Push notifications are a great way to drive engagement in mobile apps. That almost doesn’t need stating - the ability to talk direct to your users when they aren’t in the app is a powerful one.

But of course there’s a flip-side to that - which is that when done incorrect ly push notifications can be hugely irritating to their recipients and largely ineffective for marketing team sending them. And which side of that equation you fall on is going to be - at least to some extent - determined by the kind of push notification service you implement.

So it’s worth thinking carefully before investing in this area, and with that in mind here are my 4 in-no-way-biased tips for anyone casting a confused eye over the many push notification services out there:

1. Ensure Your Solution Supports Meaningful Targeting

These tips are in no particular order - except that this number one. ‘Meaningful’ targeting means being able to send push notifications that are delivered solely to users who have displayed certain behaviors, or combinations of behaviors, or inhabit specific demographic segments, or indeed any combination of the two.

To give one example - we might want to send a push notification to all app users who live in the US, have visited our store at least 5 times, bought at least once, but have not been in the app for 7 days. When we target in this way, we can send messages that are likely to be effective, and less likely to irritate, because they include relevant offers and can speak the user’s language (both literally and metaphorically!)

And we need to be able to define these target groups, right there and then, within the service we are using, which in turn implies tight integration with an event-driven analytics platform. Experience has told me that once we go down the road of pulling segments from third party systems and uploading them to delivery platforms, we’re less likely to use effective targeting - because it is too much effort

2. Insist On Local Time Delivery

It’s no use sending a push notification at 3pm Pacific Time to a global audience. At 3pm in San Francisco it is 11pm in London and God knows what hour in Moscow. As you move East you are steadily moving from ‘ineffective’ to ‘actively irritating’ on the push notification scale of shame!

So any service needs to support scheduled send, at the local time of the user. That way, you don’t have to manually create multiple time zone segments - rather you can simply specify when you want the message received, and you know that’s what will happen

3. Have The Ability To Build Multi-Touch, Multi-Media Campaigns

Push notifications are a great way to get users back into the app. But unless integrated with other elements of the mobile marketing mix, you’re limited to generic messages sending users back to the home screen of your app. Much more effective is the push notification as a part of an integrated campaign.

In this scenario the push notification is sent to a targeted audience, with a relevant message, and then brings them to an in-app message or campaign that in turn reflects a change in user experience (like a special offer, or new content). At each step of this process the user is receiving highly targeted content, tailored for them, and is led from initial interest to whatever action it is you want them to take in your app (even if that is just becoming a regular user again). The result is stronger click through rates, and more effective push campaigns.

4. Look for Push Integrated With Analytics

If you want to discover what works and what doesn’t when it comes to push notifications, you really need to see the full picture - and that means a push service that is integrated to at least some extent with an analytics package. Simply put, a simple ‘click-through’ report, whilst useful, in no way give you the data you need to pronounce any given campaign a success or failure.

There are many metrics that matter in mobile apps: daily active users (DAU), average revenue per user (ARPU), retention, engagement, session length - the list goes on. In an ideal world, you’d like to be able to see these metrics for each and every target group that receives a push campaign. And you certainly don’t want to be laboriously importing and exporting lists in order to do that. Push notification services integrated with a decent mobile analytics package will spare you that particular heartache.