Apple introduced the push notification capability on iOS 3.0, and over the course of the next five or so years, mobile marketers discovered the benefits of these relatively unintrusive reminders to visit an app, buy a product or interact socially. Since that introduction, push notifications have become a de facto standard in the mobile app sector, and this is simply because they work.
Push notifications keep users engaged and help brands stay in communication with consumers when they haven't used a specific app or feature in a while. According to a recent mobile marketing report from Kahuna, user retention rates are twice as high when people choose to accept push notifications.
To Opt In or Not to Opt In
Herein lies the problem: Consumers must opt into accepting push notifications. And it's a fine line between wanting these reminders or not. ComScore found that 36% of smartphone users "sometimes" allow push notifications, while 33% "always" or "often" do so and 31% "never" or "rarely" agree to an app's request to send notifications. Consumers have the power to choose in this regard, and it's up to brands to encourage their user base to want push notifications.
Many Android developers are probably turning their heads right now. Yes, Android apps do not ask users to opt-in for push notifications. Kahuna's report explained that around 78% of consumers with Android devices choose to keep push notifications on, while only about half of iOS users do the same. In that regard, getting people to buy into push notifications matters on both mobile operating systems.
"There is a fine line between a well-executed and really annoying push notification."
Getting It Right
Unfortunately, that's easier said than done. The latest comScore analysis discovered that a push notification strategy can easily be seen as, well, pushy. There is a fine line between a well-executed push notification and really annoying push notification, and crossing that boundary could lead users to delete an app.
With that said, here's how to do push notification right:
1. Provide Value and Worth
In the simplest terms, users only want push notifications that provide value. For example, a reminder saying, "Hey! It's been a while since you visited our app!" is completely useless. Brands should offer a proposition or a coupon -- any incentive to open that app back up.
2. Make Sure They Work
Getting push notifications to function might not be a huge challenge in itself, but mobile app developers should put their app through vigorous mobile app testing to ensure that push notifications work under all conditions, such as when a user is on a call or is switching from cellular to Wi-Fi.
3. Get Fancy
Contributing to The Next Web, Gal Shvebish, vice president of products at MOBurst, recommended enhancing push notifications with interesting elements. He suggested adding images, calls to action or interactive aspects -- such as responding to requests directly in the notification -- to app reminders. Of course, as soon as the mold is broken, brands should make sure their app doesn't break as well. For example, if users accept or choose an option in a push notification, the app must reflect that choice and not ask the individual a second time. Mobile app testing will play a large role, as different screen sizes, OS versions and much more can impact experiences and displays.
4. Pay Attention to the Market
Uber is the king of push notifications. This app tells users when their ride has arrived, alerts individuals when fare prices drop and even allow people to rate drivers directly from the notification. While every brand might not offer ride sharing, the good aspects of Uber's push notification strategy could extend to any industry. Brands should always pay attention to their competition and try to best them.