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Why does your mobile app need to have “in app messaging” instead of relying on other instant messaging apps?
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Why does your mobile app need to have “in app messaging” instead of relying on other instant messaging apps?

Jan 07, 2016

If you run a mobile service or a startup, you may have considered integrating instant messaging apps like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger to share your contents or establish a user communication channel for your service.

Instant messaging apps provide services that attract users in huge numbers.

Instant messaging apps attract massive amounts of traffic and most consumers are likely to use mobile messaging as their initial gateway to smart phones. Messaging apps represent one of the most frequently used mobile services, globally.

rise of messenger Source: Global Messaging App Use (Left) Statista (Right) Mary Meeker

Mobile messaging apps are present globally: WhatsApp leads the competition with around 800 million active users and Facebook Messenger follows with 600 million, as shown in the left panel of Figure 2. The right panel indicates most-used apps according to number of chat sessions. Many mobile services try to incorporate mobile messengers as a major channel for user acquisition and to enable user-to-user communication with minimal up-front development efforts.

However, there are clear downsides to operating a communication feature via 3rd party instant messaging apps.

Designing a chat feature that can maximize brand exposure highly depends on the policies and abilities provided by the relevant IM app. Third party mobile messengers offer very limited monitoring and analytics systems to track the performance of your marketing via messaging services.

In addition, the more often end users communicate via external messaging services, the greater possibility there is that those users may bounce from your services, which is a growing concern for entrepreneurs of mobile services.

Finally, there are also cases in which corporate legal and IT teams have been pressured to limit the use of external messaging services.

Innovative user experiences and user retention can be driven by in-app messaging

‘In-app messaging’ consists of messages that a user or service provider interchanges during the mobile service experience, triggered by specific events or user experiences. It can provide text messaging and multi-media content (e.g., picture, video and the thumbnail of a URL link), offer rewards or contribute to navigation through other key events inside the app.

A major example of an app incorporating in-app messaging is the dating app Tinder.

tinder with in-app chat feature as a core function

On Tender, users swipe right if they approve of the suggested match and are presented with an in-app message that begins a chat if the approval is mutual. Dating apps like this have proven the value of in-app messaging as a core feature, and an increasing number of services have started adopting in-app chats to innovate user experiences and are applying this as a new medium for additional sales generation.

Service with SendBird in-app messaging

One example of this innovation is the music streaming service BEAT, which has updated its in-app messaging feature to enable user-to-user community building while sharing music right within the chat display. According to Localytics, a mobile and web app analytics and marketing platform provider, apps that send in-app messages perform 2-3.5 times higher in terms of user retention than apps that do not.

in-app messaging Source: Localytics’ App User Retention Graph

Moreover, apps that featured in-app messaging experienced an activation rate 27% higher than apps that did not, with an average of 13 such apps launched per month.

in-app messaging Source: Localytics’ Monthly App Launches Graph

The performance gaps in user retention and app launches may result from

  • Added convenience and familiarity of chat communication
  • The attention-grabbing effect of messaging notifications from friends or acquaintances competing against push notifications of other mobile apps, causing more clicks from users.

Furthermore, it is also possible to generate additional revenue using in-chat “emoji” or electronic gifts, and there is a scenario in which in-app messaging can be shown on the 2nd screen of a mobile service for improved navigation and more innovative user experience. These are the reasons we believe in-app messaging will become a dominant trend in the near future.

Having the right approach and design for in-app messages is the key to success.

Localytics data shows that the average click through rate for in-app messages triggered by an event is 2 times higher than the click through rate for messages presented when an app launches. This advantage is also visible for conversion rates given that in-app messages integrated with events have a conversion rate 4 times higher than those triggered at the start of a session.

Source: Localytics’ In-App Message Performance Graph Source: Localytics’ In-App Message Performance Graph

The additional clicks gained from event-based triggers are expected to vary based on app category. However, the interesting part is that compared to game or lifestyle (e.g., social, dating, etc.) apps that have an obvious track record of community building via messaging features, photography, sports and finance apps, which less often incorporate chat features, may see a bigger lift from in-app messaging.

in app messaging Source: Localytics’ Lift of In-App Messages with Event-Based Triggers Graph

Nonetheless, not all mobile apps will necessarily benefit from in-app messaging itself. User engagement and retention efforts from in-app messaging should be designed with the right approach and made to coordinate with a deep understanding of user behavior for your specific services. There have already been many cases of leading startups in the fields of mobile commerce, fintech, on-demand and food delivery services where “hot potato” companies are following this recent startup trend. We expect more and more innovation in real-time communication to continue to gain attention as the heart of up and coming mobile features.


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