Imagine that there are 2 products that you are considering.
They both offer roughly the same value. Product A is letting you use it without engaging with you like it swore silence.
Product B is popping up messages when you are in the product to let you know there is a new feature or give a tip that will make you a more efficient user.
I would choose Product B over Product A any day because I know there is a business behind it that cares about the users.
But only when it is done right.
Done well, it helps show users how to get the most out of the product that they are using and drives sales to relevant upgrades and features. Done badly, it is a nuisance that breaks users’ workflows and drives customers away.
In this article, I tried to explain what a good in-app message is, collected and examined the best examples I have seen to help you start using in-app messages like a champ.
What is In-App Messaging
In-app or in-product messaging is the term for the notifications that users receive while they are using an application or product:
This can be slip-outs, pop-ups, modals, really anything that catches the user’s attention to provide them with information or call them to action.
In-app messaging should be clearly distinguished from push notifications, which pop-up when the app is closed and appear as an external notification on a user’s device.
The type of messaging that can be delivered in-app can really be anything but is generally up-sales, notifications about new features, guidance, and requests for feedback.
In-app messaging works well because you have a captive audience. Also, anyone who uses the product can receive messages without having to provide separate permissions. This is in contrast to push notifications, which must be opted into or out of separately.
About 30% of people opt out of push notification, which I could relate.
In-app messages can also be worked into the user’s workflow. Users can be shown relevant information while they are using the product, and therefore when the information is most useful to them.
They can also be given different information at different stages of their workflow to ensure that they always receive the most important and effective messaging.
According to Localytics, in-app messaging, when done well, can lead to user What is retention? Retention refers to a customer continuing to use a business’ product or a service and to pay for the said product or service. It is a key… rates 3.5 times higher than for products not using this feature. It can also improve conversion rates fourfold.
How to create the perfect In-app Messages
Now it all comes down to separating in-app messages from annoying, life-devouring pop-ups and I will try my best to do so.
First and foremost, the key is to provide people with information that has value to them. Guidance on how to make the most of the product has value.
Providing feedback has value, as it lets you make a better product.
While a user may not wish to upgrade, knowing that option is available has value. This is what sets in-app messaging from the kind of pop-up marketing that we expect to see on websites.
So, as a rule of best practice, if you haven’t got anything engaging to say, it’s best you don’t say anything.
Aside from that, the main things to consider are timing, relevance, personalization, and conciseness.
5 Steps to the Perfect In-app Message
1- The right user needs to get the right message at the right moment.
This refers, in the first place, to properly identifying and segmenting audiences.
You don’t want to be asking brand new customers for feedback, or directing super-users to introductory tutorials. You should know what type of customer the user is, and provide them with information that is relevant to them.
2- Users also need to receive messages at the right stage in their workflow.
There is nothing more annoying than a message popping up while you are trying to concentrate on doing a complicated or creative task.
Messages are better displayed when users are transitioning and have the capacity to give the information appropriate attention. For example, guidance should be provided when users are starting a task, and feedback should be requested once they complete a task.
3- Wherever possible, messaging should be personal.
This means both properly segmenting the user so that they receive relevant information, but also personalization features such as addressing the user by name, and perhaps saying good morning or good evening depending on the time of day and the time zone.
This can have a surprisingly strong impact when it comes to making the customer feel valued.
4- Messages should communicate their purpose in as few words as possible,
giving the customer the most important information that they need at a glance. The message can then call them to engage further if they decide that the information is of value to them at that moment.
5- Calls to action should always be clear,
and the user should never be left wondering how they can follow up on the information provided in the message. Users should always have the option to dismiss a message, but to return and follow-up later if now is not a good moment for them to engage.
In-App Messaging Examples
Let’s see some real word examples of in-app messages that are created for various purposes such as:
- New Feature Introduction
- Gathering Feedback
Onboarding is the process of getting someone signed-up and logged-on to your product.
This is an incredibly important part of the user-acquirement process, as according to Localytics, 21 percent of people abandon new apps after just one use. Among the main reasons for this is a belief that the app does not deliver what they thought it did, or it is too difficult to figure out how to use it.
Product tours will not be included here, as they are not technically in-app messages. Rather I will go over in-app messages that try to turn new users into battle-hardened veterans of the product.
Now unlike with the other products here, I am pretty sure everyone who reads this article has/had an active profile on LinkedIn.
If I’m wrong, feel free to contact me via my LinkedIn profile and let me know 👀
What LinkedIn does almost perfectly is onboarding users. The UI doesn’t need that much explanation, it is extremely user friendly.
What makes it perfect, however, is not the UI or the product tour, its activating users. You just have to “complete these steps to get the most out of LinkedIn” as this in-app message on your Home page suggests during your onboarding.
Yet in the process of completing those steps, you actually master the product and have a solid profile.
And these are not the only variation, there are many other mini-tasks that you come across in these messages such as “Add a photo” or “Add your location”.
SnapGuide gives the perfect example of how to get users to sign up for push notifications while getting themselves set up on the app.
They don’t just ask the user if they want to receive notifications as part of the onboarding process. Many users will glaze this and simply decline – they don’t need more notifications popping up on their screens. Instead, SnapGuide, while brief, is very specific about what kind of notifications the user will receive, and how they will add value.
This reassures the user that they will only receive notifications that are of interest to them, and that they won’t be bombarded with new notifications several times a day.
New Feature Awareness
Often products launch new features that they want their users to be aware of in order to improve their user experience.
However, making users aware of these features can be challenging.
Marketing emails that list all the latest features can easily be ignored, or kept in the inbox for when the user has a “spare moment”. These are then quickly swallowed up by other email traffic and eventually deleted as something they don’t have time for.
Better than sending users information about new features at a time that is convenient for the marketing team, in-app messaging provided them with that information at a time that is convenient for them.
For example, while they are using the product, so it is at the front of their mind. Or even better, when they are completing a task in the app that this new feature could help them with.
I love Google Docs.
For real, I can’t get enough of the platform. For starters, I used to write articles for our blog on MS Word but I can’t remember the last time I have used it because the office suite Google offers does everything I need.
Again, not everything MS Office products can do, but everything I need.
And in the process of preparing and gathering screenshots for this article, I was met by a new feature introduction. It is not a game-changer that will bring MS Office down, I just genuinely enjoyed the design of the in-app message and here it is:
Yes, they just enabled access to office-formatted files, but how they introduce it is perfect. First off, they have a gif on top that summarizes what’s new, then an on-point introduction text.
You can click on “Take a tour” to see how the new feature works, or just skip it.
New, new, new…
Don’t you love it when you log into an app that you use everyday and see the word “New” in a pop-up?
I’ve recently experienced this with Salesforce’s mobile app:
First off, the welcome screen ❤️. It just compels you to click “Get Started” right there and then doesn’t it? Yes Salesforce, of course, I want to supercharge my productivity with your newest features!
Then the in-app messages that pop up as you keep using the app, telling you whatever’s new. I even think they are a candidate for our good UX examples list.
Many applications offer both freemium and premium options, with product owners hoping that users will experiment with the product with a freemium account, and then upgrade to premium customers.
Getting the messaging right around upselling is important.
It is important that freemium accounts aren’t made too restrictive, and the product seem tight-fisted, as the user might leave and look for other free alternatives.
The communication is also most effective when the messaging is released at the right time, at the moment when the user might want to use some of the features that they can access with a paid upgrade
Spotify does a fantastic job of gently nudging its freemium customers to paid accounts.
For example, free customers can listen to as much music as they like, but they can only skip six songs per hour. They alert the user if they are skipping through tracks quickly, reminding them of this limitation and one of the perks of a premium account.
When the user does reach their limit, they are not blocked from continuing to use the product, but advised that they have discovered a premium feature which they can easily unlock by upgrading their account.
In-app messaging is also a great way to gather feedback from customers, and conduct those all-important NPS surveys.
Feedback is best collected when a customer has reached a milestone, rather than while they are busy concentrating on what they are trying to achieve. For example, once they have successfully completed a form or sent off an email campaign. This is a great moment to celebrate their achievement and ask them to take a minute to tell you what they think of your product.
I won’t be giving an example from a product for this part as most NPS surveys are identical to each other.
However, I will provide you with my own NPS survey mockup that I have created using our product UserGuiding.
(it took me about 45 seconds)
The problem with NPS surveys is when you ask it. Make sure to ask it after a user totally comprehends your product and ask it again after a couple of months to see if their idea has changed.
(you can also adjust each of these variables in UserGuiding without any need of coding, just saying…)
Now when I’m creating content for our blog and especially as I convert my research and thoughts into an article draft, I always make sure that Grammarly is running.
You know… We all make mistakes. Sometimes your fellow coworkers might tease you for a typo. So Grammarly helps me make sure I don’t overlook anything.
And it just amazes me to see that Grammarly is adding new and new features to their product everyday, and they rely on user feedback to improve.
For example, when I was updating an article last week, I wondered what the overall tone of my writing was, so I checked. It said the tone was “Curious” while it wasn’t, and I’m not here to praise this feature; I liked the part that says “Did we get it right?”.
This might not technically be an in-app message as a separate element but you couldn’t come any closer to it than this one with a product like Grammarly.
Bonus: Let your users know you’re there
Kudos to you for reading all the way down here!
An in-app message doesn’t always have to have a crucial function that will increase your new feature adoption or onboard users effectively.
It can be created with the purpose of just aiding your users and letting them know that help is always available.
Now if you have been reading my articles on the blog recently, you’ll know that I mention Evernote a lot.
I have been using the product for a long time, my notes just go everywhere with me: mobile device, desktop, browser…
And I have recently opened a new account just to go through their onboarding again which I loved and showcase it to you. Here’s what I am left with when the whole onboarding process is done:
But wait a minute, there is nothing there…
Let’s zoom on the bottom left corner:
NEED A LITTLE HELP?
I mean, there is the same sentence just below. What would they even want to achieve with this in-app message?
Nothing, just letting you know that whenever you need help, you can click there and solve your problem with their support content.
What do they get out of this in-app message?
Just the loyalty and appreciation of users who enjoy using friendly products, like me.
Wouldn’t you want to convert hours of developer time to just a few minutes of dragging and dropping? Creating in-app messages with UserGuiding will help you do just that, here’s how it works:
It took me only a minute to create an in-app message that calls users to subscribe to our blog newsletter, here is the final product:
Of course, one final tip. Make sure that you are tracking the impact of your in-app messaging. This will let you know if you are doing it right, and help you identify where you can improve and be even more effective.
Frequently Asked Questions
💬 What is an in-app message?
In-app or in-product messages are the notifications that users receive while they are using an application or product.
⌛️ When should you use an in-app message?
An in-app message should be timed well during an onboarding process, after the release of a new feature, or at the time of an opportunity to upsell.
⛔️ What to avoid when creating an in-app message?
The message should be clear and you must definitely avoid popping up when a user is on a task.