Are push notifications a nuisance or essential for your app?

It’s a term we see every time we download an app: “Would you like to allow push notifications?”

This type of notification is sent by the app publisher directly to the device, and pops up regardless of whether the user is active or not. It could be a new message, in-app sale or an event in their calendar, but push notifications are practically part-and-parcel of owning a mobile device.

The benefits of push notifications

  • They pull users back in. Companies who use a push notification system see a 27% increase in app launches and three and a half times the number of retentions. Retail apps can remind customers of what’s in their basket, or let them know if one of their “favourites” has gone into a sale. Push messages are a quick and convenient method of reminding users why they downloaded the app in the first place.
  • They’re a direct line to users. No spam filters, no forgotten emails – push messages are delivered straight to the device and are always seen by the user. Plus, as marketing methods have evolved, there’s been a diminishing return from email; done right, apps can be a new tool for the CRM team – their click-through rates can be twice as high as email.
  • Hyper-personalisation. Your app holds all your users’ account information, so your push messages can be easily personalised using that data. You can use their name, an image of a product they’ve liked, tailor the offers to previously bought items, or send notifications based on their recent activity. Leanplum found that push notifications containing personalized content see four times the open rate of generic messages.
  • They can activate using geo-location technology. Imagine your customer’s walking past one of your stores when they receive a push notification, offering them 20% off any purchase using an in-app code that’s only available today. Urgency, convenience and personalisation all in one!
  • They enhance the customer experience. Push notifications can give real value to the user – for example, fast food providers can use push messages to tell people when their order is being prepared and out for delivery. Customers will want to receive them as a result, and studies show that those who opt-in for push notifications are a high-value demographic, tending to engage with your app on a more regular basis by 88%.
  • They provide you with better insights. See how many users open the app right after receiving your message, how they respond to the things you promote, even when they’re most active – tracking the success of push notifications to reveal a wealth of information.

How NOT to use push messaging

Executed badly, push notifications can have the opposite effect to the above points, driving users towards uninstalling your app. A couple of key user bugbears include:

  • Frequency. Users will soon get tired of spammy messages with no real purpose; as much as 32% of app users will stop using an app entirely if they receive 6-10 push notifications in a week. Less is more if you want to pique their interest.
  • Generic messaging. Users expect a personal experience on their own device and if they’re sent irrelevant push messages, their patience will wear thin.

Push notifications can be essential to an app if it’s planned to have a longer lifecycle – their ability to drive people back to them is proven. They only become a nuisance when they’re used badly by the app publisher, so just stick to two key rules: always ask yourself whether the push message you’re sending is adding value, and always question whether it could be improved either by content or personalisation.

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