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Mobile Engagement Marketing 101: When to Send SMS, Push Notifications and In-APP Messages

Updated: Jun 5, 2020

People are consumed by their mobile devices today with mobile usage continuing to grow. The question for marketers is what is the best mobile engagement marketing channel in order to reach out to customers for each specific purpose? When is it beneficial to use SMS, push notifications or in-app messaging?

Each of the three above has its pros and cons, as well as one channel can be suitable in a specific use case or with a specific product, while for other use cases or products another channel may be a better fit.

The Pros and Cons of Each Mobile Channel and Relevant Use CasesSMS:

Yes, SMS still matters in the age of smartphones! SMS provides an easy and immediate way of sending messages to customers directly into their personal message application. But if done incorrectly, you run the risk of your subscribers opting out of your messages all together.

– Advantages: 

SMS is a great messaging application that can deliver customers information necessary for using your product or service. These messages are simple and short and get your message out quickly. The advantage here is that your customers don’t even have to install your app, which means that if your brand doesn’t have a mobile app this is currently the most relevant channel for you.

– Disadvantages: 

The problem with SMS is that it is considered an old form of messaging and is disturbing and somewhat obnoxious. More than that SMS is delivered via your private messaging, a space where you don’t necessarily want brands to be. With push you are able to opt out, but with SMS you can’t- you are stuck with receiving what comes to you. And though it is easy to use, it is limited. You have to have the phone numbers of your users or customers to text them. Your brand is required to receive the customer’s permission to send these texts. You are also limited in the information you can gain on individual users and your customers, which is crucial in a world where digital marketers are striving to get a holistic view of their customers. If your brand has an app for smartphones or tablets, SMS are disconnected from it and are not able to be triggered by user’s behavior within the app. Last but not least, SMS messages can irritate customers to no end, creating a negative attitude toward your brand. In addition, SMS is very costly especially if you are a global organization.

– Use Cases: 

Transactions: SMS is a great way to transfer transactional data like codes to verify bank actions or real-time information. Customers can really appreciate receiving pertinent information immediately.

Personal updates: Keep your customers up to date. For example, your customers will really appreciate to receive an SMS letting them know that their delivery is on its way.

Push Notifications And In-App Messaging: 

Push notifications are what get people into your app, whereas in-app messages guide them through the app and enabling marketers to reach all those who are not opted into push. Using a combination of both is how you extend your reach to all your app users.

Push Notifications 

A well-executed push notification strategy is a sure bet to increasing mobile engagement and retention, as well as the lifetime value of your users. However, push notifications can be easily misused. It is especially useful with customers that have downloaded the app and stopped interacting with it.

With advanced features such as push actions, you can even get your users to interact without opening the app (put a screenshot or GIF to demonstrate this point).

– Advantages of Push: 

Push notifications are a great option for those brands that want to target customers on a day-to-day basis without barring the costs of text messages. In fact, many brands are looking into this as a key decision factor when deciding to develop a mobile app for their brand.

Push notifications offer a way to direct your users to your app, app store, website, landing page or any specific area of your app (deep linking). You can also encourage them to perform an action using push actions. With push notifications your customer is always up to date, even if they haven’t opened the app.

Another refreshing aspect about push notifications is the ability your brand has to personalize the content not only based on demographic attributes but also based on the user’s behavior within the app. You can even enable a push preference center where users can customize content specifically suited for them.

Push Notifications are a great way for you to promote a CTA. The beauty of push is that this can be done in a fun, fresh and exciting way. For instance, rich media, interactive push notifications, emoji’s and more – you are meant to have fun with it, especially if you want your users to have fun reading them! Oh, and in addition push notifications are much cheaper than SMS.

– Disadvantages of Push: 

When it comes to iOS, if the user is not opted in to receive push-they won’t. If they are opted in but you are sending too many messages, or irrelevant messages, or sending them in the wrong time – your users might uninstall the app all together. These challenges can be easily solved by using a mobile marketing automation platform, like the one push notifications can be easily misused.

Push notifications are still considered a bit intrusive. They need to be used sparingly otherwise your users could end up deleting your app.

In most cases they are also not visually attractive. Instead they consist of text with a simple CTA. This is where in-app messaging comes in as a complimentary action.

– Use Cases: 

Incentive to Register: Push notifications are a great way to send an attractive offer to encourage your users to open an account/sign to your app. This is a great way for your brand to collect their personal information and to connect their app profile with the information you have on your CRM for a more holistic view of your customer.

Reactivating Dormant Users: Many users become dormant after 48 hours. Send them a push notification to remind them the value your app provides. Adding a discount or coupon may help in reactivating their interest with your app.

Abandoned Cart Reminder: Sending your customers a reminder that they accidentally forgot an item in their cart is a great way to boost your revenues.

VIP Engagement: Push notification is a great way to communicate with your loyal users. Send them exclusive offers, coupons or VIP content. This is a great way to provide value in a small package.

In-App Messaging 

Remember walking into high school and being completely lost on your first day? A new school, new classes and new expectations, basically it was like you were standing on foreign ground. But then you met with your guidance counselor and the air lifted. In mobile engagement marketing the guidance counselor is your in-app messaging. Customers left to their own devices would be like a high school student aimlessly wandering the halls not knowing which classroom to enter. A guidance counselor helps you what content interests you, what classes to take and what fits you.

– Advantages:

In-app messaging allows you to engage, promote and guide your users through your app. Getting a user into the app is the first part, the challenge then is to engage them once they are in the app. This is where in-app messaging comes in. Instead of leaving the user to navigate the app on his own the in-app messages help them use your app and navigate accordingly. Help them feel good about your app. Once inside the app, you can send them rich HTML messages, coupons, videos and social content. So here you are combining the rich aspect with the right type of content. When it comes to brand awareness you don’t want them to get this as a push notification as there is no CTA. But within the app this is not considered intrusive. If it’s cool enough they may even take a look but in the middle of a meeting, they may just delete the app altogether. The beauty of it all is that they receive a message without a random interruption. They are already in your app and interested to see what you have to offer.

– Disadvantages:

With in-app messages if they are not done right it can end up harming the user experience in the app or feel too much like advertisements. Also, if the messages are not sent in real-time they can present irrelevant content. These messages are also only relevant to users who are in the app, and users that are not currently inside the app will miss out on them.

– Use Cases:

Welcome Message: With many users deleting an app after only 30 days sending a welcome message is a great way to promote what your app has to offer and keep them on track.

Promotional Offers: Target your customers based on their behavior and location this way you can send them relevant offers when they are near your store. Send them a promotional offer for their birthday and make their day even more special.

Customer Service: This is a chance to provide even more value to your customers. Send them service updates on their account or any recent purchases. This is a highly effective way of using In-app messaging. You can also identify when they need support and enable then to talk to you in a single click

Increase your push opt in users by delivering them an in-app message when they use the app for the first time – explaining what they will gain from letting you send them notifications….

Push as a teaser (short text) followed by a rich in-app (even with a video…).

Bottom Line:

So how do you choose the channel for your mobile engagement marketing strategy? The secret is to mix 2 or even 3 of the above channels, and use each of them for the relevant use case, at the relevant time and for the relevant users. To make it easier in you, a platform like our CEP can support all 3 of these channels and all is left for you is to decide when to use each of them and for which purpose.

If you want to find out more about about mobile marketing tools, contact us directly.

This article was first published by MAPP. Permission to use has been granted by the publisher.

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