Push notifications are an essential part of mobile marketing. They get users’ attention faster than any other means of communication. At the same time, push notifications are one of the most challenging things for implementing. Badly implemented push notifications can easily harm your bottom line. According to an Appiterate Survey, 71% of all app uninstalls are triggered by a push notification.
To create good user experience, it’s essential to design notifications to be relevant and useful for your users. In this article, I’ll share a few practical recommendations on how to create better push notifications.
1. Make Notifications Relevant
Have you ever paid attention to the number of notifications you receive on a daily basis from various apps? How many of those notifications are really valuable to you?
Every day, we are bombarded with useless notifications that distract us from our activities. It’s not surprising why we often delete apps that send us irrelevant notifications. At the same time, we don’t mind getting notifications as long as they valuable for us (both interesting and useful information). Thus, it’s essential to ensure that all messages provide value to the user and are worth the momentary interruption.
The difference between two types of notifications can be seen in following examples. The first example is a notification delivered by Facebook. The app sends users notifications to connect to suggested people or even just to remind users to search for friends. Such notifications don’t provide any value for users and can be considered as poor attempts to direct users back into the app—spam at best.
The second example is a notification delivered by Netflix. The app uses push notifications to let users know when their favourite shows are available. Netflix analyses users’ interests (the specific shows that each user has been watching) and sends a notification to a user when one of their favourite shows has a new season available. As a result, the app is alerting users to personalised and relevant information.
Personalization drives engagement. The best notifications are tailored to each user. According to Leanplum, personalised messages have four times the open rate of generic messages. Personalization starts with small things such as using user’s first name in the message, but it doesn’t stop there. Mobile developers have a lot of opportunities to utilise information they have about their users to personalise messages. For example, it’s possible to deliver a special offer for your users based on information you hold.
Keep Messages Short and Compelling
Strive to make the text in your notification fully readable in the notification block. Trim all the fat and focus on delivering only essential information in an easy to comprehend format.
2. Time Your Notification
When it comes to push notifications, timing means a lot. If you send a message at the wrong time, you increase the risk that notification will be ignored or—in the worst case—the app associated with notification will be deleted. While this requirement seems too obvious not all developers follow it: 63 percent of marketers send push notifications at the wrong time.
Don’t Send Notifications at Night
Avoid sending notifications when your user is asleep. A lot of people sleep with their smarphones and not all of them turn devices into DND mode. As a result, an ill-timed notification sent between 12 and 6 am risks waking up or disrupting a user.
But even when users turn silent mode all push notifications delivered during the night might be easily ignored by users when they find a queue of messages on the phone in the morning. The first natural reaction will be to clean out the screen.
Schedule Notifications for Engagement Windows
It’s essential to send notifications according to the local time zone and select the time when users are mostly engaged with mobile phones. In general, the best time to send push notification is between 7am-10am and between 6pm-10pm. But it’s always better to analyse information about users to better identify each user’s unique windows when they’re most open to notifications.
There’s one exception for two rules mentioned above: urgent notifications. Such notifications can be sent at any time. But make sure that what you call “urgent” is the same that your users call “urgent.” There’s a big difference between urgent notification that says that user can miss the flight and “urgent” notification that says that someone liked the user’s profile pic.
3. Make Notifications Actionable
Avoid Sending Too Many Notifications in a Short Period of Time
Sending users more notifications than they can handle is a common mistake among many app developers. Too many notifications send in a short period of time can lead to the situation known as “notification overkill” (when a user can’t handle the information and simply skips it). Remember that mobile is all about making every message count. Thus, choose optimal frequency based on information you have about your users.
Push Notification Should Direct Users to a Target Page
Notifications should lead to the specific part of an app or site (e.g a specific page with detailed information) rather just open an app or homepage. It can be really annoying when you receive an interesting notification, tap on it, and find yourself on a landing screen that doesn’t relate to the notification.
4. Establish a Notification Strategy
Before sending any notifications, you should set a goal you want to reach with your notifications. For each notification that you send to your users you should be able to say what you expect people to do (e.g. sign up for service, purchase product, etc).
Experiment and Test Results
How do you make sure that push notifications work for your users? Only by experimenting and testing the results! If you’re not sure what kind of message will perform best for your users, send out multiple versions using A/B testing.
Evaluating the Success of Your Push Strategy
When you measure the effect of notifications track both positive (number of open rates, conversions) and negative KPIs (app uninstalls and push opt-in rates). Each metric can provide insights into your campaign performance and allow you to adjust your strategy. For example, if you have a low open rate, you may try to experiment with the message of your notifications. If you have a good open rate, but low conversions, this may indicate that some of the steps in your conversion flow are too complex for your users.
One of the crucial moments ignored by many teams is that when you’re monitoring your campaigns, it’s important to take the long view. Even if you see a short-term engagement boost after sending a few notifications, this doesn’t automatically mean that you have a similar picture in a longer-term. Mobile users are very responsive to novelty and push notifications aren’t exception. This means that a short-term conversion boost might be replaced by a long-term downside for users. Thus, always monitor and adjust your push notifications based on real user behaviour.
Don’t Limit Yourself with Push Notifications
Push notifications are only one channel of communication with your users. Depending on urgency and type of content, you can diversify your messaging by using email, in-app notifications, and news feed messaging. The diagram below shows when to use each channel.
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