What is in-app notification? Meaning, benefits, and integration

You are launched
9 min readDec 1, 2023
What is in-app notifications? You are launched

When you create a mobile app, you want to keep users engaged. With 71% of app users churning after just three months, it’s important that users keep coming back for more!

Implementing in-app notifications can be an easy and effective way to improve the user experience. But what is in-app notification, and how do you go about adding this feature to your app? We’ve put together this article to answer all your questions.

What is in-app notification?

An in-app notification is a message that is shown to users while they are using a smartphone app. These can appear in a variety of formats, including:

  • Toast notifications — small and non-intrusive notifications that ‘pop up’ and fade away after a few seconds
  • Banner notifications — notification bars that appear at the top or bottom of the app screen
  • Modal notifications — ‘pop-up’’ notifications that appear in the center of the screen overlaying the existing content
  • Tooltips — small, easily dismissible notifications that alert the user to something helpful, like a new feature
  • Slideouts — notifications that appear from the side of the app

You can use in-app notifications in a variety of ways depending on the type of mobile app you are developing. Some examples include:

  • A notification on a social media app when someone likes or comments on your post
  • A notification on a shopping app when a flash sale is starting, or a discount is available
  • A notification on a news app when a breaking news story happens or a new story is published that matches your interests
  • A notification on a ride-share app asking you to rate your experience and submit a review
  • A notification on a marketplace app when a new feature is available to use
  • A notification on a fitness app when you hit your daily step goal

An in-app notification is different to a push notification. A push notification is one that is delivered to a mobile phone that a user doesn’t have to be inside the app to see. This can have pros and cons over in-app notifications, which we’ll discuss in more detail later.

What are the benefits of in-app notification?

Carefully designed and tested in-app notifications can enhance your mobile app, making you stand out in a crowded marketplace and reminding users of the value you offer.

Let’s take a look at some of the additional benefits.

  • In-app notifications encourage users to interact with your app. This leads to them spending more time on your app, discovering new features, and can result in increased conversions
  • In-app notifications can be used to promote special offers and sell new products. This can increase your revenue, meaning more money for your startup
  • In app-notifications help retain users by showing the value you provide, leading to lower churn rates and higher retention rates
  • In-app notifications provide you with valuable data and let you track user behaviour. You can use this information to determine which new features to implement, drive your sales and marketing efforts, and improve the user experience of your app. You can also use in-app notifications to gather user feedback

When should you integrate in-app notifications into your mobile app?

Developing new features for your mobile app takes time and resources. So when should you add in-app notifications? Should you be at the startup scaling stage, or can you integrate app notifications before then?

We always recommend creating a minimal viable product (MVP) when creating a mobile app. An MVP is a no-frills version of your app with minimal features, which means you can get to market sooner. You can then add additional features later on, following customer feedback.

So the question is… should you include in-app notifications in the first iteration of your MVP? Our answer is that while it’s important to have some type of notification feature, the one you ultimately choose will depend on a variety of factors.

No two MVPs are alike, and the features you include will vary depending on the type of app, your target audience, your budget, and how quickly you want to launch.

In-app notifications are trickier to implement than push notifications. This is because push notifications rely on the already built-in features of a mobile operating system. Conversely, in-app notifications require custom code to handle the delivery and display of messages.

This means that, as a general rule of thumb, in-app notifications are more expensive to implement and take longer to develop. However, in-app notifications have benefits that push notifications don’t.

For example, as in-app notifications appear when a user is actively using an app, they provide contextual engagement and encourage the user to stay inside the app. Conversely, push notifications are easy to swipe away and ignore.

The decision to integrate in-app notifications into your app should depend on the goals and aims of your app, as well as what your customers want to see. Market research can help you determine what your customers want.

Even if you choose not to implement in-app notifications at the MVP stage, it might be something you opt to include at a later date.

Still not sure whether integrating in-app notifications is the right choice for your startup? Get in touch with our team, and we’d be happy to advise.

How to integrate in-app notifications into your mobile app

If you opt to use in-app notifications, there are two ways you can do this.

1. Build and develop the notification system yourself

If you choose this option, you need to build a backend system to drive the notifications and a front-end system that lets users interact with the notifications.

Choosing a developer with experience of in-app notifications is essential. While this process may take longer and be more extensive, you have more control over the notifications you send out.

2. Buy an off-the-shelf-package

Alternatively, there are ready-made platforms you can use to build and manage your notifications. If you want to add in-app notifications at the MVP stage, this can save you time and money, meaning you get to market sooner.

However, this option is not as flexible, and there is often an ongoing charge to use the platform that you’ll need to factor into your budget.

A good compromise is to start with an off-the-shelf package so you can launch as soon as possible and then build your own custom system at a later date.

3. The in-app integration process

Let’s say you opt to integrate your in-app notifications into your mobile app manually. While the overall process may differ depending on your app and the software you choose, here is a rough guideline of how the process could look.

  1. Start by choosing the framework or notification library you want to use. Popular examples include Firebase Cloud Messaging (Android), Apple Push Notification Service, OneSignal, or Pusher
  2. Next, develop a backend service to manage the creation and sending of notifications
  3. Plan what type of notifications you want to send. Consider the touchpoints you want to engage your app users at and the events/triggers that will prompt the display of your notifications
  4. Design the content and format of your in-app notifications. This includes titles, buttons, and overall design. It’s vital that your notifications match the style of your app and are easy to use
  5. Integrate your in-app notifications within the user interface of your app and add logic to handle any interactions. For example, how can your users dismiss notifications or change their settings only to receive specific types of notifications?
  6. Test your in-app notifications extensively across different devices and operating systems. You want to make sure the notifications operate smoothly and don’t detract from the overall user experience

Additional hints and tips for adding in-app notifications to your mobile app

We’ve now answered the question, ‘What is in-app notification?’ and how to go about adding this feature to your app. But what next?

Here’s some additional guidance about optimizing your in-app notifications to get the right results.

1. Look at what your competitors are doing

A good place to start when developing your in-app notifications is to use your competitors’ apps for inspiration.

This allows you to see what type of notifications they offer, as well as wording and frequency. Which notifications compel you to click, and which do you choose to ignore?

2. Personalise your messages

Personalising emails and website content encourages users to find out more, and the same logic applies to notifications. While we don’t have specific data for in-app notifications, personalizing push notifications can increase the open rate by at least 9%.

You can personalise your in-app messages in many ways, whether by including a name and personal information or by creating targeted messaging based on a person’s browsing history. An excellent place to start is by segmenting your users by demographics, interests and behaviour.

(And, of course, remember to consider regulations like GDPR when gathering and storing user data.)

3. Strike a balance and be respectful of your users

While in-app notifications are a valuable addition to your mobile app, it’s important to use them sparingly. Pushing too many messages to your users can lead to frustration and may mean they start to ignore the notifications you send.

When integrating in-app notifications into your app, choose which ones are of the most benefit to your customers. What information will they find helpful, and what will they find annoying?

How many notifications are too many? It depends; some users have a higher tolerance for multiple messages than others! Look at your stats to get an indication. If you launch a new type of notification and you find your churn rate significantly increases, it’s likely to be a bad sign.

While it may mean extra development work, giving your users control over the notifications they receive can lead to an enhanced user experience.

4. Test and adjust as you go

It’s essential to track the performance of your notifications so you can tweak and optimise them to get the best results. Identify the metrics you want to monitor and set your goals. When it comes to in-app notifications, open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates are good places to start.

You can also A/B test your messages to see which gets the best results. For example, do your customers prefer notifications with or without emojis? Which type of in-app notification do your users respond most enthusiastically to?

Also, ask your app users for feedback, either in-app or by email. This will help you understand which notifications they like and dislike.

Did you enjoy this article? Here are some more articles about optimizing and marketing your custom mobile app that you might be interested in.