How to Engage Customers with In-App Messaging? Tips & Tricks

Kseniia Petrina

Would you like your mobile marketing to look like friendly communication to the customers, and not like the brand's desire to get more money? Your app can be a buddy who praises users for being active, tells them how to complete the necessary tasks or make profitable purchases, and suggests a fun time with their friends. If you want to establish a deep relationship with your audience, you need an effective in-app notification strategy. 

This guide will explain what in-app messaging is, how it differs from push notifications, and why it's important when communicating with app users. Read on to see 10 use cases and over 30 examples of in-app messages. 

What is In-App Messaging

In-app messaging is a type of native direct communication with customers that takes place in a mobile app. The effectiveness of user engagement is achieved by adapting the behavior of each user and sending targeted notifications at the right time. This type of messaging is universal and suitable for supporting users as well as for various marketing campaigns.

In-App Messages vs. Push Notifications: What's the Difference?

Pushes are messages, which users receive when interacting with the app. These notifications usually appear on the home screen of the device and are aimed at attracting attention to re-engage customers.

In-app message examples in expanded view
Preview of the push notification and its expanded view

In some cases, push notifications are sent just to inform the user. For example, such a message can be about sending an order or changing the score in a sports match. 

As the name implies, in-app messages are displayed inside the app during an active session. These notifications are more context-sensitive, highly targeted, and focused on enhancing the user's journey in the application.

In-App Message
In-App Message

In addition to the place of the emergence, there are several other differences between the two types of mobile messaging.

Differences between push notifications and in-app messages
Differences between push notifications and in-app messages

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Benefits of In-App Messages

To make sure that in-app messaging is a powerful tool for an effective customer engagement strategy, take a look at the benefits of this channel:

  1. Maximum coverage of active users. Unlike emails and mobile/browser push notifications, sending in-app messages doesn’t require a user subscription. It means you can address messages to all users involved in the app. But do not consider such communication intrusive. If you stick to the second point on this list, you will make in-app messages a pleasant companion for users during their journey.  
  2. High level of personalization. Thoughtful in-app campaigns are based on sending messages that resonate with the user's intentions. You can use segmentation by users’ personal data and previous activity or send messages based on events that are consistent with their in-app behavior at the moment.
  3. Diverse appearance. Email services may not display custom fonts, push notifications limit the number of characters in the text, and SMS does not allow you to add multimedia. With in-app messaging, you can combine creatives while maintaining your brand identity. You are free to choose the message design that best matches the style of the application and the purpose of the campaign: use a small text hint or stories with rich full-screen pages. However, it is worth noting that you need the extensive technical capabilities of the provider you use to send messages and exemplary development skills to do so.
  4. Seamless user experience. Have you estimated how many customers fall off the path to conversion when they need to switch between platforms? For example, they have to go from the website or app to the inbox and confirm the email address to get a promo code. Some users forget to do this or get distracted by other emails and never complete the targeted action. In-app marketing minimizes such situations. A relevant contextual message allows the user to stay focused and continue their journey in the application. Saving time and ease of use of the product provide a positive user experience and, as a result, increase customer loyalty.

Types of In-App Messages 

In-app notifications are divided into several types depending on their appearance and placement on the screen. There is some correlation between marketing goals and the most appropriate message format. 

Banner slider

It is also called slideouts, carousels, or in-app stories. This is a convenient option to show a large amount of information in a small area of the screen and emphasize the essential points at the same time. This format is often used to introduce the application and demonstrate some features. App users easily perceive such messages due to the consistent delivery of content and similarity to social media stories.

In-app marketing to explore the app's features
Banner slider to explore the app's features


Modal windows are especially effective if you want to fully capture the client's attention. You can use different variations of this format:

  • placing the banner at the top or bottom;
  • placing the banner in the center of the screen;
  • making a full-screen banner.
In-app notification as pop-ups
In-app messages as pop-ups

This type of notification is best used for really important information: pop-ups block interaction with other application elements and can be annoying.


Pop-up contextual prompts simplify interaction with the application. They teach newcomers how to work with basic features and avoid possible mistakes. Typically, these notifications are compact but noticeable. Therefore, they do their job well without distracting users.

Little pop-up tips
Little pop-up tips

Embedded messages

Messages integrated into the main content area serve unobtrusive communication and look like a natural interface component. It is important not to impose the purchase aggressively in these notifications. Otherwise, the user will get the feeling that ads in the app follow them everywhere.

In-app messages in the main content area
In-app messages in the main content area

How To Use In-App Messages to Boost Customer Engagement

Enough theory, let's move on to practice and look at examples of how companies use in-app messaging to communicate with their existing customers. Get inspired by best practices and choose the appropriate ones. 


You may not believe in love at first glance, but you should take into account FTUE (First-Time User Experience) in your customer engagement strategy.

It determines the client's initial impression of the interaction with the user interface and has a significant influence on whether the customer will continue to use the product or not. That's why you need to get the user interested in further acquaintance with the application during the first session and make all actions convenient and understandable.

At the onboarding stage, you can combine different message formats: banner sliders for presenting product benefits and main functionality and tooltips to explain how a particular feature works.

In-app communication while onboarding
In-app message variations in onboarding

Motivation to be active

If you win the customer's favor at the introduction stage, there's still no reason to expect further engagement from him. Studies show that 25% of applications are used only once after downloading. Peaks of decrease in the activity of users are observed a day, a week, or a month after installation, so you have to maintain constant interest.

Previously, providing bonuses for daily login to the application was a popular mechanism for retaining users on gaming platforms. Over time, this kind of reward has migrated to other types of applications, especially in education and self-improvement products. With in-app messages, you can leverage different ways of engaging: 

  • prompting users to set goals;
  • visualizing their progress;
  • rewarding the regularity of actions.
Messages with rewards for opening the app
Messages with rewards for opening the app

What should you do if gamification isn't suitable for mobile app engagement? Choose exclusive features of your product and inform clients about them, as it is implemented in the Letyshops app. When selecting a store, the customer gets a little reminder of the limited-time offers. This prompts the user to open the app more often, so they don't miss interesting promotions.

Motivational message from a cashback service

Incentives for users

Another thing that came from games to mobile marketing is the OCR (objective, challenge, reward) model, which motivates to go through the game step by step. At each stage, interest is fueled by the rewards or new opportunities the player receives for completing the task.

Today, we can see how the reward system is used as a tool to engage and retain audiences in mobile apps. Rewards, ratings, progress bars, and emotional positive messages get into the user's mind and keep them motivated. After receiving even a brief satisfaction from the praise for the achievement, the human brain forms a positive association of interaction with the product. It encourages people to return to it again.

Motivational message from a cashback service
Motivational message from a cashback service

Internal notifications for rewards are not only relevant for apps that use game mechanics. Praise the user for their excellent taste, congratulate them on their anniversary order, or thank them for being with you. Knowing the profiles of your customers, you will definitely find the right reason for a pleasant message.

App news 

The average smartphone owner has about 40 apps installed; 89% of the time falls on 18 of them. As we can see, more than half of the apps are rarely used. 

An app can likely get an updated interface or new features while the user is inactive. If automatic updates are enabled on the device, the user may encounter unfamiliar elements or fail to notice new useful features when logging in again. You can share essential updates in in-app messages so that the customer can take full advantage of them:

Demonstration of new features in the carousel
Demonstration of new features in the carousel

Some people use only basic features and turn off the automatic updates so as not to overflow the device's memory. If updating an app requires the participation of the user, emphasize the value and usefulness of the new functionality.

Upgrade motivation

In most cases, business growth is achieved not by attracting new customers but by repeat purchases of loyal customers. Companies with paid and free tariffs in their apps seek to increase the number of premium users and often use in-app messages for such purposes. There are certain dos and don'ts of this strategy.

Don'ts: providing a short free period and then blocking most of the important features; sending annoying notifications about upgrading the plan every time the user logs in or during a session.

Dos: providing access to the benefits of the premium tariff partially, and then smoothly pushing the user to upgrade with the help of in-app messaging.

Not every user has time to try all the necessary features during the trial, especially if it lasts 3-7 days. When comparing pricing plans, some benefits may not seem important enough to give up the free version. That's why the user has to figure out if he would like to use premium.

Look at the example from the Canva application. Users can choose a template with a paid element and edit it to their liking. When saving a file, they receive a notification inviting them to subscribe to the PRO version. This offer is unobtrusive and consistent with the customer journey. 

Unobtrusive offer to purchase the PRO version
Unobtrusive offer to purchase the PRO version

Note. Using this approach, be sure to mark the paid features with a special marker so that it does not come as a surprise and disappointment to the customer.

Promotions and discounts

In-app marketing is an easy and fast way to please a customer with a price reduction or a special offer. Compared to other communication channels, in-app messaging has two distinctive advantages:

  • you're addressing an interested segment that is already using your product;
  • the client cannot miss the notification, as it happens with emails and social media posts.

Discounts, promo codes, loyalty program bonuses, time-limited offers – any advertising campaign integrates well into the notification format in the app and, in combination with various creative mechanics, provides high conversion rates.

To attract attention, place a pop-up offer, which requires certain actions from the user to be closed. In addition to banners, it can also be a small interactive element like in the Aliexpress app:

In-app notification examples with special offers
Pop-ups with special offers

Feedback request

In marketing campaigns, move away from a monologue to a dialogue with your clients. Ask them if they like your app. You can increase user loyalty by showing that clients’ opinion is valuable to you. In addition, real feedback performs two important tasks:

  •  Helping you understand the strengths and weaknesses of your product and determine what you need to do to improve it;
  •  Attracting other users who thoroughly read the reviews in the store before downloading the app (if feedback is good, of course). 

Some people like leaving extensive reviews while others don't want to waste their time. So, there are two types of in-app messages you can use: one for a quick rate and the other with the option to go to the app store and view there.

A little tip: don't interrupt the user's journey with an inappropriate message when they're surfing the app. Ask them to rate after doing some specific actions: making a purchase, downloading content, or completing a level. In this case, clients will share fresh experiences with high probability.

Offers to leave feedback
Offers to leave feedback

Engagement of the users’ friends

How to achieve high user retention in the app and reduce customer acquisition costs at the same time? Let your existing users invite their friends! Interacting with familiar people can increase customer engagement significantly. On the other hand, a newcomer moves through the funnel faster because they receive a recommendation from a trusted source. Use in-app messaging to tell the customer about these opportunities:

  • inviting other people to the app;
  • syncing contacts and finding friends already using the app;
  • sharing content on social media;
  • becoming a member of the referral program and receiving bonuses for friends' activities.
Ways to attract friends to the app

Integration with other apps

Another way to keep constant app usage is integration with different popular applications. Allow your audience to connect your app to other products to increase device productivity. Choose the right moment to let customers know how you can help them make the personalized space on their mobile phones more convenient.

Notifications about integration options
Notifications about integration options

If your company releases several products and it may interest your audience, you can also promote them in an in-app message. It is recommended to send the offer after the appropriate action of the target user when you know that he has just used the application.

Promotion of related products
Promotion of related products

Adding communication channels

 Tell customers about other available ways to communicate besides the application. For example, you can ask for an email address or permission to send mobile push notifications. This offer may be most effective when the user is looking for specific information or a product. Instead of drowning in irrelevant offers, they are more likely to receive desired selections and possible status updates via a convenient channel.

Offer to subscribe to the email newsletter
Offer to subscribe to the email newsletter

You should pay attention to the subscription to the mobile pushes. This is an essential thread of communication with customers, which is able to awaken inactive users. iOS requires user consent to send messages, so you have to show the real benefit of this subscription. "Allow the app to send notifications, so you don't miss news and promotions" is a standard phrase that weakly motivates the user. It would be much more effective to study the client's path and determine the points at which the offer would be most relevant. In addition, you can also invite the user to choose interesting categories to subscribe to.

Relevant requests for permission to send push notifications
Relevant requests for permission to send push notifications

If you want to know how adding mobile push to communications helped our client increase sales by 1.5 times, read this article.

Summing Up

As we can see, in-app messaging is a universal conduit between the user and the application. On the one hand, it adapts to the specifics of your business and the stages of the conversion funnel; on the other hand, it takes into account user data and actions. 

It sounds good, but you have to remember this marketing tool only works with active users. If you want to use the synergy of several communication channels to attract new clients, try a demo version of the Reteno platform. We will explain the opportunities for your business. Unlike other messaging platforms, our system is an all-in-one marketing tool to get users engaged.

Maya Skidanova


August 26, 2022

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