In-App Messages vs Push Notifications: What’s the Difference and How to Use Them

Push notifications and in-app messages are effective tools for developers who seek to attract users’ attention and build long-term relationships with their audience.

We live in an interactive world and the days of boring apps with minimal feedback are gone. A smartphone that is always close at hand is the most personal device through which both business and independent developers can directly contact its owner.

There are two main ways to communicate important information to users and get feedback from them – push notifications and in-app messages. In this article, we’ll figure out what the difference is between them, suggest possible options for their use, and share other useful tips on the topic.

In-App Messages

These are notifications that come to a user within the app–that is, a user can see the message only while interacting with the product. They are used to send target and context-sensitive messages, for example, in response to a specific action.

Here’s how it looks:

In-App Messaging example 1

In-App Messages examples

Advantages of in-app messages, compared to push notifications, lie in their high conversion rate. They are perceived as a natural component of an app, which makes it possible to use them to implement more complex marketing strategies.

Here are a few in-app message usage options in mobile apps that you can implement in practice:

  • purchase stimulation for mobile commerce apps (promotional actions notification, offering similar goods);
  • familiarize users with new features and capabilities;
  • notify users of an updated version of the app;
  • implement gaming elements, for example, encouraging achievements;
  • collect feedback, for example, a request to rate the app in the App Store;
  • encourage purchases when using the freemium model.

In-app messages, unlike push notifications, can be sent to the entire app user database, not just to those who activated this option in the settings. More text sizes and the option to add images, videos and other multimedia elements provide more space for creativity.

We’ve now figured out the benefits, but in-app messages have drawbacks too. As you can see from the name itself, the user has to start the app to see the message. Moreover, they are not suitable as a tool to attract the attention of users who haven’t opened the program for a long time.

Push notifications

Push notifications are the standard form of mobile notifications and are the most frequently used. They are shown to users at a time when they are not using the app, and are displayed as messages on the main screen or in the notification area.

Whenever you want to push a user to start the app or inform them about something, you can use push notifications for that purpose. The probability that it will go unnoticed is very small.

Here’s how it looks:

Push-notifications on iphone

Allow push on iphone

These are some of the most common scenarios for using push notifications:

  • notification of a specific event, such as receiving a letter;
  • notification of a change in some indicator, for instance, a reduction in the price of a trip at some travel agency;
  • transactional messages for mobile commerce apps, for example, order status notification;
  • sending important news from the media;
  • encouraging interaction and reopening the app;
  • attracting attention to a specific functionality.

One advantage of the push notification is that the information recipients are only those users who have confirmed their interest in it.

They are an important part of omni-channel communications, and in combination with other communication channels they achieve good results. However, you have to remember to stay reasonable when using notifications, in order not to avoid seeming too intrusive.

How Many Push Notifications are Too Many

Which is better to use?

Taking into account the features considered in this article you will be able to choose the best solution based on your specific goals.

If you need to familiarize users with an app’s new features or clarify its functionality – use in-app messages. If you want to attract attention, stimulate interaction, and encourage users to reopen the app – then push notifications are the best choice.

In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that when using any marketing tool, you must adhere to the “put yourself in the user’s place” principle. This means that you shouldn’t try the audience’s patience, and information that is valuable to users should be delivered at the most convenient time for them.

Volodymyr Fedorychak
Volodymyr Fedorychak
Digital Marketing Specialist at Lvivity