notifications on phone

Messaging Options for Apps – How to Use Them Effectively

For mobile apps, messaging is the most essential marketing tool at your disposal. Messaging is your direct contact point with your app users. Push notifications have always been the most effective way to gain interest in your app personal messages that entice the user to open your app.

Without regularly communicating relevant information to your app users, it’s difficult for apps to build a relationship with users and keep them active, using messaging allows apps to captivate users early, target lapsed users and continue to communicate throughout the lifecycle of the app.

It’s important to establish the needs and wants of your audience and establish what it is they are looking for from your app. The more accurately you can target your messaging campaigns, the more chance there is of keeping your users engaged and reducing users deleting your app.

We will look at the two main types of messaging options that you can use with Mobile apps.

  • Push Notifications
  • In-App Messages

But first let’s cover the common characteristics that you should always look for when selecting a quality messaging provider.

Key Features to Look for in App Messaging Platforms

Before deciding on your messaging strategy it’s vital to know what tools you can make use of that can benefit the way in which we send messages. Establish which of these would be beneficial to your business and be sure to find a provider who can offer the services you need.

The key features to look for in Mobile messaging platforms include:

Rich, Interactive Messages

Adding rich images or interactive buttons increase the likelihood of a user engaging with your message. The message contained within a notification is equally as important but when paired with branding, imagery, and the ability to interact with the message this turns notifications into a far more effective marketing tool.

Segmentation & Channels

Not all of your messaging is going to be relevant to all of your users. Segment your audience in ways that make it easier to send certain messages to a certain group of users. This allows you to retarget users with promotions. Create more relevant audiences to fit each type of messages you send. Good systems will allow you to use Analytics events within the app to understand what the user is doing and then send messages based on this behavior or lack of behavior that may indicate they are losing interest in the app and could be about to delete your app.


Sometimes called Mechanical Messages this lets you build a set of rules that when met will automatically trigger messages to be sent to the user. The messaging provider you pick should let you easily set and edit these rules within a web portal, to save the cost and time delay of having these manually programmed each time.

They will let you watch for certain activities, or lack of activities of the user and then trigger one or ideally a series of messages. Typical usage is when someone first downloads the app and is going through the onboarding process, then send a series of notifications designed to encourage them to complete. And if the user stalls through onboarding send notifications to get them back on track.

Another common usage is when someone hasn’t been in your app for a time, send a series of time-delayed notifications to re-engage and reinvigorate the user to keep them active.

Integrations with Rich Analytics Data

Good messaging platforms will come with rich, highly visual and easy to use analytics. It’s important when selecting a messaging platform to equally consider the power of analytics that comes pre-integrated. This is important as it allows you to use these events tracked by the analytics service to trigger messages. This means you can easily action the insights that your analytics service tells you to provide timely, informed and relevant messages based on the actual behavior and interest cues from the user.

For example, they have looked at one of the items in your product catalog but not made a purchase, you can then trigger a series of re-marketing messages to that user reminding them of your product and reinforce their purchase interest.

Kumulos messaging dash


Geolocation Targeting

Targeting users with geofencing and beacons allow you to only target users that enter a physical location you have defined. This is done through either GPS of the smartphone in the case of Geofences or Bluetooth in the case of beacons. It allows you to send messages to the user based on their physical location i.e. restaurants and clothes stores. This allows you to know that your messages are being sent in the exact place and moment your users could be most receptive to hearing from you.

Geofencing map


Confirmed Delivery 

Confirmed delivery is a feature that should be available from all good messaging platforms. They enable you to better evaluate the effectiveness of the campaign. Using services that don’t have this feature means you aren’t seeing the whole story. If only 30% of your users opened the message you could be disappointed by the results. But if not all who you intended to receive the message actually received it, then this could be masking the actual effectiveness of the message.

Intelligent Delivery

Intelligent delivery can be used to perfect the timing of notification based on the historic usage patterns of the user. This means that the message is delivered at the time of day that they are most likely to be using your app. It’s possible for app marketing platforms to intelligently work out when is the best time to target each individual user that is most likely to lead to an interaction. Users also have the power in their hands by being able to inform you of their preferred delivery options and specify when they want to hear from you.

Deep Linking and Deferred Deep Links

To make actions from your messages really effective you need a message platform that will let you link directly to the relevant page in your mobile app. That’s called Deep Links.

Deferred Deep Links allow you to send messages from one mobile app user to another. If the person receiving the link doesn’t have the app on their smartphone then the clever link will detect this and redirect the person to the app store to download the app. Once the app download is complete it will remember the section of the app that the original link was taking you to in the mobile app and take the user there.

deferred deep links graphic


Ability to contain external links to web content

For some apps it’s important to be able to direct the user to content hosted on a mobile responsive web page rather than having to have all your content stored in the app itself. This gives you much greater flexibility. For example, you can easily change the content on the web page, avoiding having to post an update to the app to change the information. So, it’s important that you pick a Messaging Provider that allows you to easily imbed URL web links for the user to click on.

What are Push Notifications?

The most common way to message app users is of course Push Notifications. The purpose of the following is to show you that there are a number of other options open to you. And to show you why it’s important to use the full arsenal of messaging options to fully engage with your users. These are messages that can be sent to a mobile device even if the app is closed. It will alert the user to the fact that they have a new message and good push notification services will let you include along with text, images, emojis, deep links, links to websites and action buttons to allow users to interact with the message.

With push notifications you can target users when they aren’t active with personalized and relevant messages that bring them back to your app. There are many features at your disposal when trying to create brilliant messaging campaigns, these can make your messages more than 50% more likely to be opened than a basic push message.

Where do Push Notifications work best?

Push Notifications are great to bring users back into your app. To alert them to new information in your app or something that you believe they’d be interested in finding out. They can appear even if the app isn’t open on the smartphone so are a very effective way to re-engage users that aren’t frequent users of your app.

What are In-App Messages?

As their name suggests In-App messages only appear to the user when they are actually in your app. They can be programed to appear immediately and the message pop up over the screen the user is currently on, or can be programmed to appear the next time the user enters the app.

What are the advantages of In-App Messages?

With In-App messages you have complete freedom on the design of the message. With push notifications this is heavily controlled by the operating system of the smartphone.  In-app messaging lets you create a fully custom design and include branding, images, action buttons and videos to engage users and encourage users to interact.

Another big advantage of In-App messages is the fact that you do not have to expressly ask permission from the app user to send them messages. That said, it is increasingly good practice to ask users to opt in for any form of communication, especially if they are designed to sell to the user. So you should go with a Message Provider that gives you the option to ask users whether they want Push Notifications and/or In App Messages, so you are future-proofing against future changes in legislation.

In App Messages can appear immediately, if the person is currently in the app it will pop up in front of their current screen. Similar to Push Notifications it can be set to appear at a predetermined day and time. In all cases it will interrupt the user when they are in the app.

Alternatively, you can set messages to appear the next time they enter the app. So, it doesn’t interrupt them with their current session

You also have the option for the message to only appear in the inbox in the mobile app. In this case no message pops up on the phone, but the app can be set up to show that there are unread messages in the app inbox to draw them in to view the message

Where do In App Messages Work Best?

They work best to inform and engage regular users of your app. They can be used to tell users about new features in the app or special promotions as they enter the app. Or important information that you know they would want to know. And of course, you can use all the important key features that we detailed earlier, so you can make them highly targeted and relevant.

Because you can completely control the design of the message they can be designed to look like they are part of the app itself and not a messaging add-on. You can create messages that look like pages of the app that are effective extensions to the content of the app itself avoiding the need to post an update of the app and easily. For example, changes to flight information or train arrival times.

Best of both Worlds

Most good Messaging platforms let you pair push notification campaigns with in-app messaging. This means you can “tickle” the user and re-engage those who aren’t currently in your app to alert them to an important new message. And use the rich media possibilities of an In App message and its “on brand” design to deliver high impact communications that maximize the possibility of goal conversion.

Creating Brilliant Messaging Campaigns

Having great technology at your disposal is one thing. But how you put this to good use is another. We have seen many, many mobile app marketers that have the best technology in place but aren’t delivering the results they expect. The temptation is to blame the tools. And while that could be part of the problem (set up too complex or toolset difficult to use) very often it’s how the technology is applied that’s largely at fault. So, once you’ve established what features you need from a vendor to target your audience, the focus shifts to the message itself. Marketing an app is easier with the right tools but without creating an effective message the efforts are futile.


As we have said the style elements of a push notification are controlled by the OS of the device the message is sent to. For this reason, it’s important to make use of the stylistic factors you can control. Images and interactive buttons can be added to make messaging more aesthetically pleasing and conversion driven. This not only helps your message stand out from others but encourages conversion more than plain text notifications. Emoji’s can also be added to brighten the text within your notification and convey the emotion or tone intended by your message.

Adding up to 3 buttons as a deep link within your notification can give the user options of which they prefer and allows you to direct them to the exact page of your app you want to depending on which they click. This can be conversion driven in terms of directing to a page with an item on offer in the user’s basket.

In-app messages aren’t dictated by the OS of the user device and offer more options to customize. Use brand colors, fonts, videos, images, or work from templates provided by your messaging provider.

Knowing why to send a message

The frequency of how often you send notifications to a user can have a large effect on how users interact. For some apps, 1 a day or less is the preferred amount, ideally 3-4 times a week is adequate. It’s important to know that the message you are sending is of value to your user.

Valuable messaging typically falls into one of these categories:

  •  Retargeting funnel drop-off – Reminding a user of a conversion that they never completed in the later stages, such as adding an item to their basket without finalizing the purchase.
  • Onboarding – Making sure that new downloads fully configure and set up your app with prompts when users delay a step in the onboarding process.
  • Important Information – Company updates and changes to your app, trending news and relevant stories
  • Location specific – Using a geofence or beacon, a user enters an area within proximity of your location, and you want to target them with an offer to entice them to your store
  • Time-limited – Give users a sense of urgency with a promotion that is one-day only. This encourages users with the ‘do it later’ attitude to do it now instead

Use data gathered on what your users are using your app for, what is popular and what are they crying out for. This understanding should translate into the types of messaging you send.

Reaching the Right Audience

Messaging needs to be personal and relevant to individual users. Segmentation and channelling allow you to group users based on demographics and in-app behaviors that create smaller groups that allow you to create more defined campaigns rather than broadcast messaging.

An offer on a pepperoni pizza would absolutely encourage conversions in users that have purchased one in your app before. Receiving notifications like these from your app when you’ve only ever bought vegetarian options can be off-putting and may cause an unsubscribe.

This is why a good push notification provider allows you to create segments and channels that better define your users into relevant groups for targeting. You can set-up these campaigns to allow the platform to automate the sending of these messages based on a time-trigger, such as intelligent delivery or a location trigger such as when a user enters a geo-fence.

This is how you can send personal, relevant messaging at exactly the right place and time. Couple this with rich images, branding and interactive buttons that link to the specific deal you’ve chosen and let the platform automate the sending of the message then these conditions are met and you’re on your way to making the most out of the most effective marketing tool for apps.

Creating Your Strategy

For any app, in any industry it’s important to have a strategy that can be used to establish and evaluate messaging campaigns and improve each time.

  • Think ‘Why?’ – What is the purpose of the message in this campaign, think of your end goal and establish a message that best fits
  • Establish your audience – Segment and channel you campaign to send to only the relevant users
  • Create an aesthetically pleasing message with conversion driven relevant content
  • Time your notifications or set-up automations to send them on your behalf at the optimal moment
  •  Evaluate your campaigns success- Campaign analytics can show you user and campaign to evaluate success and constantly improve



Brands that utilize all the available tools in messaging marketing will engage users from the first point of contact, throughout the life cycle of the app.

Using all the available features to reach the exact users, at the right place and time with personal messaging will not only encourage engagement and conversion, but also boost the user retention rate of apps. This is not only valuable practice short-term by encouraging conversion but long-term by keeping users engaged and encouraging future re-engagement.

Using the right message medium for example, in-app messaging in combination with push notifications in multi-channel campaigns, allows interactions with users whether they are active or not and keeps all bases covered.

Start making use of all the features available to boost your messaging campaigns and start retaining your users long term with a messaging strategy customized to your app and users.

About Kumulos

At Kumulos we offer a purpose-built Mobile User Engagement platform with industry leading messaging features such as rich, interactive push notifications, in-app messaging, web push notifications and integrated analytics. With Kumulos you can build intelligent, informed, powerful automatically triggered messages. Our focus is to help you retain app users through engagement by allowing you to target the right user, at exactly the right place and time that they are able to interact with you.

Operate all aspects of your user engagement strategy from creating messages, managing your audience to evaluating your campaign using analytics in one place – the Kumulos Mobile Marketing Hub.

Our Messaging feature allows you to send rich, interactive push notifications & in-app messages with imagery, video and action buttons that increase your chances of user engagement. Combine these with location targeting to send personalized, highly relevant, engaging messaging to the user in exactly the right location and strive for better results from your user engagement strategy.

If you’d like to try Kumulos for yourself, we would like to offer you a free demo of our platform where we can show you all of these features and more. Book your demo here and start seeing better results from your app with all the tools you need to engage users.