Why In‑App Notifications Are the New Email

Most marketers know all about push notifications. They’re a bit more skeptical about in-app notifications. That’s a mistake.

Why, exactly? Before we answer that question, let’s start with a primer for marketers who aren’t currently working a mobile messaging strategy, something most of the top performers on our Retail Personalization Index have in common.

Push Notifications vs. In-App Messaging

There are two forms of messages that best help brands connect with their customers on their phones. One is push notifications. They’re not that different from a text message, appearing regardless of what the customer is doing at the time. And just like with text messages, there is plenty that marketers can do to make them more appealing: deep links, engaging visuals, short videos, the works. But brands can’t just send customers push notifications. Customers need to opt-in.

Sephora- push notification

The other form of mobile messaging widely used by brands is in-app messaging. Once someone is in the app, you can send them all kinds of messages, from tiny pop-ups to fun graphics that take advantage of the entire screen.

In-app messaging is a challenge because while the average consumer has more than 90 apps downloaded… they only use nine on any given day. But in-app notifications can combat those dismal numbers. They give users more of a reason to open — and engage with — their apps. That’s not to say a good messaging strategy will recoup a lack of interest, but it’s certainly a good way to continually engage your most loyal customers.

What other channel is comparable to in-app messaging? Email. Savvy marketers can get almost all of email’s functionality from in-app notifications. As with email, app notifications provide an owned channel through which marketers can build direct connections with customers.

Inside an app, the message center serves as a home base for all the in-app messages a brand sends. Conceptually, a message center is very similar to an email inbox. Messages can be stored there, marked “read” or “unread.” Say a brand send sends a customer an in-app message alerting them to a great promotion, or to the arrival of a coveted item, but the customer can’t direct their attention to it right at that moment. The message will be sitting in the message center when the customer is ready.

Macy's in-app inbox

Moving Beyond Batch-and-Blast

The functionality of in-app messages can be just as impressive as email, too. Here are some of our favorite ways to move in-app messages away from the batch-and-blast mentality that has hamstrung so many email marketers for so long:

  • Dynamic content. Sending the exact same email to every customer puts a brand on the fast track to irrelevancy. So why take that same risk with in-app messaging? Just as with email, in-app messaging allows marketers to use dynamic content to present customers with the content and promotions most likely to be directly relevant to them as individuals, rather than as members of a particular demographic.
  • Re-engagement. Lapsed-user campaigns can be just as effective in-app as in email. It’s all about where each particular customer prefers to be reached. If a customer is in your app but isn’t making purchases, email may not be the best way to reach them. Instead, try a targeted reengagement campaign within the app itself.
  • Cart abandonment. In-app messages are a great way to rescue abandoned carts. The most effective cart-abandonment streams are powered by information from individual customer profiles. That lets you augment your cart abandonment communications with recommendations for other relevant products – just in case the items in the customer’s cart aren’t exactly what they’re looking for.
  • Test dynamic discounts. Offering blanket discounts to your entire mobile audience risks devaluing your brand. Instead, use in-app messages to offer personalized discounts and perks based on an individual’s buying history, conversion data, and predicted purchasing behavior.
  • Optimize content with A/B testing. You can A/B test almost any part of your in-app message, just as you can with email. If you’re not sure which headline is the best, which creative makes the biggest splash, or which copy is the most persuasive, A/B testing can help you decide.

To learn more about why mobile messaging is a critical part of any omnichannel strategy, download our guide, “The Ultimate Guide to Mobile App Messaging and Engagement.”

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