In-App Notifications, Explained (Benefits, Examples, Tools)

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Getting a user to sign up for and download your app feels like reaching the finish line. All your hard work in marketing and sales has paid off, and you’ve successfully converted into a user — but not so fast. 

Acquiring a new user is just the beginning. Your job is now to keep them engaged with your app, showcase its value, and convert your user into a paid customer.

Maintaining engagement requires you to educate your users on how to use your app appropriately and be informed of any updates or changes to your software. While many companies turn to push notifications to stay in communication with their audience, there might be a better option — in-app notifications.

What Are In-App Notifications?

In-app notifications are pop-ups that appear while your user is in your app. They might highlight new updates or features, welcome your user to the platform, or guide them through instructions or training on how to use your app. 

Unlike push notifications, users must open the app to see the notification. While they don’t necessarily drive users to revisit your app the same way push notifications can, they can help educate and inform your user when it is most relevant. Because the user is already actively participating in your app, they’re more likely to engage with the content showcased in your in-app notification.

In-App Notifications vs. Push Notifications

While similar, in-app notifications and push notifications are very different.

  • In-app notifications are messages that appear to users inside an application when the app is already open. These messages are meant to be highly contextual and support users through a product, or draw attention to a new area of an application.
  • Push notifications are normal mobile alerts and messages that a user sees without the app being open, which appear on your phone’s lock screen.
 In-App NotificationPush Notification
PurposeContextually guides users through an application.Drives users into an application.
How it worksAppears to users who have the app already open.Appears to users who don’t have the app open.
AudienceTargets users who are learning a product or who are active users.Targets disengaged users who have not opened the app recently.
SettingsCan not always be turned offCan always be turned off
How Digital Adoption Platforms Empower Product Managers

Types of In-App Notifications

In-app notifications can be used for various events and in many different ways. Here are six of the most common types of in-app notifications. 

1. Product tours for onboarding new users

In-app notifications can provide new users with crucial instructions and information the first time they enter your app. With product tours, you can guide your users around the different parts of your apps, showcasing what each section of the app does and where they can find the most important information or features. 


Above: A product tour built using Whatfix’s no-code editor.

2. Task lists for setting up new users

An in-app task list can show new users what they need to accomplish to finish their onboarding process. Adding your task list as an in-app notification allows them to see exactly what is expected of them without needing to switch tools or screens. This is a clear reminder to nudge them along the process and improve your onboarding experience. 

instructional design

Above: An onboarding task list built using Whatfix’s no-code editor.

3. Smart tips for highlighting new or popular features

Any time a platform is updated or changed, you need to retrain your users on how to use your app. But depending on the extent of your updates or additions, they may not need an entirely new walkthroughs. Using in-app notifications to highlight smart tips for using or making the most of new features can keep additional training to a minimum while ensuring your users understand what is available to them. 


Above: Example of smart tip created with Whatfix

4. Step-by-step guidance for reducing time-to-value

Adjusting to a new tool takes time, but the longer it takes for a team or individual to get up to speed on the app, the longer it takes them to reach the true value of the platform. In-app notifications can act as self-service support to walk users through complications or issues to reach the time to value faster and get more from their investment. 

whatfix interactive knowledge base

Above: Whatfix interactive guidance

5. Product announcements for upgrades, new features, or special promotions

In-app notifications are also great for showcasing marketing materials and product announcements. While email and social media are the go-to tools for getting the word out about upgrades, new feature launches, or upcoming promotions, adding an in-app notification can help ensure your message reaches your audience. Making announcements within your app reduces the noise and distractions often associated with other marketing platforms, so your user is sure to see what you have to share.


Above: A look at how product managers create in-app announcements with Whatfix

6. NPS or review call-to-actions

In-app notifications can also be used to request feedback or gain insights from your app users. Asking them to participate in a survey while they’re already using the app can increase your chances of getting an accurate response from active and engaged users. 


Above: An in-app NPS CTA built using Whatfix’s no-code editor.

Create personalized in-app messages for your apps with Whatfix

Benefits of In-App Notifications

Here are six of the biggest benefits of using in-app notifications:

1. Better onboarding experience

Onboarding is already a complicated process, and an inefficient onboarding flow could mean a loss of customers. In fact, 8 in 10 users say they’ve deleted an app because they didn’t know how to use it.


In-app notifications can create a self-guided onboarding process that gives your users exactly the information they need right when they need it, guiding them through using a new app without overwhelming them with the information they’re not ready for yet. A better onboarding experience means happier users that stick around long-term. 

2. Reduces time-to-value and guides users to their “aha!” moment

The faster a user gets up to speed with a new tool, the faster they will realize the full value of their investment — their “aha!” moment. The shorter the time frame to achieve time-to-value, the more likely users will stick around and continue to use the platform. 

PlayOJO reimagines customer onboarding and gaming experience to drive product adoption with Whatfix

3. Improves overall product adoption

It’s not uncommon for users of a new tech product to miss out on some of the features or benefits. Whether they don’t know those features exist or they don’t know how to make the most of them, not recognizing the full value of a tool can prevent them from fully adopting the product. With in-app notifications, you can provide additional support and training, so users reach overall product adoption.

4. Increased user retention

When your users are comfortable using your product and see the true value in what you have to offer, they’re less likely to switch to another platform. Because in-app notifications can improve onboarding, reduce time-to-value, and improve product adoption, they can also increase your user retention rate. 

5. Helps upsell and cross-sell

In-app notifications provide contextual information to users that can help upsell and cross-sell additional features or services that improve the users’ unique experience. Sharing upsell and cross-sell messages within the app helps get your message in front of the user at the right time, increasing the likelihood of engaging with your content. 

6. Promotes new features

If you have new feature announcements to share, there is no better way to community them than right in the app. An in-app notification not only alerts your users to updates and additions but can show them how they can use those new features to improve their experience. 


5 Examples of In-App Notifications

Here are five examples of products using in-app notifications effectively to drive adoption and user retention.

1. Airtable highlights features and tools

Airtable added new automations, integrations, and views to their platform and used in-app notifications to point users to where they can find them. This pop-up is clear and unintrusive, attracting user’s attention without being overbearing. 


2. Slack onboards new users

Slack uses in-app notifications to point out different sections of the app and their purpose to new users. Adding context to onboarding helps new users feel more comfortable and confident with using the tool. 


3. Mem asks for user feedback

Mem used an in-app notification to conduct a simple survey with users. Keeping the survey short and easy to complete (and easy to opt out of if users aren’t interested in participating) can increase engagement without frustrating users. 


4. Zoom highlights a special offer

Zoom made a special offer front and center with an in-app notification. Applying marketing messaging right in the app cuts down on the amount of noise a user needs to sift through to get your offer and frees up space in your marketing budget. 


5. Dropbox upsells users

Dropbox used an in-app notification to let users know they were out of space and encouraged them to upgrade. Within the pop-up, they showcased what users would get if they chose to upgrade their plan. 


4 Best Tools for Creating In-App Notifications in 2023

You don’t need extensive coding or programming knowledge to create in-app notifications. Here are four tools you can utilize to create in-app pop-ups and messages easily. 

1. Whatfix

Whatfix is a digital adoption platform (DAP) that provides simple, no-code tools to create in-app, step-by-step application guidance. With Whatfix, you can easily create product tours, interactive walkthroughs, user onboarding programs, in-app knowledge bases, and more. Built-in behavior analytics show you how your app is being used so you can improve your workflows for a better user experience. 

Whatfix covers all your in-app messaging basics without bogging you down with tools or features you might be getting elsewhere. With Whatfix, you can create internal and external onboarding flows for various apps your team uses, guide teams through digital transformation journeys, and collect feedback or insights from your customers.


2. Mixpanel

Mixpanel is a product analytics tool to help convert, engage, and retain users. Mixpanel tracks and measures how your app is used and provides insights into how you can improve engagement and get better results. 

In-app notifications are just one piece of what Mixpanel provides. It markets itself as an analytics tool, so it’s great if you need more comprehensive insights into how your product is used — but it can also feel overwhelming and complex if you’re only looking for an in-app notification solution.


3. Pendo

Pendo is a product adoption platform that helps you build better software, including using personalized in-app guides to improve user experience. Create personalized, visually designed pop-up notifications without needing to code. In addition to in-app notifications, Pendo offers road mapping, analytics, feedback, integrations, and more. 

Pendo is a great tool for users looking to improve the overall experience of using their app. Its built-in feedback loops let you keep track of what users are expecting so you can prioritize what features to build out next.


4. Appcues

Appcues is a no-code onboarding flow builder that lets you set up experiences in just a few minutes. The Appcues builder lets you create pop-ups and messages right on top of your app without the help of a developer. You can then track workflow usage to get better insights into how your onboarding workflows are performing. 

While you can use Appcues for more than just onboarding, their tool is designed for bringing teams and customers up to speed on your app. However, it can quickly become complicated if you want to add in-app notifications beyond initial onboarding or training.

Conclusion Title

In-app notifications can be a great way to stay in touch with your users, but you want to introduce your messaging in a way that is valuable and beneficial to your audience. Going overboard with your in-app notifications can lead to frustration and push users away. 

Think about what your goals are with using in-app notifications. What pain points are you looking to solve? How do these pain points lead to larger challenges within your organization?

When you set goals for your in-app notifications, you can be more intentional about how you introduce them to your users and achieve better results. Knowing how in-app notifications will benefit your company and can also help you choose a tool that works for you and your team to meet its product adoption and user retention goals.

See how Whatfix is empowering product managers to drive product adoption by creating and analyzing in-app messaging now!

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