Essential Ingredients for Push Perfection


Not sure what app users are hungry for? When it comes to push notifications, there are certain ingredients that are proven to please. These five data-backed practices will ensure you deliver a great push message every time.

 

1. TIMING

When it comes to effective push notifications, timing really is everything. While you may think that it's common sense not to send messages to users too late at night or early in the morning (even for breaking news - although there are always exceptions to every rule!), I'm sure almost all of us can recall receiving a notification at an off putting time. Ill-timed messages are not only really annoying, but can also be severely detrimental to your app, as they're one of the key reasons users churn.

So, what are the elements of perfect push timing?

Time of Day

While our data suggests that there is a slight uptick in click rates for push notifications sent in the late morning and early afternoon (10am-1pm), the reality is that it's less about benchmarks, and more about aligning your push timing closely with the end user. An effective push notification takes the below timing factors into account:

  • Time Zone: Knowing which time zone your user resides (or is currently) in is crucial to ensure you don't interrupt them with news about your shoe sale at 3am and risk them churning. Segment based on time zone, or risk app death by annoyance.
  • App User Preferences: Does your user tend to visit your app at a certain time of day? If so, take advantage of this data and let it guide your timing. For example, if you're a fitness app, test sending a push notification in the evening to morning users to set them up for success for their morning workout.
  • Content of Push: Great push notifications are highly relevant and should tie into a specific time of day or a triggered event. For example, if a user takes a specific action within your app, sending them a transactional push notification with relevant information or next steps soon after just makes sense.

While the above best practices should guide the majority of your push notifications, there will be times when you can't tie your push notification to a specific time of day (for example, app announcements, transactional notifications, etc.) That's where A/B testing come into play. Send the same push notification to your segmented group of users during different times in the day to see if a certain time is more effective than another.

Real Life Push Notification Example: Redbox sent the below push to users at 2:36pm on a Monday afternoon. Perfect opportunity to get them out of a midday slump: 

Frequency

Another extremely important element of timing? Frequency. Knowing how often to communicate with users via push can make or break your relationship with them. And while there is research behind appropriate cadence, it varies greatly by industry.

For example, a social media app could send push notifications several times a day based on social interactions, but if a retail app did the same they would come off as spammy. 

Keeping the above in mind, below are some stats in regards to frequency best practices for push notifications:

Events

Last but not least, take advantage of holidays or relevant happenings with your push notifications. This can be an extremely effective tactic as it provides a sense of personalization to your messaging which users respond to. Even better if you can tie into regional or local events, such as Marathon Monday in Boston or SXSW.


2. SAY IT RIGHT

Having solid copy-text can determine whether or not your push strategy is successful. You have a minuscule window of time to grab the user's attention, so use your words wisely and get to the point. Lead with what's in it for users right up front and entice them to click-through with actionable language. Below are things to consider when formulating the copy for your push notifications: 

 

Length

The phrase "short and sweet" could have been inspired by push messages (if, of course, mobile apps were around in the 1500's).

Depending on the actual smartphone your push is received on, the amount of words that appear on the lock screen varies. Certain smartphones have smaller screens, which results in fewer words appearing on the lock screen. Because of this, it's not terribly surprising that shorter messages are generally more effective since the entire message will appear on the screen.

What is surprising is the change in click rate by a margin of just one word. Notifications with 10 words or fewer see almost double the click rate than those that jump to 11-20. Those with over 21 words have a paltry 3.2% click rate on average - so it's clear that the "10 Items or Fewer" rule reigns supreme for pushes.

 

Urgency

If you want users to stop what they're doing to connect with you, you have to not only make it worth their while, but create a sense of urgency. How? By using clear, actionable language. For example, if I'm a mCommerce app promoting a one-day sale for app users, here are two ways to present the push notification:

"Enjoy 20% off all items when purchasing via our app today."

OR

"Psst! You're invited to our exclusive 20% off sale. Today only."

Both present the offer, but which does a better job at enticing you to click-through? If you don't say the second example, something's gone terribly wrong here.

What does this mean for your perfect pushes? Keep your messages clear, concise, and compact. You want to quickly make clear the purpose of the push notification. With few seconds to catch a user's attention (or sitting as just one in a list of notifications upon check their phone), your message needs to identify the value, goal, or reward behind the notification to prompt an open. Be upfront with the ask, but make it primarily about what benefit the user will gain from clicking through.


3. WORD UP

In addition to keeping copy short and actionable, it's extremely important to choose your words wisely. Think of push notifications like email copy - how do you get someone to click-through? What kind of language is most enticing to your end user?

By using words that convey the most value for the click. Essentially, how do you best communicate that the user will get something out of the app open?

While this differs by vertical (if you're a retail app your language is going to be substantially different than that of a travel app), but there are themes on the most commonly used and clicked on words:


4. DON'T FORGET THE ICING

After spending time crafting the perfect push notification, it would be a shame just to let it fall flat. That's why it's essential not to overlook the power of punctuation and emojis to your push messaging strategy. Both can be highly effective in grabbing user's attention and keeping it.

 

Tell it like it is

Another aspect of being upfront and concise with your push notification? Don't ask; tell.

The push notifications we studied contained a combination of statements and questions. The messages that delivered a statement performed twice as well as those that asked a question. Asking a question and then answering it may seem smart in practice, but remember that you are working with limited real estate on the lock screen, and most users are looking for more definitive content. 

This is further evidence of what we've discovered: you should be straightforward with your language, and avoid wasting space with questions. Instead, ask this one of yourself: why should the user open this message? The answer is what you need to highlight in your campaigns.

 

The Emoji Effect

Researchers have found that emojis are a powerful tool for humanizing mobil messaging, which can often feel impersonal and expressionless. Ever misinterpreted a friend's text message or a colleague's email? Then you know the feeling.

Emojis help humanize otherwise bland and seemingly cold digital messaging. And since we know that most consumers operate on emotion over reason (think generic vs. name brand), including an emoji can provide that personal elements needed to get the user to swipe-through.