Best practices and Practical Steps

Re-engagement push campaigns get churned users back using your app. But although that sounds simple, there’s a little more to it than that.

The success of any re-engagement push campaign is going to (broadly) be a function of two factors:

  • How relevant or enticing your content is
  • When it arrives - and specifically, the timing in terms of period of lapse before the message is sent

To illustrate that, let’s take one example: a media app recommending a featured piece on the latest stock IPO to churned users that used to read a lot of technology articles.


It’s certainly sensible to think carefully about behavioural targeting when creating push campaigns. As the old dictum goes - targeted marketing is effective marketing. The message you send should both relate effectively to the user (as in the example) and speak their language (in every sense).

Perhaps more interesting is the question of lapse period. To understand why, consider the extremes: you would not send a push notification to someone who had not returned to your app for 5 seconds - it would be annoying, and if you were delivering a special offer or bonus, it would be extremely expensive (they are likely to return anyway, so you’re killing your ROI). But nor would you send one to a daily user who had been absent for a year. Put simply, it wouldn’t work.  

So Where’s The Sweet Spot?

Somewhere in between! Most services have a natural ‘churn window’ implied by average frequency of use. For a news app, probably 24 hours. For a travel booking app, perhaps closer to a month. You’ll know this number if you have a decent mobile analytics package like Swrve! It’s the period of time that you would expect to see a user within. And if they are absent for longer, you have a problem.  

It can’t be stressed enough that you’ll have to test timing for yourself. But we’ve worked with many large app organizations, with widely varying churn windows, and we’ve discovered the following:

  • If your push notification contains no offer (in other words implies no cost to you) feel free to deliver re-engagement content right on the edge of the churn window. Don’t wait - we see drop offs of 20% or more for every day you allow to go past. When app users are gone, they’re gone.
  • If you are offering value (incurring cost), double your churn window and then act. So in the case of a news app with which consumers typically engage every day, wait 48 hours. Clearly this advice depends on a number of factors, most specifically your relative generosity, but the general rule of acting early still applies.

With all that said, let’s now look at HOW you go about creating those campaigns. I’m going to show screenshots and discuss features in Swrve, but obviously there are other ways to skin this particular cat. Whether using a platform like Swrve or your own in-house solution the principles are largely the same.  

Step 1: Define Your Audience

First, you’ll need to target the right audience for your reengagement push. As we mentioned above, in this context the right audience is made up of users who, at one time, were engaged and using your app. In the Swrve segment builder we can define the audience in terms of what their behavior looked like when they were active, in this case showing ‘Financial Junkies’ who clearly had an appetite for financial news and currently hold tech stocks.

We’ll be able to fold in a time lapse since last in app later in the process.


Step 2: Author Push Copy

Next it’s time to craft a targeted message for your audience that is both relevant and actionable. Don’t forget to tailor the content around what engaged them in the first place and would bring them back again. For those who have lapsed for longer periods of time, consider offers of some additional benefit, such as a free trial subscription.

When creating these messages, always ask yourself these questions - and fold your answers into your approach:

  • What got your audience excited about your app in the first place?
  • Can you re-engage them with that type of content again?
  • What direct call to action can you place in your message?

  Step 3: Build Your Campaign

Next, build your push notification campaign in Swrve - or whatever tool you are using - with the copy you developed in Step 2. Be sure to:

  • Deep link to in-app content in your push (this is such an important concept it deserves an article all to itself - but in short, you’ll want a click on push to deliver users direct to a relevant point in your app.
  • Target the engaged users audience you created in Step 1.
  • Set the recency constraint according to your discussion above. Let’s say 2 days in this instance (a lot less than the 14 days we suggested previously)
  • Enable tracking (so you can find out what happened after the event!)

  Step 4: Preview, Test and Launch

No matter what system you are using, it’s important to fold in a QA step - by sending the notification to a test device and ensuring everything works as it should. Double-check the content for spelling and grammar errors. Once you're satisfied, launch the push notification. Don’t forget to specify a send time at local time relative to the user. Otherwise you’re going to be getting people out of bed - and nobody wants that!


Step 5: Analyze Your Impact

Finally, after you run the push notification, review the results.

Because you enabled tracking in Step 4, you can track the behavior of users who engaged with the push and opened your app. The following KPIs would be a decent start when it comes to understanding how your push impacted engagement.

  • Engaged users KPI - tells you the number of users who opened the push.
  • Day-1/3/7 reengagement KPIs - tells you how many users continued to use the app after the push.
  • Session count - tells you how many sessions, on average, users who opened the push started.


A successful re-engagement push notification campaign results in an increase in these three metrics.  If you don't see a rise in these KPIs, revise your audience and copy and iterate until you see a positive shift.

And remember - keep a control group back to ensure you’re accounting for those users (there’s always a few!) who would have returned organically anyway.