How much can you really improve your push notification campaigns?
Push notifications are frequently high-performers, driving all sorts of use cases at multiple stages in a customer’s lifecycle.
Whether you’re looking to engage and onboard a new app user, or drive a prospect towards their first conversion on your website, push notifications will help.
If you’re looking for a new way to boost revenue, promote new products or features, or drive repeat traffic to your properties, a strong push campaign can be invaluable. And push notifications have proven themselves to be an outstanding channel for recovering abandoned carts and re-engaging churned users (or those at risk of churning).
We see all of this time after time amongst our clients, across all verticals.
But if you’re not sure why your own campaigns aren’t driving the results you had hoped for, or you simply have a hunch that they could be better, this guide is for you.
Because despite the apparent simplicity of push campaigns, there’s actually a lot of skill and strategy involved in making them really sing.
This is a channel that marketing teams typically become more proficient with over time. The more campaigns you send, the more you refine your targeting, and the more a/b testing you do within each of them, the closer you get to finding the sweet spot for your particular brand and audience.
What we want to do in this article is fast-track that progress, and give you some ideas and practical advice to optimise your push notification campaigns immediately.
And yeah, there’s going to be one or two (slightly) more long-term projects to put on the roadmap too.
Want to learn more about push notifications? Read our complete guide here
What’s the average engagement rate for push notifications?
This is a question that gets asked all the time. And it is an obvious place to start the conversation around how to improve performance.
But honestly? It’s irrelevant.
Ok, let me qualify that statement.
An average engagement figure is irrelevant by itself.
You’ll encounter a wide range of statistics about click rates for push campaigns. Some are suspiciously high, others un-inspiringly low.
And usually, they tell you absolutely nothing useful.
Some reports will say expect a 1% engagement rate.
But another whitepaper will testify that the average engagement rate is 15% (or higher).
We’ve seen both ends of the spectrum. Both figures are realistic, and depending on your brand’s expectations and objectives, either could be considered a success.
We’ve also seen clients execute campaigns with click-rates closer to 30% and 40%, by the way.
In the right circumstances.
What’s typically missing when generalised stats are thrown around is context. Too often a blanket figure is offered, without reference to the industry, to the content of the message, the time it was sent and all of the other elements that make up a campaign.
Sure, a benchmark figure can be helpful. It’s something to aim for, something to let you know your campaigns are potentially underperforming.
But here’s the kicker; how much weight do you really want to give that figure without knowing how accurate it is for your industry, how it relates to the use cases you have in mind and the way your brand uses push notifications?
Drawing sweeping conclusions about the click-rates without explaining the factors which contributed to those figures is a pointless exercise.
Because no industries, and no two brands within the same industry, use push notifications exactly the same way.
That’s part of the channel’s appeal in the first place; it’s flexible and suitable for driving a huge variety of business goals. eCommerce brands use them, sports betting brands use them, travel and hospitality brands use them. Banks are using them more and more, and digital publishers almost couldn’t do without them.
Chasing a figure without knowing all the details behind it can do more harm than good.
That’s why when we prepared our multichannel engagement benchmarks report for 2020, we didn’t stop at the average overall figure.
We actually took the time to look more closely at the numbers and analyse campaigns in terms of the vertical, the business objective, the level of personalisation used and their overall quality.
We believe this is the only way to talk about engagement figures in a helpful and constructive manner.
I recommend you download that report, as it offers a fascinating insight into what really matters in campaigns across various channels (including email, and on-site and in-app messages).
Download our Multichannel Benchmarks Guide and see how your campaigns measure up to competitors
And yes, it does provide some genuine and detailed average engagement rates for push notifications too!
In the meantime, let’s look more closely at what makes a difference with push notifications and find areas where you can improve your campaigns.
The 3 main ways to improve push notification campaigns
We think about creating and delivering a push campaign (or any marketing campaign for that matter) under the following headings; audience, content, timing.
These are the primary elements that really impact your click rates and conversions. And within each of them, there are a few sub-categories as well.
If you want to improve the performance of future campaigns, or are trying to identify why your current campaigns aren’t meeting your expectations, the solution is likely to be found somewhere in that mix.
The good news is that these are all things largely within your control, by the way.
So let’s go through each of them, and look for areas to improve.
Push Notifications: Audience
At a basic level, your audience is obviously who you’re sending each campaign to. Of course, there’s more to it than that.
If you were to concentrate on improving just one aspect highlighted in this article, I’d recommend it was your segmentation.
It should be your primary consideration when planning a push campaign. Who is this campaign going out to? How you construct your segments, and what criteria your brand uses to populate them is unique.
If your current service provider doesn’t facilitate in-depth segmentation then that’s an issue to address. Nothing will limit your ability to drive results with push more than batch and blast campaigns that are sent to every addressable user every time.
Sending irrelevant messages will also wreak havoc on your subscriptions. It only takes one or two annoying, impersonal messages to convince a customer that they’d rather not hear from you again.
Your core segments will be based around the following conditions:
- Life cycle stage Are they a new customer, someone who’s been purchasing for years, or are they showing signs they may be about to churn?
- Value Identifying a cohort of your biggest spenders and most loyal supporters unlocks a lot of potential revenue. Or maybe you want to target low-spenders and increase wallet-share with a special offer.
- Activity Levels How often does the customer visit your website or open your app? When was the last time they made a purchase? This is a great way to identify your VIPs or “at-risk” customers, particularly in verticals where spend isn’t an applicable metric.
- Interests Is there a particular type of content that this customer is interested in? Are they predominantly a football fan? Do they typically play slot games, or are they more of a live poker player?
The highest-performing segments will typically combine multiple attributes and events to identity precise groups of customers. It’s what’s called micro-segmentation.
If you have a large user base, then it’s common to have customers flowing in and out of different segments as their spend and activity levels fluctuate over time. We refer to this as dynamic segmentation, reflecting the real-time behaviour of your customers.
If you have automated journeys in place, you can make sure you’re sending the right message, with the right incentive, and nudge customers towards the next milestone.
Not sure where to start creating segments, or want some extra guidance? This guide to modern segmentation will be helpful.
This goes hand in hand with proper segmentation. What are you hoping to achieve with this campaign? How will you quantify its success?
Whilst revenue is a very attractive metric, it’s not always possible to measure, or appropriate to do so. Depending on the vertical you’re in, or where in the lifecycle your audience is, a successful outcome may just be getting recipients back on-site or in-app.
Make sure that each push campaign you send has a single, clear objective. This will not only allow you to quantify its success but also help you clarify and refine your messaging.
Deep-linking your push campaigns is very important here too. This refers to setting a specific URL (or page within your app) that you want the push to direct the recipient to. If by default you only ever bring your audience to your home page, then that’s one immediate element to be remedied.
For example, if your campaign is about driving conversions of a particular product, then deep-link it to that exact page. Ideally, you want to make the route to conversion as clear as possible.
If you have breaking news to share, send the reader straight to that article. And so on, depending on the vertical and use case.
Which leads us naturally on to…
Push Notifications: Content
Push notifications are a real test of your copywriting skills. With a comparatively small word-count available to play with, your pushes need to get to the point quickly.
The age-old rules of thumb for good copy still apply, maybe even more so.
It’s important to simplify your CTA, prioritising energetic phrases that capture attention and compel the audience to react. We recommend experimenting with copy that leads with the CTA, or most important word.
So in publishing, the classic example is to begin the push notification with “BREAKING” when you’ve got a high-interest news story that’s just been published.
There’s a classic saying in that industry, that actually really applies to writing push notifications; “Don’t bury the lead”. In other words, give your audience a sense of what the message is about straightaway.
Never assume they are going to read the entire thing. You have a split second once the notification arrives on their phone or desktop. So start strong!
Personalisation and relevance
Segmentation is personalisation at a broad-strokes, campaign level.
But the next level up from that is to use dynamic content to populate each push message with individually relevant copy and images. Injecting this added dimension into your notifications is a surefire way to improve your engagement rates.
Within eCommerce, this allows you to pull the name of the product that the customer has browsed, but not bought. Suddenly your cart recovery pushes become much more impactful, and campaign ROI goes up.
In sports betting and gaming, that might be including their account balance, as in the use case below, or referencing their favourite game.
There should be no blockers on what can be dynamically written in your push notifications at the point of delivery. If you have customer data then make sure you’re putting it to use. And where possible, you can even have dynamic images.
Personalising content to this extent isn’t a pipe dream, it’s very achievable. And it will have a significant positive impact on your campaign’s performance.
Unfortunately, not every service provider facilitates dynamic content. Or integrates well enough with the rest of your tech stack to inject data points and customer attributes.
Ultimately, without this kind of functionality, and the customer data it draws on, there is always going to be a low ceiling on what your campaigns can achieve.
Visual assets and rich media
There are limitations, in terms of format and dimensions, but where possible, most push notifications will benefit from an added visual element. In particular, if it’s a promotional campaign then adding an image of the product or service can be very powerful.
You can even go a step further and include gifs and videos. Though again, not every browser or operating system supports this. It’s also worth having the conversation with a provider around what Chrome allows versus what’s doable on Safari for example.
Any limitations are set at the browser level. An enterprise-level platform should make it clear in the campaign creation section what each device supports.
Now that you’ve built the perfect audience, written some tight and engaging copy, and maybe even added a GIF, it’s time to test.
All of your creative assets (both written and visual) can, and should, be tested. One word of caution, however, it’s often not advisable to test multiple elements at once.
If you change both text and images, then how can be sure which of them has been the most influential? This will have an effect on learnings for future campaigns.
But of course, if you’re not worried about that, and you just want to get the best results for the particular campaign in question then it doesn’t matter. In a “pick-a-winner” test, where the best performing variant is then sent to the remaining bulk of your audience, all that matters is that you get the best result.
One other piece of advice; we recommend being bold with your variants. Minor changes from one to another are unlikely to impact conversion rates to any meaningful extent. Don’t be afraid to take a (considered) risk.
Push Notifications: Timing
Scheduled send times
The final part of the puzzle is timing. When exactly should you send the campaign? There are a few aspects to this.
Let’s start with “scheduled sends”, where you pick a defined period of time for the campaign to run, with clear start and end-points.
We’re actually seeing less and less of these, as event-triggered campaigns typically offer better best ROI. Ad-hoc, one-off campaigns tend to be how brands start off with push before progressing to automated, real-time messages as they grow in confidence.
We’re not going to get into what hour of the day a campaign should be sent at. There are too many variables to factor in. What’s right for Brand A, could be a disaster for Brand B.
Although, it is worth remembering that if you have a global audience, factoring in different timezones is always a good idea. That might be something you do at a segment level. So in the US, you might have a segment of customers on the east coast, and another on the west coast. They’d each be sent the same campaign, just during a different window of time.
In general, however, when it comes to ad-hoc campaigns we advocate Send Time Optimisation. This is powered by machine learning and delivers campaigns at the optimal time for each customer, based on their engagement history.
Again, this is an advanced feature not offered by all service providers. One word of caution; you do need plenty of data in order for the A.I. to make an accurate prediction.
Ok, let’s look at event-triggered push messages. These are delivered in response to actions that a customer has taken, or events happening elsewhere in your ecosystem.
In theory, these notifications can potentially be delivered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week once the right conditions are met. Though, of course, it is possible to set limits here as well.
The primary thing you need to consider really with event-triggered campaigns is if they are to be delivered in real time, or with a delay.
Sometimes, the answer is obvious. If it’s a notification about something that’s just happened, and the customer is likely to want to know immediately (their account has been credited or debited, or their taxi is here), then real-time is best.
But what about a cart-recovery push? Let’s think about it practically. If a customer has abandoned their cart at the checkout, then what are the likely reasons? They’ve been distracted or they’ve had second thoughts.
Either way, an immediate push linking them back to the cart isn’t necessarily the right action. They may need a few minutes to deal with whatever has taken them away from your website, or they may need some time to think the purchase over.
So, the best time to send the push could actually be 15 minutes after the event (which is cart_abandoned, or something like that). Or it might be 24 hours later.
You won’t know for certain unless you test it.
The reward for getting your timing right is massive. One of our eCommerce clients has seen a 30x higher ROI for their push campaigns than they initially anticipated. And it’s largely down to the testing they’ve done on this exact use case. They have found the perfect time to send cart recovery pushes for their brand, and that’s driving significant revenue.
For a more in-depth exploration of timing, for both ad-hoc and event-triggered campaigns, check out our guide on when to send push notifications. It’s based on app pushes, but the very same strategies apply to browser pushes too!
Is there a danger of over-messaging? Yes, as there is with any outbound channel. Push notifications are no different from email or SMS in that regard.
What that limit is depends on the customer first and foremost, but it has a lot to do with the kinds of pushes you’re sending. A couple of hard-sell promotional pushes every week might quickly annoy people.
But helpful, personalised notifications (alerting them to interesting content, providing information on their account balance) aren’t likely to have a negative impact.
As in all things, there’s a balance to be struck. On our own platform, we allow brands to set strict limits on how many messages a customer can receive (per week or per month), at both a single channel and multichannel level.
This removes the danger of a) annoying your audience and b) breaching any regulatory limits on how many messages you can send a customer (as in the sports betting industry for example).
We’ve also introduced the concept of “categories” to manage this even better. Let’s say you send multiple types of campaigns, both informational and promotional.
You may want to stop a customer from receiving any more than 5 promotional messages a month, but you’re happy to send as many informational messages as needed.
Each of these individual “categories” can have its own rules and limits in place.
We hope this guide has given you some ideas on how you can improve the performance of your push notification campaigns. On the surface, it may seem like a straightforward channel, but you can see that there’s plenty of nuance and strategy.
If your campaigns aren’t driving the expected results, then there’s always something you can do to change that.
Feel free to get in touch with us if you have any specific questions or use cases in mind. We’re more than happy to offer you some strategic advice.