In this article you're going to learn a 7 Step Process to systematically test Email and In-app messages to improve User Engagement and grow your business.

There is so much you can do to improve user engagement with Email and In App Messages. Plus, I've also included links to some of my favourite articles by the likes of Intercom.io, Appcues and Forbes further down, which will also help you brainstorm new ideas.

Most of what we'll discuss relates to websites and web apps, and can be used effectively for Ecommerce, SaaS, as well as marketplaces, blogs and social platforms as well as mobile apps.

Make Sure you've Got Metrics and Messaging Apps Installed

Before you start, the first thing you need in place is a basic set of tools for measuring your success and implementing your messaging I call it a marketing analytics stack.

Your Marketing Analytics Stack will allow you to:

  • easily communicate with your users and
  • track your progress.

Then you can use these tools to help you measure your user engagement, from your initial baseline and as you (hopefully) improve each week, or month - depending on your volume and rate of progress.

Here's a simple formula to Prioritise, Test and Measure User Engagement with Email and In App Messages:

The key to figuring what works is to run tests. If that idea is new to you then start here.

1. Measure One Thing - One Metrics for User Engagement

Pick one metric thats useful to you to represent user engagement and start tracking it. This will become your guide. You goal is to monitor this metric, and improve it. Make sure everyone on your team knows the one metric that matters, so you are all aligned. If possible, display the metric live where everyone can see it.

Automate your metric. You don't want to have to hand calculate it. If your metric seems very complicated, find a close proxy to it that you can automate.

Obvious tools include the omnipresent Google Analytics, plus there are more user centric analytics like Woopra and Kissmetrics. To get the best from these tools you'll need some engineering, or else Popcorn Metrics can help you setup these tools quickly on your website without needing to wait for your developers.

2. Get a baseline:

Measure so you know where you are currently, and will be able to track your progress.

3. Brainstorm for ideas which could improve User Engagement:

Develop ideas that could improve your user engagement metric (We'll cover ways to useE Mail andInApp messages in a moment, but first I want to put the context - we're going to TEST to find which emails and in app message work best for your specific business case)

4. Prioritise Email and In App Messaging Ideas:

What you're looking for are those ideas with the biggest impact on user engagement with the least effort in the shortest time.

The best way to prioritise is via the ICE method (Impact Confidence and Effort) You can read more detail here, although they refer to E for Ease. The goal is to find the low hanging fruit first, which means maximum confidence of maximum impact with least effort.

5. Run Minimal Viable Engagement Tests:

You've probably heard of Minumal Viable Products (MVP), here we're going to run minimal viable tests, which are the simplest tests that you can execute to learn, following the common Build->Measure->Learn feedback loop).

Businesses with more user volume can get meaningful test results faster and hence learn in shorter time cycles.

Around 15 days is a good rule of thumb test duration, but it depends on your user volume, if you have many users, you might shorten the test cycle to 7 or even 3 days. Anything over 30 days starts to become more slow your progress because of the sheer amount of time).

Drip feed campaigns, for example, can span weeks. In cases like those, I would focus on the earlier messages in the campaign first, just so you can progress quickly. Later you can look at longer running campaigns (or the later messages in a campaign). If in doubt, start with shorter campaigns.

6. Analyse the Results:

You can only learn what working by reviewing the test data and making conclusions about the success of a test. Oftentimes tests may be inconclusive, don't beat yourself up about it. You've just learned something that doesn't affect user engagement, and thats also useful. For example, suppose you test 3 different versions of a specific message, and none show any great difference? In that case, take a step back and ask the question - is this message important to the user? Is it even relevant in that specific context/moment of the user experience?

7. Iterate:

Yes, keep looping through your tests, and develop new ideas to test, based on your learnings and new insights.

This cycle is continuous, so get into the habit of experimenting to continually improve your user engagement metrics.

Generating Ideas: Brainstorming to Test Email and In-App Messages:

I'm going to cover some specific ideas in a future post (so drop your email in the box below if you don't want to miss out) but these are some of my favourite articles on user engagement and will help you generate ideas to test:

Ways to Increase User Engagement:

IDEAS:

  • How to Make a Strong First Impression
  • How to gradually expose the depth of your product
  • How to Announce features and improvements in-app
  • How to Talk with customers during trials

Read more here: Ways to Increase User Engagement

10 Ways to Increase User Engagement for Your App

IDEAS (Very mobile app focused):

  • How to Educate Users with Onboarding
  • How to use Push Notifications and Deep Linking

Read more here: 10 Ways to Increase User Engagement for Your App

How to Increase User Engagement Throughout the User Journey

IDEAS:

  • How to start User Onboarding Off with a Mission
  • How to Provide Contextual Help as Users Explore Deeper
  • How to Boost User Activity with Frequent Updates
  • How to Encourage Users to Reach Out and Learn More
  • How to Build Habit with Cross-Platform Integrations
  • How to Generate Social Interaction with In-Product Communities
  • How to Incentivise Power Usage with Giveaways

Read more here: How to Increase User Engagement Throughout the User Journey

Things to Avoid: The Dos and Don'ts of In-App Notifications

IDEAS (things you may already be dong wrong!):

  • Not Personalising your Welcome Message
  • How to avoiding sending messages at the wrong time, or in the wrong context
  • How to avoid your messages being just a sideshow

Read more here: The Dos and Don'ts of In-App Notifications

6 Ways To Increase User Engagement On Your Content

IDEAS (Full of ideas if you publish inbound content):

  • Stir up controversy.
  • Surprise people.
  • Ask your readers’ opinions
  • How to use quizzes, surveys and polls
  • How to incorporate other media (video, audio etc)
  • How to reward users who engage

Read more here: 6 Ways To Increase User Engagement On Your Content

CASE STUDY: How Baremetrics used Email and In App Messages to Improve User Engagement and Grow their Business

I'm a big fan of Baremetrics. They are a very successful SaaS business, with a fantastic growth record right out of the gate. Their SEO Josh Pigford is very talented and experienced and has learned many hard lessons about growing a business having started at least 10 businesses. (PS I hope to meet Josh someday, so if you're inviting him for dinner, please invite me too!).

Anyway, they used In App and Email messages to seriously grow their business and you can read their own experience here which provides an excellent Case Study.

What Tools should you Use to Automate your Email and In App Messages?

This article wouldn't be complete without some tools recommendations. I'm going to share my experience with 3 services that I've personally used, although I am conscious there are MANY more tools, and I've heard good things about AppCues and Drip. (Please please add a comment for any tool I've missed and I can expand this list here.) I've spend the majority of my time using Intercom.io, Customer.io and Mailchimp, so lets quickly outline the pros and cons.

Intercom.io

For me, Intercom.io is best because it provides the ability to use both Email and In APP messages. Its a bit tricky to setup to capture user behaviour events to trigger realtime, in-app messages, so you'll need to get engineering to help you, or if you don't want to wait for your developers (they're always busy, right?) you can use Popcorn Metrics to create users and events in Intercom.io.

Customer.io

Customer.io is also great, and I'm a big fan. What I like is the simplicity of theor product. Its a little more limited (which is reflected in the price), because they only support Emails, butI do LOVE the rules you can set up, the clean activity feed, the analytics on the emails and best of all the A/B testing features.

Again you'll need to get engineering to help you get setup, or if you don't want to wait, you can do it yourself via Popcorn Metrics to create both users and events in Customer.io.

Mailchimp

Mailchimp is great for setting Drip Feed campaigns off a mailing list. Apart from auto-responders to mail list signups, and I've used Mailchimp to drip feed lessons for an extended training course by email over a period of 8 weeks. (I'd love to hear from you in the comments if you have used Mailchimp to trigger more specific behaviour driven emails.)

Ok, thats the end of this article. Thanks for reading to the end! If you enjoyed this article, I'd appreciate shares, and remember to signup so you don't miss future articles. :)

Even better, if you think I've missed something important - or if you have alternate views, please add in the comments below.