Tobin Harris, Managing Director at app development specialist Pocketworks
5 minute read

I often hear that marketers create a mobile app just so they can send push notifications. Although this strategy isn’t perfect, you can understand why having push is a good thing. It’s because push offers a one-to-one channel to the customer enabling you to drive engagement and build loyalty. Sounds great, right? 

Sadly, only 20% of consumers think that push messages provide value. If numbers are anything to go by, it’s highly likely that your push strategy isn’t as engaging as it could be.

To make matters worse, Appiterate claim that 71% of app uninstalls are triggered by a push notification and eMarketer note that 57% of mobile users unsubscribe from push because of too many messages or updates.

The key to doing push right is to provide value to the customer and do it at the right time. Here are some ideas of how to do that:

Service Progress

Letting the customer know about a change to an order, booking or other service. For example:

  • “Your taxi is on its way”
  • “Your parcel will arrive within the next hour”
  • “Your application form is now being processed”

These are all relevant to something the customer has requested, and therefore it’s highly likely customers will see value in the push.

Content Updates

Alerting a customer when new content is available.

  • “One new auction listing matches your search criteria”
  • “A new article was published in ‘’Digital Excellence”
  • “Jane responded to your message”

The key to getting these updates right is that they must be in line with a customer goal right now. For example, if you’re actively looking for a particular used car you’d want to know when a good match is listed. 

Problem Alerts

  • “Your car is unlocked”
  • “Someone signed in to your account from another country, was this you?”
  • “Your credit card is about to expire”
  • “You haven’t backed up for two weeks”

People fear loss more than they anticipate gain. If your service protects people from a loss, then alerting them to problems is incredibly useful. Your well-timed notifications give people an opportunity to react.

Event Alerts

  • “Someone’s at the door” 
  • “The talk is starting in conference room R123”
  • “Our happy hour starts in 30 minutes”

People don’t want to miss important things, so this is about keeping them in the loop so they can make a decision to react. 

Location

Alert people when they enter a certain place. 

  • “Welcome back, we have a 2 for 1 offer on all drinks”
  • “Ready to park? Tap here to pay for parking”
  • “Your plane boards in 10 minutes”

The alert can be triggered by a geofence, which is an area painted on a map. Another option is to use Bluetooth beacons; `small devices placed in a physical place that an app can detect and then trigger a notification. 

With Geo alerts, you can send relevant messages, at the right time and in the right place. Powerful stuff.

Reminders

Telling the customer to do something because time is running out.

  • “Your appointment is in one hour”
  • “You must confirm your account within 24 hours”
  • “Don’t forget to put the bins out”

It’s easy to fall into the trap of sending reminders for things people aren’t interested in. E.g. “Our summer sale ends today, don’t forget to check us out online!”. People will tolerate one or two of these a week, but it’s not very valuable. Better to remind people to do things you know they want to be reminded about.  

Note, we have met companies sending more than this with reportedly good results, but we’d advise you tread carefully.

Silent Updates

There aren’t really push notifications as we know them. They are silent messages that only your app receives. They are great to show customers instant updates whilst they are actually in your app.  For example:

  • Someone turning up the volume on your TV
  • The light was just turned on 
  • Your home electricity consumption changed

The updates wouldn’t be important enough to warrant sending a regular push, but if the customer is viewing the app you want them to see new information instantly, a silent push will allow that to happen. 

What’s right for your business?

Every business is different, so it might help if you start by being clear on how do you help a person achieve a goal, and what is important to them right now.  By right now, I mean at any given step in their journey when interacting with your product or service. 

First, be clear on how you specifically help people. What goal are you helping them achieve? E.g.

  • Getting somewhere
  • Satisfying hunger
  • Buying a hard-to-find product 
  • Keeping their house tidy
  • Keeping their car safe

Then, think of ways to give people information in a relevant and timely way to support them in this goal.  This way, you are designing your push tactics based on value to customers, which is a good thing to do.

Getting opt-in

Research has shown that it’s best to ask customers to opt into your push messages. People get nervous if they think you’re sending them stuff based on location or by tracking their behaviours without permission. This will increase the chances of them disabling push in your app, or uninstalling it altogether. 

Getting opt-in will mean they receive what they said they want to receive, so you’re less likely to upset anyone. And I don’t mean in an “I agree to your terms” kind of way that nobody reads. They need to clearly indicate they see value in what you send. E.g “Please send me push messages alerting me about the status of my order”.

Be careful how you send promos

Avoid promotional pushes unless it’s something the customer has opted into. 90% of people are willing to receive one push per week without disabling notifications, but any more than that and all bets are off.  

E.g. If a customer is looking to save a few quid on their holiday to Spain in three months, then alerting them when good offers come up is both relevant and timely. Sending them daily blanket promotions is the path to an uninstalled app.

In a nutshell

  • Understand the goal your customers are achieving with your products and services
  • Send push messages that support them in this goal and are relevant at the time you send it
  • Consider progress, content changes, problems, events, reminders and silence as good ways of thinking about “how can we provide value with push”
  • Keep promo push messages at less than two a week. 

If the ability to communicate with customers via push notifications through an app would benefit your business get in touch with our team on 0113 466 0302.