Why Contextually-Relevant Messages Matter in In-App Advertising

For the first time ever, app publishers have the data and insights to clearly map out their customers’ journey. We now know—or, at least have the capacity to know—exactly how our audience likes to be engaged at each touch point. With this knowledge, we can break past the screen and bridge the gap between the mobile, online, and in-store experiences.

App publishers have a golden opportunity to leverage our access to customer insights in order to build genuine and reciprocal relationships with our strongest assets: our customers. But with this new expectation comes new hurdles to traditional approaches to in-app ad placement and marketing. It’s no longer enough to just have great content; you now need to know how, when, where, and to whom, you should deliver it.

In other words, you need context.

Contextually-Relevant Messages are Key to In-App Advertising

Today’s mobile-first companies have access to a treasure trove of customer insights and data. When it comes to mobile, there’s no reason the savvy app publisher can’t or shouldn’t have each step of the customer journey mapped out for every customer. Publishers should be able to know exactly how and when customers are engaging with their apps, and how they want to be messaged. This informed view of the customer provides publishers with remarkable opportunities to surprise and delight customers to provide a remarkable ad experience that will result in building loyalty, evangelism, and lifetime value, rather than looking spammy.

On the other end of the screen, customers should be able to expect that companies and mobile publishers won’t engage them at inopportune times throughout the mobile journey. Customers no longer have to be mysteries; They’re constantly sending signals of who they are and how they want to be engaged within the app. Every time a customer dismisses a dialog prompt, bypasses the customer service call line for in-app chat, or exits an app once shown a survey, they provide publishers all the clues we need to create a personalized messaging strategy—one that engages them on their terms. Our job as app publishers is, simply, to listen.

5 Steps to Creating Contextually-Relevant Messages

There are five points to remember when you’re creating contextually-relevant in-app messages:

  • What you message
  • Whom you message
  • How you message
  • Where you message
  • When you message
  • Let’s take a closer look at each.

1. What you message (or, delivering the right message)

Returning to the realm of content marketing, what message do you want to send to your customers? Is your ask clear, or does it need to be updated depending on which of your customer segments is receiving it? Regardless of the message, it’s important to cater it to your intended audience and test the performance of different messages.

Crafting the right message may seem like a matter of semantics, but the way your frame your message can dramatically change how your customers perceive it—and the way your customers spread that message and talk about your app. Your content needs to be carefully designed with your audience in mind and tested for little nuances that can make a big difference.

2. Whom you message (or, delivering the message to the right person)

In the process of crafting your message, you should begin to consider a use case and target audience persona: Is your message specific to what version of the app the customer is using? Should Android users be messaged differently than iOS users? Is your message aimed at your loyal customers, first-time users, customers who have just made a purchase, or users returning to the app after a prolonged absence?

contextually-relevant messaging

With the power of modern analytics, marketers can define their intended audience as narrowly as desired to deliver that perfect message to the perfect person. Even if the content behind your message is perfectly crafted, it won’t mean much if it’s served to the incorrect group of customers.

3. How you message (or, the medium you choose to deliver the message)

Ask yourself what medium will be most effective at delivering your message. For example, is your message something that can be enhanced with two-way communication, in the form of chat, a feedback form, or a survey? Or is your message more of a news blast, pop up, or alert that your customers can see and either dismiss or click a link to learn more?

Your choice of medium dictates the extent to which customers can engage with your content, and should be tied directly to your messaging strategy. Your content, even in-app ads, are a vehicle for collecting customer insights, even if the goal is to deliver a quick alert that customers can read and immediately get back to their task at hand.

4. Where you message (or, the place you deliver the message)

Now that you have your message crafted, your audience identified, and your medium chosen, the next step is defining where, within the app, to deliver the message. Do you want to communicate with your customers as soon as they launch the app, prompt a message at the start of the first time they’ve entered a new area of the app, or after they’ve just completed a task (say successfully booking a reservation at a restaurant, as in the example below) within the app?

context based advertising

While the ‘right place’ is dependent on the message, it’s a good start to look for key moments of engagement within the app or suspected customer pain points.

Moments of engagement are milestone steps in the customer’s journey that can often be enhanced with simple messages. On the other hand, pain points can be leveraged to improve the customer journey. It’s up to you to understand where the best place for your message to be shown is, depending on what you learn from watching your customers’ actions.

5. When you message (or, the time you deliver the message)

Lastly, when and how often do you want to deliver your message? Is your message something that customers need to see multiple times, or will once suffice? Should you deliver the same message for each version of the app the customer experiences, at consistent time intervals, or just once throughout the customer lifecycle?

As a best practice, we encourage app publishers to deliver messages at the beginning or end of a customer journey, rather than in the middle. It’s best to not interrupt or distract the customer from whatever they doing. Even if you’re offering them that 30% off promo code, wait until after they’ve finished watching that video, playing a skirmish match, or whatever it is they’re currently doing before showing them the message.

Wrapping It Up

With these five tips for contextually-relevant messages in mind, you’re well on your way to creating a personalized customer experience. App publishers not only have a remarkable opportunity at hand to personally connect with customers by connecting analytics, customer insights, and content, but an opportunity to use this data in meaningful ways, and to continually test, analyze, and improve.

Retention can always be higher, and customers can always feel a little more loved. As you design your mobile ad journey, it’s therefore important to continually iterate, test, and optimize your message to create content that resonates with each customer and adds value to their journey.

Best of luck putting these tips into action!


Ashley Sefferman Apptentive Ashley Sefferman is Head of Content at Apptentive. A mobile marketing and content strategy enthusiast, she writes about mobile apps, loyalty, inbound marketing, and making the mobile world a better place for people. Follow Ashley on Twitter @ashseff.

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