Last Updated on
January 20, 2024

10 Push Notification Best Practices for Better User Engagement

Key takeaways:

71% of all app uninstalls are triggered by a push notification. Let that sink in.

Your Subscriber Lifetime Value relies heavily on how well you can engage and retain your subscribers. The following post deals with how you can avoid this scenario and instead increase subscriber retention, whilst creating meaningful relationships.

Below, we will talk about push notification best practices concerning onboarding, segmentation and strategies to deliver your best content at the most relevant times for your readers.

Check out this video summary for a quick overview - then dive in below.

(For a more in-depth post on exactly what push notifications are and how to use them to gain more engagement, click here.)

Concentrate on the topics your readers care about

As already alluded to in the introduction, the main way to get others to interact with your push notifications is by making them relevant.

52 percent of users specifically say that they look for information and offers in the push notifications they receive that actually concern them. Of course, this may seem rather self-explanatory, but some companies share all kinds of information without first considering if it adds value to their readers or customers’ lives. In the end, push notifications are for people, not devices.

Plus, you are not the only one who sends them. The average US smartphone user gets 46 notifications per day. Because of that, it’s important that you stand out – in a positive way.

To achieve any of this, the first step in implementing push notification best practices is to put yourself in the shoes of your user. It’s easy to forget what it’s like to be a subscriber, and what they want from your app in the first place. However, this should always be at the forefront of your mind.

Consequently, when you are planning to share a notification, ask yourself what it provides for your subscribers. How can you make it more relevant, useful or pleasant for them to receive? Thinking this through will make your messages infinitely more valuable.

Encourage users to subscribe by timing your opt-ins

Before you can start sending notifications to people, you first need to get them to sign up. Here are a few tips on how to achieve that.

Sending the opt-in message right after the app install can easily be more annoying than helpful. In most cases, users need time to get to know your app (if you're asking existing website users or subscribers to download a new app, then asking for permissions on the first app sessions is more likely to be successful).

For example, Localytics recommend sending the opt-in message between the fourth and sixth session.

push notification opt in increases with number of sessions

If you don't want to stick to a set number like that, another option is to think about at which point push notifications can make a difference in the user experience. One possibility would be tracking an order. At that moment, it’s natural for users to opt-in.

Highlight benefits and encourage users to say yes

When offering to send push notifications, don’t simply prompt users to stay in touch for information or communication. Be as specific as possible when telling your app users what they get out of opting-in (breaking news stories, new content relevant to their interests...).

On Android, users are automatically opted-in to mobile app Push Notifications, however some news publishers choose to display the opt-in confirmation anyway as a best practice. The BBC does this with a simple opt-in, as seen below.

BBC push opt in
On Android, the BBC app provides you with the option to opt-in to push notifications or not.

In the example here, the company not only explains the benefits of opting in, they even show them with an image. All of this before the actual notification prompt, to prime for acceptance.

In addition, doing a pre-qualification allows you to create a safety net for yourself. If a user says no to your pre-permission message, you have the opportunity to ask again later. If they choose Don't Allow straight away, you'll have to get them to manually opt-in again, which is infinitely harder as you won't be able to prompt it with a push notification.

pre-permission messages are push notification best practices

However, there are also voices that speak out against pre-permission messages, so it really comes down to testing.

Increases Click-Through Rates by Segmentation

Proper segmentation can increase your click-through rate by up to 218 percent.

impact of push notification segmentation on ctr

This is key. The publishers seeing the highest engagement with their push notification strategy rely on push notification micro segmentation to improve their open and click through rates.

Firstly, you should be asking what categories of content your subscribers want to read and receive with push notifications.

push notification segmentation
The NYT app lets you segment notifications by the type of story you want to read about

You can further segment these subscribers based on location, device, browser type, behavior and more. This will allow you to send pinpointed notifications to specific reader types.

A good example here is the time zone and location. If you're sending out notifications to readers in certain locations, they need to be time-appropriate. You don’t want to wake up users in the middle of the night, therefore, a notification blast to everyone around the globe at the same time is out of the question.

In addition to that, you want to schedule messages so that they appear when users are most likely to interact with them. That way, you can maximize their effectiveness.

push notification ctr by hour
Push Notifications sent between 12-1pm see the highest average CTR

Remember the statistic from the introduction? It’s better to send fewer messages than have someone de-install your app completely.

For more on segmentation, check out this tutorial and the case study on the New York Times.

Effectively Deliver Relevant Content To Your Subscribers

Once you’ve segmented who you’re sending your notifications to, you can follow these strategies to deliver relevant content

General Push Notification Best Practices for Higher-Impact Messages

First, let’s go over some general advice for using these types of messages:

  • Be concise – Push notifications are a short medium. Depending on the device, you only have about 40 characters to hook users, so make the most of them. Be precise, specific and write several versions of your messages before settling on one.
  • Personalize if you can – Personalization can lead to up to four times higher open rates. A great way to increase conversions is to include a user’s name, location or usage history. The more personalized and targeted, the more effective.
  • Include a call to action – Like every other marketing feature, the goal is to get people to take action. This becomes more likely if you actually tell them what you want them to do. Click through to read your post, slide to view more, etc. Again, be specific.

Make the Most of Design Opportunities and Reap Higher CTR and Open Rates

One of the strongest mediums here is images. They are perfect for news articles and retailers and can convey emotions and information more quickly than simple text ever could. As a consequence, images have been shown to boost open rates by up to 56%.

use images in push notifications
Image source

When using an image, make sure it’s high quality and directly related to your post, without distracting from the point of your notification. You can also use other rich media like audio, video, GIFs and more.

Don’t forget that push notifications allow you to use both a logo and a content image. The former is especially important for branding purposes.

Yet, design doesn’t necessarily boil down to only adding images. The look of the text itself can also make a great impact, for example, through selective capitalization. This can help put the emphasis on the most important parts of your message.

push notifications selective capitalization

Plus, as mentioned in 4 Ways to Increase Your Push Notification Click-Through Rate, emojis are also an effective tool to amplify content, especially if they are relevant. In some industries, using the little pictograms has been shown to increase CTR by 128 percent.

Brand Unity Across All Channels is Good for Your Bottom Line

Speaking of language, be sure to stay true to your brand voice when using push notifications. Studies say that the consistent presentation of a brand leads to an average increase in revenue by 23 percent.

Think about Duolingo positioning themselves like a guest instructor — intelligent, yet approachable. Their tone is usually energetic and light-hearted for encouragement.

duolingo push notifications
Image source

Netflix is another great example of the use of tone. Conversational, yet engaging and overall very approachable.

netflix push notification
Image source

Whether or not this type of messaging works for your business depends. However, the important thing is that once you have figured out your brand voice, you stick with it across all channels, including push notifications. If you don’t, it can easily sound off-brand, which might alienate customers.

For great tips on how to create a brand voice in the first place, check this post

Increase Relevance with Location-Based Segmentation

If you have covered the above, you can then go ahead and experiment with different notification features. Location is an obvious example.

location based push
The Guardian lets you choose the morning briefing you'd like to receive, either UK, Australia, or US.

The Guardian uses location based notifications effectively. They know the locations of their core readership, and provide custom notification options for these markets. They can then use this information to send targeted push notifications to subscribers at the right time for their morning briefing.

The Same is True for Promotional Messages

Alerting users to promotions is usually time sensitive and can be very targeted at certain groups.

promotional push notification
Image source

Of course, these kinds of messages are perfect for sales and special offers. However, you can also use them to simply tell people about new arrivals in your catalog.

spotify push notification large
Image source

This works especially well if it’s going to people who it is relevant to. For example, the above user most likely listens to related music styles to receive this message. That way, they are even more likely to care about the content of the notification.

Also, if you are selling something tangible, definitely include an image of the item!

Follow-Up With Subscribers to Improve User Experience

Follow-ups are a good way to stay in touch with users, lead them along their customer journey and provide extra value.

follow up push notification
Image source

In the above example, the company doesn’t simply provide a service (the plane ticket) but are now making sure the user gets to enjoy it.

Notice the personalization. Addressing someone by their first name is quite intimate and a cherry on top of the value they provide.

Follow-ups can come in all shapes and sizes. Just think through your product or service and what steps clients go through in using it.

Use Reminder Push Notifications to Combat Shopping Cart Abandonment

Almost 70 percent of all e-commerce clients end up not purchasing what they place in their basket. For that reason, one of the push notification best practices is to use them to recover otherwise abandoned shopping carts.

abandoned cart push notification example
Image source

If abandoned shopping carts are an issue on your site or in your app, something like the above is a good thing to try. In this case, the message also contains an incentive that is directly relevant to the person’s purchase.

Reminder notifications also work in helping users stay on top of their goals. Apps like the aforementioned Duolingo use them to encourage people to “keep up the good work". So, these types of notifications don’t only have to pertain to purchases but can also make users’ lives better. Especially if they signed up to your app to do just that, people might greatly appreciate it.

Supplement Your Messages With In-App Notifications to Reward Active Users

Push notifications usually remind users that an app exists. However, their appearance can also make sense while in the app.

cart abandonment push notifications
Image source

While users may not be expecting a push notification in that moment, it can still add to their experience.

Adding a coupon is a great way to spike interest. The users are already in your app and you’re rewarding them for being there, which can increase your chances of follow through. You can also send a notification asking for their feedback on whether they enjoy your app to show them that their opinion matters to you.

For more information on the differences and different uses of push notifications and in-app notifications, check this post.

Push Notifications Best Practices Takeaways

When improperly implemented, users will opt-out of your notifications or worse, delete your app altogether. While they can always change their mind, it’s not likely since they many forget about the notifications altogether and most people don’t frequently visit their app settings. Therefore, it’s your job to implement push notification best practices to avoid this from happening.

Above, you have learned a whole lot of information to make the most out of push notifications. Yet, if you take away only one thing, let it be that it’s all about the user - creating a great digital customer experience is key.

Whatever you do, whichever message you send, always think about who they are and what they need first. This will guide you to send relevant, tailored content they can truly appreciate and will add value to their lives. If you can do that, there’s no reason for them to ever to give your app the cold shoulder.

Of course, it’s all about experimenting until you get it right. It’ll take some time but will be worth it in the end. If you only send web push notifications right now - consider building mobile apps so that you can send push notifications to iOS users too.

Check out our guide to sending push notifications from a website to learn why. With just web notifications, you're limited - but when you convert your website to iOS and Android apps for your business you can truly make the most of push notifications!

If you're interested in building apps from your existing site, while keeping all your existing features intact, saving tens of thousands of dollars, cutting months off the process and having a top team handle everything for you - consider MobiLoud.

We have helped over 2000 businesses go from website to app, and we can help you too. It doesn't matter what kind of site you have, we have solutions for every website or web app. For example, MobiLoud can be used to build:

And everything in-between! No matter the site, you can turn it into iOS and Android apps with either News, Commerce or MobiLoud. You can use everything from the web in your mobile apps - and bring them live in just a few weeks.

We hope you enjoyed this article. If you want to learn more, also check out our guide to the best push notification services and tools in 2019. If you're interested in building mobile apps - get in touch with one of our app experts for a demo!

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