How to Build an In-app Messaging Strategy to Increase Product Adoption
Do you need an in-app messaging strategy? Well, you’ve found this article so there’s a big chance you already realize how important it is!
This article aims to help product managers develop their strategies and explores some good practices.
It also looks at different kinds of in-app messages and what they’re most suitable for. Finally, it recommends a couple of tools that can help them design solid in-app experiences for users.
Are you ready to jump in? Let’s do it!
- In-app messaging relies on contextually-triggered messages to communicate with users and support them at different touchpoints in the user journey.
- Product teams use in-app messages to drive feature adoption and onboard users.
- Users receive in-app messages while using a product, while push notifications arrive also when the user isn’t active, but only if they opt-in to use them.
- Developing the in-app messaging strategy starts with defining goals your team wants to achieve like improving a feature adoption.
- Next, the team needs to build user segments to enable targeted messaging.
- After that, it’s time to trigger contextual messages that are relevant to the target user segments and arrive at the right time.
- To avoid user fatigue and indifference, you shouldn’t rely on the same kind of messages to drive all your goals.
- An in-app messaging playbook will help your team achieve focus and maintain consistent messaging via different channels.
- To test the effectiveness of the in-app messages, set and track goals, and A/B test different experiences to select the most effective ones.
- Using other communication channels, like email, gives you a chance to re-engage inactive users.
- Modals are great for welcome screens. You can use them in the sign-up flows to collect user data. They are also used for new feature announcements.
- Native tooltips provide users with guidance about UI elements and features. You can also use them as upselling prompts.
- Interactive tooltips are used in product walkthroughs to drive product usage and feature adoption.
- Checklists are very effective at driving user engagement, especially during the initial onboarding stage.
- Banners are less obtrusive than modals or slideouts and are used to display promotional messages or as reminders to prevent involuntary churn.
- Empty states are a good place for messages encouraging users to take action after logging into the product for the first time.
- Apart from communicating with users, teams use in-app messages to collect user feedback.
- A cancellation flow can help you retain customers who are about to quit by giving them alternatives.
- Want to see how Userpilot can help you develop and implement your in-app messaging strategy? Book the demo!
What is in-app messaging?
In-app messaging is used to communicate with your users inside your digital product. It uses contextually triggered messages that guide and support users at different touchpoints in the user journey.
Teams use in-app messaging to onboard users, drive feature and product adoption, collect user feedback and keep users up to date with product changes and updates.
How an in-app messaging strategy helps product managers
In short, you don’t want to trigger in-app messages for your users at random. Instead, your in-app messages need to serve a specific purpose.
A solid in-messaging strategy defines your objectives and ensures that your in-app messaging is aligned with them.
In-app messages vs push notifications
In-app messages, like modals or slideouts, appear within the product and are visible to app users when they log in.
Push notifications come up on users’ digital devices regardless of whether the app is open or not. In fact, their main purpose is to make sure the user doesn’t miss an important message at the moment when the user isn’t actively engaging with the product.
However, users need to opt-in to keep receiving them, which is not the case with in-app messages.
How to build an in-app messaging strategy
There’s no single strategy that will fit all contexts or use cases. Instead, these are just guidelines that will help you develop a strategy that is relevant to your business and product needs.
Set your goals
Designing your in-app messaging strategy starts with goal-setting.
Before you start designing your in-app experiences, you need to define what you’re trying to achieve. Is it user onboarding? Is it improving engagement or feature adoption? Do you want to collect feedback on a new feature?
Without the answer to the ‘why’ question, your strategy is going to be very disjointed.
Build user segments for targeted in-app messages
To be effective in driving your goals, your in-app messages need to be relevant.
To target your users accurately, you need to segment them based on specific criteria. For example, this could be a specific problem or need that your user wants to satisfy with your product.
Where do you get this kind of information?
One way is to collect during the sign-up process, just like Kontentino does.
Or you can track user engagement with different features or UI elements and build your segments around it.
Trigger in-app messages contextually
Now that we have identified the objectives and target audience, it’s time to trigger the in-app messages.
Things to consider when set-up the messages are their location, priority, and frequency.
For example, if you’re collecting feedback on a newly-released feature, you could trigger messages as soon as the user engages with the features.
Bear in mind that your in-app messaging is to help and guide users, so make sure you don’t add any unnecessary friction to their experience or clutter to the UI.
Plan to use different types of UI patterns for different purposes
The effectiveness of in-app messaging doesn’t depend solely on its timeliness and relevance.
You also need to choose the right UI pattern for each job. A modal can be great to let users know about an update, while a tooltip could be more suitable to drive engagement with features.
To avoid user fatigue and indifference, mix and match your in-app messages to keep them engaging and interesting. If your user sees a similar modal over and over again, they will simply stop paying attention even if its content is actually different.
This also means the design and copy of your in-app messages matter a lot.
Build your in-app messaging playbook for each goal
An in-app messaging playbook will give your users a structure for designing a consistent in-app experience.
The document should define a specific goal and outline the actions required to achieve them at different stages of the user journey. A playbook also recommends the preferred approach and the best kinds of in-app messages to achieve the goals.
Measure, test and improve
Your in-app messaging strategy should also account for testing their effectiveness.
Tracking the goals and how users progress towards them is fairly easy, and most analytics tools allow you to do that.
However, identifying the best in-app messages and experiences that help users achieve their goals requires more granular testing.
A/B tests are a popular way of measuring the effectiveness of UI patterns in driving conversions. You simply enable one experience to one group of users, against a control group, and track the impact of it against your goals.
Bonus: DON’T use just one communication channel
In-app messages are an effective way of reaching your users but they have limitations. For starters, they work only with active users.
To make up for this, your communication strategy needs to involve other channels. For example, new release announcement emails can help you reengage inactive users who churned because they missed that particular functionality.
To automate the process, you can use webhooks also known as callbacks.
They allow you to create custom integrations with 3rd party apps.
You can use them to amplify and supplement the in-app messaging. How?
Let’s imagine a user signs up for the product and engages with the welcome modal and perhaps a few features but fails to reach the activation stage. You can use a webhook to trigger a separate email flow that will try to bring them back to engage with relevant features.
If you’re using various channels, make sure you cover the details in your playbook. This will help you ensure consistent messaging across all channels to avoid confusing users.
What types of in-app messages should you use and when
Product teams have a few kinds of in-app messages at their disposal. Each of them has its own characteristics and is suitable for different use cases.
In-app messaging welcome modals
Modals are the pop-up features that appear on users’ screens and force them to take action before moving forward.
They are often used as welcome screens, like the Postify one below. They are a great way to greet new users and, more importantly, collect user information.
This is invaluable because it allows you to segment your users and customize their onboarding experiences further down the line.
Short tooltips in-app messages
Native tooltips are in-app messages that appear on the product UI and provide users with information about particular features.
If done well, they can help users navigate around your product with tips and guidance at the exact moment they need them.
Step-by-step interactive walkthroughs
Tooltips, along with driven actions, are often parts of longer in-app flows and interactive walkthroughs. Their job is to increase product usage and feature adoption.
How do they work?
In short, individual in-app messages encourage the user to complete a task or engage with a feature. When they do so, they trigger the next one which leads to their interaction with another feature.
This continues, until step-by-step, the user discovers all the important features.
To make the process truly interactive for your users, you should give them the freedom to explore your product functionality at their own pace and in the order that best suits their needs.
Checklists to increase engagement
Checklists are another type of in-app message you can use to increase user engagement.
People love ticking off items on their checklists. The closer they are to its completion, the stronger their motivation is. That’s why they are such a powerful onboarding tool.
Banner in-app message
In-app banners are the small bars that appear at the top of the website site.
Teams normally use banners to let users know about updates and announce new features or special offers.
They are less intrusive than modals, slideouts, or tooltips. This could be an advantage in situations when you want to bring something to users’ attention without putting them off.
For example, you could design a banner reminding your users about an expired payment method that could lead to their involuntary churn.
Blank screen in-app messaging prompts
Paradoxically, a blank screen that welcomes new users when they first log into a product can be truly overwhelming.
However, they don’t need to be like that. With in-app messages, you can prompt users to take the first action and start discovering the product.
Want to see a good example? Have a look at the prompt to connect apps in Airtable.
New feature announcements in-app messaging
In-app messages are great for announcing new features.
A well-designed modal or slideout is an effective way to let users know about the update. Better yet, you can include a CTA button, which will let them start using the function straightaway.
In-app surveys for user feedback
Surveys triggered in-app tend to have greater response rates than those delivered by other channels because they target active users.
As a result, they can be a great way of soliciting user ideas on how to improve your product. You can trigger them contextually, for example at the very moment your users finish using a feature, and ask them for their input while it’s still fresh in their memory.
And thanks to user segmentation, you can target specific user groups, for example, your power users only, or detractors only, depending on your goals.
You can harness in-app messages also to drive upsells.
To be effective, the in-app prompts need to be triggered contextually and relevant. For example, they can appear when a user tries to engage with a feature that is only available in the paid plan.
Cancelation surveys to retain users
In-app flows have their place not only at the beginning of the user journey but also at its end.
Instead of letting users simply churn, you can target them with an exit survey. Except that it’s not just a survey. Apart from collecting user feedback, it also gives them alternatives.
For example, if the user wants to cancel their subscription because the price is too high, you can offer them a different plan.
There’s no guarantee they will take you up on the offer but there’s no harm in trying, especially if designing such flows is straightforward and requires no coding skills. That’s if you have the right tools.
Best in-app messaging tools
There are a few solid digital adoption platforms out there that allow you to build customized in-app messages.
Userpilot – best for personalized messages
Userpilot is a product growth platform and a gold standard when it comes to personalized in-app messaging.
What makes it so effective?
First, you can use its analytics to track product usage and identify goals and build user segments. As mentioned, the latter is essential to ensure the relevance of your in-app experiences.
Once you have these, you can design highly customized and personalized in-app messages that will help your users discover your product and adopt it as a solution to their problems.
And when they are hooked, you maintain their engagement with even more messages.
Appcues – best for mobile apps in-app messaging
Appcues is another well-known DAP. While its functionality is limited when compared to Userpilot, it has one key advantage: you can use it both on web apps AND mobile applications.
In-app messaging is a handy tool product and customer success managers can deploy you to remove friction and drive product adoption.
However, to take full advantage of its potential, you need an in-app messaging strategy that aligns messaging with your goals.
If you’d like to see how Userpilot can help you set meaningful goals and implement your strategy, book the demo!