Essential Tips On How to Use Push Notifications for Mobile Applications

May 7, 2014

With the changing business model for mobile app development due to the vast majority of app revenue coming from in-app purchases rather than paid downloads (get report), it’s getting more critical to keep users engaged with your apps.

Push notifications are a powerful strategic tool that helps to drive retention. Being able to display messages, play sound or update an app badge, push notification allows for building a direct communication channel, delivering important messages directly to the user’s device.

The market numbers about push notifications will leave you no doubts about their efficiency:

  • 93% higher retention rate for users receiving push messaging in the first month after download;
  • Long-term retention is on average 92% higher each month for users opted in to push notifications;
  • Opt-in audiences are much more engaged: average monthly app opens per user are 26% higher than opt-out users;
  • Results were even greater for many of the six industry verticals (Retail, Entertainment, Media, Gambling, Sports, Games) with significant differences in engagement and retention, which highlights next-level opportunities.

Rules for Effective Push Notifications Strategy

There’s a rule used in logistics, which is great to keep in mind whatever you deliver to your users. Speaking about Push Notifications, let’s state the following: deliver the right information to the right audience at the right time, in the right place and in just the right amount (frequency).

The right audience

You can let users define what type of notifications they care about in their apps and/or automatically determine this, and so send targeted messages to different segments.

The right time

The number one concern about timing is being sure to choose properly the moment when you prompt a user to turn on push notifications.

On iOS, users have to be prompted to turn on push notifications and if the user presses “Don’t Allow”, the app cannot prompt them again. Basically you have only one attempt to build this connection with the user, so don’t waste it! Of course, the user can later manually turn on the notifications in the Settings, but who really does that?

Most apps make the mistake of prompting the user right at the beginning of the first session. To say “Yes”, a user first needs to decide if they really like the app, if it and its content would be of any use. You need to find a balance between early introduction and the moment a user sees the value of your application.

Another important time to consider is when you actually deliver notifications to the user’s device. Keep in mind that you have international users and they won’t be happy to get notifications in the middle of the night.

The right information

Users will appreciate the valuable information you deliver to them. Apart from the segmentation by interests and preferences, Pushes can be actions or results oriented, such as reminders before meetings or details about upcoming trips.

Pay attention to the App Store policy

Apple does not welcome purchase reminders as well as app cross-promotions in your notifications.

The right place

Send location aware notifications, e.g. a deal when a user enters a cafe or an announcement from a nearby store.

The right amount

Don’t abuse this communication channel trying to send as many push notifications as possible. Excessive notifications become ineffective, as users stop paying attention to them. Developers that send fewer notifications see higher open rates. Conversely, the easiest way to get rid of the annoying messages may be deleting an app, which is the worst possible case, rather than turning off notifications.

Push Notifications’ Influence on User Retention

Urban Airship, one of the leading providers of push notification/ messaging services for mobile app developers, released an updated Good Push Index study, analyzing 2400 apps and 500 million pushes over a six-month period.

The results are impressive: push messaging can more than double user retention and it dramatically improves app engagement.

Here are some inspirational results achieved by brands in different industries:

  • Compared to Airbnb’s emails, hosts opted in to push messaging respond three times faster to rental inquiries. When both host and renter are opted in, rentals are booked eight times faster.

  • Rue La La increased click-through rates tenfold and boosted the number of app user sessions by 25% simply by finessing push messaging copy for a stronger brand tone of voice.

  • Redbox’s very first push notification generated 16 times more traffic on its site than its busiest day of the year.

  • Fifty percent of Betfair customer acquisitions come through mobile and 38% of customers opening pushes place bets immediately.

  • The London Olympics achieved a 60% click-through rate for its 10 million location-targeted push messages—10 times higher than its email.

What we see now, is that push is growing faster than any other messaging channel. Its role for mobile applications in customer communications is the same as email has for the web services. That is why push notification require a serious approach in order to serve people with relevant and timely information, build trust and deliver something users value enough to pay for.