If you’re reading this blog post, you’re well aware that today’s most tech savvy audiences are glued to their smartphones. In fact, the Pew Center says that 44 percent of cell owners have slept with their phones next to their beds because they “didn’t want to miss any calls, text messages, or other updates during the night.”

Another telling stat is that the number of apps used per month only grew from 23.2 in 2011 to 26.8 Q4 2013 — suggesting that digital audiences, while tied to their phones for information, have an upper limit to how many brands they’re engaging with at any given time. Given the fact that there are more than a million apps available in the Apple and Google Play stores, brands need a mechanism to stay connected to their audiences.

Enter in-app messaging — one of the most compelling engagement drivers available to brands today. The idea is simple. When audiences go idle, or when your company has an important update to announce, send an unobtrusive reminder. Brands that are consistently present will always remain top of mind. Here are 7 examples to guide you and help you build out your strategy.

1. eBay's auction reminders

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That’s why eBay has implemented an in-app messaging feature that alerts users to take action when watched auctions are coming to an end. It’s a system that’s user-friendly, unobtrusive, and heavily conversion-oriented. It makes Ebay’s mobile experience better.

2. Game nudges from Words with Friends

The most successful mobile games are the ones that can keep players engaged. With Words with Friends — a game very similar to scrabble — matches can take days or even weeks to come to an end. It’s easy, as a result, for players to become disinterested. This drop-off as a ripple event in causing other players to become disinterested too.

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Zynga, the company that develops Words with Friends, tackles this challenge by sending game reminders to users when they go idle. The end result is higher in-app engagement and a user experience that’s positive for the Words with Friends community.

3. Twitter's feed

Twitter’s in-app messaging system is a core part of the social network’s brand experience. Whenever users are followed, messaged, or mentioned — actions that happen in passing —Twitter generates an alert. This functionality is important for three reasons:

Twitter is driven by fleeting interactions with short shelf lives

These fleeting interactions are easy to miss

It’s challenging to keep up and stay engaged with conversations that move quickly

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Twitter optimizes its notifications to capture audiences with ‘in the moment,’ interesting information. It is, inadvertently, an effective onboarding process for Twitter as well.

4. Rewards from Starbucks

Brands, especially on mobile phones, are fighting for audiences’ attention. A compelling way to stand out from every other in-app messaging system is to offer users something of value.

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Starbucks, for instance, has implemented a rewards program that integrates with what users are already doing — buying coffee. The app keeps Starbucks customers engaged and updated with notifications and freebies.

Consumers will want and actually look forward to messages from Starbucks.

5. Interesting content from Quora

People rely on their phones to make the most out of their downtime — digital content is the ultimate brain break and can actually help you become smarter.

That’s why Q&A engine Quora will, every so often, alert its users to interesting threads on the platform. These notifications include a mix of conversations that audiences have subscribed to, in addition to recommended threads that they’re likely to find interesting.

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It’s a messaging system that’s designed to keep people lurking and conversing. The strategy is, simply, to keep things interesting for the user.

6. Publishers Clearing House's In-App Pop-Ups

This pop-up provides the same value as its desktop counterpart and is especially effective in targeting mobile users. Give audiences a prompt when they show critical signs in their buying journeys — when they’re researching a piece of information in depth, for instance, or when they’re on the verge of leaving your app or mobile website.

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A simple pop-up, with a message that’s tailored to user intent, will encourage audiences to stick around longer.

7. Mobile inline messaging from bundoo

Sometimes, pop-ups won’t be the right fit for the level of targeting that you need. You may need a messaging strategy that blends into the background of your mobile experience — if you’re running a media company, for instance.

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Inline messaging could be an ideal option here. Create a personalized, highly targeted message that blends in with your brand’s core experience.

Final Thoughts

What these 5 apps share in common is that they’ve integrated in-app messaging into their core user experiences and monetization strategies. Every message has a clear user experience intent and purpose behind it — as opposed to pointless, spammy alerts.

Brands can optimize these messages by developing a clear perspective regarding their audiences’ needs. With this approach, it’s nearly impossible to go wrong. Read our guide, The Marketer's Guide to In-App Messaging!