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When to send app push notifications. A practical guide.

App push notifications have an average engagement rate of 10% across all industries. This makes it a highly effective marketing channel, especially when combined with a complementary channel the app inbox.

When used intelligently, either as part of a multichannel strategy or as a stand-alone campaign, app push notifications can vastly improve the quality of engagement between your brand and your app users. Marketers who invest in this channel find it particularly useful when it comes to remarketing to existing customers, recovering abandoned baskets and re-engaging lapsed users.

Central to all of these objectives is the timing of your notifications. And that’s what we’re going to look at in this guide. We’ll break this down into three areas; purpose, message-frequency and optimal send time.

In covering these topics, we’ll also touch on the core ingredients of an engaging notification, leading to click-throughs and conversions; relevancy, personalisation, segmentation and real-time event triggers.

How often should I be sending app push notifications?

Let’s establish a rule of thumb for ourselves before we dive into this.

“First, to do no harm”!

Or if you’re more familiar with the original Latin phrase, that’s primum non nocere…

In an article published on Medium, Tom Farrell asked whether or not marketers need their own Hippocratic oath. The point of that doctrine, held dearly by medical professionals, is that if faced with a problem we should do nothing rather than make it worse.

Now he wasn’t suggesting that as marketers we should be inactive (far from it) but we have to be disciplined and exercise restraint at times.

How on earth does this relate to app push notifications?

Above all, we want to avoid over-messaging our database and damaging our customer relationships. The last thing we want is for our users to get notification-fatigue and revoke our permission to message them at all.

Ok, but what constitutes over-messaging?

This isn’t as straightforward an idea as you might instinctively think. At a basic level, it refers to a tipping point where the recipient of your pushes has been messaged once too often and has a negative reaction.

You could also just be unlucky, and the one push you’ve sent all month just happens to be delivered at a really bad time. It’s not your fault per se, but your brand now bears the brunt of that particular user’s frustration.

Over-messaging is also a very personal thing; some people might snap after the fifth notification while someone else will happily click or swipe away a dozen of them throughout the day and not be too put out.

So yeah, you might be unfortunate once in a while, but if you follow our advice on best practice then you will minimise the likelihood of that happening.

To determine a baseline of how often you should be sending push notifications, you first need to answer the following question.

Turn-on app push notifications screen

Why do you send app push notifications to your customers?

There are essentially 5 reasons to send an app push notification, and you might say that all of them apply to your brand at different times.

  • To welcome
  • To educate
  • To inform
  • To sell
  • To win back

What’s the difference between education and information? In terms of notifications, education refers to product and service updates or new features, whilst information is more to do with transactional messages (confirmation of purchase or estimated arrival times).

It’s possible that the same notification might serve two objectives, but generally, they are more effective when driving one clear goal at a time.

How often you should send different types of app push notifications

Welcome notifications

Considering that 70% of people who download an app are dormant within 3 days (i.e. no activity and likely to delete), it’s fair to say that the initial push notifications are vitally important. Typically, we see brands that are successfully onboarding a high percentage of new users send three or four notifications within the first 3 days after downloading.

Generally, these messages are used to drive registrations (especially in the sports betting industry), encourage account creation and first purchase (for ecommerce brands) and to promote some of the app’s key features or most valuable content (this applies to both the travel and transport industry and online publishers).

An example of an app push notification used by an ecommerce brand

Naturally, if you are sending all of those messages manually, then it’s going to be incredibly time-consuming. That’s why we recommend brands create automated welcome campaigns using a visual journey builder. New users can then be enrolled in a workflow immediately. Depending on their engagement behaviour, they are sent different messages, all of which are a/b tested and optimised for goal completions.

Education notifications

The frequency of these notifications really depends on how often you have something relevant to let your users know about. That’s an important caveat, by the way. Just because a piece of news is big for you doesn’t mean that your audience needs, or even wants, to know about it!

Really, you should only be sending these pushes if there’s a change to the app, or your service or products, that will directly affect the users. Otherwise, keep it to yourself.

Information notifications

This category of notifications almost cannot be overdone. In fact, I would say these messages should be sent as often as necessary. Readers who currently use a neo bank like Revolut or Monzo (amongst a growing number of brands out there) will be familiar with regular account transaction notifications.

These are very helpful, and only a tiny fraction of users would even consider turning them off. A huge number of traditional, incumbent banks are looking to app push service providers to provide this capability and enhance their customers’ experience.

An app push notification sent by a retail bank containing transactional information

It wouldn’t be uncommon for publishers to send 3 or 4 notifications to an individual per day, depending on the number of breaking news updates and the user’s range of interests.

Sales notifications

This is a relatively broad category and includes offers, discounts and promotions as well as suggested reads (for publishers). Any push notification sent with the intention of driving revenue (irrespective of your exact business model) could be considered “sales”.

We’ll talk more about this in the next section, but marketers need to be cautious about the frequency of their sales-focused notifications. Perhaps more than any of the other types in this list, segmentation is essential. That’s one of the ways we ensure there is value both to the customer and to the brand. That’s what one to one marketing is all about!

It’s also important that you are continuously monitoring engagement rates to find the sweet spot between frequency and conversions. The law of diminishing returns certainly applies to sales pushes!

An example of a personalised and relevant app push notification

The perfect sales pushes are those which are triggered by particular events; e.g. a certain product has been recently viewed but not bought, as in the example above. The brand is using the information it has to intelligently target an individual based on their recent behaviour.

Win-back notifications

This includes both basket recovery and re-engagement campaigns. Between 50 and 70% of online sales are abandoned at the checkout. Ideally, you have an automated campaign set up to send app pushes nudging customers back to their carts and re-igniting the lost sale. Provided you have the right solution, these are not difficult to implement and will boost your sales figures significantly.

An app push notification sent by a hotel brand

To re-engage dormant users, it’s vital that you have an accurate picture of how many of your users are “active” and to what extent they engage with the app.

Without this customer data, you won’t be able to identify and address which users are in danger of churning. For publishers and sports betting brands, two industries with a high volume of competition, re-engagement notifications are strategically important.

An example of an app push notification sent to a lapsed users by a sports betting brand

As you can see in the example above, the best-performing re-engagement pushes are personalised and contain offers and content that the recipient has shown previous interest in. By utilising this data, you can deliver impactful messages that win back customers and strengthen their bond with your brand.

What’s the value of your app push notification to the customer?

Alongside your reasons for sending them, the value to the customer of the push notifications is another factor in how you should determine their frequency.

For example, ride-sharing apps might send two push notifications as part of the same transaction (something like “ride is on the way” and “ride is here”). You wouldn’t say that was over-messaging, would you?

And if a customer used the service two or three times in the week, you would still expect them to send notifications every time. And the customer would always want to receive them.

The value of each push is clear in this example; there is no risk of irritating the user so that they develop a negative opinion of your brand and opt out.

But now let’s imagine there’s a third notification sent 10 minutes after you’ve arrived at your destination. It’s directing you back into the app to leave a review. This is a very different kind of push; it only serves the interests of the brand, not both parties.

How does the ride-share service fix that? They incentivise the review with a 5% discount off of your next journey. Now the balance is restored. There’s something in it for them and for you.

There’s a very important learning here.

We have to ensure that every time we send a notification it adds value to the user’s experience.

This leads us on to a crucial concept when sending push notifications; relevancy.


Instead of being overly concerned about how many pushes you should send, focus on ensuring they are all relevant. It’s a better path to follow. One precise, targeted notification a week is more valuable than a handful of generic blasts.

Services like ride-sharing or food-delivery apps have a clear advantage in terms of the content they have to share compared to marketers working in ecommerce or publishing and media, for example. They have what you might call “built-in relevancy”.

So how does a digital publisher or an online shoe store avoid its push notifications falling into the dreaded category of spam?

They need to be in a position to gather and action customer data. This is the raw material at the core of every effective push.

When a user receives a notification that directs them towards the latest update on a news story they’ve been following or offers a discount on a pair of running shoes that they’ve been eyeing up, there’s little to no danger of angering them.


Because the content is relevant. You can send notifications like this with confidence because you have strong evidence, based on their previous behaviour, that the user will be interested in hearing about it.

At worst, they simply they won’t be in a position to click on it right now. They certainly won’t be thinking “I hate these guys and I wish they’d stop sending me messages”!

Customer segmentation

Customer segmentation goes hand-in-hand with relevancy.

The opposite of intelligent segmentation is “spray and pray” campaigns where you send to all possible recipients. This is like clay pigeon shooting with a musket; you might hit something, but largely it’s a wasted effort.

Customer segmentation is at the heart of all successful push notification campaigns.

When you neglect to set custom rules for who receives each marketing notification, you are doing your brand a disservice.

Sure, you might be reaching more people, but does that automatically mean you’ll get more conversions?


An example of simple segmentation to engage app users with push notifications

You want to segment your users based on a variety of known attributes including age, gender, interests (products viewed, pages visited, stories read etc) in order to truly personalise your messaging and ensure relevancy.

How do I work out the best time of the day to send app push notifications?

There are a handful of reports and studies out there, all of which will tell you different things; some recommend sending them between the hours of 8-10am, while others swear that 6-10pm is the golden hours. A difference of opinion aside, those windows are still pretty vague though, right?

It all comes back to segmentation and automation.

Utilise real-time triggers

The best time to send valuable information is straight-away. Real-time app pushes allow you to capitalise on engagement opportunities as they present themselves.

Not every service provider allows you to do this, however. For sports betting brands, this is becoming increasingly important as it opens up the opportunity to offer in-play betting.

An app push sent in real time by a sports betting and gaming brand

For publishers, the speed of delivery is crucial in order to beat your competitors and be the first to deliver breaking news.

No matter what vertical your brand is in, be sure to investigate your service provider’s real-time capabilities.

Account for different time-zones

Let’s imagine a hypothetical, but not uncommon scenario.

You put some time into writing the perfect push message. It’s personalised and relevant of course, and you’re certain it’s going to provide value to everyone who receives it. There’s even dynamic content in the mix. You send it at 10.30am, which is the proven best time for your brand.

Perfect, right?

Not for those users who are five hours behind. You’ve just woken them up in the middle of their sleep cycle and they are not impressed.

Don’t forget to segment your audience based on location, it might just be the difference between driving more conversions and losing a portion of your audience.

Achieve a Single Customer View

Creating a segment based on location is only one layer of detail, however. If you really want to get results then you need to have a Single Customer View.

This means that you understand and engage with your users as individuals, accounting for their personal tastes and behaviour. Using Xtremepush’s enterprise-grade analytics you can very quickly get a sense of each user’s engagement patterns and set each notification to be sent at the optimal time.

This is the best way to optimise your engagement rates.

So what should you do next?

If you’re not currently sending app pushes then it’s definitely something to consider. If you’d like to read more about push notifications we recommend this in-depth guide.

You can schedule a free demo of the Xtremepush solution by clicking on the button below.

If app pushes are already part of your digital strategy, but you are thinking of switching supplier or looking to migrate from point solutions to a single multichannel platform, then get in touch.

Our engagement experts will be able to advise you on the best options for your brand.

About Xtremepush

Xtremepush is the complete digital engagement platform, purpose-built for multichannel marketing. It empowers brands to deliver personalised, relevant and real-time messages across email, web browser, mobile app, sms and social messengers. The platform is completely modular and combines enterprise-grade analytics with a full suite of campaign and automation tools. This provides brands with accessible and actionable data, enabling them to unify the silos, create dynamic customer experiences and execute core business goals at speed and scale.

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