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Henry Cipolla Co-Founder/CTO Localytics

Are You Treating Push and In-App Messaging Like Mobile Email and Pop-ups?


 Today, we accept spam as a part of email, with bad email campaigns seeing open rates of less than 3%. Fortunately, apps have brought us new engagement channels, such as push and in-app messaging, which free us from the evil of spammy, untargeted, impersonal marketing. Unfortunately, many people simply think of these channels as mobile extensions of web messaging, which creates poor engagement. 

Push is Not Email

“Check out today’s deals!”
“We miss you, come back!”

Without knowledge of user behavior the messages you will receive will be like those above: impersonal, bordering on spam, shrunk to fit into a push message, and completely missing the point.

What Push is

Push is a direct line of communication from an app to a customer. Interacting with push messages brings the user back into the app, therefore push notifications are competing for attention with whatever task the user is already performing. A good analogy is to think of push as a text message from the app to the customer.

Signs That Your Push Messages May be Bad Emails

Given the real-time, personal nature of push, it is important to send relevant and actionable messages. Below, are some common patterns that tend to indicate this isn’t happening. 

  • Your audiences are very large. Usually indicative of poor targeting. If this message is relevant to everybody, then most likely it is too general.
  • You are worried about the optimal time to send. Push messages should be part of a real-time interaction. The correct time to send the push is as a person takes an important action. If the message can be delayed, is it actually adding value?
  • Your messages are not deep links. A push message should have an action and swiping on the push should bring the user to that action. Without a clear action, such as replying to a message, what purpose does bringing the user to the application actually serve?
  • Your messages are not based on user actions. If app usage is not part of your segmentation and targeting, then how do you ensure heavy users get a different message from users likely to churn? Driving users to an app without a clear goal often has the same result.
  • Your personalisation is “Hi FirstName.” Your users will show their preferences based on how they use the app. If a user consumes certain content, they most likely want to receive more messages about this content. 

In-App Messages are Not Mobile Pop-ups

Unlike push, in-app messages are only received when a user is in your app. This means they have already committed to engaging, but rather than reward them with a personal, bidirectional experience, they are often presented with static images on landing pages and banners that feel like the pop-ups. 

Why In-App has Such Potential

In-app is more than just messaging as a native part of the app experience and should take advantage of:

  • Targeting - In-app messages benefit from the same segmentation that push can benefit from, making it possible to target new users or churn-risk users differently from power users.
  • Context - In-app messages can be triggered based on actions users perform in the app. Because this happens immediately, they can be a direct response to what the user is currently doing thus creating a relevant experience.
  • Two-Way Communication - In-app messages are a great opportunity to get information such as feedback or preferences, which can be transmitted to the app for immediate use.
  • Testability - In-app messages can be changed quickly, making it possible to test new experiences on small audiences with quick revisions to create the best end result.
  • Engagement - In-app messages usually happen in web views which have access to HTML and JavaScript. This makes it possible for them to be interactive and engaging with videos, navigation and tie-ins back to the app.

Examples of Good In-App Messages

The following are examples of HTML and JavaScript-based in-app messages which can improve the user’s experience, create value, and do not require launching a new version of the app:

localytics_phone_2.pngNew Feature - Simple, targeted content. Users who have not interacted with a feature can be shown a video with a deep link to that feature.









localytics_phone_1.jpgNPS Surveys - Provide quick feedback that can improve the product, as well as react in real-time by providing users with a response based on their score.









localytics_phone_3.pngPush Opt-in - Before prompting users with a push opt-in request, use an in-app message to explain how push will be used. For users who have opted out, in-app messages are a great way to remind them of the value of push notifications that they are missing out on.








localytics_phone_4.pngTesting OOBE - Getting the out-of-box experience (OOBE) right is critical. You can use in-app messaging to deliver very different initial experiences to samples of new customers to inform this process.








localytics_phone_5.pngTesting Recommendations - Personalization is a great goal. Using in-app to test recommendations on different customers is a great way to foray into this space.









localytics_phone_6.pngShort-lived Content - If a weekend event is happening in a user’s area, users can be shown live coverage of the event even if the app doesn’t natively support this behavior.








Real value is created when the user is more successful because of the interaction they had with your message.

Understand Your Channels

There are other clever ways to engage users, but the most popular app channels are push and in-app messaging. With these and all future channels, the trick will always be to think of each channel’s capabilities and strengths independently. Instead of asking how to adapt your current engagement strategy to a new channel, instead ask what the channel is capable of and what the user’s expectations are. The user installed your app for a purpose - how does this channel better achieve that purpose?