In-App Messaging For SaaS: Your Guide for 2023 [Examples]

In-App Messaging – How to Communicate With Your Users In-App? [Examples and Best Practices]

Do you take advantage of in-app messaging for your SaaS?

It’s a great way to communicate with users and achieve specific goals along the way. In-app messaging can help you:

  • Onboard new users
  • Drive feature adoption
  • Drive account expansion
  • Collect user sentiment
  • Deliver updates and announcements
  • Eventually improving your product

Read on if you want to learn about best practices and get inspired by some real-life examples!


What is in-app messaging?

In app-messaging is the process of communicating with your users inside the app using contextual and timely messages, and is meant to help and guide the user through different stages in the user journey.

In app-messages can be used to:

  • onboard users more effectively by offering in-app guidance on how to use the product
  • drive feature adoption and account expansion
  • collect user feedback on your product
  • notify users about updates and announcements

In-app messaging vs push notifications

While in-app messages are intended for logged-in users who are actively using the application, push notifications are messages sent outside the app when the user is not active in the app.

In-app messaging is used for helping users succeed with your product, while push notifications are mostly used to notify users of changes happening in the app while they are not there with the main purpose of keeping them informed and getting them back inside the app to take action.

Best practices for in app messaging

#1 – Keep in-app messages on point

In-app messages should be short and clear so users can understand them and act on them fast. Short messages are easy to engage with, so don’t make your users read an academic-length essay when the information you’re trying to deliver doesn’t require it.

Microvideos are great when you want to keep in-app messaging short and on point. These are usually around 30 seconds long and are a good way to explain something quickly.

Monday uses microvideos to educate users on what they can do with its features:

Microvideo used in in-app messaging

Source: Monday tool

#2 – Personalize in-app messages

In-app messages should be as personalized as possible. Your goal isn’t to send the same message to everyone. Instead, everyone should receive a message that’s tailored to their current state or situation.

Personalized in-app message using a welcome screen modal

Personalized in-app message using a welcome screen modal

As you are talking to one person (that’s how your in-app messages are perceived by users- for them and only them), adjust the tone of voice and content of each message and personalize it.

In order to aid with personalization, you should collect information about the user during the onboarding process and use in-product analytics to segment and personalize in-app messages for each user persona use case.

#3 – Segment your audience and create contextual in-app messages

User segmentation will help you deliver the perfect in-app message to the right users at the ideal time.

Advanced user segmentation in Userpilot

Want to build targeted in-app messaging using advanced segmentation? Get a Userpilot demo, and we’ll help you get started right away!

Use customer journey analytics to segment your audience. This way you’ll always know who you are talking to and where each user is in the journey, making it easier to build contextual in-app communication for each use case.

Contextual communication will make your message relevant to where the user is in the journey and to their specific needs.

Let take Userpilot, for example. We won’t be telling users how to use advanced features like A/B testing (part of the secondary onboarding) when they haven’t even set up a single in-app experience, such as a welcome screen. It would make no sense to them and won’t bring any value.

#4 – Build experiences with clear goals – not just in-app messages

Before creating any in-app messages, you should specify a clear objective for each message. These messages should help users achieve their goals.

When in-app communication is built without a purpose, you end up overwhelming the users with messages that don’t really tell them what to do and more importantly, why they should do it.

Goal tracking in Userpilot

Goal tracking in Userpilot

Here are some examples of goals you might want to set for your in-app communication:

  • To help users learn how to use a specific feature (measured by how many people use the feature)
  • To reach a milestone or activation point
  • To perform a specific action or set of actions

After setting specific goals that will help users get value from your product, you can start planning your in-app communication. Each message and in-app experience you create (we’ll convert this in a bit) will now have a purpose – achieving a specific goal.

Types of in app messaging

Now that we’ve covered the best practices of in-app messaging, let’s dive deeper and look into what types of in-app communication you can use with some examples for each.

In-app messaging: Modals

Modal screens are pop-ups on the user’s screen that require them to take action before going forward.

You’ve probably seen modals in every SaaS tool in your stack, as the most common use case for them is the “Welcome Screen”.

Here’s an example of what a welcome screen modal looks like, courtesy of Postfity, a social media scheduling app.

In-app messaging: Modal in Postfity

Source: Postfity (built with Userpilot)

In-app messaging: Checklists

Checklists help users reach specific goals in their journey by guiding them on which steps they need to take in order to achieve success.

Checklists are great tools to guide users towards different milestones in the user journey.

Take the activation point milestone for example. Depending on your product, reaching the activation will involve a set of actions the user must take.

For Postfity, these actions are:

  • creating an account
  • connecting a social media account
  • scheduling their first social media post

In-app messaging: Checklist in Postfity

Source: Postfity (built with Userpilot)

In-app messaging: Tooltips

Tooltips are those small little helpers that pop up right when you need them (or so they should, when done right) and give you tips and guidance on using a SaaS tool.

There are two types of tooltips you can use:

1. Interactive tooltips

These are the tooltips used in interactive walkthroughs (a series of tooltips meant to show the user how to use a specific feature). These help the user understand what they need to do and how. They are called ‘interactive’ as they show up based on how the user interacts with them.

Here’s an example from Ahrefs.

Pop-up tooltips used in in-app messaging

Source: Ahrefs

2. Native tooltips

Native tooltips are used more for in-app help as they are mostly used to explain the UI of a SaaS tool.

Have you seen those little beacons all across the UI of your favorite tool? The ones that display an in-app message once you hover over them?

Those are native tooltips, and here’s an example of one:

Native tooltips built with Userpilot

Native tooltips built with Userpilot

In-app messaging: Interactive walkthroughs

People learn best by actually doing things.

Interactive walkthroughs consist of tooltips or modals that guide users on how to use a specific feature step by step. They are contextual and personalized to the use case.

Need to explain how to use a feature? Build an interactive walkthrough using a series of tooltips.

Want to guide users on how to get started with your product? Avoid long product tours that just show the user each possible feature in your app and build a more contextual and actionable product interactive walkthrough.

Here’s how Trello teaches users to use their tool using an interactive product walkthrough.

Step 1: Name your board

Interactive walkthrough: create first board in Trello

Source: Trello

Step 2: Learn what lists are and how to use them

Interactive walkthrough: Create structure with lists in Trello

Source: Trello

Step 3: Now you find out what actually goes in each list. Yes, it’s cards.

Interactive walkthrough: create Cards in Trello

Source: Trello

Step 4: You actually get to see how easy it is to use the tool to organize your tasks by drag and drop.

Interactive walkthrough: Final tip in Trello

Source: Trello

In four simple steps, illustrated with great visuals, Trello showcases the functionality of their tool.

In-app messaging: Microsurveys

Microsurveys are the short and friendly version of long boring surveys. Microsurveys are a type of in-app communication used to collect user feedback and data.

Feedback gives you valuable insight into how you can improve your product, but what I like about in-app microsurveys is that they are a great way to collect user data.

Use microsurveys to understand users’ goals, roles, JTBD, or any relevant information that can help segment and personalize the user onboarding journey.

Microsurvey in Monday

Source: Monday

In-app messaging examples: when and what to use to communicate with users?

Now that we’ve got a good grip on the basics, let’s get to the fun part.

Let those best practices sink in, and use the examples below to inspire your in-app marketing strategy.

In-app messaging examples for onboarding new users

Use ‘welcome screens’ to personalize onboarding

Welcome screens are the type of in-app messaging that not only greets the users the first time they log into your app, but are also a great way of segmenting your audience and deliver personalized onboarding.

Use the welcome screen to gather data about your user persona. This can be things like:

  • what are they trying to achieve
  • what their role is
  • how experienced they are

Userpilot Welcome Screen

Userpilot Welcome Screen (built with Userpilot – get a demo if you want to implement one in your app too)

Having those insights will allow you to personalize the onboarding flow for each use case and guide users toward the activation point in their journey with less friction.

Additionally, welcome screens are also a great way to avoid empty states that will hurt your product’s time to value.

Use checklists to guide users to the activation point

User onboarding checklists are one of the most effective in-app messaging tools to improve product adoption.

Use checklists to guide users to experience the AHA moments in your product by performing key actions. Adding small tasks makes it easier for users to engage with your product and get to the activation stage in the journey more quickly.

Don’t forget to have a clear goal in mind when building a checklist and add only the tasks that are relevant for that goal to be achieved.

Here’s how Loom uses a checklist to drive its users to the activation point.

Loom user onboarding checklist

Source: Loom

In-app messaging examples to drive feature adoption

Use interactive walkthroughs to help users adopt features

Interactive walkthroughs are a helpful and friendly way to increase feature adoption especially for features that have a steeper learning curve. Triggering a series of tooltips in a sequential way can break down the process and help the user engage and adopt complex features.

One best practice of making in-app messaging effective is to connect in-app experiences. For example, when a user clicks on a task in a checklist (see above) it can automatically trigger an interactive walkthrough.

Here’s how Monday, a task management tool, uses interactive walkthroughs to guide users to adopt a feature.

Step 1:

Monday's interactive walkthrough – step 1

Source: Monday

Step 2:

Monday's interactive walkthrough – step 2

Source: Monday

Step 3:

Monday's interactive walkthrough – step 3

Source: Monday

In-app messaging examples to drive account expansion

Use a modal to drive the user to upgrade when they reach their account limit

Slack upgrade message

Source: Slack

In SaaS, account expansion doesn’t only mean upgrading to a higher plan, it can also be moving users from a free plan to paid one.

Timing and context are what will make users click on your Upgrade now button.

Take Slack for example. When the user reaches the account message limits, a modal pop-up informs them of what they stand to lose if they don’t upgrade. Sending the same message via email won’t be as effective as seeing the message right there and then, just as it is most relevant to what they are doing.

Use native tooltips to prompt upgrades in a contextual way

Sometimes showing a feature that’s not included in the user’s subscription plan is a great tactic to encourage them to upgrade their account.

Signal a premium feature with a native tooltip and explain the extra value it would bring to the user if they upgrade (it doesn’t get more contextual than that)

Intercom does this nicely. When the user is building a series and wants to add an element not included in the plan, a native tooltip signals a premium feature, and an ‘Upgrade Now’ button shows up in a tooltip, giving them a reason to upgrade.

Intercom upgrade tooltip

Source: Intercom

Use a full-screen modal to prompt free users to premium plans

Have I mentioned how important context and timing are when it comes to in-app messaging?

Well, if you’re not convinced that context is everything, check out another great example from Loom:

After recording a video using the tool, they prompt the modal below and invite me to try a premium feature that would remove my ‘ums’ and ‘uhs’ using a microvideo (of course there were a lot of those in my video).

Loom's modal with premium feature

Source: Loom

In-app messaging examples to collect user sentiment

In-app NPS microsurveys

Net Promoter Score (NPS) is one of the most popular ways to measure user’s satisfaction and loyalty for SaaS products. It helps get user sentiment with one simple question – “How likely are you to recommend [PRODUCT] to a friend or colleague?”

Responders answer this question on a scale of 0 to 10.

The quantitative question in NPS survey built with Userpilot

The quantitative question in the NPS survey built with Userpilot

Understanding how loyal users are is one thing, but by adding a qualitative follow-up question to your NPS survey, you can collect deeper insights into what makes them love or hate your product.

The Qualitative question in NPS survey built with Userpilot

The Qualitative question in the NPS survey built with Userpilot

The main benefit of using in-app microsurveys to collect NPS feedback is that you can time the surveys for each user segment to appear at the best points in their user journey and automate responses based on their answers.

Here’s one example of how you could trigger an automated in-app modal that slides out for users who are promoters based on their NPS score and ask them to review your product. Who else could be better suited to leave a review than your happiest customers?

Slide-out built with Userpilot

Slide-out built with Userpilot. Want to build one for your product too? Get a free demo and get started.

In-app messaging examples for updates and announcements

Use modals and tooltips to showcase what’s new when the user logs in

As you can see already, different in-app messages can serve multiple purposes. It’s all about understanding what you are trying to achieve by using each.

I’ve covered how to use modals to build welcome screens, but here’s an example of how to use them to make sure users don’t miss any updates inside the app.

Modal in Miro

Source: Miro

Modals work best when you have multiple announcements to make.

When you want to showcase a new feature and drive action, tooltips are the way to go.

Kommunicate tooltip build with Userpilot

Kommunicate tooltip build with Userpilot

Use in-app modals to keep users up to date with maintenance

Using modals to announce maintenance activities can be useful too. However, remember that important scheduled maintenance should be communicated through various channels, especially if users don’t log into your app daily (not all tools require users to do so).

Maintenance modal from Humanity

Source: Humanity


In-app messaging works best when you have personalized messages, which in turn should be sent to the right users at the right time, in the right place. I hope the examples in this article have inspired you to build better in-app communication with your users!

Want to get started with in-app messaging? Get a Userpilot demo and get started right away!

previous post next post

Leave a comment