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 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, within the 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 messages 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. A push notification, on the other hand, is a notification displayed outside of the app, often as a message on a mobile device.

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 draw inactive users back to your app, in particular when there is some sense of urgency. However, it’s important to note that because these notifications can occur anytime outside of the app, people retain the right to turn the push messages off. In-app notifications are typically focused on active users (as they are already in your product), and support a much broader range of outcomes. Because it’s in-app, generally product teams retain the right to determine who receives which messages.

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.

Why In-App Notifications are Important

In-app notifications can act as a guide to help users along the customer journey. Because they can be triggered based on customer segments, behavior, and timing, they are a great way for product teams to customize communication with users to ensure they’re engaging with and receiving value from the product. In-app notifications can be used to test marketing messages, onboard new users, suggest new features, and explain best practices. When used properly, in-app notifications allow a level of personalization that can increase product usage, customer retention, and customer lifetime value.

5 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 product 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 users to read announcements in-app, and immediately explore new features. 

Parlor in-app announcement

Users can 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 users actually care about and find valuable. 

This insight can also help with feature prioritization

2. Onboarding

One of the most important experiences a user goes through is onboarding. If a user has a negative onboarding experience, they’re going to assume the rest of your product is the same way. In fact, roughly 80% of your users are likely to abandon your product after the first 30 days if you don’t communicate with them. Checking in with your users as they’re exploring your product for the first time can help ensure that they’re having the most positive experience possible. The best way to do this? In-app notifications. 

Since in-app notifications are the most direct line of contact to your users, it can be one of the most efficient ways to communicate with new users. Provide additional resources, offer guides to point them to a handy feature, or explain how a certain aspect of your product works if it isn’t inherently clear. Utilizing in-app notifications to help guide users through onboarding can improve their overall experience and increase their knowledge of your product. Win-win!

3. 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. One way to do this is through, what we at Parlor like to call, event triggers.

Event triggers allow you to automatically send users an in-app notification or message once they complete a certain task or series of tasks, or after a certain temporal window. You could set up a satisfaction survey to be sent to every user as soon as they hit 60 days within your product, or for a questionnaire to automatically be sent out after a user completes a certain sequence within your product. Parlor allows you to set up event triggers like these (and many others), so that you can send perfectly timed and placed in-app notifications every single time no matter what.            

4. Recruit users to validate your roadmap

Imagine being able to validate any feature you’re thinking of working on with 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 users get to ensure that you’re working on the things that will actually provide 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. 

user group examples

You can 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.      

Add a note about how it also helps prevent the build-and-they-will-come mentality. Don’t waste a ton of time and money building things people don’t want.          

5. Add surveys to better understand your customers

Delivering surveys in-app allows for greater personalization and presentation 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.  

In-App Messaging Best Practices

Let’s now take a quick look at some best practices for in-app notifications that your team can use.

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.

Example triggers you could use to send an in-app notification:

  • Sending a check-in survey after 30 days inside your product
  • Asking for feedback after a user interacts with a new feature for the first time
  • Offering advice on how to use a an aspect of the product a user hasn’t interacted with yet
  • Sending an NPS survey after a user completes a certain number of actions
  • Asking for feedback after a user completes the onboarding process

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 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 key user personas 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.

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 team and help 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.