Notification opt-ins are an essential component of a successful mobile app. Being able to reach your app users with push notifications is vital for engagement and retention. But getting that all-important opt-in can be tricky.

Studies show that users who are opted in to receive notifications are four times more engaged with apps and twice as likely to be retained than opted-out users. So, if a user declines your permission request, you could potentially lose their attention forever.

Let’s discuss what you can do to maximize your opt-in rate so you can instantly get in front of your users with relevant messaging, even when they’re not inside your app.

Don’t Ask For Permission Right Away

One of the biggest mistakes apps make is requesting all user permissions during the first app launch before the user fully understands the value of opting in.

This approach results in a poor first-time user experience (FTUE) and much lower opt-in rates, particularly if the user is still learning about what your product has to offer.

The below shows a generic system prompt for notification permissions. As you can see, it doesn’t provide any context, and the user is unlikely to understand what kind of notifications they can expect to receive and how often.

Use Pre-Prompt Messages

Pre-prompt, pre-permission, soft-ask, primer prompt, push primer—call it what you want. Setting the scene with a message directly before delivering the standard system prompt is a genius way of earning a get-out-of-jail-free card.

How does it work?

A pre-permission prompt is an opportunity for you to clearly explain to the user the value of opting into receiving push notifications before presenting them with the required system prompt.

Pre-prompt message by Skyscanner

Perhaps more importantly, you can gauge a user’s likelihood of opting in by asking them if they want to receive updates. If the user taps ‘Ok’, direct them to the official prompt message.

Pre-prompt message by Classpass

If they tap ‘Ask me later’ or ‘Not now,’ hold off on requesting permission until a later stage when the user expresses more interest and is more invested in your app. 

Congratulations—you’ve just won another chance to ask for permission to push!

Trigger Your Prompt Based on User Behavior

Setting specific event criteria before launching permission requests is an effective way of targeting users at appropriate times when they are engaged and more likely to opt-in.

Analyze users’ in-app behavior to identify the perfect moments to trigger your push notification requests.

Let’s look at some examples:

App Sessions

You might trigger a permission request to launch when a user has opened your app a specified number of times within a certain time frame.

For example, the user has launched your app three times in the last week and has spent X amount of time in your app during each session.

This way, you know the user is already engaging with your app and, at this stage, more likely to agree to receive relevant notifications.

Shopping Behavior

A retail app could launch the prompt (or, better still, the pre-prompt) when a user has viewed a certain number of products, added an item to their cart, or completed a purchase.

It makes sense at this point to ask the user if they would like to receive updates about the product or the status of their order in the form of push notifications.

Content Consumption

A news app may set an activating event after a user has read a certain number of articles, asking if they would like to receive news updates related to the topics they have been reading.

Why not A/B test your event triggers? Do more users opt-in when they’ve read three or five articles? Are opt-ins higher when requested after two app sessions or four?

Users are also more likely to opt-in when their behavior has triggered the prompt. For example, a user places an order and requires notifications to keep track of their delivery status. Or they add a friend and want to know when they have accepted the invitation.

When the permission prompt makes sense or adds value to the user in that moment, they are unsurprisingly more open to giving their consent.

Keep Testing

Like any other campaign, the key is to continuously test and measure your message variables to learn what copy, imagery, timing, and design your users respond to most.

Every app is unique with different user requirements, so testing is the only way to discover what your users value most and what leads to higher opt-in rates.

Here are some recommendations for A/B testing your message variants:

Messaging. Optimize your messaging by testing different tones of voice, copy length, word choices, and even emoji to find what resonates best with your audience.

Timing. Test different triggered events such as the number of sessions, transactions, and time spent in the app. Some events may prove to work better than others.

Design. Consider testing fonts, typography, color schemes, button styles, and other graphic elements.

Images. Test different images, try text with and without an image, change image size and dimensions, etc.

Don’t be afraid to experiment to make sure you maximize your push notification opt-in rates.

Final Thoughts

Securing user opt-in is about demonstrating the value you intend to offer in exchange for consent.

Once your users can see that receiving push notifications from your app personally enhances their experience, it will be much easier to gain their consent.

You can do this by asking when it matters most, providing context around why the user should opt-in, and continuously testing and optimizing your push opt-in strategy. 

Getting users’ permissions will always require a solid strategy, but there are ways you can simplify and automate the process so you can maximize the opt-in rates for your app.

Learn how in a quick personal demo with one of our mobile marketing experts.