The Complete Guide To In-App Nudges 2024: Building Seamless User Experiences

Kanishka Thakur
March 4, 2024
10 mins


You’ve seen them everywhere: those subtle in-app nudges guiding you to take action. Whether it’s a friendly reminder to complete your profile or a text in a bubble that tells you what a particular feature does, nudges play a powerful role in mobile apps. But what exactly are they and how do they shape your user experience? This complete guide breaks down everything you need to know about crafting seamless in-app nudges in 2024. You’ll learn what they are, how they should be used, explore the latest behavioral data and stats, and walk away ready to build in-app nudges that drive results. 

With users spending ~90% of mobile time on apps, the experience you deliver is more important than ever. Alright, let’s dive into it. 

What Are In-App Nudges?

In-app nudges are subtle prompts within an app designed according to user behavior and contextual action. They aim to guide users in the right direction at the optimal moment. In-app nudges can take the form in-app messages, tooltips, spotlight, or other visual elements that appear at strategic times during the user journey. 

They might encourage users to try a new feature, remind them to complete a task, provide helpful information, or simply direct attention to something that benefits the user. When designed thoughtfully, nudges can drive engagement, increase conversions, boost retention, and create seamless user experiences.

Why Are In-App Nudges Important?

Smart behavioral nudges are important to retain users. The most effective nudges are context-aware and thus help prevent churn and even convert some users to power users. They feel natural and supportive to users rather than overtly manipulative or disruptive to their intended workflows and experiences. 

Here's why they matter:

  • Increase engagement and retention. Well-designed nudges reduce friction and guide users to take desired actions, like making a purchase. This boosts engagement metrics and retains more users over time.
  • Increase feature adoption. Contextual nudges help bring focus to a feature when it becomes relevant for the first time and this leads to greater feature adoption. 
  • Drive conversions and sales. Nudging users at the right moment increases conversions. For ecommerce apps, you can use Nudge to show a nudge when someone leaves their cart to recover abandoned carts.
  • Improve onboarding. Welcome nudges introduce new features or guide new users through initial onboarding. This accelerates time-to-value.
  • Reactivate users. Bring back lapsed users with nudges highlighting new app features. This helps win back disengaged users.
  • Enhance personalization. Advanced nudges like predictive engagement increase relevance. The more tailored to the user, the better the experience.
  • Boost satisfaction. Users appreciate apps that proactively assist them. Well-executed nudges make apps more intuitive and user-friendly.

The bottom line? In-app nudges enhance UX by providing helpful guidance. Users feel assisted without their autonomy being hijacked.

A good example of a nudge uses a mix of the following = Data-driven insights + Context + Non-intrusive UI

In-App Nudges vs In-App Messages

In-app nudges and in-app messages may seem similar, but they serve different purposes. In-app nudges are subtle visual cues that guide users to take a specific action. They appear briefly and are placed contextually. In-app messages are more direct forms of communication. They convey information, announcements, or help cross-sell. 

For example, an in-app nudge may be a red dot on a notification icon, nudging you to check for new notifications. An in-app message might explain details about new notification settings or features.

In-App Nudges vs Push Notifications

In-app nudges and push notifications both aim to re-engage users and prompt desired actions.

While in-app nudges are displayed only when the user has the app open, push notifications often feel more intrusive as they interrupt whatever the user is doing on their device. 

In-app nudges integrate seamlessly into the user journey, often disappearing into the background while improving the experience. This leads to higher response rates from nudges. They also allow for more contextual personalization based on where the user currently is in the app. 

Different Types Of In-App Nudges

In-app nudges come in different forms, each designed to influence user behavior in a specific way. Here are some of the most common types of in-app nudges:

1) Walkthroughs

In-app walkthroughs are a series of personalized tooltips that help guide users through your product to take them from one action to the other. With step-by-step instructions, you can easily decrease the time-to-value. It uses the art of persuasion that leaves users feeling empowered rather than overwhelmed.

Google Pay uses walkthroughs to point users in the direction of where core app features lie. 

2) Spotlight

A spotlight is used to introduce or highlight a feature within the app that you want the user to pay attention to. By highlighting the benefits and functionalities of these features, spotlights make it impossible for your users to miss out on them. 

They help in improving adoption of features to drive conversions and purchases. 

BluSmart uses spotlight to highlight its new features and drive feature discoverability. 

3) Onboarding tour

Interactive onboarding tours are used to create a smooth onboarding experience for new users and help them get acquainted with the app. They are friendly and concise, and help users get comfortable with the breadth of options available. 

Headspace uses onboarding tours to guide users through the app and what it entails, thus reducing time-to-value. 

4) Coachmarks

Coachmarks are positional nudges that make features stand out and bring users’ attention to them, hence fostering their usage and activation. They’re also used to encourage users to engage and convert depending on the context. 

Netflix uses coachmarks to make their download button stand out to increase adoption. 

5) Checklists

Checklists are used to break down complex steps to get started into simple chunks so that users can focus on one task at a time without having to remember what comes next. 

The average app loses 77% of its daily active users (DAUs) within the first 3 days after install. 

Checklists thus help foster user activation, and reduce churn. 

Linktree uses checklists to help users create and set up their profile. 

6) In-app messages

In-app messages are used to provide personalized and timely information to the users based on actions (or inactions) to encourage conversion and completed purchases. They can be used to cross-sell, upsell, promote offers, show targeted recommendations, and more. 

Duolingo uses in-app messages to increase their free-to-paid conversions. 

7) Stories 

Stories are immersive and intuitive, easy-to-consume content that are used to highlight specific value prop within your product and keep your users engaged. They help in driving relevant communication and boost user stickiness. 

Spotify uses the famous Spotify Wrapped as stories to engage users and build brand loyalty. 

8) PiP Videos 

Non-intrusive PiP videos help to increase awareness of new features or offers and drive conversion. They’re a good way to encourage action without distraction by offering guidance without taking away from other essential app actions. 

Blinkit uses engaging PiP videos to promote their sales and offers. 

How Can In-App Nudges Help? 

In-app nudges contribute majorly to improve your app's user experience and engagement. Here's a look at some of the key advantages:

  • Enhance onboarding. Welcome and onboarding nudges help orient new users, teaching them key features and driving adoption. This results in higher activation and retention.
  • Drive feature discovery and adoption. Nudges are designed to guide users to take actions you want them to take, like completing their profile, interacting with a feature, referring friends, and more. They are highly targeted to achieve specific goals.
  • Increase conversions and revenue. By driving desired user actions, nudges can boost key conversion funnels and improve metrics like sign-ups, purchases, and retention. This ultimately translates to more revenue.
  • Require low latency. Nudges built using our platform are shown in real-time to users with ~ zero latency, that avoids delays and bottlenecks in the user journey.  
  • Re-engage inactive users. Bring back users who have gone dormant with nudges highlighting new features or encouraging them to take actions they haven’t in a while.
  • Deliver timely, contextual content. Nudges can be triggered by certain user behaviors to deliver dynamic, personalized content when they need it.
  • Less intrusive and more UI friendly. Nudges appear seamlessly within the app experience, as compared to alerts and push notifications that disrupt the user flow.

In summary, in-app nudges are a lightweight yet highly effective way to guide your users, drive activation and adoption, enhance engagement, and ultimately drive core business goals.

Strategies For Effective In-App Nudges

In-app nudges are only effective if implemented thoughtfully. Follow these key strategies:

1) Time nudges appropriately

Don't overwhelm users with too many nudges. Space them out over time and avoid sending multiple nudges about the same thing.

For example, Dropbox sends an initial nudge a few days after signup encouraging users to install the desktop app. Then two weeks later, Dropbox nudges users again to upload their first file. These nudges are spaced far enough apart to not feel pushy but close enough together to guide new users through key onboarding steps.

2) Personalize nudges

Use data like usernames, behaviors, and interests to make nudges relevant. Personalized nudges have higher conversion rates.

Instead of a generic "Sign up now!" you could say something like "John, you've visited our site 5 times this month. Are you ready to start your free trial?"

Personalization also means matching the content and format of a nudge to a user's preferences. If someone typically engages with visual content, try using eye-catching images and graphics in your nudges to them. For users who prefer short text, keep nudges concise and to the point.

3) Test different nudges

A/B test nudges with variations in content, design, timing, and targeting. Iterate based on data and user feedback.

Platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn regularly test different designs for their nudges. Many ecommerce companies test sending cart abandonment nudges at different intervals after a user leaves their cart. 

A streaming music service, for example, may test a “listen now” nudge on both heavy and light listeners to see which group responds better.

4) Make nudges actionable

Clearly tell users what to do next and make it extremely easy to take action with one tap or click.

Tell them exactly what to do with simple action words like "Tap here" or "Click now". For example, Spotify sends nudges like "Tap to play your Discover Weekly playlist". Optimizing your in-app nudges in this way leads to higher click-through and conversion rates, driving more users to take action.

5) Highlight benefits

Explain why taking action will benefit users rather than just stating what to do.

For e.g. when trying to upsell, explicitly say “Get your first month free!” or “Save 10% on your next purchase.’ rather than just saying, “Get a discount”. Tell them exactly what it is, and you will benefit from it. 

6) Allow nudges to be dismissed

Give users the option to hide a nudge if it's not relevant to them. Offer a clear way for them to indicate a nudge isn't relevant or useful to them. This could be an "X" to close the nudge, a "hide" or "dismiss" link, etc. 

Allowing nudges to be dismissed shows respect for users and their time. It gives them more control over the experience and makes the app feel less disruptive. 

7) Test different formats

Try different nudge styles like modals, banners, overlays, and embedded nudges to see what converts best.

With Nudge, you have the option to explore, test, and analyze which of these styles work best for your users and convert the most. 

8) Integrate nudges into the UX

Make nudges feel like a natural part of the app experience rather than disruptive pop-ups. Nudge helps you create nudges that feel super native to your app. These integrated nudges provide a smooth experience by:

  • Blending into existing UI elements
  • Using similar fonts, colors and button styles as the rest of the app
  • Placing nudges in expected locations, like below related content

9) Use simple & motivational language

While nudges should be concise, using emotive and inspiring language helps users feel good about taking the action you want them to complete.

Duolingo motivates learners by saying things like "You're on a roll! Keep up the good work." in their nudges. This positive reinforcement makes users want to continue using the app to keep progressing

UX is about experimenting and seeing what works best to keep the experience helpful rather than pushy. Continuously optimize based on data and feedback.

In-App Nudges by Nudge

Subtle prompts at the perfect moments guide users to desired outcomes and actions. 

Our low-code user experience platform helps you create in-app nudges within your app, or website, in just 15 minutes. You can install our APIs and SDKs to get started and start building experiences without dev effort. You can create nudges that feel native to your app, customize the look and feel of every experience, segment it between user cohorts, and also choose from 100+ templates. 

Well, a nudge is all you need. :)

Kanishka Thakur
March 4, 2024