Mobile Push Notifications - The Fine Line Between ‘Push’ and ‘Push Away’

Mobile has very quickly become the dominant platform for media and publishing. Our desire for constant content, and our magnetic attachment to our smartphones during any idle moment, means that our chosen news and entertainment apps are checked and refreshed relentlessly throughout the day. It’s a crowded market, and so your app has got to live up to customer expectations. Part of this is walking the tightrope of getting your real-time communication strategy perfectly balanced.

When breaking news happens it’s vitally important to be able to send huge amounts of push notifications as quickly as possible. A quick-push option for a genuinely important news story (like the American Presidential election result, or Kim Kardashian’s next fashion crisis) is crucial to satiate your users’ thirst for real-time coverage. The chances are that your user has a rival news app installed on their phone, and if that push notification reaches them first, your message will not only be useless, but also an annoyance. Nobody wants an app to annoy them - that’s how they get deleted.

Optimize Your Push Campaigns

As important as broadcast push is, it is not the be all and end all. In fact it can be quite the opposite and can damage the integrity of your publication if not used wisely. That is also how apps get deleted. And so an optimized messaging strategy is highly recommended to ensure that no user is getting ‘pushed away’ by an unwanted push notification.

So how do we make this happen? Well, fortunately as is often the case on mobile, data comes to the rescue. Tracking of user events/actions in real-time allows you to understand your users better, learn what interests them, and therefore send more relevant and targeted messages. For instance, if a certain individual only ever clicks on the sports related pages of the app, don’t send them the latest celebrity gossip. Similarly, location information helps you filter what to send as well - if you are an international app then this is important. I’ve been woken up a few times recently by late night push notifications, and by golly my feathers were ruffled.

It’s all very well having a sophisticated push strategy in place, but it is useless unless a user has agreed to opt-in to push and location permissions. There is a subtle art to this, which includes explaining to the user in an in-app message the value of opting-in: learn about news that interests them while it is happening, and at a time that won’t disrupt them. Stagger these prompts, don’t rush in and lose your one main chance of a positive reaction. Most peoples’ reaction is by default ‘no’, so you’ve got to coax them into ‘yes’.

Finally, don’t be satisfied with just one version of your push notification. A/B testing gives you the chance to control multiple variants of a push campaign and exposes which were successful and which were not. You’ll soon figure out what kind of message works depending on what kind of news has happened, which will ultimately increase engagement with your notifications.