2023 Mobile Messaging Forecast: Top 3 Trends

How people consume content has radically changed in the 15 years since the first iPhone was released. We don’t just carry a phone in our pockets — our entire digital lives travel on that device. And that means an ongoing seismic shift for when, how, and where brands reach their customers. While there’s still a place for email, mobile messaging is increasingly crucial to engagement, conversion, and retention. 

We polled our customers, dove into the market data, and called on Customer.io subject matter experts to forecast the top three mobile messaging trends brands can expect this year. 

Why mobile messaging matters

Before we dive into the what, let’s talk about the why. After all, there’s little value in chasing the latest trend if there’s no apparent connection to your business goals or audience needs.

Brands need to meet customers where they are, not just with mobile-optimized websites and apps but with an end-to-end journey that leverages every opportunity to contact their audience. You only have a couple of seconds to make an impact, so every communication must be considered in the context of mobile engagement.

With more privacy controls available (and more are on the horizon), you can’t necessarily rely on the same old tools like the IDFA or cross-site tracking. The landscape keeps shifting, and brands must pay attention and shift with it.

One of the most exciting things about mobile messaging is the many avenues new tools and technologies have opened up. Brands can access more data and options to personalize, target, and experiment than ever before.

In the coming months, it’ll be imperative that brands adapt to this changing landscape and leverage advanced tools to stay on top of their messaging goals. 

Trend #1: Brands are experimenting more with in-app messaging

With 85% of consumers preferring native apps to mobile websites, it’s not surprising that we expect brands to anticipate in-app messaging to be a primary focus of their marketing strategies in 2023.  

Data indicates that mobile app usage will only accelerate in 2023. Our audience agreed. When we polled them, most said in-app is the channel they plan to experiment with this year. 

In-app can be a powerful part of a brand’s toolbox. In-app messaging allows for better control of the user experience as typical messaging channels are full of noise: a crowded inbox, a flood of SMS, or push notifications. When someone uses an app, they’re already engaged with your brand. So it’s no wonder conversions tend to be 100-300% higher in apps. 

“In-app messages help you make the most out of your customer’s attention, provide the best user experience for them, and have the greatest impact from every visit they make to your app.” – Shannon Nishi, Director of Customer Success at Customer.io. 

Nishi believes that many brands are already responding to this trend and beginning to leverage their apps to enhance the customer experience. If your company doesn’t have a mobile app or isn’t leveraging it adequately, you could fall behind the curve and miss out on valuable interactions.

Customers increasingly expect personalized in-app experiences

Personalization across the board has become a top priority for customers. Specifically, with in-app messaging, a well-crafted, personalized interaction can mean the difference between churn and retention. 68% of brands we surveyed say they plan to use personalization to amp up the effectiveness of their in-app messages in 2023. 

“Personalization is key to in-app messaging,” Nishi says. “It can actually detract from the customer experience if it isn’t a personalized experience for them.” 

The numbers don’t lie: 60% of consumers say brands without personalized content lose loyalty faster than those who do. Brands are already investing in customized experiences: half say they regularly did so in 2022, and we predict more brands will follow suit. Especially as the projected global revenue for customer experience personalization software in 2023 is set to hit $9 billion.

Mobile messaging trends graphic that says "personalization is in."

So how will brands experiment with in-app personalization in 2023? The ever-growing capabilities of automated messaging platforms offer a host of possibilities. 

  • Onboarding journeys: Optimizing in-app onboarding is a top priority for 72% of the brands we surveyed. 
  • Real-time behavior reactions: Personalizing content is becoming more complex with new privacy protections. At least 28% of tech decision-makers expect changes like Google Chrome blocking third-party cookies as of 2024 to hamper their growth goals.
  • Utilize zero-party data: In-app messages can more easily rely on zero-party data—info customers provide voluntarily—to trigger personalized content based on user actions. 
  • Localization: More readily available APIs are making it easier for brands to incorporate a customer’s location into their in-app messaging strategies, enabling marketers to leverage time zone, geographical locations, language, and much more.
  • Interactive surveys: Brands can personalize the feedback experience by prompting customers with a relevant survey when they take action in the app and help bolster their response rates.
  • Embedded messages: In-app messages are commonly considered as overlays or pop-ups, but we expect brands to take advantage of embedded messages more often in 2023. 

“The most underused aspect of in-app messages is using it to change and personalize the UI. It’s less intrusive and more subtle than typical in-app pop-ups and tours, and it gives non-engineers the power to test in-products. Looking forward to seeing interest here grow with the rise of the no-code movement.” – LJ Ho, Group Product Manager at Customer.io.

Personalized in-app messages are not only highly effective, but they also require fewer developer resources. Another reason they’ll be on the rise in 2023 is the increasing adoption of low-code and no-code tools.  

Trend #2: Brands are adopting more low-code and no-code tools 

As brands focus on in-app messaging this year, they’ll get more bang for their buck with low- and no-code tools. Historically, the need for developer teams to natively integrate messages into mobile apps meant more time and cost for brands to leverage this channel. The surge in low- and no-code development kicked into high gear at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, showing no signs of slowing. Brands now expect to do more with less developer lift. 

“As more user-friendly tools, such as in-app messaging, become available, it’s easier for marketers to own that channel instead of relying on developer resources.” – Molly Murphy, Product Marketing Manager at Customer.io. 

This radically changes the game for many brands. By lowering the barrier to entry, marketers and customer success teams can be empowered to implement in-app messaging strategies rapidly. With the ever-expanding array of low- and no-code tools, expect more brands to flock to these solutions for mobile messaging in 2023. 

Mobile messaging trends graphic.

Trend #3: Brands are shifting to omnichannel marketing that combines email and mobile messages

While brands are focusing on mobile messaging channels, email marketing isn’t going away. Over 60% of emails are opened on mobile devices, and 80% of our audience indicated they would continue or begin to optimize their emails for mobile. But they also plan to include at least one mobile messaging channel.

“Companies realize it’s increasingly important to make sure all the touch points in the customer journey — from the web to email to mobile messaging — talk to each other and reach the customer where they are,” says Murphy. “And the customer is, very often, on their mobile device.”

It’s in brands’ interest now to focus on a holistic omnichannel strategy that leverages messaging across email and other channels in the context of mobile usage. This trend bucks the old mindset of multichannel marketing; instead of reaching the audience with a different strategy based on each channel, omnichannel marketing focuses on the customer journey across various channels. This trend reflects the changing way people now navigate the digital world.

Combining email and in-app will be a key retention strategy for 2023 

Which channels will brands be combining? Of the customers we polled, 32% identified in-app and email as the most promising combo for the coming year. 

Why will in-app and email be a winning combination? They meet customers where they are at the moment. 

“[This combination] creates continuity in the customer journey,” Nishi says. “Email is designed to get you in the door, and then in-app messaging can optimize your experience when you’re there.” 

With email, brands can reach customers where they want to be contacted, usher them into their app with deep linking, then personalize their in-app experience when they’re actively engaged. Boosting retention rates was a primary KPI for 43% of the audience we polled, and for good reasons. It costs nearly seven times more to acquire a new customer than retain an existing one. 

“The more you can get someone to engage with your app, the stickier they become, the less likely they are to churn, and the more ROI you get from the initial acquisition cost,” says LJ.

Acquiring customers is even more difficult in the current market: online and mobile advertising spaces are overcrowded and expensive, and social media platforms are turbulent and unpredictable. That’s why it’s so essential for brands to bring customers into their apps – where they can keep them captivated. 

“It’s important for brands to determine the specific indicators of what an active user looks like for their user base – then introduce those actions early on in the onboarding sequences and use them through the entire lifecycle,” says Nishi.

We believe that brands will use email and in-app strategies to boost retention in three powerful ways:

  • Onboarding: A personalized in-app onboarding experience is a powerful tool for retention, but once a customer closes the app, brands must help them continue that journey. By personalizing emails based on a user’s in-app actions, brands can keep the onboarding process going.
  • Increasing active users: The number of daily or monthly active users is a stronger predictor of long-term ROI than the trailing metric of retention or renewal. Email can nudge customers to open the app more often, and in-app messages can reinforce behaviors.
  • Re-engagement: In-app messages leave brands without a way to engage customers who have stopped using their app. Leveraging the inbox allows brands to continue nurturing inactive customers over months. 
Mobile messaging trends graphic.

Brands will combine push and email to create highly personalized experiences

According to our polling, brands see the combination of email and push as the second-most appealing omnichannel strategy to pursue in 2023. We expect to see brands using the unique characteristics of these channels in tandem to create personalized mobile messaging experiences.

Email is a persistent medium — customers can rely on being able to read and find messages at any time, but they don’t see it as an active feed of information. Push notifications produce an entirely different experience: they create real-time immediacy, yet they’re also ephemeral, appearing on the screen only to vanish in a few moments. 

Customers have made it clear that mobile-optimized emails and personalized push notifications are fundamental to success when combining these channels. 70% of customers immediately delete emails that don’t display correctly on mobile phones. And personalized push notifications improve reaction rates by 400%

By combining these platforms, you’ll reap the benefits where each falls short. Now is the time to experiment with push and email.

“If people are receiving your emails and push notifications, they’ve already decided to engage with you,” says Nishi. “And because the same deliverability rules don’t apply to push as to email, you have more flexibility to send different kinds of messages in each channel.”

To create a personalized end-to-end journey, messages in both channels should reflect and reinforce each other; for example, sending an email with an offer, then following up with a push notification reminding the customer when the offer is about to expire. 

Brands won’t be leaving SMS behind this year

SMS may not be the hottest topic in mobile messaging for 2023, but it’s still a crucial channel for brands to connect with their customers. Consumers are embracing SMS over traditional channels of communication more than ever. In fact, in 2022, about 70% of consumers opted to receive business texts. On average, consumers check their text messages more than any other app on their phones (including social media). 

The number of text messages brands send in 2023 is projected to rise by 52%. With brands also branching out into other mobile marketing channels next year, the most significant risk brands face is inundating customers with too many messages. Although customers interact differently with push and SMS, they can appear nearly identical on their phones. With this in mind, we expect brands using SMS to consider this when crafting their omnichannel messaging flows.

Mobile messaging in 2023 calls for data and a more nuanced strategy

When branching into new mobile messaging channels, three considerations will be top of mind:

  • Data: Because mobile is such an intimate experience, customers are used to hyper-personalized messages, which can be vital in getting personalization right in mobile messages. 
  • Holistic strategy: Mobile messaging should be part of a big-picture strategy rooted in the customer’s journey. Brands will need to focus not just on the end outcome but on each milestone along the way—to connect with each customer at the exact right moment, in the right channel, to move them into deeper engagement.

As we enter an uncertain market, brands must ensure that every message they send, regardless of channel, has an impact. So, make yours count.

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