How to send mobile app messages that build loyalty and stay relevant

Customers download your app because they want to know more about what your brand has to offer. Mobile messages can maintain and grow the relationship, but you have to use the right communications.

“Downloading an app is a big step in customers showing their loyalty to a brand,” said Sydney Smith, client marketing manager at cross-channel marketing platform Cordial, at The MarTech Conference. “So as a brand, you want to ensure you pay respect to that loyalty by sending the right kinds of messages through your mobile channel.”

There are three main categories of mobile app messages, each with their own strengths and best practices.

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Push notifications

Push notifications are the most common form of mobile app messages. They arrive on the home screen or lock screen of a user’s phone.

“The first question you could ask yourself is, ‘Do my customers need to know this right now?'” said Smith. “If the answer is yes, then you should probably send a push notification.”

These messages are often automatically triggered, based on customers’ product preferences, orders and behaviors on the app.

“Some great examples of push notifications are order updates, abandoned cart reminders, last-minute sales, back in stock or low-inventory alerts, and subscription reminders,” Smith said.

Just because your customer downloads your app doesn’t mean they automatically receive push notifications. They have to opt in. Don’t abuse that ability by sending out too many notifications.

Marketers should think about their own experience with this. Why did they find some push notifications helpful and others were irritating. Use those insights to help inform the messages you send.

In-app messages

In-app messages are those customers receive when they’re already in the app.

“These are pop-up alerts that happen while you’re already using the application, and they’re usually event-driven because of this,” said Andrew Shields, Cordial’s senior technical product manager. “Since the user is interacting with your app, you can capture that real-time data, and they almost always use deep linking so that when the user clicks on them [the messages] take them to somewhere specific in the application to then complete some action.”

Shields added, “There are a lot of valuable use cases for in-app messages. You can welcome users with a series of onboarding screens. You can alert them to new products, or let them know about targeted promotions that might fit their previous behaviors.”

Additionally, in-app messages can be used to send loyalty status updates. If the customer has reached a new tier in the loyalty program, send a message of congratulations. You can also send messages about updates and new features in the app to encourage them to engage with the app.

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Inbox messages

Inbox messages are the least common of the three categories. They tend to be longer-form and kept in the customers’ app account. They are sometimes sent to customers who have disabled push notifications.

“[Inbox messages] sometimes have an expiration date tied to them that makes them disappear eventually, but in general they allow users to refer back to them so they can read that information at a later date,” said Shields.

“Customers aren’t alerted to this information that you’re sending immediately, but instead this information is being stored in a place that customers can check on their own time,” said Smith.

She added, “Some brands use inbox messages to send information to customers who have push notifications disabled… That way they could reach everybody who had push enabled [during a current promotion]but they could reach everybody who had pushed disabled whenever they checked their app again.”

Marketers who have a solid game plan around these three types of mobile app messages will be able to keep customers informed and interested in the brand. They can also use combinations of the three to handle specific promotions, depending on how their customers respond to previous mobile campaigns.

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About the author

Chris Wood

Chris Wood draws on over 15 years of reporting experience as a B2B editor and journalist. At DMN, he served as associate editor, offering original analysis on the evolving marketing tech landscape. He has interviewed leaders in tech and politics, from Canva CEO Melanie Perkins, to former Cisco CEO John Chambers, and Vivek Kundra, appointed by Barack Obama as the country’s first federal CIO. He is especially interested in how new technologies, including voice and blockchain, are disrupting the marketing world as we know it. In 2019, he moderated a panel on “innovation theater” at Fintech Inn, in Vilnius. In addition to his marketing-focused reporting in industry trades like Robotics Trends, Modern Brewery Age and AdNation News, Wood has also written for KIRKUS, and contributes fiction, criticism and poetry to several leading book blogs. He studied English at Fairfield University, and was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. He lives in New York.

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