Push notifications have become a communication channel that we simply cannot do without on mobile. They are a part of our everyday lives. In fact, the average smartphone user in the US receives 46 push notifications per day. This blog takes a comprehensive look at what they are, how to use them, and how to advance their relevance in real time.

What Are Push Notifications?

Push notifications are messages delivered on mobile devices to help brands communicate with users outside of the app. They serve a number of different roles, from operational and transactional service messages, to marketing and sales communications. They are a crucial feature to help increase important metrics like engagement, retention, and conversions, and should be a core channel for improving your brand’s customer experience. 

A few examples of push notifications include:

  • the media alerting users about breaking news stories
  • an airline that provides passengers with updates relating to their flight (such as a gate change, etc)
  • a telecommunications company making customers aware when their contract is about to expire (and provide an opportunity to push for renewal with a new device or package)
  • a bank that sends push notifications to customers when their balance is low, or when they’ve received a money transfer

Relevant messages such as these build and strengthen relationships with customers. This is key for brands as service messages train users to interact with their marketing messages, and increase customer loyalty, engagement, and ultimately revenue. 

Steps to Gain Permission to Send Push Notifications

You can’t just send push notifications—you have to gain permission from your users first.. This is not so much of an issue for Android users, as they are automatically opted in, but it is important for iOS users. 

It’s therefore crucial to go about asking permission in the right way. Refrain from asking for notification opt-in when the app is first opened. The single biggest mistake that we consistently see is the dismal, grey default iOS prompt pop up without providing any explanation of why a user should opt in to receiving push notifications. The default answer from users is “no”, and it’s your job to get it to “yes”.

The tactic to gain permission is simple: delay that initial iOS default push opt-in prompt, and create in-app campaigns that demonstrate clearly why the user should want to opt-in for push notifications. Explain that they’ll receive critical travel information for their flight app, security notices for their banking app, tournament reminders for their gaming app, breaking stories from their news app etc. 

Create in-app campaigns that demonstrate clearly why the user should want to opt-in for push notifications.

Then, experiment to see when delivery works best for you and your team. Explore whether it’s best to add it to your app’s welcome tour, or elsewhere. If your welcome tour is already on the lengthy side, for example, it may be a good idea to ask for permissions at first open, post-tutorial. 

Either way, it’s best practice l to ask during a user’s first app session so that you can communicate with them outside the app. If a user doesn’t open up the app for a second session after a day or two, you need to be able to reel them back in with a push notification. 

What Not To Do With Push Notifications

It is all too easy to give in to the temptation to send a huge amount of the same push notification to lots of people at the same time, but we seriously advise you not to do this! While the marginal cost of sending a push campaign is effectively zero, the actual cost to your business can be much higher. 

The majority of your users will find a flat, broadcast push campaign irrelevant. In today’s world, consumers expect better than this, so much so that 64% of consumers would consider switching brands due to a lack of relevant messaging. Irritating your users is never a good idea, especially those who are your best customers. Furthermore, you’re teaching them to ignore the messages that are actually valuable for them. Thankfully, there’s a better way.

How To Deliver Relevant, Effective Push Notifications

Begin by asking yourself these simple questions when planning any push notification:

1. Is this something that the individual members of my target audience would actually appreciate? 

2. Is it relevant to them, at a particular time, wherever they are in their journey with my brand?

Ultimately, it is only by answering honestly and in the affirmative that you’ll deliver great service via push, and as a result, build stronger customer relationships.

With Swrve, you can hyper-target individual users with push notifications that are based on that individual’s behavioral data, delivering true segment-of-one campaigns that are helpful, relevant, and ready to make a meaningful difference to your business. 

Here’s what Swrve brings to the table for brands using push:

Personalization: This means going well beyond “hello ,” although we highly recommend you do this. Adding in further individual details makes your message resonate. 

For example, if you’re sending a push notification in order to let someone know they’ve left an item in their shopping cart (possibly on another channel), then name the item. If you’re letting someone know their flight is open for check-in, name the flight. It works.

Behavioral Filters: Use it! You can collect tons of intuitive behavioral data for each app user, and build hyper-targeted audiences based on that data. For example, you can target a customer who has searched for return first class flights from London to San Francisco 3 times in the past week, and who has booked twice before. 

Synchronized Data: With this tool, you can collect data about individual users across other channels. Use it too! To do this effectively, you’ll need to integrate your push notification platform with your other systems. For example, let customers know via push notification that an item they browsed over the web is on sale. Swrve’s extensive list of integration partners, and custom integrations, will see to it that this is seamless. 

Rich Media: Use rich media in your push notifications, like images, sound, and even video. With this feature, you’ll ensure your campaigns hit the mark, generate user attention, and your messages will include interactive capabilities. It is now possible to manage quite complex interactions entirely outside the app.

Location Data: 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 real time, 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.

A/B Testing: 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 get the clearest path to value and ensure you’re sending the best possible campaigns every time.

Optimal Timing: 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. This also includes churn prediction capabilities. If you leave it too late, you’ll never see that user again. 

Add Frictionless CTAs: Deep link directly to the relevant page that you are referring to and watch your conversions take off. If your push is a cart abandonment campaign, make sure your CTA goes directly to the purchase page. Any kind of friction, in this case extra pages to go through, significantly affects conversion rates.

Localize: It is painfully obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t do this: delivering push notifications in the language that your user is most comfortable with. This is almost certainly the ‘default’ language of their device. Swrve knows this automatically, and sends the message in the relevant language. 

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 rates 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, have that as 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. 

Schedule a live demo today to see first-hand how to deliver hyper relevant push notifications in real time.