Some businesses make the mistake of solely using SMSes to reach out to their audience despite having a platform of their own; thus, failing to create an engaged user experience that could build customer loyalty and multiply profits in the long run.

Don’t make that mistake.

While it’s true that the majority of the people are, at any point in time, engaged with their handheld devices, it should be noted that they’re definitely not browsing their message inbox. After all, there is a plethora of applications and services available today, for everything you need, even seamless communication.

Especially if you have a platform of your own, it makes little sense to go out of your way and use a medium that is less likely to be appreciated by your audience. The substitute for it is simple, really.

With the advent of a number of real-time chat applications and services, communicating over the internet has become smoother than ever. In this article, let’s look at the whys and hows of using in-app messaging and push notifications will prove to be better for your business in terms of engagement, retention, and consequently, revenue.

But first, a little throwback to the good old SMS.

The world of SMS

SMS or Short Message Service is one of the more primitive text messaging services available on all mobile phones. It was a protocol, developed over the 80s, to send messages over mobile networks. The transmission of SMS over these networks is a complicated process and consists of 7 steps.

MMS or Multimedia Message Service is an alternate service that sends videos, images, and voice messages over the network. However, the file size is limited to a meager 300KB.

SMS allows you to send information related to your products and services just by having someone’s number and permission. With its text message API, Twilio has made the process of SMS marketing even simpler for businesses.

5 problems with using SMS for business

Ease of use does not translate to efficiency as a result of use. Here’s why:

Lack of personalization

With SMSes, it is extremely difficult to pinpoint who is talking to you. Even if the message is signed, the environment is such that it makes it hard to believe that a real person is reaching out to you and not a bot.

Often passes as spam

SMSes often pass as spam messages because the user doesn’t know the number from which the messages are sent. Moreover, a lot of people are used to receiving messages that tell them they have won a million dollar lottery even though they never participated in one or bought a ticket. This develops an attitude of mistrust in SMS receivers.

A probable-spammy message

Pulls away users from your app

This would be the most relevant to businesses who use SMSes to give real-time updates to their customers. The more that useful information is provided through a medium other than the app, the less time users would spend on it.

Incurs costs

To send SMSes, you need to avail the services of a mobile phone agency. These companies price their services by packages. Although not a hefty overhead, these charges still seem additional and superfluous since a large percentage of the population is using the Internet for all forms of communication.

Use of limited characters

Some of your offers and services need to be explained with an emotional and engaging back-story which do not fit into 160 character limit set by SMSes. This is especially crucial in the early stages of customer acquisition when a customer has said yes to having you in their email and messaging inboxes. Sending direct, to-the-point messages at this point that do not really build a relationship your new customer can turn them off and lead to viewing you negatively. Also, there is no room for captivating audio/ visual elements.

If you seem disheartened by the above cons of SMS, don’t be because:

  • Despite its cons, there are some areas where SMSes are useful and reliable. These include notifications about the status of your order, confirmation of appointments, parcel-delivery alerts, real-time notifications about credit/ debit card transactions, and the 2-step verification process wherein an OTP is sent to your phone.
  • If you are looking for an alternative, there exists one and it not only fixes all SMS-related problems but also provides additional benefits to your business. This alternative is in-app messaging.

The alternate world of in-app messaging

In-app messaging is a way for people to communicate with each other while they are browsing your app.

It is tailored to subtly but strategically convert a customer into a raving fan by improving their in-app experience.

It has a clear USP over SMS: it feels like a natural part of the app meant to enhance UX instead of additional, pushy, in-your-face marketing.

These messages can either be sent privately or in a group of hundreds, and help to strengthen ties between app users and gives them a reason to come back and use the app.

Messages can be sent between:

  • User and user
  • Business and user
  • User and support
  • Admin and user
  • Buyer and seller
  • Service provider and user

By connecting the aforementioned points of contact within a business ecosystem, in-app messaging facilitates clear and fluid conversation between them which leads to an overall satisfying experience with the app.

The side branch of push notifications

On the surface, push notifications might look similar to SMS and not to in-app messaging, but on digging deeper, we find that the reverse is true. They actually share the same goals as in-app messaging and are available for users that opt for them.

In a nutshell, push notifications are messages you receive from an app on the home screen when you aren’t active on it. This means that the app needs to be installed.

They fix 1 of SMS’ problem (driving users away from the app) by leading them back to it.

Common push-notifications include:

  • A message received from another user
  • A new offer or sale customized to the user’s buying history
  • Notification about new updates according to previously-indicated preferences
  • Reminder to use the app frequently
  • Real-time updates about live events

As you can see, all of the above actions are geared towards drawing users back to the app and to keep them using it. However, it is pretty easy to go wrong with push notifications. They can be a major turn-off since they appear on the home screen. Done wrong they might even resemble spammy SMS message that users want nothing to do with. Hence, effective use of push notifications boils down to 3 things:

  • Timing
  • Frequency
  • Content

When you get these right, push notifications can turn into a powerful way for engaging users outside the app.

In-app messaging and push notifications combined.

To truly engage the power of both in-app messages and push notifications, you can use them together to create a seamless experience for your customer that pulls them back to your app and keeps them engaged there.

Have you heard or committed a common entrepreneurial mistake which is focusing on acquiring new customers without capturing the ones that you already have?

Both of these are great tools for remedying this mistake and increasing the lifetime value of your application and business.

According to Loyaltics, in-app messaging drives 3.5x higher customer retention (and you aren’t even directly roping them in!) Users who opt-in for push-notifications engage with your app 88% more.

These numbers will be validated by the following ways in which in-app messaging and push notifications can be used to foster communication between different groups of people that were mentioned above:

Fostering connections (between user and user)

The most natural purpose that one can think of when it comes to in-app messages is to reach out to people and connect with them based on common interests, differing opinions, or simply because you happened upon their profile.

This ability of apps to connect you to people who are sitting at another end of the world but who still converse like your best friend sitting next to you is what has led to the popularity of in-app messages.

Moreover, your communication with them is not restricted to sending messages only. You can video call them or voice call them at rates much lower than those charged by telephone companies.

Upselling or cross-selling (between business and user)

It is so important to keep a user engaged once they have downloaded your app. To do this, you can display offers that are created on the basis of their customer behavior, price preferences, purchase history, etc. These days users want a personalized experience, and if you can hit on something that matches the customer’s needs without them having to search for it… you would have won their hearts big time.

The same can be done through push notifications.

Important information (between service provider and user)

Uber is a good example of this. It notifies the user in real-time if their ride will be late due to unprecedented traffic, and also forewarns the rider that surges might apply on the fare due to whatever reasons. If this information had been withheld, it might have led to a negative customer experience further on.

And if the user doesn’t have the app screen open for live-tracking the driver, push notifications can be used to relay these important updates.

Transparency (between buyer and seller)

For businesses that function as online marketplaces and connect buyers and sellers, building an in-app chat functionality can lead to a more responsible and aware buying-selling experience since the buyer and seller can communicate directly on their own terms and finalize the deal. The business only serves to connect them both.

In-app messaging and push notifications can be compared to a powerful brother-sister duo which can reap great digital results for your business.

SMS marketing, on the other hand, cannot create a personalized and attractive customer experience to the extent that the other 2 combined can.

And if you are ready to up your business and its results, it’s time to get an in-app messaging feature right now. Head here!