5 Top tips for retailers using push notifications

As part of this module students are required to create their own blog analysing how digital technology is transforming marketing. They have a lot of freedom to pick technologies and topics that interest them. Some postings are really good. I enjoy reading them as I often learn.

Whether it is practical examples of companies using digital marketing in exciting ways, or the application of theory – some of these posts offer much more than just coursework for assessment.

I wanted to share with you an example by Zoe West, a Business Management with Marketing BSc(Hons) final year student.


Push notifications are arguably by far the most powerful form of marketing that you can use to increase your mCommerce sales. As Shankar et al. (2010) suggest they allow you to reach out your customer wherever they are, to engage them with your app, build a relationship, and lead them to the right offer, making them an ideal method for consumer communication. This blog post is going to explore 5 top tips for retailers to get the most out of using push notifications.

But first, what are push notifications?

A push notification is a message that pops up on a mobile device. App publishers can send them at any time and users don’t have to be in the app or using their devices to receive them. Push notifications look like SMS text messages and mobile alerts, but they only reach users who have installed your app. Each mobile platform has support for push notifications — iOS, Android, Windows and BlackBerry all have their own services.

Tip 1: Start small

By focusing on transactional or purpose-driven messages, you can encourage users to trust push notifications. Start with notifications about delivery information and payments — things your customers will appreciate being notified about, they are then going to be much more likely to pay attention and act on future notifications. From there, you can move on to more personalised deals and messages.

Amazon are doing it right!

Tip 2: Personalisation/Segmentation

It’s not enough to just use push; you need to put intelligence behind those messages. According to O’Connel, (2015) users are three times more likely to convert from a push message when it’s personalised. Don’t assume every user wants to hear about the same thing. Sending a notification that is valuable to the user isn’t just about a 10% coupon – it’s about presenting a relevant offer. The most compelling offer is one that contains information that the user deems important. 

One way to achieve intelligent personalisation is through a solid segmentation strategy. For example, you can start by segmenting users based on their in-app behaviours or known information about them from your CRM (customer relationship management). This is a great way to start as click rates are shown to increase to 8.6 percent for behavior-based personalization and 13 percent for profile-based personalization, compared with the “send to everyone” average of 7.4 percent.

The real gold comes at the next level of segmentation when you segment audiences by both user profiles and behaviours. The average click rate for push messages sent based on behavioural and profile data is an impressive 30.6 percent.

Average click through percentage based on segmentation (Source: Localytics)

Tip 3: Use proven words and CTAs to entice users to take action

Depending on the app category, (even within the sub-categories of retail applications e.g fashion vs home furnishings) the content of a successful push message can vary dramatically. There are, however, keywords and tones that can make a huge difference in click rates.

Some of the top words included “off” (for discount promotions) — which resulted in an average click rate of 15.5 percent, a lift of 5.3 percent compared with the average. Additionally, “come” and “only” showed great click-through rates too, with 13.2 percent and 12.9 percent on average — likely because they showcase new features that might be available only for a short time. (Localytics)

Keywords and CTAs (Source: Localytics)

Tip 4: Value over quantity!

InMarket has found that one too many push notifications from an app can cause users to simply delete the associated app. (Emamian, 2014) Push notifications are more about content value than quantity.

There is no one set rule as to how many push notifications is too many, notification tolerance varies across app industries and individual users, so make the most of your notifications. Not all apps should be sending push notifications once a day, and engaged users have a vastly different tolerance for notifications then new users or dormant users. Rather, it’s about sending the right message to the right person at the right time. In many cases, the elegance is in knowing when not to send a message.

(It is also advisable to make it easy for users to turn off notifications. Therefore if users really don’t like receiving push notifications they will at least keep your app on their phone through this option rather than deleting it.)

Value, not Quantity (Source: Localytics)

Tip 5: Timing is everything

Not only is the number of push notifications a key factor of success, but the timing of these notifications also plays a big part in engagement and click through rates.

Great timing should consider both user behaviour and urgency. Notifications that include urgent information need to be sent at a time that is relevant to the context of the message (such as limited time deals & offers.) For notifications that are not critically urgent, the goal is to minimise disruption and maximise delight.

If you want to go the extra mile even timing can be personalised to individual users – Considering every user keeps a different schedule, push notifications can be tailored to the time when each user is most likely to engage with the app. Kahuna data reveals that customising delivery time based on user preference results in an average conversion uplift of 384%.

Timing is Everything (Source: Localytics)

You can read Zoe’s full post here, including more detail about push notifications, on her blog: Digital Marketing Blog

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