Emails vs. in-app messaging: in pursuit of the best user onboarding channel

12.3.2018, 5 minutes read

User guide is only one of the available options to show the users the way through your app. The extra channels can take the onboarding process to another level. But when should you send emails and when are the in-app messages more suitable? Read our article and find out!

Emails are not out yet

Most of the apps use common guide to provide the user with proper introduction. However, sticking just to one channel would be a waste of potential and opportunities.

The most effective tool of follow-up communication with users is email which has been part of our lives for decades. Yet, increasingly more users prefer this channel to keep up with the news.

Research summarized in Benchmark Report published by MarktingSherpa shows that up to 72% of users prefer communication to happen through email. According to the software company Monetate, email communication can reach the conversion rate as no other channel.

Result: the biggest benefit of emails is their high effectiveness. If you send the user tips & tricks on what to do with the app or how to use it, they can read them anytime, regardless of their whereabouts.

You can also use emails to remind the subscribers of yourself if the aha moment from the onboarding guide didn't come up as expected. Thanks to emails, users can experience it additionally.

How to differentiate your email from others?

Major disadvantage of emailing is that people are oversaturated. Everyone has a pile of advertising mails prevailing in the inbox.

If you do not manage to differentiate yourself, your messages can end up as spam mails or, in the worst-case scenario, users will cancel the subscription. If this was the case, you would lose great potential how to boost your onboarding system.

But how to draw up an email with user involvement in the center of attention?

Slack can be a great source of inspiration. When you sign up, you receive a message asking you to set a password. The goal of this message is not so single minded. Its goal is also to engage you to use the app.

Do not forget to include in the email the following:

  • the initial greeting,

  • short explanation of why did you send the message,

  • the primary CTA element.

These were the basics. Now, try to focus on the advanced:

  • Mention the benefits the user wins after performing the action, e.g. unlimited access to movies, series, or music upon registration.

  • Show them the motivation: Slack reminds the users that if they do not set the password within two days, they will be automatically logged out.

  • Be interactive!: attach embedded videos or animations to show the people how your app works.

  • Use contrastive elements: CTAs should be distinguished by color.

  • Messages should have attractive design: the era of text-only HTML templates is long gone.

  • Personalization is the key: personalized emails increase the open rate by 22.2%. Address your users by their first names, preferably right in the mail subject.

  • Make use of autoresponders: they are used to automatically send messages after specific action or reaching particular level in the guide.

TIP: Few practical examples of well-formulated emails for user education and stimulation to further use of the app can be found on Really Good Emails.

MailChimp’s onboarding campaign
Source: Really Good Emails

Example of interactive onboarding email
Source: Really Good Emails

What’s the idea behind the email onboarding?

Emails are great user onboarding tool to send email verification messages or to share large content.

Sent content should motivate the users to return to your app. Case studies or your own research work also perfectly.

However, one thing you should certainly avoid during the onboarding process is sending the conventional advertising emails. The only thing they are good for is to distract users’ attention during the onboarding.

In-app messaging - real-time communication

Another way how to enrich the onboarding process is to engage in-app messages. What is so great about them? They have the same visual as your app.

As the name suggests, in-app message pop up in real time when the user works with the app, raising his involvement in the training process significantly. Tips provided right at the right time via the in-app message can be put into practice immediately.

In-app messages can be displayed in the top or bottom of the screen. Or sometimes even in the middle. See the above examples used by Inbox.

However, there are always two sides of the coin. In-app messages can be seen only by active users. Users “outside the app” are out of the scope. In-app messages are the best choice to attract the attention of new users and to deliver the aha moment.

As they are based on uniform graphics, users can easily miss them. Even more, if they are displayed on unnoticeable places for instance on the side bar.

In-app notifications in language-learning platform, Duolingo

Suitable channel for highly-important notifications

As mentioned above, in-app notifications can be seen only by active users inside the app. This characteristic defines also its purpose, i.e. to spread the active user-oriented information.

These can include important notifications of new changes in the app or serve to collect feedback. After the user achieves specified onboarding level, don’t hesitate to use them to congratulate him or her, deepening the motivation to go on.

In-app messages are a great tool for user education, congratulation, or asking for feedback. Source: Hiver

Finally, which channel is the best?

Both of them have pros and cons. Our conclusion is based on the fact that in-app messages and emails shouldn’t be understood as competition. Do not favor only one channel at the expense of the second one, but use them both simultaneously.

In-app messaging represents real-time communication form, emails, on the other hand, are the best form of follow-up communication, when the user is logged out.

If you need to create onboarding emails, you can use MailChimp or GetResponse. MailChimp is a user-friendly solution with a pile of available extensions.

If you are looking for a tool to create user guides for your app, you can pick YesElf, complex user onboarding platform, on which you can not only create and manage the multilevel onboarding, but measure its effectiveness it as well.

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