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How To Use In-App Messaging to Engage and Retain Your App Users

4 min read
Sep 26, 2018

When it comes to keeping your mobile app users engaged and retained, push notifications are generally seen as the most effective ways for doing this. In-app messages, however, should not be overlooked, and have been found to boost user retention by up to 40% in the first month following a user’s first session.

Hurree. The Essential Guide to Push Notifications. Let's Go!

What Are In-App Messages?

These are notifications that appear during app use to alert your user of something interesting or important. They are quite similar to push notifications except they only occur when the user is actually in the app. You don’t require permission from the user to send in-app messages so these are an effective channel of communicating with users who have opted-out of push (provided they still use your app from time to time).

Rather than an additional form of marketing, in-app notifications should feel more like a natural part of the app and relate only to the task or action being carried out by the user at the time. For this reason, they are usually triggered based on user interactions. When executed correctly, users normally find them much less invasive than push notifications as they don’t interrupt anyone going about their daily business and are there to enhance the user experience.

Similar to push notifications, once a user has dismissed an in-app message they won’t be able to see it again unless you resend it. For this reason, in-app messages should not be used to send information your user might want to hold onto or view at a later stage. This is what email is for.

The best and most common use cases for in-app notifications are:

  • Provide the user with a step-by-step tutorial throughout the onboarding process
  • Give hints and tips surrounding different in-app features
  • Secure permission from the user to gain access to data such as their contacts, location, gain the ability to send push notifications etc.
  • Make announcements regarding new app features and updates
  • Promotional messages to boost sales and in-app purchases
  • Send personalised messages such as wishing a user “Happy Birthday”


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Types Of In-App Messages

In-app messages come in a variety of shapes and forms, from banner styles to full page displays. A banner style in-app message is a non-invasive notification that appears in the form of a small plain text slider at the top or bottom of the user’s screen. A full page display is a little more in the user's face and can display rich content such as images or video to create a much more powerful impact.

4 Ways to Benefit from In-App Messaging

    1.  Highly Targeted Messaging

With the right segmentation tool your in-app messages can be highly personalised and targeted, giving you the confidence that you are sending the right message to the right person at the right time. In your regular bricks and mortar store window, the messaging displayed is the same for each customer, no matter whether it’s the first time they’ve entered your store or the 100th. With your app, you can and should tailor your messaging based on what stage your user is currently at. How you speak to new users and how you speak to active and loyal users is completely different, so your messaging needs to reflect this in order to be most effective. 

  2.  Reach Users Who Have Opted Out

Data protection and gaining consent has never been more important, especially since the new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force in May 2018. Sending your app users push notifications and emails requires consent. In-app messaging, however, is considered as part of the app experience and therefore does not require an opt-in from the user. This makes it the perfect channel for reaching users who have opted-out of receiving your push notifications and emails. Of course this strategy won’t work if your user never opens the app, but for opted-out users who are still active now and again, an in-app message is the perfect opportunity to grab their attention.

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    3.  Support Your Multichannel Strategy

In-app messages are the perfect addition to any app multi marketing strategy. Rather than sticking to just one channel for communication, a combination of push, email and in-app can be a breath of fresh air for your users. Sending out the same push notification to the users who didn’t take the desired action first time round is unlikely to increase your odds of this happening. With a different channel, such as in-app messaging, you have the opportunity to change this up with more detailed and richer content in a bid to increase conversions.


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    4.  Effective Onboarding

Having an effective app onboarding strategy in place is essential to your app’s success. This is usually your first point of contact with your user and the perfect time to help them get started and show them around your app. An app who fails to communicate with their users within 30 days is likely to lose around 80% of them. The addition of a simple welcome message can bring this down to a much smaller loss of 30%.


In-app messaging is often overlooked as the focus is generally on creating push notification campaigns. With push notifications, however, you are competing against all the over apps on your user’s smartphone and it wouldn’t be uncommon for them to miss your message amongst the other clutter. As in-app messages only appear when the user opens your app at their own free will, they are already actively engaged with your app and so the message is likely to be better received and result in a higher conversion rate.

The key of in-app messaging is to nail your user segmentation and be sure that you are always sending the right message, to the right user, at the right time.

To learn more about the various other marketing techniques that you can use to grow your app user base and retain loyal app users, check out The Ultimate Guide to Mobile App Marketing. I’d love to hear from you so feel free to reach out to me directly via emma@hurree.co if you have any questions, or you can leave a comment below.

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