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Push Notifications Best Practices – A Kumulos Guide

There are many frustrations thrown up by daily life – the bad hair day, the 6 o’clock news, trailing loo-roll around on the sole of your shoe … but few are as irritating as these messages …

You know the ones. Your phone buzzes, someone wants your attention – your mother, the dogwalker, perhaps your parole officer (just kidding!) – but you’ve been here before, and it turns out to be just another irritating push message from a company you’ve likely not heard from for months (maybe years!), offering you something that, to be honest, you’re just not that into. It’s an all too common rookie mistake – by someone who has obviously not heard of ‘intelligent targeting’. This should be at the heart of every savvy marketing team’s push strategy, and for good reason – it has the potential to boost retention rates by almost 40%, and rid recipients of the compulsion to delete your app faster than you can say, “Baby, please don’t go.”

What to do? With the average US smartphone user privy to 46 push messages every day, it makes sense to ensure that those you’re sending out are one of the 46 we actually pay attention to, particularly when over 60% of 18 to 34 years often or always opt-in to receive push messages (54% across the board). Reader – the opportunity to build long-term customer relationships and high lifetime value is there for your taking!

3 Key benefits of an Effective Push Strategy 

Knowing why you should be sending the perfect push isn’t on its own going to help you when it comes to formulating that effective, results-driving push strategy you want to implement. You need to know exactly what you want to achieve with your push campaigns, which will in turn lay the groundwork for gauging their effectiveness.

1. Reach the right people in the right place and at the right time. 

Location-based and geo-triggered campaigns are one of the most effective ways to reach your audience with the perfect personalized message – one that adds real value and not irritation. Want to catch attention with a personalized offer when your customer’s near a physical outlet? Check. What about providing customers in a specific location with relevant information tied to a valuable offer, “It’s gonna be hot in Honolulu this weekend – grab your BBQ must-haves in-store with this code that’ll give you a cool 20% discount!” 

2. Encourage user engagement

When it comes to marketing, there’s nothing quite like a healthy hyper-engaged user-base to boost the bottom line. And with the right strategy, push notifications can engage your audience in meaningful non-intrusive ways that provide real value, elevate loyalty, and boost retention. 

3. And boost conversions

Effective, successful marketing messages are key to boosting these conversion figures that your boss is so keen to see first thing every Monday morning. From triggering an instant purchase via a single click to completing abandoned purchases, boosting conversions nearly always depends upon the ability to successfully engage your customers through push to take the desired action. Get it right, and both you and your customers can look forward to a long and happy relationship.

Great! We’ve covered the why and the what – now its time for the how. The following Push Notifications best practices might seem obvious and simple, but they will help you reach the results you’re looking for.

5 Push Notifications Best Practices

1. Always add value

At the Top of the Push Notification Pops this month is non-mover ‘Add Value” – and here it stays, ad infinitum because if there’s one element that must underpin every push campaign your team crafts, it’s the ability to add value to your user’s life in some way. Failing to do so often does more harm than good (you know the ones … the annual ‘We’re updating our terms/Submit your electricity reading/Get free postage on orders over £500” messages … the ones that suck the living joy out of anyone’s day and are guaranteed to have your audience scrambling for their notification settings in the hope of never having to hear from you again.  

Here’s the thing – if you send a notification, there simply must be something in it for your audience. A limited-time discount for leaving feedback? Check. The opportunity to try out your new product before anyone else does (always a great engager for QSRs)? I’ll take it! Saying thank you for their recent participation in your survey – with a link to results and a free download of the report? Now you’re talkin’. Submitting that electricity reading in return for the chance to win a year’s free supply? Steady on! See where we’re going with this? How can your brand offer value in your next push campaign? Count the ways – then build your plan!

Just before you send though, make sure you use deep links to give  your users a seamless experience when they click on your push notification to open your app with the right offer, content or page shown. Having put so much thought into how to add value with your push campaign, it would be a shame to now fall at the final hurdle and just open the home screen of your app, leaving your users scratching their heads and wondering why the good stuff vanished!   

(This best practice actually transcends whatever channels you are using to engage your mobile audience – Email, SMS, even QR Codes – always use Deferred Deep Links to take the user to the right content in your app.)   

2. Time it right

Straight in at number two, timing. Timing is everything – a cliche, but even cliches have a place in your mobile marketing strategy. There are usually three key push delivery options – those that need to go immediately (for example, a discount code when customers are near your store, or a flight update for travelers); timezones, and intelligent delivery.

"2 for 1 subs" push notifications on phoneGet your timing right – a limited-time-only offer for those jeans when your customer is near your physical outlet; an invitation to feed back on a recent food delivery in return for a discount for your next one; or the chance to win a free meal when I’m already engaged with your app – and your customers and your business will reap the rewards: intelligent send times can increase engagement by 40%. But get it wrong – a middle-of-the-night time-sensitive discount offer, or Saturday evening survey-requests with no incentive –  and you’ll irritate your audience and trash their trust in the process.

Depending on your business, but not forgetting we live in an increasingly small world, the likelihood is that your userbase will be spread across different timezones. You’ll need to take this into account to ensure you’re reaching your audience at the optimum time – wherever they happen to be in the world.

These same users might also fall into a bunch of sub-groups that will affect the timing of your push messages. As a middle-aged grump who lives in the middle of nowhere, I probably won’t thank you for that pizza voucher at 10pm on a Saturday night – but I can almost guarantee that my city-living 21-year-old niece wouldn’t need much persuasion. Similarly, there’s little point in sending out a cinema discount code for Friday night when I’m miles away on the other side of town. 

The key to success? Intelligent delivery. 

Intelligent Delivery is really all about personalizing push campaigns using customer data. Using predictive technology and algorithms that work with a user’s historical and real-time app activity, platforms that offer intelligent delivery are a marketing team’s dream, enabling the automated scheduling of messages to push at the time that a particular user is most likely to engage with it. The reason intelligent delivery is such a big hit with mobile marketers is it works – taking the guesswork out of campaign planning and leaving it to technology to look for the best ways to optimize engagement, retention – and results. Onboarding new customers? Re-engaging lost ones? Advising on flight changes? Promoting new products? They’ll all need a different timing strategy – and intelligent delivery can figure it out for you.  

3. … and make it relevant!

Personalizing the content of your push notifications can lead to a 9% increase in open rates. Pretty good, right! However, before you go asking your dev team to prompt every user for their favourite pet name and salutation, there is more to personalization – we’re talking about behaviour-based audience segmentation and targeting. Behavior-based push notifications can deliver a 400% increase in open rates (that’s four hundred percent)! Now we’re  onto something!

A single intelligently targeted push notification based on real-time customer intel is always going to provide your audience with way more value than the spray and pray approach – one that almost always does more harm to your brand than good. Bottom line? If you’re finding your engagement or retention rates are dropping, or worse, they simply never got to where you need them to be in the first place, there’s a good chance that the messages you’re sending to your audience simply aren’t relevant – and you could end up struggling to re-engage their attention.


Relevant messaging is a fine art, but using data to perfect that art is key. Using data-driven insights, you’ll be able to avoid the guesswork that results in the spam-type messaging that turns your audience off, and start focusing on crafting engaging, relevant push campaigns that your users love – and want to share. Intelligent targeting has the potential to amplify engagement by 300% – try dropping that bomb at the Monday morning meeting! Time-sensitive offers on these jeans I put on my wishlist yesterday; an update on that news story I’m following on Reddit; a reminder that my pizza is on its way and will be at my door in 15 minutes – all valuable, useful, and relevant … and unlikely to send me straight to the block button. 

4. Use rich media

Rich, engaging push notifications that allow users to interact without having to open the app? Count me in! In 2020, we’re all visual creatures – you’ve only got to look at our obsession with Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and just about any other rich media platform, you can think of. Rich formats have the potential to skyrocket engagement rates by a whopping 25% – so, if you’re not already using rich media across your push campaigns, it’s time to get started!

Rich push notifications are messages that can include images, emojis, video, URLs, deep-links, audio, and gifs, and which often include interactive elements that can take users to content that sits either inside – or outside – your app. They work so darned well because they offer engagement opportunities that go way beyond a standard text link, providing an enriched CX,  hyper-personalized messaging, and an outstanding brand experience – and that’s just for starters.

5. And don’t forget to test, test, test!

All your hard work adding value, nailing timing, going postal on rich media and making sure each message that reaches every one of your users is relevant doesn’t mean you can kick back and assume your work is done. As any good marketer knows, unless you build testing into your mobile strategy, you could end up falling behind.

A/B testing allows you to test users’ responses to the messages you’re sending out – with the purpose of providing you with the intel to make any necessary adjustments as you go. Accurate, intelligence-driven A/B testing can reveal a lot about your audience, allowing you to fine-tune your push notification strategy for optimum results. That buy-one-get-one-free offer might be going down a storm with one segment of your users – but could the use of a different image garner even better results?  What about your message opener? Asking a question instead of presenting your offer straight off the bat might be what’s stalling your engagement rate – and there’s only one way to find out! 

Push notifications are a great way to reach with and connect to your audience – but they’re also a super-fast way to lose your fans if you’re not working with the insights and best practices that will give you the best chance of success. 

Timely, relevant, and valuable, finding the right balance between engaging and spamming is an art – one that can be mastered! The Push Notifications best practices we’ve included here will help you get started – if you’d like more inspiration, dive into these articles, and start planning! 

Still not completely sure just how to go about building effective push campaigns that will increase retention and drive up engagement? No problem! Contact us for your free demo and we’ll be happy to show you how!

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