Mobile Push Notifications: Trends & Anti-Trends

Alex Danchenko

Co-founder, Reteno

October 6, 2022

Push notifications can transform the way your audience interacts with your app. But the interaction can go either way: you reach unengaged users and keep your power users coming back if you do notifications right or you drive clients away if you do it wrong. 

Let’s figure out where the line is drawn. What are the best practices? What bad practices to avoid? Where is the perfect balance? 

Overview: Why Mobile Push Notifications Matter

A mobile push notification is a message that pops up on a user’s mobile phone as a little banner on top of or in the middle of the screen. The difference between a normal text message and a push is that the former takes you to the messaging app, while the latter opens the application that sent the push. 

Mobile Push Notification

The first mobile push notification service was APNS (Apple Push Notification Service), launched in 2009. Since then, almost every app on Android and iOS has introduced a notification opt-in. Notifications can communicate any message - breaking news alerts, the latest sports scores, reminders, transactional messages, etc. - and they can come in at any interval. 

Not everyone responds well to push messages. But for those who do - for instance, more than half of respondents for VWO Engage’s survey - you can create a powerful communication channel. They help you build customer relationships and ensure mobile users feel compelled to visit your app.

Click through rate by day of the week by industries
Source: VWO Engage

The same survey revealed that the average push reaction rate is 5%-10%, which may not seem high at first. But think of it this way - each notification brings in 1-2 users out of 20. With several notifications a day, you’ll see a noticeable increase in click-through rates and conversions by only optimizing one mobile channel. 

How to Use Push Notifications: Proven Tips & Methods

Here is how to send a push notification in a way that benefits your business’s bottom line. 

Do More With Less

The best way to pique users’ interest is to write short-form content with trigger words. Here is the kind of language that will get users excited: 

  • Don’t miss
  • Exclusive
  • Today
  • Win
  • Celebrate
  • Enjoy

Of course, you won’t be able to go beyond a limit on the number of characters. But perhaps it’s not worth extending your message up to the limit. 

Сreate an Omnichannel Experience

Integrate your push notification strategy into a broader marketing strategy. This means being consistent and omnipresent in push notifications, social media alerts, text messages, email promotions, and even your offline channels like leaflets and store banners. 

Personalize

For a notification strategy, the most helpful way to segment your users is by purchase and usage frequency. And depending on which category a user falls into - heavy, medium, light, or interested - they will receive a different message in their push. 

In our experience, behavioral segmentation can help identify your dormant customers and return 20% to 55% reactivation triggers.

Localize

Amplify personalization with location-based push notifications. For example, one message can contain several techniques: 

  • Address the user by name and factor in their stated preferences
  • Feature local holidays and festivals and incorporate local languages and slang

An omnichannel practice of incorporating a customer’s actions in the “real world” (e.g., a purchase in a store) into push messages sent to them doubles as localization. 

Use Rich Media

Rich Media in pushes

Show, don’t tell, by including rich images, audio, and video whenever you can (and where appropriate). Both Android and iOS 10 now support rich attachments, and many apps are already embedding attention-grabbing media into their users’ lock screens.

You can also add clickable responses that deep link to specific pages for more interaction.

Change Things Up

Consumers are looking for convenient and unique experiences that stand out, which you can’t offer with a monotone promotional strategy. Here, flexibility is key.

As times change, so do the trends and behavioral patterns of your users. Therefore, your team should be on the constant lookout for changes in customer perceptions and demand. Is there a new TV show that everyone is talking about? Reference it in your next message!

A/B Test

Maximize the value of your experiments by conducting more than one at the same time. Split your audience to test several variations of push messages and track key metrics for each group. Move forward with the version that generates the highest retention impact. 

If you’re struggling with the lag between ending the experiment and receiving all the data, identify user behaviors that correlate to retention downstream and make decisions based on these behavioral metrics. 

How NOT to Use Push Notifications: Common Mistakes to Avoid

You can also ruin the feature of push notifications for mobile app users, achieving an extremely annoying or disruptive effect. Let’s focus on the most common mistakes in designing them. 

Notification Blasts

Daily push notification frequency vs. unsubscribe rate by industry
Source: VWO Engage

Never send out notifications en-masse to all users within a short period of time. In the best-case scenario, you will annoy them. In the worst-case scenario, they will disable notifications or delete the app altogether.

Irrelevant Notifications

Don’t make the mistake of forgetting your customer and your previous interactions with them. For example, if they booked a flight to London through your app, don’t send them notifications for the best hotels in New York. Or if they have a plant-based lifestyle as their preference, don’t send them a discount for a steak dinner. 

Inconvenient Times

The best time to send push notifications is when users are getting ready to go to bed (from 8 PM to 11 PM, the Click-through rate is about 8-11%); the second best time is during their lunch break (from 11 AM to 2 PM, the Click-through rate is approximately 7-8%). But if you keep sending push notifications at inopportune moments, for example, when most people are driving to or from their 9-to-5 office jobs, forget about CTR. 

Best time to send out pushes
Source: Smartpush

No Context

Crucial links in a notification campaign may get lost on the way to delivery, and users will also feel lost. When users don’t understand the message, they don’t engage. When that happens a lot, they unsubscribe. 

High Information Density

When you want to convey a lot of information in a short message, the message becomes unreadable. You can confuse or overload the user if you include an image, a headline, a description, the price, and a call to action all into one push. 

Ads for a Different Product

Don’t advertise products or services if they are not directly available through your app. Not only would this make no sense for users, but it also goes against the guidelines of mobile application stores. 

Final Thoughts

As you build out your push notification strategy, remember what makes notifications engaging and what makes them irritating. 

But remember that the list of good practices is not the end of it. There are tons of push notification ideas to explore - emojis, humor, puns, gamification, FOMO, flattery, questions, and more. Experiment with different approaches and make sure to measure retention!

Vladyslav Pobyva

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September 30, 2022

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Maya Skidanova

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August 26, 2022

Figure out how to make your pushes more noticeable and effective in order to achieve the desired KPIs

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