Facebook and Foursquare have their own in-app notification inboxes that help alert users to updates, new friend requests and other news and activity. But the process is hard for many developers to build, and most apps don’t offer such a feature. Now Appsfire, an app discovery platform, is launching a new free service called App Booster that allows developers to create a simple two-way inbox inside their apps to help establish a communication channel between developers and users.
The idea is to give developers an unobtrusive way to talk back and forth with their app users, so they can share important information, promote their other apps and obtain feedback. This can be an important way to maintain engagement and retain users, who studies have shown are quick to discard apps.
Developers who integrate Appsfire’s App Booster SDK, which takes about 20 minutes and is built for iOS (s aapl) right now, can create an inbox that sits inside their app that uses a bubble icon to notify a user when they have a message. When they tap on the icon, users can see their list of messages from the developer. Tapping on a message can provide more information, a link to an app store or a website, or pull up a form so they can email back a message to the developer. Developers could use the inbox to welcome new users, notify them of updates, provide tips about the latest updates, warn users about app maintenance issues, cross-promote an app, or invite users to provide feedback, share online or rate an app.
Many apps currently use push notifications to engage users and notify them. But Ouriel Ohayon, the founder of Appsfire, said half the time users don’t agree to receive notifications. Some developers turn to ad networks to promote some of their other apps, ask for email addresses or use services such as Crittercism, which can create a support forum for users to help answer questions about crashes and other problems. Others rely on “i” or “more” buttons to offer more information. PlayHaven offers a marketing platform that can insert HTML5 windows inside an app that can be programmed with ads and messages.
But Ohayon said developers haven’t had a simple way to create an inbox inside an app that encourages communication between a user and a developer. He said that can be critical in guiding and engaging users.
“Think of it as the equivalent of a newsletter for applications; instead of being sent by email it’s sent inside the app by the developer. You will be able to reply to the developer. This communication loop is not happening,” said Ohayon. “We are enabling that situation which is really required and demanded by users but not expressed.”
Ohayon said developers can send out and manage messages using a simple dashboard, where they can compose notifications and target who receives them. In early tests with a few developers, Ohayon said App Booster has improved engagement by up to 50 percent and experienced click-through rates of at least 15 percent and up to 50 percent. He said the key is that it is not intrusive but still a personal and effective way to talk to users.
Ohayon built the system to solve Appsfire’s problems first and is hoping other developers can find value in the same solution. That could help turn them on to Appsfire’s paid app discovery tool, which is the company’s main product.
I think App Booster should be appealing for users. Some apps send too many push notifications or send out a lot of requests to rate apps. I would prefer something more subtle that allows me to pull messages when I want to see them. And for developers, it still allows them to open a two-way dialogue right inside the app. That’s helpful. Instead of relying on getting email addresses or using Facebook or Twitter, a developer can communicate from within the app itself. Developers should obviously avoid spamming users, but if they provide real, valuable messages, users will likely see this as an asset and something that improves their relationship with the developer.