The best way to reach people today is not on their desktop.

But on their mobile devices.

Here’s why, and how to avoid making common mistakes that sabotage results.

Why In-App Marketing is Essential in a Mobile World

Mobile internet usage, around the world, has already outpaced desktop usage. And it’s showing no signs of slowing down.

It’s not just that people are on phones and tablets more, but that they’re replacing or substituting time spent on desktops, too.


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The vast majority of a person’s time on mobile devices – as high as 84% in some cases – is being spent inside an application.

So you have:

  1. More people accessing the internet on mobile devices than on desktop.
  2. Who’re spending the bulk of their time inside applications.

All of this sounds great. So what’s the problem?



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Despite those glowing statistics that show huge promise, apps are bound to lose 77% of their daily active users after only three days. Without ongoing mobile engagement, that number edges up drastically to 95 percent within a few months.

If… you make these common in-app marketing mistakes below.

How to Fix these 3 Common In-App Marketing Mistakes

The only way to solve that terrifying decline illustrated above is to increase mobile engagement, specifically through better in-app marketing.

That involves a series of techniques to (a) improve people’s onboarding experience so they have a happy first experience that’s critical to adoption, and (b) increase retention so users have a good reason to come back to use your app in the future.

Here are some classic mistakes, along with how popular companies have solved them.

Mistake #1. The intrusiveness and spammy nature of push notifications.

Push notifications – those things that randomly pop up at the most inopportune times – feel like spam.

They’re frustrating when you’re trying to look something up or talking with a friend and all of a sudden your screen is taken over by a random message that you could care less about.

The reason is because there’s no relevance. That functionality, while incredibly powerful, is being treated like any old display ad that’s showing the user something unrelated to what they’re doing or what they’re interested in.

And as a result, it gets completely ignored (or worse, turned off entirely).

The solution is to use someone’s personal behavior, interests or past purchases. That means taking into account who they are and what they’re trying to do.

For example, Waze (Google’s navigation app) uses your past driving history to inform timely updates. If you normally drive the same route home every day, they’ll give you a heads-up if there’s a problem blocking that road.


You can now plan ahead, and use their app to find a new route so you can avoid any further delays.

Mistake #2. Notifications that lack context for user’s to understand or care.

When you click (or tap, or slide) most push notifications, they take you directly to the app’s home screen.

So even if the message was relevant to begin with, you’re now stuck at the main screen trying to figure out where to go next in order to follow up on that initial promise.

This would be like sending your paid search (AdWords) traffic directly to your homepage. When instead, you should be sending people to a specific, targeted landing page that aligned with your ad text so that it ‘matches’ a visitor’s expectations.

The same strategy applies inside mobile apps, where push notifications should be linking to an intended action.

Automated in-app marketing company, Insert, has created in-App landing pages. Here’s how it works.

A push notification pops up, alerting a customer of a 30% off sale for their child’s size. Like so:


And when they select it, they’re immediately sent to landing page with the coupon code and a button to click through to the children’s clothing section.


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AirBNB does something similar.

Let’s say you’ve booked a stay and you’re on the way to your rental. AirBNB will deploy a helpful message in the app based on this context and take you to recommended places to try next.


Ideally your in-app marketing experience should also be branded. Meaning, ads, banners, and other messages should look and feel and work just like your application (with the same fonts, colors, animation, etc.).

That gives users a seamless experience (instead of a cold ‘ad’ feel) and increases mobile engagement.

Mistake #3. Spray-and-pray with no personalization or segmentation.

The in-app marketing techniques applied above by some of the best in the industry all rely on one key ingredient: segmentation.

That means they can sense one person from another and react accordingly. They collect data and insight based on usage patterns, and you can pre-load responses that will delight users with real utility.

It should come as no surprise that Uber is one of the best in the business here too. Which is commendable, because they actually have two very different sets of users: the customers and the drivers.

Despite similar in-app marketing tactics we’ve already looked at for customers, Uber also does a great job notifying drivers to get their attention or to help protect their safety.

For example, if a driver has been on the road a lot without any major downtime recently, Uber will send a friendly notification to prompt a break.


This isn’t a simple, timed notification (that just fires for everyone after a few hours) but a triggered event based on this driver’s specific behavior over the past few days, weeks, and month.


The world is completely transitioning to mobile devices.

The majority of people’s time is being spent in apps… but if the mobile engagement isn’t there, they bounce almost immediately.

The problem is that a lot of today’s in-app marketing feels kinda spammy. It’s an irrelevant message, sent at random to huge audiences, that directs you to the generic homepage.

Fortunately, companies like Uber, AirBNB, and Waze are blazing the trail for others.

The next time you’re on your phone and one of these services pop up, don’t just think about what they’re saying, but more importantly, what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.