We’ve all been there; you’re right in the middle of doing something in an app when all of a sudden, something pops up on your screen, forces you to stop whatever you were doing, and asks you how likely you would be to refer them to a friend. In the best case of poor timing, in-app notifications can come off as impersonal and spammy to your end user. In the worst case, they can disrupt your users at the moment they’re trying to carry out something critical in your product, deeply annoying them or even permanently damaging their perception of your product. However, if utilized correctly, in-app notifications can be a powerful tool to directly communicate with your users and provide even more value to them with your product.

Learning how to correctly and effectively use in-app notifications can help you educate, engage, and excite your users.

What are in-app notifications?

At its most basic level, in-app notifications are any messages or notices that show up for your user, well, in-app. These can take the form of full screen pop ups or small overlays, and appear when your user is active in the app. In-app notifications should be highly contextual, triggered at different points in the user’s journey through your app. 

When done right, this kind of messaging can be used to communicate with users in a natural way by delivering information that is most relevant to them at that moment in their user experience. Research also shows that correctly using in-app notifications can help retain users. According to Localytics, a research firm, mobile apps had a 3.5x higher user retention rate when they utilized in-app messaging. 

In-app notifications vs. push notifications

Before we go any further, it’s important to clarify the difference between in-app notifications and push notifications. In-app notifications only appear in-app, as their name suggests. Push notifications, on the other hand, are notifications that are displayed outside of the app. While this may seem unimportant, this small distinction actually completely changes your audience and will affect the way you should be messaging.

Push notifications are primarily utilized to help you draw inactive users back to your app, in particular when there is some sense of urgency. In-app notifications are typically focused on your active audience (as they are already in your product), and support a much broader range of outcomes. Instead of trying to entice your users to go to your app, you should be using in-app notifications to engage them by delivering important and relevant information that will add value to their experience, such as announcing a new feature.

4 types of in-app notifications you should be using

Okay, so we know what in-app notifications are and why they’re important. But what exactly should you be sharing in those notifications?

1. Announcing news and updates

What better place to share any new product features or updates than directly in your app? This kind of messaging allows you to immediately direct your user to any new features that you’re announcing when it is most relevant in their user experience. 

For example, sharing product updates and new feature announcements right inside your product allows your users to read these announcements in-app, and immediately explore any new features. They can even react to these announcements or potential feature releases so that you can get real-time feedback. This gives you a clear understanding of what features your users actually care about and find valuable.

Parlor in-app announcement

2. Ask for feedback at the right moment

Getting feedback from the right users at the right moment is paramount to improving your product. In-app notifications allow you to get contextualized feedback about what matters most to your users. Maybe you’re trying to understand which areas of a newly released feature cause users the most friction. Sending a simple notification to ask for feedback can give you valuable insight.

However, we all know how annoying it can be when you’re right in the middle of doing something in an app and you are interrupted with a pop up asking for feedback. Whether you’re asking for generalized feedback or you’re asking users how they feel about a specific aspect or feature of your product, you have to make sure that these in-app notifications aren’t disruptive to a user’s experience. By making sure that the notification’s timing, placement, and audience are correct, you can get valuable feedback that isn’t jarring for the end user.

3. Recruit users to validate your roadmap

Imagine being able to validate any feature you’re thinking of working on with your actual users before spending any time or money building it. This is a process called “concept validation”, and you can use in-app notifications to motivate users to participate in it. Not only do you get feedback directly from your users in-app, but your users get to ensure that you’re working on the things that will actually add value to them. Show your users a preview of any new feature you’re thinking of working on directly in-app and let them leave a review. You can even invite your users to become part of a beta-testing group, customer advisory board, or product panel to get targeted feedback. This not only gives your users a strong feeling of connection to your product because they feel they have a say in what you’re building, but it also helps to keep them engaged with the product and gives you valuable insight into what they want.  

4. Add surveys to better understand your customers

Delivering surveys via in-app notifications allows your surveys to be highly contextualized and presents them to your users when it’s most relevant to them in their user experience. If a survey is triggered by a certain event (it’s been 60 days since they downloaded your app), or when your user has completed a certain task (they just finished using a new feature), it can help you get more reliable and relevant feedback.

By keeping your survey short and targeted for a specific purpose, such as finding out how easy or hard it was to accomplish a certain task, you can utilize in-app notifications to get feedback through contextualized surveys.

Keep your users happy with these in-app messaging best practices

Be thoughtful about the timing of your in-app notifications

Imagine you’re checking out on Amazon and all of a sudden you get an in-app notification asking you to leave the site and read a blog. Not only is that bad for Amazon because the notification is pulling you away from completing the transaction, but it’s annoying for the customer because it interrupted you right when you were in the middle of something. Timing your in-app notifications to have them be relevant and seamless in your user’s experience is vital, not just for their enjoyment but for your sake as well. In-app notifications triggered by an event have double the click-through rate compared with notifications that are triggered when the app launches.

Segment your in-app messaging

Segment your users into different customer cohorts and directly communicate to the most relevant audience. This not only allows you to naturally speak with these important users in a casual way, but it also allows you to target your messaging based on who you’re sending the notification to. Instead of just shooting out a generic message into the ether and hoping that you get a response, you can segment your users into different groups and change your messaging or your questions based on which user group is receiving the notification. This also keeps the volume down by splitting the notification up among user groups. By doing so, you can guarantee you’re not over-notifying any one user group while simultaneously ensuring a significant enough volume of responses.

For example, you could create a “Customer Advisory Board” group consisting of your highest paying customers and send them an in-app survey that is highly targeted towards the features that they use most. This will provide you with the most accurate and relevant results, and allows your most important customers to feel a deeper connection to your product.

user group examples

Use in-app notifications to celebrate and empower your users

At the end of the day, the most important thing you can do is engage with your users and make them feel empowered within your product. In-app notifications are a great medium for your user to give their opinion and feedback, and allow them to collaborate with your product team to build a better product. If your user feels connected to your product and feels like they have a say in what you’re building, they will feel loyal to you and empowered to use your product whenever they need to.  After all, an engaged user is a loyal user.

Harness the power of in-app notifications

In-app notifications allow you to directly communicate with your users while they are actually using your product, which will give you highly focused, relevant, and helpful feedback. If utilized correctly, this type of communication can help engage your users by sending them contextualized and targeted messaging at the most relevant moment in their user experience. If you are looking to adopt a best in class in-app notification system within your team, Parlor can help. With Parlor, you can segment your users, send out contextualized surveys,  recruit a user group for feedback, test new features in your product, and announce any product updates directly in your app so that you can reach all the right users at the right time and in the right place. Let us help you craft timely, meaningful, and engaging in-app notifications that are less of an interruption and more of a celebration.