Push notifications are by far the most powerful tool at a mobile marketer’s disposal. What other marketing technology grants you direct access to the end user by way of their smartphone homescreen?
Because of this, push notifications can either be your best friend or worst enemy. When done right, they’re incredibly effective at boosting app user engagement and retention. But when done wrong, they are a surefire way to app abandonment and churn.
Lucky for mobile marketers, push notifications have made significant progress in the past few years thanks to more sophisticated segmentation methods like location-based targeting and dynamic messaging. However, 21% of users still abandon an app after one use and 58% of people feel annoyed receiving remarketing pushes from brands based on their in-app behavior.
How do you fix this and harness the immense power push notifications have to offer? The key to bridging the gap starts at your campaign-level data and best practices to guide you in your decision making. Let’s get started with a quick review of how push has grown in effectiveness in the past year or so.
When it comes to push notifications, engagement is measured as the average number of sessions push recipients completed within the first week of receiving the message.
Engagement has seen a 30% lift since January 2017:
It’s clear that marketers are learning more effective ways to engage their mobile users with push notifications in addition to audience segmentation. The use of more advanced methods such as location-based messaging and dynamic content are definitely a big step in the right direction. This level of growth is what marketers could see. However, there are still some areas that could be improved.
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According to our data, about 53% of users have enabled push on their devices. This group accounts for about 57% more app launches than users who disable push.
Despite this, the overall push opt-in rate has barely increased by one percentage point. One reason for this lack of progress is likely due to many brands still requesting push permissions too early in the process. We’ve said for a long time that it is essential that marketers build trust before asking for permission to activate push notifications. Brands must first convince the end user that interacting with apps will add value to their lives. This starts with creating a great impression on first launch.
In the past, we found that the sweet spot to offer the opt-in is somewhere between four and six sessions.
Following the upward trend in app engagement is a linear increase in the percent of personalized (aka segmented) messages sent vs. broadcast (aka blast) messages sent.
In 2018, 85% of push notifications sent were segmented for personalization. This is an all time high, and up a full 20% from just two years prior in 2016. Meanwhile, the percentage of broadcast push notifications being sent has come crashing down to a mere 15%. This tells us mobile marketers understand that their key to success lies in tailoring the messaging to the end user, rather than ineffectively blasting campaigns to their entire user base.
Moving beyond broadcast messaging and crafting a successful personalized push campaign comes from the addition of user attributes, dynamic content, and location-based targeting offers a more layered approach.
Upon download and registration, the app asks users to choose brands they like to shop at, then send targeted push notifications with users’ preferences in mind.
Both segmented campaigns and dynamic messaging are powerful tools when used independently, but when combined produce better results:
Examining the open rate for the different content and campaign types reveals a heavy preference for segmented and dynamic messaging.
The open rate is noticeably higher for segmented campaigns that send dynamic messages. Even broadcast campaigns perform above the average if the content is dynamic. All types beat the average we see for push (meaning average opens across all of the apps that Localytics works with) with the exception of broadcast campaigns that do not target their content.
According to a recent Localytics survey, location tracking was voted as the most valuable type of trigger for push notifications after stated preferences.
If apps really want to create a unique experience, then tracking users’ physical location (with permission and secure data transfer of course) is a strategy that pays off. Check out this timely and highly relevant geo push from JetBlue, which was sent to me on my way to Logan Airport for my flight to Florida.
JetBlue has made a great branding decision by reminding passengers of the comfort that awaits them when they board their flight.
Let’s return to our essential metrics to understand how enticing location-based messaging truly is. We found that these messages were opened nearly twice as much and converted nearly three times as frequently as regular pushes on a weekly basis.
Geo-pushes are often sent immediately or very soon after someone enters a location. Any communication that reaches a user with little delay is going to incite a sense of urgency. Whether that means opening the notification or viewing a product, it will likely happen at a rate similar to how it was received, offering the user a reward for his or her quick reaction.
There is no perfect time to send a push notification during the day, but users are often more actively engaged on mobile for certain periods.
However, it’s much more effective to understand the individual factors contributing to how the end-user receives your notification. Knowing which time zone your user occupies is an essential factor in avoiding awkward timing, as is understanding when your user base is most likely to be using the app. In addition, if the message content is relevant to a specific time of day or an action taken within the app, then it makes sense to schedule the push accordingly.
Just as important as timing is frequency. Sending too many push notifications in a short span of time can easily prove disastrous to the users’ in-app experience. Keep in mind that the amount of push notifications a user deems acceptable to receive varies based on industry, but below is a general guideline to follow:
Considering that consumers are already quite sensitive to how pushes are timed, it makes sense that they would prefer a specific type of content. We find that the optimal push notification length is as short as possible, between one and ten words total:
The shortest pushes receive the highest open rates: an average of 6.9%. Even a difference of a few words can more than halve open rates as pushes with 11-20 words are opened 3.1% of the time. Finally, pushes that contain the most words (21+) are opened only 2.7% of the time.
Wording is key. You need to get your point across efficiently and effectively - by creating a sense of urgency. Actionable language is crucial to drawing your users to complete a conversion. For retailers, include words that draw users to convert like “add to cart” or “checkout” as well as words that imply exclusivity such as “special,” “sale,” or “deal”.
There is no such thing as the “perfect” push strategy. App marketing is a balance between satisfaction and action, but it is much more engaging to add emotional appeal to the equation. Tapping into deep user insights for your mobile marketing strategy helps you create valuable, long lasting relationships with your users that increases their lifetime value to your company.
While the above data is a roadmap to achieving this, it’s up to you to experiment and find the perfect push recipe for your audience.