Push notifications and in-app messages are temporary which means that if the user has not seen them or he has dismissed them, he has no access to them anymore unless you have built a message center in your app.

An in-app message center (app inbox) can capture and store messages your users want to keep track of. Its implementation can complement your overall mobile messaging strategy.

Message centers generate better response rates. According to Urban Airship research, message center content generates 8x the read rate of push notifications alone. Also, message center read rates more than double when used in combination with a push notification.

The content in a message center is the most dynamic in your app. It can give your app seasonal relevance, guide new users via welcome messages, gather user data via surveys and promote new features of your app.

Message centers reach your entire app audience, whether they have opted in or not. It gives your users a location to consume and revisit rich content at their convenience.

The content can be personalized and delivered to your users based on their latest preferences and attributes. The messages can be automated for key events and triggered based on location.

Try to provide a service or a feature of value when you build a message center in your app, so users are more likely to routinely open your app to access this utility. The main goal is to try to increase user retention and loyalty by offering your users value on regular basis through your in-app message center.

If you want to make it even better, combine the message center with other mobile channels like push notifications, in-app messages, social channels, mobile wallets.

Add social sharing buttons within your app’s message center to encourage users to share the content. You can also create a stream that repurposes your social content into the app as message center content.

Add a link to your mobile wallet pass for items such as a coupon or loyalty card to provide additional convenience to your customers. Mobile wallets are great to make users engage with your brand when they have opted out of push notifications (wallet notifications are 100% defaulted to opt-in on iOS devices).

Use the back of a mobile wallet pass to drive users into your app or deep link directly to the message center. This increases engagement and provides visibility for your app and your message center.

Message center best practices

Think about the message you are sending, is a message center adding more value for the user? For example, if the users miss a transactional message you have sent, the app inbox gives them a chance to look at it. If you are sending a promotional message the user is interested in but he can’t act on it right away, a message center will allow them to take advantage of the offer later on.

Let the users know what they can expect from your message center. Setting expectations helps build a habit of checking the message center.

Make sure the message center is visible to users. For iOS, use badges to indicate you have added new messages.

Keep a welcome message on your message center to welcome new app users, or create a welcome message series as part of your onboarding process.

Expire outdated messages. Set your messages up for auto-deletion, especially if it’s a promotion with an expiration date. This ensures a great user experience since the messages are always up to date and they don’t have to check if the offer is still valid or not.

Make message center visits a habit through regular messages or promotional offers that build anticipation. This builds the habit of visiting the message center to check the new offers increasing user retention and engagement. This also facilitates you marketing activities since regular promotions are easy to plan.

Message center examples of use

For onboarding

Redbox combines push notifications with its message center to deliver a free movie rental code to new app users after their first time opening the app. In order to redeem this offer, users must sign up for a Redbox account which enables cross-channel user profiles to pinpoint the type of movies they want to see most.

Forever 21 have a well-designed welcome series flow in the message center. When you select your country upon opening the app, you receive the welcome series for that country in the appropriate language.

Neiman Marcus uses its message center to deliver a welcome series to drive multiple app opens within the first few days. Upon download, users already have a pre-populated message on the message center outlining the value of opting-in to push notifications.

For personalized content

ABC News allows users to follow specific stories, then they deliver follow-up content and updates on selected stories to the message center. For breaking news, they send a push notification and provide accompanying content on that subject into a user’s message center.

Nike Soccer uses its message center as a content stream for soccer fans. Every message in the message center is a full page image.

Express app’s message center houses relevant information, from fashion advice to special occasion reminders. Provides helpful ideas and recommendations at relevant times.

The University of San Diego uses a message center to share information with its student body. Content can be segmented also by class or college of study for additional relevancy.

For promotion and offers

Club Carlson greet a new user with a 48 h 5,000 bonus gold point offer when they book a stay via the app within a specific window of time. The content can be expired and deleted to ensure a great customer experience.

For partner revenue

USTA used their US Open app to engage attendees with notifications and rich in-app message center content. They also hosted sponsored content.

Regal Cinemas calls their message center “specials”, a place where they communicate promotions and offers. They also include sweepstakes entries to promote a movie and drive a particular action.

To promote new features

Home Depot promotes their new features in their app message center. It’s a good way to present a new feature to your entire audience. They combine this with an automated message triggered by the first app open so that new installs get it too.

Meijer uses the message center to provide regular promotional offers and also to promote new features. They offer advanced features to their users to increase usage, loyalty, and value.

REI use their message center to promote their new apps.

App utility

ASDA gives users recommendations for meals and displays short how-to recipe videos. With a tap of a button, a user can add the ingredients to their in-store shopping list.

Hotels.com house all notifications in their app message center so users can access them when they want. It’s a good way to prevent users from missing a push that informs them of room availability.

To increase user retention

Starbucks deliver the “Pick of the Week” in their message center every Tuesday. Users learn to expect a recurring promotion and that keeps them coming back to the app.

For branding

GameStop changes their message center colors to holiday-themed colors. They also promote their giving program. Both experiences are a reflexion of the brand’s personality.

REI uses their message center to reinforce their support to their members’ passion for outdoor adventures.

In-app message center resources
7 In-app message center best practices