Push notifications that don’t push users away

Push notifications that don’t push users away
August 27, 2018 Madeleine Helme

Most of us receive a stream of push notifications on our smartphones throughout the day. Some of them are necessary while others are just plain annoying. Others still can successfully make our day when we see them pop up. Mobile marketers using push notifications to communicate with their audience need to perfect this balance. You should use them in a way that delights and informs your customers. Sending annoying notifications will prompt users to ignore or block them.

If you’re at such a risk of annoying your audience with push notifications, then why take the gamble of using them at all? The answer is because, when done right, push notifications really work!

Push notifications: Love them or hate them

Research has shown that 52 percent of surveyed mobile users find push notifications to be an annoying distraction, while the remaining 48 percent find them to be useful in one way or another. So, we’re pretty much split down the middle on our opinion of push notifications. What drives these reactions?

Push notifications statistics

Opinions are so varied not only because of individual differences, but also because of the varied quality of push notifications. The push notifications that encourage people to opt in help to save the user time, make them more productive, entertain them, or provide them with some other form of value. People that hate push notifications feel this way because the notifications they receive have the opposite effect. They cause the user to waste time and distract them from more important activities.

To make sure your app’s notifications land firmly in the “love” side of the pie chart, you need to focus on delivering messages that provide the kind of value that users like, rather than simply annoying them and wasting their time.

How apps use push notifications

Pretty much any type of app can use push notifications to inform mobile users of a variety of things. Here are a few common ways that mobile apps use push notifications:

  • A social network letting you know someone has tagged you or posted on your wall.
  • A calendar app reminding you of an upcoming appointment.
  • A retail app informing you of a sale or discount.
  • A gaming app encouraging you to come back and play.
  • A messaging app notifying you of a new message.
  • A news app sending you the latest stories.
  • A health and fitness app reminding you to log your food and exercise for the day.

You’ve probably been on the receiving end of at least one of these notifications. There are many more ways marketers use them – some unique and creative, others not so much. No matter what type of app yours is, there’s sure to be some way to incorporate these types of notifications into your mobile marketing strategy.

The benefits of push notifications

Sure, you risk your users uninstalling your app in response to receiving too many push notifications. But, if you implement an effective push notification strategy, the benefits far outweigh the risks. Let’s look at some of the stats that prove the worth of push notifications for your mobile app.

  • Improve user retention – Mobile users are a fickle bunch. Data from Localytics shows 80 percent of users churn within 90 days. Using push notifications can help to improve this figure. Looking at the first 30 days after an app is installed, 65 percent of users return to the app within that time when push notifications are enabled. This is compared to just 19 percent when they’re not enabled.
  • Boost engagement – Not only will push notifications encourage people to keep your app on their phone, they also make them want to use it on a more regular basis when you use push notifications effectively. More stats from Localytics show that 25 percent of people use an app just once after downloading it. But, using push notifications properly can improve engagement levels by up to 88 percent for your mobile app.
  • High open rates – The best thing about effective push notifications is that users really pay attention to them. Open rates vary between industries and app types, but average rates are around 50 percent more than that of email marketing.

How to get push notifications right

I’m sure you all want these benefits that push notifications can bring, but we’ve also mentioned those bad push notifications that give this technique a bad name. To make sure your app is one of the good guys, follow these best practices for making your push strategy a success.

Provide value

The best way to avoid annoying your users with push notifications is to make sure that they provide value to the user. This could be an entertaining departure from their everyday life, a piece of information that could help them plan their day better (from a weather forecast app, for example), or an offer or discount on a product they have been looking at recently.

These are just a few ways your app could provide your users with additional value. This will depend on the kind of app you have and the industry it operates in, so think about how you can provide value that’s relevant to your app.


Remember that stat that push notifications receive open rates of around 50 percent more than emails? Impressive, right? The even better news is that adding personalization to your push notifications can boost open rates by a massive 800 percent! Broadcasting the same notification out to everyone results in those annoying push notifications that everyone ignores. You need to make sure every notification you send out is relevant to the user that’s receiving it.

You can personalize notifications based on the users’ past activity within the app. For example, you could entice inactive users to revisit your app with a notification saying “We haven’t seen you in a while. Check out what’s new with our app.” But, sending this kind of message to someone who was on your app yesterday shows you don’t know your users and could prove to be annoying.

Let customers tailor their notifications

One of the best ways to offer personalized push notifications to your users is to put them in control. It can be hard to say what the right time and frequency is for sending out push notifications because this can vary a great deal from one person to the next. Notification settings within your app should allow users to determine how often they receive notifications. Some users will be happy receiving daily notifications while others might prefer weekly or less frequent notifications.

Users should also be able to control what kind of notifications they receive. Take a news curation app as an example. Many of these apps allow users to select which topics they are interested in so they’re not being sent news that they don’t care about. So, if I want to hear about local news, sports, and politics but am not interested in entertainment and music news, then I can tailor my settings to reflect this.

Monitor user behavior

Once you’ve set your push notification strategy, be prepared to adapt. Monitoring user activity lets you assess how well your strategy is performing and how to improve it. If a lot of users are disabling push notifications or uninstalling your app, it’s time for a rethink. You might need to reduce sending frequency or examine your content to see if it’s really providing value.

You should also monitor the types of notifications that users open the most and which they ignore. This can allow you to focus more on the notifications that your users are actually interested in. Finally, analyzing the times of day and days of the week when your notifications get the most engagement can inform you of the best times to deliver push notifications.

You don’t want to have one of those annoying apps that people regret installing to their phone, so make sure you get your push notification strategy right to give your app the best chance of success while making your users happy. It’s time to pull in users with your push notifications!

After working in marketing for two years I decided to become a freelance writer. In my spare time I enjoy watching films and television and keeping fit through going to the gym and practising taekwondo.