5 practical ways in-app messaging can boost customer engagement

In-app messaging can help you collect customer feedback, show users how to get the best use of your product and boost customer engagement. This article shows you how to accomplish this.

5 practical ways in-app messaging can boost customer engagement

One of the biggest challenges with SaaS businesses is optimizing and maintaining product usage, to engage, convert and retain users over months or years. This is even more challenging as app usage has become increasingly congested.

A study by Statista reports that the number of mobile app downloads worldwide has been increasing constantly from 2016 onward, surpassing 200 billion in 2019. In the most recently measured year, consumers downloaded 230 billion mobile apps to their connected devices, up by more than 63 percent from 140.7 billion app downloads in 2016.

With this kind of high adoption rate, users can easily switch to one of your competitors if they feel like their pain points are not solved.

How do you keep customers engaged and keep their subscriptions active? With in-app messaging for SaaS businesses, you can send targeted messages to your users to drive engagement.

In this article, you’ll learn 5 practical ways to use in-app messages to boost customer engagement.

Let’s begin with the definition of in-app messages.

Table of contents

  1. What are in-app messages?
  2. 5 practical ways in-app messaging can boost customer engagement
  3. Bonus—Best practices for writing in-app messages
  4. Getting started on in-app messaging

What are in-app messages?

In-app messages are messages that are sent to users while they use your mobile or desktop-based app. It could be a chat prompt or a pop-up message that web users can click on for further engagement with your product.

In-app messaging for SaaS is an effective communication strategy. It can help direct customers to a new product feature, an onboarding video tutorial, or a survey.

According to the Mobile Engagement Benchmark Survey by Urbanairship, in-app messaging typically receives 8x the direct response rates of push notifications. In-app-messaging doesn't require an opt-in and can reach most — if not all — your whole audience in a personalized way.

5 practical ways in-app messaging can boost customer engagement

In this section, you’ll learn 5 practical use cases for in-app messaging to drive customer engagement.

1. Welcoming a new user

Without a product tour, new users can easily get overwhelmed and confused. With in-app messaging for SaaS, you can welcome new users onboard, direct them to different product features so that they can learn the ropes of using your product with less hassle.

Take a look at an example of how Zuora uses in-app messaging to welcome new users:

Zuora: An example of using in-app messaging to welcome new users. (Source)

Notice the message didn’t take a generic approach like “welcome! Click start to begin a tour guide.” Instead, Zuora’s in-app message is tailored to address three user personas— users responsible for the company’s growth, product, and finance. This way, any of the user personas can relate to the message and be compelled to learn more.

Regardless of the type of SaaS product you have, you can learn from this example and address your message to different customer personas. New users can easily relate to your message and start a product tour.

2. Provide an in-app onboarding tutorial

User onboarding isn’t a process that takes a short time—it takes time. Especially if you have a complex SaaS, new users may take weeks or months to get deeper into the broad capabilities of each product feature.

With in-app messaging for your SaaS product, you can create a sequence so that new users are introduced to a new feature as they use your product.

Take a look at an example of how Airtable uses in-app messaging to help new users learn more about the extensive capabilities of its product feature.

Airtable: An example of using in-app messaging to help new users learn more about the extensive capabilities of a product feature. (Source)

The simple tooltips of a traditional product tour couldn't do justice to the extensive capabilities embedded in each feature of the app.

So, the Airtable team decided to use animated gifs. This way, new users can see a live demonstration of how to use a particular feature on the app.

If you have a complex SaaS product, you can learn from Airtable’s example. You can use an animated GIF to show users how to get the best use of a specific feature while they use the product.  

3. Promote new product features and updates

What happens when a user returns to your product after a while of inactivity? When you know the right way to announce new features and product updates, you can witness an increase in how customers engage with your product.

Rather than allowing users to figure out what they have missed, you can use in-app messaging to notify them of important product updates, explain the purpose of each new feature and how users can make use of them. Users can click through to engage further with new features.

Take a look at how Webflow uses in-app messaging to notify returning users of new features, bug fixes and content they missed when they were away.

Webflow: An example of using in-app messaging to notify returning users of new features, bug fixes and content they missed when they were away. (Source)

4. For account upgrade

After people have benefitted from  your product, you can send an in-app notification inviting them to upgrade their accounts to a different subscription plan.

Take a look at how Dropbox uses in-app messaging to invite users to get a free trial of its business plan.

Dropbox: An example of using in-app messaging to invite users to get a free trial of a business plan. (Source)

Notice how its in-app message alleviates user pain points by highlighting benefits with the text —“more space for your team, collaborate anytime, anywhere.” Users that are out of space can relate to this message and consider upgrading to another plan that will serve their needs.

5. Collecting customer feedback

Customer feedback is invaluable when you’re providing a solution to a particular audience. Apart from using emails to collect feedback from customers, you can also use in-app messaging for your SaaS product by asking customers for feedback while they use your app.

It is smart to do this after you redesign an app page or launch something new, just like Hootsuite did in its in-app message.

Hootsuite: An example of using in-app messaging to collect customer feedback after redesigning an app page or launching something new. (Source)

Hootsuite launched a beta of a new Bulk Message Uploader to eliminate any extra friction that comes from individual uploads. To gain insights into how users consider the new uploader, Hootsuite shares an NPS survey if a user has opted to return to the old version

You can learn from this example, and use an in-app message to collect feedback from customers based on user activity.

Bonus—Best practices for writing in-app messages

Now, we’ve gone through great ways to use in-app messaging for SaaS to boost customer engagement.

In this section, we share the best practices to optimize your in-app message for higher engagement.

1. Segment your customer base

When you create in-app messages, it’s smart to use customer data to create customer segments. You can send in-app messages based on specific actions taken within segments. This helps you keep your user’s journey top of mind and deliver a personalized message that boosts engagement.

With Engage, you can create customer segments. Once you have your customer data connected to Engage, you can use the data to segment your customers using different events and attributes.

Here are some examples of categories to create your customer segments:

  • paid users that reach a new level.
  • free users that have visited the upgrade page longer than 30 seconds.
  • users that created an account more than 14 days ago.

2. Write a message that is short and compelling

When you write in-app messaging for your SaaS product, make them as short as possible. The less text users have to read, the more they focus on your message. Write a copy that is specific and communicates your message quickly. Remember to highlight the benefits that users can gain when they take a particular action on your app.  

3. Clear and compelling CTA

Your call-to-action button should use compelling microcopy, eye-catching colours, and visible placement to boost customer engagement and conversion rates. Your CTA copy should inform users of the next action to take. Don’t confuse users by including more than one CTA.

4. Time each message appropriately

Timing is everything. The same goes for your in-app messages. Sending in-app messages at the wrong time is almost as bad as not sending at all. Ensure you send your in-app message at a time that flows well with the user experience.

For example, you could share a new feature that you want users to explore on your app’s home screen, as soon as the user logs in to your app.

Getting started on in-app messaging

In-app messaging is a powerful strategy to boost customer engagement for SaaS businesses. When written in the possible clearest way and served to the right users, it can help users get the best use of your product features.

That said, a little planning can go a long way. Start in-app messaging by identifying areas for improvement and optimize as you move forward. Remember to create the right customer segments and send well-crafted messages with a compelling CTA.

With Engage, you can use our powerful in-app messaging feature to send personalized messages for higher customer engagement.