Delivering Push Notifications with Real-time Relevance

A comprehensive look at push notifications: what they are, how to use them, and how to advance their impact using real-time relevance.

What Are Push Notifications?

Push notifications are messages delivered on mobile devices. You’re probably familiar with them from your own device. While push notifications on Android and iOS can differ in some key ways, they both generally serve one key purpose: to help brands communicate with users outside of the app. Brands use Swrve means they can be used to bring people back into the app, or alternatively let users know about something that we’d like to tell them about.

What Are The Benefits Of Push Notifications?

Push notifications can be particularly beneficial in a number of cases and a number of industries. For example:

  • A media business can use push notifications to let users know about breaking news stories
  • An airline can use push notifications to provide passengers with updates relating to their flight (such as gate changes, etc)
  • A telco company can let customers know their options when their contract is about to expire (and plug renewal with a new device or package)
  • A bank can send push notifications to customers when their balance is low, or when they’ve received a money transfer

Push notifications are a key way to build and strengthen relationships with customers. Those examples show how they can help increase customer loyalty, engagement and ultimately revenue. But to do that, they must be used thoughtfully and wisely. Let’s look at how to do that.

Securing Opt-In For Push Notifications

It starts with ensuring that you can send push notifications in the first place. All the sophistication in the world won’t help if you don’t have a sufficient percentage of your audience willing to receive them. Follow these simple steps to ensure that your push notification opt-in rates are as high as possible from the outset:

  • If possible, refrain from asking for notification opt-in when the app is first opened. This is like asking for permission to send messages when the user has no clear idea of what the app does, never mind what form those messages might take. The default answer is “no”, your job is to get it to “yes.”
  • Don’t rely on the default OS opt-in message for push notifications. This is usually factual, direct and won’t help provide context to the user.
  • Do create in-app campaigns that are shown before the standard OS opt-in procedure. These should clearly articulate why the user will want to opt-in for push notifications, couched in terms of their own benefit. Letting someone know that push notifications are used to help them during travel (for an airline, for example) is likely to drive up opt-in rates.
  • Experiment with timing. The right time to ask for opt-in might be the start of the second session. Then again, perhaps immediately after the user performs a task that can be meaningfully followed up with a push campaign. “We can let you know when your parcel is shipped,” for example, is the right time to ask. Test and find out.

Drive opt-in rates by explaining how push notifications are valuable on an individual level. Put all those elements together and you’ll see opt-in rates increasing by up to 30 or 40%, meaning better results for marketing and communication via push notifications in the future.

How To Use Push Notifications

We have an audience. What happens next? It is all too tempting to give in to the temptation to send lots of push notifications campaigns to lots of people, but that’s usually a mistake. While the marginal cost of sending a push campaign is effectively zero, the actual cost to your business can be much higher.

Put simply, sending large-scale, irrelevant push notification campaigns leads to two things:

  • You irritating your customers. Indeed, in many cases you are irritating your best customers (those who are willing to download and use an app). The net result is an erosion of brand loyalty, which leads to them ultimately deleting the app. 
  • You will be teaching customers to ignore you. That may not mean a great deal in the short term, but in the medium and long term you’ll find that when you really need to talk to people, you’re out of luck. Don’t make that mistake.

Instead, ask yourself this simple question when planning any push notification campaign: is this campaign something that the individual members of my target audience would actually appreciate? Is it relevant to them in real time, wherever they are in their journey with your brand? Ultimately, it is only by answering this question honestly and in the affirmative that you’ll deliver great service via push, and as a result, build strong customer relationships.

By including content hyper-personalized to the user, you can dramatically increase the effectiveness of notifications.

But let’s look in more detail at some additional ways to make your push notifications helpful, useful, relevant and thus ready to make meaningful difference to your business. Here’s a simple list:

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  • Make your push content as relevant and personalized as possible. That means going well beyond “hello <>” and instead folding in whatever individual detail can make any individual campaign really ‘break through’. If, for example, you’re sending a push notification in order to let someone know they’ve left an item in their shopping basket (possibly on another channel), than name the item. If you’re letting someone know their flight is open for check-in, name the flight. It works.
  • Target your push notifications using real-time relevance. It’s time to stop thinking in terms of ‘campaigns’ and think instead in terms of an automated platform that sends relevant messages to relevant individuals when they need them in real time. To do that, of course, you’ll probably want to integrate your push notification platform with internal systems, in order to let customers know when an item they are interested in is on sale, or when their balance is below a certain amount. Make that happen.
  • Use rich media in your push notifications. Modern mobile OSs support the addition of images and even video to push campaigns. Use that capability to ensure your campaigns hit the mark and generate user attention. Along the same lines, make sure your messages use interactive capabilities. It is now possible to manage quite complex interactions entirely outside the app.
  • When appropriate, use location as a trigger. One key and often overlooked benefit of the mobile phone is that users tell us where they are at all times (or some of them do). As any push notification campaign is a way to speak to people in the moment, location clearly brings valuable context into the fold. For example, you might want to remind customers of your currency exchange service when they arrive at the airport, or that a nearby store has an item available they’ve browsed either online or on mobile.
  • Test. It’s always important to use real user data when it comes to making decisions relating to content, and never more so than when sending push notifications. You have a limited amount of material to capture the user’s attention, so it’s important to make it count. Use A/B testing to ensure you’re sending the best possible campaigns every time.
  • Get your timing right. Swrve has an optimal send-time feature (driven by AI and predictive analytics) that allows brands to send the right messages to the right users, exactly when they’re most likely to engage. 

Always test the creative of your push notifications. Expert opinion is no match for user data.

How To Measure The Success Of Push Notifications

Finally, a word on measuring success. There’s a short answer and a slightly longer answer to this question. The short answer is: don’t measure the success of push notifications using click-through rate as a metric. The reason is simple. It is relatively easy to game this number by creating ‘clickbait’ content that might get people to the app, but is equally likely to disappoint them once they are there.

Instead, always consider what actual success looks like. If you want users to buy a particular item, make that your success goal and run tests and reports on that basis. If your push notification campaign is designed to increase total engagement, again—use that metric to establish the difference between those who received the push and those who did not. And always look at the broader picture. It is possible to drive up specific metrics while ignoring others that may in fact be more meaningful. 

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If you want to see how Swrve can manage both push notifications and other customer interactions on multiple channels, arrange a demo today

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