Last update: May 2021

4 mins to read - 2020/11/25

Push Pre-Permission: Getting iOS Users to Opt-In to Push Notifications

It’s the great paradox of the mobile marketing industry… mobile app users who receive notifications are more likely to keep coming back to your app, allowing for long-term engagement and monetization. But users hate receiving push notifications, when they’re poorly done. (And they are so often poorly done!) What’s more, mobile apps need to get iPhone users to opt-in to receive notifications, with the iOS provisional push feature. It’s no surprise that opt-in rates for iOS devices are around 44%, compared to 91% for Android. However, with the pre-permission notification, developers can get their foot in the door before the OS poses the Yes/No ultimatum. Here are some tips on how to convince iOS users to opt-in to push notifications.

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say yes to life! yes to ios push notifications!

What Is a Pre-Permission Notification?

All iPhone users are familiar with the iOS provisional notification that automatically pops up on your device once you’ve installed an app:

ios provisional push notification

It’s not very informative, and it certainly doesn’t give users much of an incentive to opt-in. And if the user selects Don’t Allow, then you won’t get another chance. The pre-permission notification is a way to pre-empt the official OS request with more of a “soft sell” approach. The pre-permission notification can be customized, and sent at a moment when the user may be more likely to say yes. If they say no, you can continue to delay the OS notification and hit them with another pre-permission request later, once they’ve had a chance to use the app.

Show iOS Users the Value of Push Notifications

Push notifications are often lumped together with mobile marketing. But for many apps, sending real-time notifications is integral to the UX of the app as a whole. For these apps, be straightforward with your users.

words with friends pre-permission notification

For example, this example from the Words With Friends app is simple and straightforward. They let users know how enabling notifications will improve their experience of the app. In addition to providing solo crossword games, Words With Friends also has a dynamic social aspect. And being able to message friends or play against opponents in real-time is a capability that most users will agree is worth turning notifications on.

Likewise the pre-permission notification for Duolingo. It’s straight and to the point. Duolingo users are presumably already motivated to make a habit out of using your app, so they will likely appreciate any extra help they can get to hitting their language learning goals. If you reassure users that the notifications are for their benefit, rather than just another spammy marketing tactic, they will be more likely to opt in.

duolingo pre-permission notification

Personalize for Timing and Content

We’ve stressed again and again that timing is crucial for a successful push notification campaign. And it’s no different here. If you allow the iOS push notification permission request to automatically send, you have no control over when the user receives it. If it delivers immediately after they have completed the app onboarding process, they may be frustrated at having yet another step in the process and just click Don’t Allow. Similarly, if they receive your request at a bad time – when they’re at work, or driving, or what have you – they could simply swipe away without reading fully.

It’s key that you time your request to deliver at a moment when the user is at leisure to give their full attention. Perhaps wait for them to use the app once or twice to get a feel for it. Try to have the request deliver after have some sort of positive experience with your app. For example, if you’re a travel app, this could be after they book their first airline ticket or hotel stay. If you’re a content streaming app, this might be after they “Like” their first video, or create their first playlist. For a mobile gaming app, this might be after they complete their first task, or level up.

Try different wording and send at different times, then track results do A/B testing to maximize user opt-in.

Get Creative and Use Rich Content!

The pre-permission notification is meant to be a demonstration of what your app will be like. You can design the user interface of your pre-permission notification any way you want. So if possible try to get it to reflect what using the app will be like. Try to have some fun with it. Use rich content, like videos, images, and emoticons.

hq trivia pre-permission message
Image Source: HQ Trivia app

One fantastic example is HQ Trivia’s pre-push notification. Once the user completes onboarding, they receive a congratulatory video of the dapper quizmaster congratulating them. It also helps that push notifications are an integral part to the HQ Trivia experience. Users will need to be notified if they want to participate in live games for cash prizes. The quizmaster explains this, and immediately after the user clicks Next, they receive the iOS push notification prompt. It’s simple, yet ingenious.

ios pre-permission push notification
Image source:

A positive, aesthetic design that demonstrates the value to opting in can go a long way in convincing iOS users to allow push notifications.

For more information about implementing pre-permission notifications for your mobile app, or to learn more about OpenBack’s hybrid mobile engagement platform, get in touch with one of our experts.


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