-to-1 experience.

For example, you can identify the user’s industry, intent, or planned usage of the product either from their behavior on your site during their research process or from their interactions with your sales team. Then, you can deliver an onboarding tour targeted to that industry or use case.

In this example, the app offers step-by-step onboarding that is personalized based on actions taken/not taken to help new users get started with the product and achieve success.

Focus on solving problems in the moment

Be proactive! Don’t let customers get lost in your app and become frustrated. Instead, drop useful tidbits of guidance along the way.

Take a look at your support tickets, analyze customer behaviors in your app, and talk to your customer success and support staff to understand the common points of friction or confusion users experience in your product. Then, target a message to help people experiencing such problems in real time. Use the opportunity to answer a common question, direct them to your help content, etc.

In this example, HostGator displays an in-app message to users as they attempt to perform an action on the site that regularly created issues in the past. HostGator delivers the message in real time to get ahead of those issues.

You could also display a message if a person spends longer than expected to complete a task. In the example below, the site seamlessly directs users looking to transfer funds to the appropriate FAQ page for help.

Pick your moment

Timing is everything. You don’t want to send a user the right message at the wrong time. You have to deliver the appropriate content in the moment. Upsell and cross-sell messages especially need to be timed correctly to be effective and not perceived as annoyances to your paying customers.

Make sure you pick the right moment for any message in which you’re asking something of your user. If you’re asking them to take a survey or review your product, don’t prompt them with such a request the first time they log in. If you’re promoting an offer, make sure you display it to users who could actually benefit from it when they’d be most receptive to it.

For example, iPage, which provides web hosting and domain registration, leverages an in-app modal with an upgrade offer to users who are good candidates for the upgrade based on their actions. Compared to a control group who did not receive the in-app offer, the company saw a 71% increase in conversions.

Final Thoughts

No one likes annoying, irrelevant pop-ups and ill-timed messages — especially when you’re just trying to use an app to get something done. They distract and potentially disrupt users from a pleasant and productive experience. Rather than interrupt, in-app messaging should be treated as a coveted opportunity to educate and build a relationship with your users.

Once you’ve completed the difficult task of winning a new customer, remember to add value with relevant, personalized messaging.

If you use your customer data wisely, focus on solving problems in the moment, and pick your moments well, you have the basis for an effective in-app messaging strategy.