What Is Mobile Marketing Automation?

Mobile marketing automation refers to software that’s designed to optimize mobile experiences at scale. Email is the main channel for most marketing automation but on mobile, you have push notifications, in-app messaging, and app inbox messages to also take into consideration. In fact, the customer journey for mobile apps requires high personalization and real-time engagement.

In this guide, we’ll answer all your burning questions about mobile marketing automation, from what they look like to how they work, and so much more. For a basic overview of how Leanplum can help with your mobile marketing automation strategy, learn more here.

Chapter 1: What Is Marketing Automation for Mobile?

According to Marketo, marketing automation refers to “a category of technology that allows companies to streamline, automate, and measure marketing tasks and workflows, so they can increase operational efficiency and grow revenue faster.” Marketing automation takes otherwise repetitive, but important tasks and executes them so marketers can scale and be more efficient.. Some common features of marketing automation platforms include email campaign management, lead nurture management, and analytics.

So what’s the difference between marketing automation and mobile marketing automation?

The term Mobile Marketing Automation (MMA) was originally coined by VentureBeat in 2014. It refers to marketing software that’s designed to optimize mobile experiences.

In mobile marketing, a different set of rules apply. Email is the main channel for most marketing automation but on mobile, you have push notifications, in-app messaging, and app inbox messages to also take into consideration. In fact, the customer journey for mobile apps requires high personalization and real-time engagement.

Chapter 2: Why You Need Mobile Marketing Automation Software

Mobile Marketing Automation addresses a few things that traditional non-mobile marketing tools don’t provide:

  • Real-time communication between a user and a mobile app
  • Location based messaging with multiple languages and region support
  • Context-rich personalization across all channels and devices

The benefits of mobile marketing automation are vast. According to Forrester, smartphone users pick up their devices an average of 150-200 times per day.

“With mobile in play, consumers move from discovering a brand to doing research, making a purchase, and using a product within seconds if not minutes. And they expect this to be possible: today’s customers demand a seamless, integrated brand experience delivered to them with ultimate simplicity and relevancy in real time. To deliver, mobile demands a new engagement model.”

Not convinced? Marketers who don’t use a mobile marketing automation solution …

  • Only have 40 percent opt-in rates for initial push notifications
  • Lose the majority of users within the first 30 seconds of opening the app
  • Convert about one in 10 mobile shoppers

Whether you’re a one- or 100-person team, mobile marketing automation 
is a necessity.

Chapter 3: The Mobile 
Channels You Should Automate

Push Notifications

On desktop marketing automation platforms, email is the main channel for communication between you and your customer. On the other hand, mobile marketing automation 
should offer at least four types of messaging: push notifications, in-app messages, email, 
and app inbox.

Push notifications are messages that are sent directly to users, even if their phone is locked or they’re not currently using your app — empowering you to re-engage anytime, anywhere. You can read more about them here.

At a high level, push notifications have one basic goal: they bring users into your app. Ideally, clicking on your notification will trigger a deep link that takes the user to a particular page in your app. Some notes to keep in mind regarding push notifications:

  • They require opt-in permissions access from the user
  • They reach users outside of an app in the mobile moment
  • They are capable of deep linking and driving users to specific app content

A mobile marketing automation solution should enable you to trigger and send push notifications based on user behavior, saving you from accidental misfires or repetitive manual work. You should be able to craft the message in one interface and automatically deliver it across all user channels. Mobile marketing automation takes care of the delivery, leaving you to focus on other optimizations across content, creative, and channels.

In-App Messages

Communication doesn’t end when users come back to the app through a push notification. 
In-app messages are required to further engage users and lead conversions. An in-app message is any alert or notice sent to your users within the app itself. A few things to know about in-app messages:

  • Users will only see them inside of the app (unlike push notifications)
  • Users can engage with or dismiss them — they are not permanent
  • They can work in tandem with push (i.e. a push can deep link to an in-app message)
  • They have flexible templates allowing for consistent branding that feel native to your app

Use in-app messages in your onboarding flows to improve app retention and get new users past the first app open. Automating this process allows you to onboard users at scale, differentiating between which users need the onboarding prompts and which users are self-guided.. You can also use in-app messages to prime users for push permissions, increasing the likelihood that your audience will opt-in.

In general, in-app messages improve the user experience by offering valuable information at the right times. They should also align with business goals — messages can increase the odds of making a sale, or they can prompt the user to add more profile information. In both cases, these messages are designed to increase engagement with the app.


As mentioned above, email is the traditional channel for most marketing automation platforms. However, email is a critical marketing channel that apps need to fully utilize. Email allows you to:

  • Reach users who opt out of push notifications or uninstall the app
  • Connect with dormant users who haven’t used your app recently
  • Orchestrate easily with your other messaging campaigns to reach a breadth of users on their preferred channel

Even the most dedicated users won’t be in your app all the time, and those on the fence are all the more likely to use your app a couple of times before forgetting about it. Email works with push notifications as a tool to re-engage users who aren’t in your app. But one benefit of email is that users don’t have to opt-in in order to receive email communications — unlike push notifications. It’s a more reliable way to reach your whole audience.

Another key difference is that email is permanent. Even if the recipient has a cluttered inbox, the message will be marked as unread until they make a deliberate decision about it. In contrast, iOS notifications vanish once the phone is unlocked.

App Inbox

App inbox is a persistent in-app container of personalized messages, easily accessible in one place within the app. Instead of users exiting your app to check email messages from you, app inbox messages keep users active in your app, increasing engagement. This makes it easy for your users to check up on missed notifications or to retrieve a discount code.

A few things to know about app inbox:

  • It is a persistent container of messages and notifications that does not disappear (unlike push or in-app messages)
  • It houses past notifications so users know where to look for updates and news
  • It does not require permissions or engagement — you will always reach 100 percent of your audience

App Inbox is a great place to store reminders of ongoing events, such as sales or special offers. This is the channel for long-lasting messages and in-app events.

mobile marketing automation | Leanplum

Chapter 4: Lifecycle 
Campaign Best Practices

Mobile Marketing Automation gives mobile teams access to several different messaging channels, but the real secret is that these channels are more than the sum of their parts. With a good mobile marketing automation platform, you can create campaigns that effortlessly coordinate across messaging channels. Because of their scope, these long-term campaigns are usually called lifecycle campaigns.

A lifecycle campaign can add more value than a standalone personalized message. Let’s 
say you’ve crafted a new user onboarding campaign. It may look something like this:

  1. If the user doesn’t complete the onboarding process, send a push notification reminder the next day
  2. Upon onboarding completion, send an in-app message during the next app launch to teach users about more advanced features
  3. If the user hasn’t reached a key milestone in the first day (e.g. adding a friend), send an email to prompt this action

Without a lifecycle campaign tool, these messages behave independently, without the value of working in concert to move users to complete goals.

What if you want the messages to change dynamically, based on the user’s behavior?

For instance, if push notifications play a key role in your app, you might ask for push permissions at app startup. If you do obtain permission, you can send your first onboarding reminder message via push notification — and if you don’t obtain permission, you can send it via email. In this example, the campaign branches into two different paths based on each user’s behavior, but it’s still proceeding toward the same goal.

A more complete lifecycle campaign could look like this:

  1. Request push notification opt-ins with an in-app message like Push Pre-Permissions
  2. If user closes app before completing onboarding:
    1. If user has given push permissions, then send a reminder after 24 hours via push
      1. If user does not open the push notification, send a follow-up after 48 hours via email
      2. If user does open push notification but does not complete onboarding, proceed to c
    2. Otherwise, send a reminder after 24 hours via email
      1. If user does open email but does not complete onboarding, proceed to c
    3. Send a longer email with different copy that explains the app’s value in more detail
  3. Upon onboarding completion, send an in-app message at the next app launch to teach users about more advanced features
  4. If the user hasn’t reached a key milestone in the first day (e.g. adding a friend):
    1. If user enabled push permissions, send a push notification after 24 hours offering friend suggestions
    2. Otherwise, send an in-app message with friend suggestions at the next app launch

As you can see, the lifecycle campaigns offered by mobile marketing automation allow a 
near-limitless combination of rules-based conditions based on behavior. This is how mobile teams unlock the power of multi-channel messaging — not just by using each channel, but 
by dynamically coordinating across channels in response to individual users.

Chapter 5: Personalization Is the Key to Mobile Engagement

What happens when your app gains thousands of users? It’s going to be difficult to keep track of what everyone does within your app. With mobile marketing automation, you should be able to create rich user profiles and segment them by device type, demographic information, geo-location, behavior, where they are in the user lifecycle, and more.

Once you understand usage trends, you can sub-categorize users based on those trends. This is called segmentation. By segmenting users, you can generate messaging that’s targeted specifically to frequent users without alienating new users, or vice versa. You can also take demographic data into account and target different deals to people in different regions. Segments can be as broad or as specific as you’d like.

When you run a messaging campaign, all statistically significant metrics are displayed on your dashboard, including the ones that you weren’t explicitly tracking. This way, you’ll discover the unintended consequences of your optimization efforts. For instance, a messaging campaign may see more opens than usual, but increase your uninstall rate. It is important to understand the full picture of app performance, both positive and negative effects, so you can make informed decisions.

A good analytics platform can surface the opportunity cost for every tweak to your app. Without complete data, optimization turns into guesswork.


Chapter 6: Optimizing Your Mobile Marketing Automation Campaigns

Mobile marketing automation offers insightful analytics can be used to optimize 
your app.

Analytics tells you what your users are doing, but you need to take action to influence their behavior. With proper mobile A/B testing, you can confirm your hypotheses and find out if your app tweaks are increasing user engagement. One of mobile marketing automation’s goals is to help you easily test every part of your mobile app, from the user experience to the app campaigns.

What if you have multiple variables you want to test across different user segments? Mobile marketing automation eases this process and allows you to test any different combination of variables across any segment of users in and out of the app.

Chapter 7: The Future of Mobile Marketing Automation

Multi-Channel Marketing

In Retail Systems Research’s benchmark report, retailers reported that single-channel shoppers constitute less than 50% of their customer base. Furthermore, PayPal reported 
one-third of its transactions over 2016’s Thanksgiving and Black Friday shopping occured on mobile.

The digital channel has been a huge focus since the smartphone became a household item. However, when users were asked which channels were their favorites apps came out on top. 70% of top retailers reported they are either in full sync or in process of using the digital marketing channel, defined as e-commerce, mobile, and social media.

Enterprise Cross-Channel Analytics

In the same report mentioned above, 69 percent of top retailers responded with enterprise cross-channel analytics as their top technology focus. Top retailers recognize the opportunity and profit that that multi-channel customers bring compared to single-channel customers. A comprehensive analytics platform is needed to track all the different touchpoints a brand has with its customers. This gives brands insight into how their channels are performing as well the actions needed to take to improve them.

Retention Marketing at Scale

According to Forbes, “Management teams at companies that focus on retention are twice 
as likely to understand the impact of customer lifetime value on revenue and growth.” The lifetime value of a customer is relatively short for apps, so we’ve created a data science report on how app retention works. Every single user matters and mobile marketing automation makes this a lot easier to manage at scale. In order to maximize the lifetime value for each customer and ensure growth, a mobile app needs a robust MMA solution to engage with each user in personal and valuable ways.

Get a demo today to learn how Leanplum can help you drive more app ROI.

Ask for a demo today and 
learn how Leanplum can help you drive more app ROI.