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In-app marketing is unique because by its very definition, customers have to already be on your app to see it. This makes it perfect for promoting specific products, aspects, or pro-level services that you offer.
With the right planning and design, your in-app ads can be a key component to your customer loyalty and growth.
Types of In-App Marketing
The ways that marketers can incorporate ads into apps are as diverse as the apps themselves. Knowing what you hope to achieve with your marketing is the best way to narrow down exactly what technique, or combination of techniques, you want to run with.
People’s phones are designed to help direct their attention. While this can quickly become an issue if you’re trying to work on a deadline and have pop-ups and buzzing to deal with, as a marketer it provides you with some pretty spectacular tools.
A push notification is like a promise that your user will see and, in one way or another, interact with the information you’re trying to give them.
Maybe you want to point people toward a specific new blog post or feature in your app. *POP* They know as soon as they log in!
Do you have a special event or a sale ending soon that people need need need to hear about? *POP* More people are headed where you want them to be.
The key here is that push notifications have to be crafted carefully - no one wants to be bothered by 50 irrelevant offers a day! This is especially true when they are unavoidable.
The flip side of push notifications, in-app messages are triggered when a user takes a certain action (or none at all). They provide the opportunity to give users helpful advice, reminders, and - of course - sales pitches.
An in-app message can often be more persuasive than an email (no surprise) as it appears much closer to the user’s main interaction path.
For example, if you had a fitness tracking app you could explain why a certain step counter is the best or show reminders of goals being close to completion for added motivation.
A style of in-app marketing that transitions well from traditional marketing is using banners. It’s something your users will recognize as important and gives you lots of freedom to adjust it visually and practically.
I don’t know about you, but if I see an ad on an app - or anywhere - that disrupts the overall flow and aesthetic of a page, I’m going to tune it out. In my opinion, out-of-place colors, fonts, and styles mess with the diegetic nature of an ad and (in extreme cases) make it look cheap.
This is why it’s so important that you invest the time and resources needed to keep banners in line with your app as a whole. Users will be encouraged to interact with them and find them less intrusive to their experience.
Long before there were apps to advertise, referral marketing was already one of the most effective ways to grow interest in your brand. It involves asking your current users to recommend your app to their friends and family.
Offering fun rewards like discounts, subscriptions, or cool merch helps to get people excited about sharing your brand. If you plan it out correctly, these “prizes” can be both highly effective, and cost less than traditional marketing.
Referrals help to increase brand loyalty because you’re asking your users to think of all the reasons a new person might want to start using your app. You also bring in high-quality leads because anyone new coming in has the confidence of their friend backing them up.
Interactive ads are what they sound like. Ads that require interactivity from the user in order to be successful. Rather than just seeing an ad, they will be encouraged to partake in it actively. For example, maybe they’ll be required to swipe between sections of the ad or play a mini-game. Interactive ads are perfect if you have a complicated message to send, they allow you to break it down into smaller, easier-to-digest pieces. They can also be a great way to feature CTAs and take up practically no real estate.
If you're able to make the ad fun to interact with, you might even get people looking forward to the next advertisement.
When to Use In-App Marketing
Your development team has put a lot of thought and effort into the user experience through your app. If you’re going to include an ad that might break up that flow, you need to ensure the timing is right.
There’s always room for an ad, you just need to understand when and why they’ll be most effective. Let’s walk through the complete user experience and see what kind of advertising campaigns work best throughout.
When people are exploring your app for the very first time, they’re likely expecting quite a few pop-ups to guide them on their way. It’s a bit like a helpful sidekick letting you know what’s important.
Ads during this time can easily fit into that format. Pop-ups and explanations of pro features won’t feel intrusive or out of place, they are part of the learning experience.
Choose ads that highlight the features of your app, make sure your onboarding process is clear and concise, and the rest will naturally flow. However, you can quickly fall into the trap of oversaturating people right off the bat. If your ads don't blend into the app well enough, they can be seen as intrusive and dissuade users from using your app.
Once people understand your app, the kinds of ads you're showing them will naturally change. They no longer need to know about why your app is great if they’re already using it.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t still offer people highlights of your pro features, or let them know about new updates or upgrades available.
Try to blend in-app marketing in with your user flow, rather than throwing it into the middle of their experience. A helpful reminder every now and then about something they might not know can keep the experience in their minds.
Retaining your users is just as important as acquiring them, if not more so. Once you’ve enticed people into your app, you’re going to want to keep them around.
This means you’ll want to design in-app messaging that actively targets people who may be using the app less. It could be an explanation of how your app works, or why people should keep using it.
You could even incentivize people to keep coming back by offering rewards for doing so. This is a great time to advertise a loyalty program, discounts, and special events that create brand loyalty.
Once you’ve got people engaged with your app, they need an incentive to share it with others. If they like the experience, they’ll be more likely to spread the word.
Try using prompts in your app that exude enthusiasm for what you’re offering. Let people know that they’re missing out if they don’t share it. Giving incentives for sharing your app can help to get the ball rolling.
Programming ads for your referral program to appear after a positive experience is a great way to ride that high toward a boost in your user base.
Successful In-App Marketing
One of the fastest-growing apps available is Webtoons, a digital comic platform that’s expected to grow nearly 10 times as large over the next five years. Having scrolled through the app a few times myself, I believe some of that success can be traced back to their in-app marketing.
They have a hybrid system of ads that uses almost every technique I’ve highlighted today. Above, you can see one of their catchy, bright banner ads from their website. In the app itself, users can expect to see a string of targeted, aesthetically pleasing banners at the top of their main menu.
These banners aren’t the first bit of advertising they’ll see, however.
Every time someone logs into the Webtoon app, there will be a pop-up ad telling them about some kind of limited-time offer. This gets people excited about entering the app and can lead them down a rabbit hole that keeps them invested even longer than they were planning.
These ads might even introduce readers to a new series, giving them even more reasons to return.
Webtoons is no stranger to a special event. There’s nearly always a competition or opportunity to earn coins going on.
These kinds of promotions give users a reason to come back again and again, ultimately leading to a higher ROI for each and every reader.
The Bottom Line
Nearly every aspect of your app presents an opportunity to inform your audience. Planning a cohesive and tailored in-app marketing campaign lets you capitalize on those opportunities.
Put in some time to figure out how advertising can enhance your user's experience, and see how natural and organic continued growth can become.
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