The Essential Best Practices for In-App Loyalty

So much of the life of a marketer seems spent on trying to get customers to come back: Back to your shop, back to your website, and increasingly nowadays back to your app.

Whether it’s retargeting with advertising or sending the perfect push notification or email, enticing potential customers back through your front door is so much of what we, as marketers, do.

But what happens when they come back? For some, that’s the domain of the mobile product team, who is held responsible for optimizing the in-app experience to drive conversions. But making sure your marketing campaigns actually drive ROI isn’t their job. It’s yours.

How? The best tool for engaging users inside the app is the humble in-app message.

in-app message rating

Marketers can automate messages at key moments inside of the app. Unfortunately, many campaigns marketers run within an app are shambolic at best. Most commonly, marketers send poorly targeted promotions right when the user opens the app. Far from nurturing users along their journey, these are often merely annoying pop-ups that make it more likely a user will close their app immediately after starting it.

However, with the right strategy and forethought, marketers can move beyond poorly timed or targeted messages to turn sort-of-engaged users into loyal customers.

Understand Users in Real-Time, Engage at the Right Time

Consider for a moment mobile games and media brands. Their entire business model is about hooking users with compelling content and addictive games. While bringing users back is important, their revenue is directly tied to their ability to keep customers from leaving — through time spent in-app, in-app purchases, and subscriptions.

If a media brand wants to keep you engaged, they don’t send messages willy-nilly. They send timely messages based on your recent activity.

in-app message
For example, if you just finished binge-watching your fourth episode of your favorite show, it’s a good time to promote an offer that would give you access to a new season. Unless, of course, that was the last episode of the series, in which case it’s a great opportunity to suggest a new series for viewers to get hooked on.

The key lesson here: Targeting a user upon app open is rarely the best time to engage them. Just as you target push notifications and email based on behavior, in-app marketing must be behavior-based as well. This requires you to capture and understand in-app behavior — and then trigger in-app messages in real-time.

Incorporate External Context

Targeting based on in-app behavior is only one type of context that can improve your in-app marketing efforts. By now, everyone is familiar with the messages many popular ride-sharing apps use at major airports.

“Welcome to LaGuardia. To pick up your ride share please proceed to this level and that door.”

These may be some of the most helpful and most successful in-app messages in use today.

There are other instances when location context is incredibly helpful. If someone is browsing an app for a retailer or a quick serve restaurant as they approach the brick-and-mortar store, odds are good they may step inside  — maybe to look for sales or check the menu — or that they may be motivated to do so with the right message. A well-timed offer can pique user interest and aid conversion.

in-app message geolocation

Yet, location is only the tip of the iceberg. You have a ton of context about your users at your fingertips. Try incorporating external data to aid in your targeting, like details about the weather or stats about their favorite team’s performance in the big game.

By combining context with real-time signals from your users’ behavior, you can build highly effective campaigns that dramatically improve revenue.

Consider Frequency. Then Test It.

A lot of free services, like mobile games and media brands, monetize with advertisements, sometimes delivered as in-app messages that break the flow of the app for a moment to catch your attention. But even if your business model looks nothing like that, there are lessons to be learned from these brands.

Any time an app serves an ad, some percentage of users will get annoyed and exit the session. The key question is “how many?” If ads are occasional, most users will stick around. If ads are omnipresent, few users will. Therefore, maximizing revenue involves delivering as many ads as possible — without losing your customer. It’s a delicate balancing app.

TextNow ran an experiment based on this, testing how early in the user journey it could show ads, without losing users in the process. As a result of A/B testing the in-app experience, TextNow monetized 100 percent of its users.

in-app ab testing

The lesson for other brands is while you can use in-app messages to guide users along their journey — especially if you target them well and incorporate key context — it is possible to do so too often. The last thing you want to do after building a sophisticated targeting machine is to be as annoying as the start-time popups that so many brands use today. It is important to continuously A/B test your messages and the frequency of your messages to find the right balance.

Adopt a Platform for Your Full Mobile Needs

Ready to leverage in-app messages to improve your in-app marketing efforts?

Leanplum’s real-time targeting capabilities empower you to send in-app messages to users at any point in their journey, based on user behavior and external data. Our extensive testing capabilities help you hone in on what’s working — to optimize every campaign. And because we’re built for engagement across all user touch points, you can tie in-app marketing with other channels, like push notification,email, and the in-app user experience itself.

Leanplum is the mobile marketing platform built for engagement. We help brands like Tinder, Grab, Tesco, and Zynga orchestrate multi-channel campaigns — from messaging to the in-app experience — all from a single, integrated platform. Schedule your personalized demo here.