Creating impactful push notifications
Berlin’s Mobile Spree 2017 featured a combined 25 speakers, panel discussions, and workshops; today we’re taking a look back at one of our favorite talks with Phiture’s Founder and Partner, Andy Carvell. Phiture provides mobile growth consultancy in Berlin, helping companies build a holistic strategy for growth with marketing automation, ASO, and insights. Andy’s talk also incorporated learnings from his time working on growth with the retention team at SoundCloud.
Andy focused on the creation of impactful push notifications, answering questions like ‘how do you focus on the kinds of messages that are likely to have the greatest impact?’ His talk came with a simple but memorable takeaway: better have something interesting to say. Watch the entire talk now, or read below for a summary of Andy’s key points.
The architecture of push notifications
Push - as Andy explained to the crowd - works. Push notifications definitely do drive more engagement, more retention, visit frequency and can also help reduce churn and reactivate users. It’s a great tool for re-engagement and bringing dormant users back into your app - but that’s if, and only if you have a worthwhile message to share. Pushes are invasive - and the ones that don’t connect with your user will lead to them disabling or even uninstalling your app.
That’s why it makes sense to build the architecture that powers your notifications. Andy’s slide explains in detail what this looks like. Which internal signals from other systems are most important to the user? Is it new content that’s been released? New friends joining the platform? An event about to happen? Andy calls these signals the message bus. The message bus feeds into the activity notification service, which matches particular events to qualifying users and the appropriate channels, taking into account a user’s notification preferences, behavior history, predictive analytics and other factors before moving on to the delivery layer. From there, messages are sent - to emails, as pushes, and to clients’ notification feeds.
Ultimately, it’s about matching things that are happening to users who might want to know about them.
Founder and Partner,
Your impact = reach x relevance x frequency
Andy defined impact for the purposes of his talk as whatever engagement metric you’re trying to drive. It’s influenced by three things - the reach of the message, the relevance of the notification, and the frequency with which you send that notification: combined, they determine how impactful your messages will be.
How can you increase the relevancy of a push message? Relevancy, Andy explained, is all about personalization. People ultimately like to hear about stuff that directly affects them. This can mean a lot of different things - it could take the form of recommended content based on your expressed tastes, usage history, or user info from your profile (your location and language, for example). You could try looking at implicit or explicit signals about what they’re interested in. Even small steps, like including their username, can help increase relevance.
In terms of reach, Andy categorizes push notifications into a 2x2 matric: by reach (low or high) and frequency (low or high). But when thinking about frequency or relevancy, the key is to consider them together. A direct message only goes to one person, but its relevance is quite high. Similarly, WhatsApp push notifications have a very high relevance (as well as frequency) so they don’t need to have high reach in order to be impactful. Andy conceptualized this for the audience using a 2x2 matrix and a set of space-themed examples to help explain the difference between the ‘stars’ (which have a very high frequency, as well as a high reach, but can be annoying if the relevance level is too low) and ‘full moons’, ‘eclipses’ and the ‘Northern Lights’.
Tips for optimizing impact
Maintain a portfolio of different notification types
If you’re prioritizing anything, prioritize for reach.
CTR (proxy for relevance) can be improved by careful design, personalization, and A/B testing of copy, emojis, etc.
High-frequency notifications have the highest risk of annoying users: pay attention to opt-out rates.
So when is the right moment to engage with users? Finding those moments - or creating them - is essential to delivering messages that resonate. What are those moments and how many of them are there in any given day, and how should you structure your push notifications around that information?
According to Andy, the best way to answer those questions isn’t with generalities, but with specific use cases that marketers can draw their own conclusions from. He drove this point home during the question and answer portion of his talk, when an audience member wanted to know what a too-high frequency for notifications is:
The best system is one that adjusts based on the user’s tolerance. A smart system will see 'okay, I’ve sent 300 push notifications and the user opens every one, so I can send him more'. If I wanted to generalize, the best is the highest amount of notifications the user will tolerate. Send them a bit too many, then dial it back a bit.
Founder and Partner,