With 42% of mobile users choosing to keep push notifications enabled on their device, these alerts are an essential part of every app marketers’ overall strategy. In our guide to Push notifications, we will explore how you can drive growth and increase engagement by up to 88%. However, this will only work if you learn how they will benefit your users. In this push notification guide, we define the purpose of these notifications and share best practices for optimal results.
What are push notifications?
Push notifications are messages that are sent directly to a user’s device, appearing on lock screens and added to the notification alerts on a mobile device. App publishers can send push notifications if the user has the relevant app installed and push notifications enabled on their device. This marketing technique has the advantage of sending messages without requiring any contact information for that user. However, app publishers must ask the user’s permission for their push notifications to be sent — and abide by the best practices we lay out in this guide to push notifications so as not push their luck.
Each operating system has a unique push notification service, combined with push notifications becoming more sophisticated over time. It is now possible to play personalized tones, send short messages and include a numbered badge over the app’s icon. Users can also complete certain actions without opening the app. This type of notification keeps users engaged and can re-engage users who have an app installed but have been inactive for some time. This is also a great way to increase in-app conversion rates and LTV.
Push notification marketing: Increasing engagement and growth
Speaking at mobile marketing conference Mobile Spree, Andy Carvell, Founder and Partner at Phiture outlined ways in which app developers can use push notifications to increase engagement and drive growth. When optimizing for impact, Andy suggests prioritizing for reach. “This will give you the maximum potential. If you pick a notification that is relevant to your whole audience, you can always improve relevance by testing copy, emojis, and so on. It’s harder to increase reach when a notification is only targeted at users who use a certain feature.” For Andy’s full insights, watch the video below.
What’s the difference between push notifications and in-app messages?
It’s important to distinguish the difference between push notifications and your ability to send messages in-app. As their name suggests, in-app messages require the user to have your app open in order for that message to be received. This is not the case with push notifications, which can be sent to a user’s device as long as the app is installed and the user has opted-in for this type of message.
Push notification optimization: 11 best practices
1. Avoid default permissions requests
No matter how perfect your creative is, your push notifications are worthless if users have not enabled you to send them. However, 65% of users return to an app within 30 days when push notifications are enabled, so persuading users to opt-in is critical.
Rather than sending a default permissions request to new users, it’s better to build a relationship with the user first. They need to trust your product and know that you won’t take advantage of having access to push notifications. To avoid users from choosing to keep push notifications disabled, you also need to ask permission with optimal timing. This will depend on the app vertical. For example, ecommerce apps may want to ask permission after a purchase event. This provides an opportunity for you to show why push notifications are valuable. In this scenario, the value would be alerts on the shipment of that product.
It’s important to note that opt-in messages are not customizable on iOS, but you can create your own splash screen. You should use this as an opportunity to share your most persuasive creative, sharing why users need to opt-in. There are tools available that can help you with this process, such as Leanplum’s Push Pre-Permissions.
2. Provide your users with actionable alerts
It is critical to understand why you are sending a particular push notification. If you cannot identify the value a push notification has to a user, this will not have a positive result for engagement, retention rates or the user experience. When sending a push notification, ensure that the alert tells the user exactly what action needs to be performed by them. Your CTA (call to action) must be effective in delivering this actionable advice.
When creating your CTA, remember that this is an invitation to perform a particular action or an update on something the user wants to follow. If you have a travel app, these notifications will include prompts to complete a boarding pass or an alert that informs the user of flight delays. With these examples, it is clear how this is useful to the user and how they should react.
3. Personalize your push notifications
It isn’t enough to know that your push notifications are valuable – you also need to identify how they add value to each user. Personalized push notifications ensure that you are targeting the right users at the right time with the optimal creative.
Personalized push notifications includes creative, frequency, delivery times, location and content type. This means you have to segment your audience into user groups. You should also address your user by name whenever possible and include other details relevant to your CTA. For example, you could include the flight number and time if you are reporting a delay, or include order numbers when updating a user on their upcoming delivery.
You also need to personalize push notifications depending on the user lifecycle. This means identifying when users are most likely to need a push notification in order to complete a desired action. If your primary goal is to keep users engaged for longer and boost LTV, it’s essential to personalize push notifications and successfully engage users at the right moments in their user lifecycle.
4. Test CTA and call to value messages
While a CTA informs users of how to perform a particular action, a call to value is designed to show users what they can gain. For example, your CTA could be “Check in now” for a travel app or “add to watchlist” for an entertainment app, while a call to value could be “Get your summer look with 20% off all products.” It’s important to test which type of creative works best for your audience and each audience group. Your results may also vary depending on the purpose of your push notifications: a call to value isn’t going to be helpful when alerting a user that their flight is late.
5. Use push notifications sparingly
During Andy Carvell’s Mobile Spree talk, he also warned marketers that push notifications must be used sparingly: “You need something useful to say when using a push notification. It’s like going up to somebody and tapping them on the shoulder. If you are going to do that, you need something important, interesting and relevant to say, otherwise they’re going to get annoyed. In the case of push notifications, that can be turning push notifications off or uninstalling the app.”
6. Utilize limited-time offers
You can encourage users to complete your CTA by offering limited-time offers. This type of offer has a clear value to the user and it is apparent as to why you are sending the push notification – giving the user a chance to benefit before it’s too late. Leveraging limited-time offers requires you to define what you have to offer that would be appealing to users and testing creative that gives you the best results. For example, a mobile game might offer in-game currency for a limited time in order to keep users engaged.
7. Location-based push notifications
A user’s geolocation can be used to trigger push notifications and drive conversions. For example, these alerts can be used to direct a user to a nearby store. While this can be an effective marketing method, there are also pitfalls to avoid. It’s critical that you enhance your message with deep links and adjust your offering in accordance with local conditions.
8. Alert users of app updates
You can also use push notifications to alert users of app updates. This is useful to any user that doesn’t have automatic updates enabled, ensuring that they can still gain the best user experience possible from your product. When alerting users of a recent update, remember to detail the advantages and improvements they will miss out on without updating.
9. Use notifications to help users focused on their goals
Fitness and wellness apps can use push notifications to remind users of their targets. This can be a win-win scenario: users can set a routine without having to manually set alarms for various actions and you benefit from increased retention and app usage. This type of push notification can also be useful for fintech apps looking to help users with business management.
10. User power words in your creative
Notifications on a user’s lock screen requires your creative to be clear and concise. This can feel limiting, but you also have opportunities to enhance creative with images and other rich media. You will also want to research and include power words in your creative. To get started, CleverTap has a list of over 250 words and phrases proven to convert.
11. Measure your results
Just like with every other aspect of your marketing strategy, your push notification campaigns should be measured and optimized over time. You can set KPIs that link back to your company goals, such as LTV, engagements and ROAS. Your campaign measurement can then be analyzed to find ways your mobile push notification strategy can be optimized. You can also request user feedback to find out how well your notifications are received.
App marketers can track push notifications with Adjust by integrating our SDK and creating unique tracker URLs. This enables you to track and monitor the metrics of your push notification campaigns within a single dashboard.
Push notifications are still a successful marketing method, increasing app retention by 3-10 times. According to conversion rate optimization experts Invespcro, push notifications triggered by user data can result in in-app purchases by 48% of that audience. By using the best practices in this push notification guide and successfully testing what works for your audience, push notifications can be a powerful tool for reaching your most ambitious targets. This marketing method will also become more sophisticated over time. That means more opportunities to personalize and richer content for better results.