3 Ways To Optimize Mobile Messaging With Psychology

By: Kahuna | September 29, 2015 | Campaign Strategy
Optimize Mobile Messaging with Psychology

Kahuna Field Notes is a series offering observations, strategies, and practical tips from the Kahuna Customer Success team. Each installment will be authored by a different Customer Success team member, with the goal of providing insights for mobile marketing professionals.

Establishing 1:1 communication with your users via mobile messaging opens up a strategic channel that is rife with opportunity for nurturing relationships to the point of conversion and/or high levels of engagement. Yet, you must not abuse this privilege because mobile users are becoming increasingly savvy and expect to be delighted by the messages they receive. Crafting great messaging on mobile often requires looking to other industries for inspiration.

As a Customer Success Manager and Mobile Strategist here at Kahuna, I often draw upon learnings from cognitive psychology to guide my clients towards interesting and effective approaches for content creation.

Here are a few tips, driven by research in social science and psychology:

1. “The more choices we have, the less likely we are to make a decision at all.

— Liraz Margalit, Ph.D

Do not overwhelm users with a litany of content or information. This especially applies to push notification and in-app messaging but is also true for email. You want the user to feel like they have agency over the choice of action even though your deliberate segmentation and mobile messaging tone are meant to guide them to a specific action.

Customer Example:

One of my customers, a large media corporation, was curious to know whether its users preferred general message copy that hinted at new content or a list of specific titles of content to consume. The customer ran campaigns across all segments and levels of engagement, and users responded more positively to the general message copy that gave them just enough of a nudge in the right direction to consume content. This dispelled their previously-held conceptions about a successful message, and informed the direction of their future marketing campaigns.

2. “First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future: THE HABIT LOOP”

Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

New user onboarding push and email strategies are crucial to retention because they enable the customer to establish a habit of use with your app. It’s essential that you pull out all the stops at the outset of the customer lifecycle to ensure conscious adoption.

Push notifications and email are vehicles intended to inspire a routine of habitual use of your app. Identify your app’s key virtuous actions: the actions a user can take that will extend their long term value with your app tenfold. This may be signing up to receive special alerts, making their first purchase, or searching for their first vacation.

Ensure that you are messaging users based on both their level of engagement with your app and their completion (or lack thereof) of key, LTV-extending actions to guide them toward a more enriching experience with your app.

Customer Example:

Another media company I work with wanted to set up a welcome series to incentivize users to complete key virtuous actions. They saw goal uplift of up to 250% on completing these goals within the first week of usage, and their focus on new user onboarding resulted in a 10% uplift in 30 day retention.

3. “Three elements must converge at the same moment for a behavior to occur: Motivation, Ability, and Trigger. When a behavior does not occur, at least one of those three elements is missing.”

— Dr. BJ Fogg, Stanford University

As app users grow more sophisticated, they grow to expect a seamless app engagement experience. If there isn’t a reward (motivation), easy access to achievement (ability), or an impetus for them to engage with your app (trigger), the reality is that they won’t likely return on their own volition. Therefore, make it easy for them!

Utilizing deep linking guarantees that users don’t have to overcome the hurdle of finding the content you want them to. Direct them to the intended landing page for their specific engagement level and/or conversion state to ensure that they complete the desired action.

Customer Example:

A large car service company wanted to use push messaging to increase first ride bookings for new users. Initially, they weren’t seeing the results they wanted from their conversion campaigns, with minimal bookings being generated. They cloned the campaign and added in a deep link to drive the users directly to the booking page. This resulted in a 497% uplift in bookings against the previous campaign.


While mobile marketing is rapidly developing as a mode of communication, it is still in its infancy in the field of marketing overall. Yet, the one thing that is abundantly clear is that mobile app users demand a seamless and personalized user experience.

Since mobile is such a personal channel of communication, it is essential to leverage human psychology to more effectively communicate. Treating your app users as individuals and leveraging proven human behavioral patterns will bolster and bulletproof your mobile messaging strategy.

As a Customer Success Manager at Kahuna, Mona Hadidi has the opportunity to work with some of the world’s most innovative mobile companies to maximize the value of each of their individual users by crafting marketing automation strategies that delight audiences. Mona is driven by her passion for people and technology: she began her career in SaaS sales at Wildfire (acquired by Google), and transitioned into a relationship management role at Rauxa. You can find Mona in San Francisco enjoying her two favorite pastimes of live music and fitness.


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