How to prevent your app from getting too pushy with push notifications

How to prevent your app from getting too pushy with push notifications

Tim Pemberton is the Media Operations Director at Yodel Mobile,  a strategically-led full service agency that offers strategy, development and delivery for organizations looking to incorporate mobile successfully into their business.


Last year, Apple announced that it had passed its 50 billionth app download. With a larger installed user base, similar success is following from Android and the Google Play Store. Mobile app use increased 115 percent in 2013 according to Flurry Analytics, and the average smartphone user has 26 apps on their phone.

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However, another study by the Pew Research Center found that despite the number of apps on their phone, 68 percent of users have just five or fewer apps that they actually use at least once a week.

In other words, mobile users are habituated to downloading apps, but not necessarily habituated to using all of them.

With the vast majority of app revenue growth coming from in-app purchases rather than paid downloads, it’s more important than ever to keep users engaged with your apps. But this disconnect between downloads and usage presents a challenge for marketers, running right to the heart of how to engage consumers and monetize the services of a mobile brand experience.

Alongside search and app store optimisation, there is a huge opportunity to capitalise on what is often an overlooked native function of all smartphones, mobile CRM and especially Push Notifications. Push delivers a message right to the home screen giving brands the ability to initiate a conversation with consumers so that they are motivated to continually engage with the brand’s app.

The key benefit is a sense of urgency to open an app once a push notification is received. It is also obvious that when a user downloads your app, they have already entered into a relationship with you by their own volition. It is now up to you to make that relationship work.

How a message is executed is the key to unlocking push as an effective marketing channel, in particular for app reengagement, geo-targeted messages, social alerts, offers, promotions, transactions and more.

When push comes to shove

Yodel’s own push campaigns marks the technique out as a highly effective way for brands to engage with consumers; we were able to more than double the app usage and engagement of opted-in (to push) users.

However, our own research tracked 20 travel apps over the Christmas period and early January (a time traditionally associated with summer holiday planning), and found that just one of the travel companies initiated an interaction with a single push message.

So why is push overlooked? Take a cursory look at a Twitter search on push notifications and the answer is obvious: it’s about relevancy – or lack thereof.

It is also easier to delete an app than switch off its push service.

Naturally marketers are cautious. Poorly executed push messaging has the potential to alienate users, so much so that they delete the app.

The difference between initiating a positive and negative brand experience can be paper thin.

5 push best practices

1. Relevancy

This should be the number one watch word when planning a push campaign. Marketers need to be upfront with their consumers by going deeper in to their notification preferences.

Ask them what subjects they would like to receive push notification on and how frequently they would like to receive them. By flipping what can be an annoyance (see CNN’s own goal, above) to a value-based service acting on customers’ preferences, you will achieve much more re-engagement.

2. Timeliness

Track your messaging campaigns and optimize against that data. For example, messaging in the evening may be more appropriate than a mid-day push on a leisure activity.

After the push, track behaviour beyond the message. What happened next? Did your message lead to a conversion, transaction or significant dwell time? By working out these and other parameters you will develop a useful engagement benchmark that will help you adjust your strategy as a campaign unfolds.

3. Integrate

Your messaging campaigns with other messaging platforms such as email marketing and SMS. Each platform is different. Push, for example, is far more appropriate for spontaneous in-the-moment interactivity.

On the other hand, email affords more time for a user to consider a more complex offer and follow a link.

4. Transparency

It’s vital to show consumers where the exits are by giving them a simple opt-out option. An opt-out at a general level is a complaint and needs to be dealt with.

It’s vital to take stock and analyse the types of messages that are initiating opt-out and then take action rather than continuing with a bad brand experience.

5. Make opt-in contextual

If you send users an opt-in message every time they open your app, ask yourself whether the user is actually in a position to make the decision?

It might be preferable to wait until the user is deeper into the app experience to send them an opt-in message contextually. For example, they may be viewing football scores – ask them if they would like to opt-in to receive sports updates based on that context. Consumers are far more likely to understand the value of opting-in when the context works for them..

At the industry level, if we don’t use push in the right way consumers will simply vote with their thumbs and switch notifications off. At the same time, consumers are savvy enough to understand that by downloading an app (especially if that app is free) then they are entering in to a value-exchange where their mobile behaviour is feeding a marketing industry that is based on their user data.

We need to use push responsibly, follow best practice and make consumers an equitable partner in this value exchange by using push to add consumer value.

Image credit: Shutterstock/bloomua

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