The Anatomy of a Highly Successful Push Messaging Campaign

Successful push messagingIf the online marketing world is becoming cluttered with fluffy content, the mobile marketing space is becoming saturated with apps sitting in smartphone purgatory. This is the part of your phone where apps you downloaded long ago sit in silence, unremembered and unused. Safe to say, it’s not a place any mobile marketer wants their app to be. Today, we have the power to fight forgetfulness and stay top of mind on the one device customers always keep within reach – their phones. And that power is in push messaging.

Push messages are short and sweet messages that appear on a smartphone user’s home screen when he or she is not actively using your app. Push messaging should be like that polite tap on your shoulder from a friend you haven’t seen in a while – immediate, personal, and re-engaging not intrusive or irrelevant. It’s a tricky line to walk, so we’ve outlined exactly what you need to do to create highly successful push messaging campaigns that promote interaction and drive app traffic. You’ll also find bite size TL;DR (too long, didn’t read) highlights below.


1. Make it easy to opt in and out of push notifications

Mobile marketers can ask people to opt in to push notifications either when users download an app or, after the first time they've used it (in iOS 8, push notifications will be turned on by default). The goal here is to be transparent about what push notifications your app will send and speak to the advantages of turning these on. Being clear about your push notification content will also build trust with your user. If people know what’s coming their way, they’ll be more open to receiving notifications. Conversely, you should also make it simple to opt out of push notifications. If you don’t give them an easy way out, you risk annoying customers to the point of uninstall.

TL;DR Best Practices:

  • Ask users to opt in to push notifications upon app install or after the first time they use an app
  • Highlight the benefits of opting in
  • Be transparent about how users can opt out later


2. Create user segments

In this day and age, mass-marketing campaigns are pretty ineffective. A “batch-and-blast” push message will generate low engagement because it’s too generic to provide any real value. For example, a push message that says, “Check out today’s daily deal” isn’t specific enough and will probably be ignored. Mobile marketers need to deliver content that is relevant to users who share certain attributes or behaviors. To illustrate, users who have previously made an in-app purchase would find a push message about free shipping exciting whereas users who have never shopped in-app could be motivated by a push message containing a discount code. So, creating lists of your app users based on characteristics or events that align to specific campaigns will help you better target your mobile marketing efforts.

Segment app users for push messages

TL;DR Best Practices:

  • Do not employ a “one size fits all” strategy
  • Identify important user attributes and create relevant segments
  • Target different push messages to the right segments


3. Use personalized, actionable language

The smartphone is a personal marketing medium, and your app users who have enabled push notifications are expecting tailored and important messages to come their way. Let’s return to the example above regarding daily deals. If we were to rewrite this push notification to make it stronger at eliciting action, it might read something like this, “Today only! 25% off ALL dresses. View the collection.”

Unlike in-app messages, push notifications have design limitations and follow a standardized text format. As a result, your words need to motivate user action. Language that conveys urgency (i.e. time-sensitive deals) and relevancy (sending this to your female segment) will naturally be better at driving latent users back to your app. Furthermore, make sure you use deep linking to guide users to the specific screen relevant to that offer – don’t just send them to your home-screen!

Push messaging text

TL;DR Best Practices:

  • Use actionable language that conveys urgency and clearly states the offer
  • Personalize messages based on user segments
  • Guide users to a relevant offer screen


4. Carefully control timing

Because push messages are generally paired with sound or phone vibrations, timing should never be overlooked. You don’t want to send a push notification to your app users at 3am and unleash the wrath of customers whose sleep has been disturbed. Mobile marketers should incorporate local push timing into their strategy so that user segments get messages at one time (say, 9am) regardless of location.

When it comes to timing, another thing to keep in mind is time of year. Sending push notifications based on date (say, around holidays) can help humanize a brand and capture some of the euphoric spending that happens around gift-giving seasons. For example, a push notification for a restaurant review app set to go out two days before Valentine’s Day could read, “Happy Valentine’s Day! Have a lovely evening. Here’s a discount code for dining out.”

Finally, don’t forget to expire messages when they go out of date. If you sent out the previous Valentine’s Day push notification at 10pm or on February 15th it would have no relevancy.

TL;DR Best Practices:

  • Pay attention to your user segments’ time zones (people sleep!)
  • Customize messages based on time of year (holidays) to make brand personable
  • Expire messages when they lose relevancy


5. Identify the right frequency

Nailing down the ideal frequency for sending push messages can be hard because it varies depending on the type of app you have. Social apps can get away with sending more regular push messages because people want to be notified when their friends post updates or interact with them. Conversely, promotional apps should use a lower frequency because users react badly to having ads constantly blasted at them. Other apps, like gaming apps, can send push notifications based on in-app activity such as when a player is required to make a move.

Push messaging frequency

TL;DR Best Practices:

  • Be weary of sending messages too frequently
  • Figure out what frequency suits your audience
  • The ideal frequency depends on the type of app you have


6. A/B test to see what text works best

Unlike in-app messaging, push messages can only be customized with text and sound (with iOS 8, they can be interacted with directly). Therefore, it’s essential to use the right words that resonate best with your audience. Use A/B testing to compare push messaging campaigns and understand what character length, phrases, action verbs, etc. yield the greatest engagement. For example, a mobile marketer might test shorter text versus longer text. Furthermore, you can experiment with adding time-sensitivity to your push message like “this week only” and see if it works better than “code expires in 2 days.” Switch up your words and methodically test to see which variation drives better results.

TL;DR Best Practices:

  • Use A/B testing to perfect your push messaging text
  • Test different action words, phrases, message lengths, etc.


7. Use marketing automation

Sophisticated marketing automation capabilities are on the horizon in the mobile space. Right now, you have the ability to set up criteria to automatically qualify and enroll users into segments. Very soon, you’ll also be able to automate a series of personalized push messages to be delivered to them so you never miss an opportunity to convert. Marketing automation can help you nurture your app users down your funnels and allow you to link push messages/offers together. As a result, you’ll get new insight into how messages should be chained together and how this impacts in-app behavior.

TL;DR Best Practices:

  • Implement marketing automation to “auto-enroll” new users into existing campaigns
  • Chain push messages in a series to continuously nurture users


8. Measure the metrics that matter (and then do it again and again)

When it comes to analyzing the success of your push messaging campaign, don’t simply default to measuring the number of app opens. Yes, app opens are important to understanding app traffic, but is it really the end goal you were aiming for? For example, if you send a promo code to your users in a push messaging campaign, measuring in-app purchases would be more appropriate. Other conversions you can measure include a social interaction or article read, depending on your app type. The point is; measure the metric(s) that make the most sense for your app monetization strategy. Then, use the analytics you gather to modify your push marketing in a closed-loop system. Remove or alter messages that didn’t work and keep the ones that did. Rinse and repeat.

Measure mobile marketing

TL;DR Best Practices:

  • Don’t silo the success of your campaign to just app opens
  • Identify and track other metrics that are relevant to your app marketing
  • Use app analytics to improve your app marketing


The Power of Push

Push messaging is a powerful way to engage with your high value demographic. In fact, research by Responsys found that approximately 68% of smartphone users have enabled push notifications for apps, so don’t let this marketing channel sit idle. Push messaging campaigns can be highly successful and result in a 50% increase in open rates compared to email and twice as high click through rates as well. Use the above best practices to craft a great push messaging campaign that’s promising not “pushy.”

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