Last update: May 2021

4 mins to read - 2019/05/24

What Is a Push Notification? How Do They Boost Engagement?

We’ve all received them. In fact, they probably seem commonplace by this point. We’re so accustomed to seeing push notifications pop up on our phones and swiping them away that they don’t even register anymore.

But in a fast-paced digital marketing ecosystem, the smartphone lock screen is the primary interface a brand has with their customer. As such, a savvy push notification campaign is a crucial means of communication.

From the user’s end, they’re indistinguishable from SMS text messages. However, push notifications from mobile apps are far more personalized than SMS, and can only be sent to users who have installed your mobile app on their device. In a world that’s gone mobile, they are necessary for getting marketing communications and other updates to your customers. However, if you overdo it, you run the risk of users turning notifications off, or even having your app deleted.

So what is a push notification? And what’s the best way to handle your push notification campaign?

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What Is a Push Notification and Why Are They Better Than SMS?

First, the similarities. When they show up on the lock screen, push notifications and SMS look and behave similarly. If you swipe or click on them, they take you to either your phone’s messaging center or into the app that sent it.

But there are a few small differences that make push notifications the medium of choice for an app to communicate to their users. First of all, push notifications are more versatile and personalizable, as they interact with user data to determine the optimal content and timing to deliver to the device. This means a higher likelihood that the user will be interested enough – and have a free moment – to click on your message.

Second, some phone plans charge their users for receiving text messages. And making your users pay for the privilege of receiving marketing from your brand is NOT a good impression to make. Push notifications, on the other hand, are always free for the user to receive.

Finally, brands sending promotional messages via SMS can come off as spam to their users, especially if it comes from an unknown phone number. And in the United States, sending spam over text message is illegal. (Spam in this case means any sort of commercial message sent to someone unless they have an overt relationship with you.)

For a more in-depth breakdown on the benefits of push notifications over SMS messages, read more here: Push Notifications vs. SMS: Which One to Use and Why

Push Notification Campaign Do’s and Don’ts

When it comes to sending push notifications, there’s a very fine line between helpful communications and harassment. Depending on what the nature of your app is, a few well-placed push notifications per day will work wonders, whereas blasting your user with dozens of generic, poorly timed notifications will hurt your relationship with them.

A good place to start is to consider when would be most beneficial for your customer to receive a notification. When will they have the leisure and the interest in hearing about your app’s new features, or a sale you’re having, or that they have items left in their shopping cart? Common sense would say not before or during their work hours.

So does that mean sending them notifications on the dot of 5 pm? Well, no. You still have to take into account that most people will be commuting home at that time, and will probably be busy directly after making dinner, working out, showering, etc. Some of your users might not work regular hours. This is where the use of device-side data comes in: Google or Apple calendars, local traffic conditions, habitual phone activity, and more can all provide metrics to map out your user’s schedule so you can time your notifications to be delivered at the most convenient moment for them.

Increase Customer Engagement

With mobile apps, engagement is the key. This means from the moment you’re downloaded, kick off with a great first impression and then continue to provide beneficial, engaging messaging that your users won’t want to go without. This can be more difficult with some users than others; Apple phones, for example, only send push notifications if users opt in from the beginning. To make the most of a bad situation, take a look at our blog post on best practices for sending a pre-permission notification to warm users up to the idea of opting-in.

Meanwhile, do what you can to demonstrate your value as an app. Offer a stellar splash page, the window that pops up when a user first opens your app. Interactive features such as a tour of your app, and an easy, intuitive onboarding process will give a good first impression. Then, you can always sweeten the deal for new users by offering limited-time promotional codes or discounts.

Continue to build a good rapport by sending personalized notifications that complement users’ interests and past interactions. Device-side data provides a wealth of metrics – including information from calendars, ecommerce purchases, social media profiles, and more. You can leverage these to offer targeted notifications for user retention.

Drive Your eCommerce Campaign

Push notifications and eCommerce – in particular mobile eCommerce – go hand in hand. According to an eCommerce marketing study by Ignite Visibility, 15% of consumers make purchases over their mobile phones. And especially in times when regions are under lockdown for coronavirus, mobile devices have been imperative in making purchases and staying connected with the outside world. Interestingly, 60% of the respondents in the study stated that they do less than 25% of their shopping on Amazon. Clearly, there is still an enormous market for people who make purchases from other brands.

Keep users informed and inspired with holiday gift ideas by sending them push notifications. Leverage geolocation data to suggest purchases they might find useful. (Does your user live in an area with cold winters? Send them a deep link to your line of winter coats.) Get the reluctant buyer hyped up with limited-time discount codes sent via push. Remind errant shoppers of the items they left in their abandoned shopping carts.

How Do I Get Started With Push Notifications?

There are many mobile engagement platforms out there that offer a range of packages for apps to send out push notifications. However, OpenBack goes above and beyond in terms of sophistication, number of data triggers, and tools for putting the user first. Our unique, device-side model for sending out notifications lets all of the action happen app-side, without the need to send data into third-party servers, resulting in a secure, real-time experience that puts the user first at all times.

If you’re interested in learning more, talk to one of our experts to set up a demo.

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