Guest article by Riana Upton of Gainsight

Let’s address the elephant in the room… or should we say, the engagement in the room?

More and more, in-app engagements—those moments of customer outreach that happen within a product—are popping up in your everyday SaaS products (pun totally intended).

As proven in B2C product experiences, these engagements are a great way to drive awareness to new features, promote useful content, and capture user sentiment—but use them incorrectly and they could ultimately adversely affect your product experience.

In this article, we’ll cover the different types of in-app engagements and share how Gainsight’s TRUSt framework will help you prioritize your in-product communications.


Why Are In-App Engagements So Important?

In-app engagements perform various functions such as guide users through new features, notify users of outages or bugs, gauge sentiment, and much, much more. Examples of in-app engagements include:

  • Announcements of new features
  • Tutorials and guides
  • Product status messages
  • Surveys

Two things are required for a complete and comprehensive in-app engagement strategy: technology and framework.

Choosing the Right In-App Engagement Technology

In order to deploy your in-app engagements, you need the right technology. There are a variety of options out there—you can build a tool in-house or use a purpose-built product experience platform (may we suggest, Gainsight PX?) to build and launch your engagements. No matter what, you want your technology to empower teams to personalize these in-app experiences, analyze the results, and do it quickly without a lot of overhead.

Remember: the purpose of in-app engagements is to create a personalized experience that benefits your users. So make sure your solution allows you to target users based on qualities like user activity, the account they roll up to, and their job roles/titles.

You might not get your in-app engagement right the first time, but that’s okay! We’re all in the business of experimenting or iterating, but if you want to do it right you need data. Whatever tech you chose should also have capabilities to track engagement performance. You can even pair your in-app engagement solution with a platform like FullStory to understand how users interact with your engagements through replay. This can reveal points of friction and frustration so you can optimize placement, timing, and frequency of appearance.

You can move much faster if your technology allows you to build in-app engagements without coding knowledge—this avoids the need to involve other departments for each engagement your team needs. “Involve other departments,” you say, “but won’t that mean that everybody will constantly be messaging our users and hurt our customer experience?”—not if you have a comprehensive in-app engagement strategy. That's why you need a framework.

A Framework for In-App Engagements You Can "TRUSt"

By using a consistent framework for evaluating in-app communications, you increase the likelihood that these types of communications are highly valued—even welcomed. A consistent framework also prevents users from getting message fatigue. In-app communications aren’t the same as email—they’re highly-targeted forms of communication intended to rise above the noise of a common inbox. Exercising care in how they are used is critical.

At Gainsight, we use "The TRUSt framework" to evaluate which customer communications should be delivered in-app, via email, or in-person—and when to trigger them. "TRUSt" stands for Timely, Relevant, Useful, Straightforward, and the TRUSt framework works to make sure that all in-app engagements are TRUSt-worthy:

Timely

We should present engagements based on the user’s timing instead of ours. For example, you should not introduce in-app guides for advanced and sophisticated functionality on a user’s first login. This is because it’s too early. By comparison, if you present an in-app survey months after the user finished a task, then it’s too late.

Relevant

We should trigger engagements depending on clear use (or lack thereof) of our product. For example, if there are users that only use Feature A, don’t send them notifications about Feature B, C, or D.

Useful

Engagements need to help users in one way or another. A useful in-app engagement will help a user complete a task faster or learn something new—e.g. how to use a new feature correctly.

Straightforward

Engagements should be as unobtrusive as possible. Your users log in with a goal in mind so the more concise your message is, the quicker they can return to their original task.

As you devise your personal engagement strategy, it’s vital that you clearly define what makes an engagement “helpful.” What is the outcome you hope to achieve? The TRUSt Framework ensures all in-app communications have a purpose.

That's it. Running through the TRUSt framework will bring rigor to how you think about in-app communications, ensuring you’re keeping the customer’s digital experience front and center.

Now let's take a look at how the TRUSt framework can be applied in practice.

The TRUSt Framework: A Practical Application

At Gainsight, we recently released our new Gainsight Mobile Application, which makes certain features from our Gainsight CS platform available for Customer Success Managers (CSMs) on-the-go. As you’d expect, we turned to in-app engagements to drive awareness and target the users that would get the most out of this new development.

Here’s how we applied The TRUSt Framework to ensure these in-app engagements were a success, starting with the first message our users saw in-app:

In-app engagement announcing Gainsight’s new mobile app created using Gainsight PX.

Timely

To ensure we sent this message on our user’s time and not just ours, we only triggered the message when someone entered our Timeline feature (more on the relevance of this below). We could’ve made the message pop up upon login, but we all know that if you’re logging in with a mission, you’ll be quick to dismiss these pop-ups. Notifications can easily disrupt the user experience so aligning them to the user workflow can make them less jarring.

Relevant

Relevance was a huge consideration in our mobile app launch strategy. To decide which users to target, we focused on user activity. A key benefit of Gainsight’s Mobile App is that users can access the full functionality of our Timeline feature on their mobile device.

We deduced that customers that regularly use Timeline on our desktop application were likely interested in accessing Timeline in our mobile app (simple enough, right?). So, we triggered the message to appear to our end users when they were using the Gainsight CS Timeline feature.

Useful

This particular engagement informed users of the new mobile app. The Gainsight Mobile App was a highly-anticipated development, so we made the call to action button lead our audience straight to the app store so they could download the app ASAP.

Straightforward

It’s important that your in-app engagements match your application visually. Otherwise, people might mistake it as a third-party advertisement! You can see in the close-up below that we used our brand colors and concise messaging to convey our point quickly and clearly.

Because we provided the content to our users in the right place, at the right time, we got 1.5x more click-throughs to download the app than through our email outreach. In less than two weeks we were able to increase mobile app downloads by 110%!

If you’d like to learn more about this use case for in-app engagements, we dive deeper into the thought and execution processes on our blog.

Create Meaningful Engagement With Your Users

In-app engagements are the future of customer communications and, like any new frontier, there’s still much to be explored. How are you using your product to communicate with your customers? If you haven’t yet, check out our In-App Engagement Starter Kit to get you on the track to create more meaningful engagements with your users.

We’ve given you a headstart on the structural, framework component of a good in-app engagement strategy. Now, all that’s left is the technology. Gainsight PX is a product experience platform that doesn’t just give you the power to create in-app engagements—it also provides the product analytics you need to ensure they’re reaching the right person at the right time. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

See for yourself: Check out our free trial, so you can see just how easy it is to create in-app notifications, surveys, dialogs, tooltips, and more.