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Push Notifications: The App Marketer’s Guide to Sending Better Push

I’m delighted to announce that we’ve just launched the first episode of the the brand new Pulsate Academy! Every week, we'll publish a video demonstrating best practices and strategies that you can use to supercharge your App. Our first video covers everything you need to know about push notifications. We're looking forward to hearing your feedback in the comments section below.

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Video Transcription | Episode #1

Today, I’m excited to talk to you about mobile push notifications and how you can use them to reach out and engage with customers in real time. Push notifications are a great way to engage. They’re free, they’re effective and when done right can really boost conversions in your app and fulfill your goals. So let’s get into it.

What content should I send to my app users?

Relevance is hugely important when sending mobile push notifications. Consider who the audience is, what they actually want to receive, and how you can avoid the WTF factor. To segment your audience into categories, you'll need some kind of an SDK or mobile marketing platform. When you have that, you can send the right message to the right person. If you’re a news app for example, breaking news to one person might not be considered breaking news to the next user.

How can I Uncover Key Behaviors?

Analytics. You really need to measure the push notifications that you send versus the ones that are opened. A low push open rate can be indicative of a pretty ineffective push notification. When you fatigue users with push notifications that are not targeted, it can result in your app being deleted off the customers device. One other API that you can query is the Apple and Google quality of service API that will let you know which device tokens fail to receive the push. Now, sometimes, that can mean the device was off. But in other circumstances, it can actually mean the app was deleted from the device. When you see a campaign or a push that has resulted in deletions or many uninstalls of the application, that means you need to take that back into your strategy, take it back in as feedback, and consider what to do next.

 real time marketing

Later, we’ll cover conversions as well and how they work. In terms of sensitivity, this is one of my pet peeves. I’ve downloaded a lot of applications from many companies around the world, and very few of them really take my context into consideration. In particular, around the time of day, the time zone. So in the time of day, depending on your industry, depending on the type of company you are, there are various times that you can interact with customers. For example, if you’re a retailer, something around mid-morning, 11 a.m. has been shown to be the most effective time to engage with push notifications. Don’t send them out around 9 a.m., 6 p.m., again, another really bad time to send push notifications.

How can different time zones affect your open rates?

In terms of time zone, you need to consider that your users are not all downloading your app from the same geography or may have changed geography since they downloaded. The time zone that you’re in as the marketer is not necessarily the time zone that your customers are in. So take time zone into account. This is something that your mobile app should collect as a data point that you can then bring back into your system and segment. And then you know whether it’s GMT or Pacific time that you want to target customers in.

In terms of time zone, you need to consider that your users are not downloading your app all from the same geography or may have changed geography since they downloaded

Frequency is hugely important as well. We really don’t want to use push notifications to fatigue our customers. Back to my point on analytics, if you’re finding a lot of push notifications are resulting in apps being deleted, are you being a little bit insensitive to any of these factors, including the time of day? You’re waking people, you’re getting them up out of bed in the middle of the night. They’re definitely going to opt out or delete your app after that! Or are you doing too many pushes that may be slightly irrelevant? In terms of frequency, you need to look at and segment the customers that are very engaged with the push messages that you are sending them. And maybe they want to receive more. And maybe there’s another cohort who are less engaged, who you probably want to watch to ensure that frequency and fatigue level do not become a factor.


In terms of education, how do we actually bring our customers around to our way of thinking and fill them in on why they should give access to push notifications for your app? One of the main things that you need to realize is that the power is with the customers. The three Ps of mobile: permission, privacy, and preference.

What are the best practices to get app users to accept push notifications?

On permission, when someone downloads your mobile application, in the case of iOS, they have to opt in for push notifications. With Android, it’s a little bit different. Those permissions come bundled with the app install. So they decide they want the app or they don’t want the app and the permissions come with it. It’s a little bit more binary. With iOS, you have more granular permissions. You can decide whether you want location services or whether you want to opt in for push notifications.


However, a recent study by DMA shows that actually seven out of 10 users are opted in for push notifications. So that’s a great opportunity. And not only that, but for 16 hours of the day, customers are accessible on their mobile devices. That’s two thirds of the day and an amazing opportunity for those 7 out of 10 users. We always get asked, “How many users can I expect to be opted into my app?” And I think it all comes back to education and how well you onboard or how well you activate customers within your mobile app.


Consider this, I open up the mobile app that I’ve just downloaded for the very first time. We’re on our first date. And up it pops, “This app would like to send you push notifications.” Statistics show that the best time to ask for push notification access is actually the third time that they launched the mobile application. Not the first time. And probably to do it with an on boarding screen in front of it. Explain why they should be interested in opting in for push notifications and what unique value, as a company, you provide to them.


Something like, “Hey, in a moment, we’re about to ask you for push notifications. The reason that we’d like to ask you for push notifications is to give you top location-based offers and deals depending on your context and depending on your interests. We promise not to spam you. We promise to not abuse this feature. We respect your privacy.” And when you put it across like this, and then the next prompt says, “This app would like to use push notifications,” you do it on the third open of the app, not the first one and explain the context and what’s in it for them, then users don’t mind so much opting in and allowing access to this service. One of our clients uses this tactic to their advantage. I think they have an 83% opt-in rate for push, which is very effective across their entire app.

What happens after a push notification is opened by a user?

Let’s talk about how you actually deliver these push notifications to the device and, more importantly, what happens next. When you send a push notification, you’re going to want something to happen after that. When your customer opens that notification, you don’t want to just open your app and then leave them at the home screen. That’s the equivalent of getting a prank phone call or someone ringing the door bell. And you answer it, no one’s home.

Still prank messaging App Users and leaving them at the homescreen? @PulsateHQ shows you...[VIDEO]


So you want to deliver either a landing page in your app, send them to a deep link somewhere in your existing app, or maybe even to a web URL. First of all, let’s discuss how you would send rich media content on the back of a push notification. You need to embed an SDK with a mobile marketing platform or build logic inside your application that when it sees the push notification coming in, it is able to take an ID number from that push inside the payload, and then suck down some HTML content or JSON content from your web server and then render a rich interactive campaign, which could be an offer or a coupon. It could be product information. It could be giving them the virtual tap on the shoulder and saying, “Hey, we’ve got something over here that is really interesting or could be interesting to you.”


Second of all, the deep link would basically bring them to a specific part of the application. If you take a news app as an example, breaking news, they tap the push notification. You’re going to want to bring them to that specific story within the application. And that’s basically an example of a deep link in action. So for a retailer, you say, “Hey, we’ve got these new Gucci items in stock that you asked to be notified of.” Bring them to that section in the app where they can buy that product. This kind of sounds obvious, but there are not a lot of companies that do this very effectively. I’ve seen a lot of pushes that come in and deliver you straight to the home screen of the app. And you’re wondering, “Why did they send that push notification?”


Another way is to send people to a URL. When you open the push notification, you want to bring them to a web page. Now, this cannot happen automatically from the push. You need to do it via your app. So again, the push notification comes in and Yyu need to be taking some kind of an ID from the push that represents a specific campaign in your database. And then your app knows to redirect to a web browser and open up that web page for them to go and see the content. Another excellent technology has just recently become available. Well, it’s probably not that recent, iOS 7, iOS 8. But there’s not a lot of companies that are using this very effectively. Interactive push is a great way for customers to interact without having to even access your mobile application. An example of this would be, “Hey, we’d like to invite you to this VIP event. Would you like to RSVP, yes or no?” And inside the push notification itself, they can say, “Yes, I’m coming,” or “No, I don’t think I can make it this time.” Your application in the background can take that tag, that value, pass it back to your database, your web server. And then you can segment. Then you know who’s coming to your event and who’s not coming to your event.


Or it could even be, “Which product do you prefer, X or Y?” And then the customer selects X. And then you know in the future to send them push notifications about this particular product grouping. These are the micro-interactions that happen without even having to bring your customer on into your app. Customers that are short on time appreciate these interactions being designed to cut down on time, allow them to get the answer, message back to you and allow you to be more interactive with customers, build that conversation and deepen the relationship.


In terms of wearables, this is another thing that’s hugely important. While you can just send a normal push notification that hits your Android or iPhone and then will happen on your watch, it’s worth noting that you’ve got smaller screens. The notification is going to get truncated or cut off at a certain size. One of the new features of Apple Push notifications and also Google Cloud Messaging, is the ability to supply a shorter version specifically tailored for the watch or wear device. That means that you get the full push notification on the smartphone. And then the condensed version that, as a marketer, you’ve been able to craft specifically for that wearable to make it more interactive and more digestible for the format of that particular device.


How can push notifications increase customer loyalty?

Moving on to loyalty and how you would trigger this, push notifications are a great way . . . Pushes can be used for many different things. It could be you’re having a sale. It could be used if someone’s commented within the app, if someone has liked you, if you’ve got a travel deal for them. There’s all sorts of situations that you would want to send a push notification to someone based on segment data or based on behaviors. But it’s also worth noting that you can do this through triggers as well.


By bringing in things like beacons or geofences. And by knowing that someone is present at a particular location, is there right now. In the context of being there, they may want to receive content about your location, about an offer that you may have. Usually it’s not enough to send content or a push just based on someone’s presence or location alone. When you start to understand their behaviors, their habits, their interests, their past purchases, and you can combine all of this together with their location and deliver a push not only at the right place but also in context or who they are in the mobile device, it is a great expression of who we are.

What type of conversions do push notifications satisfy?

In-app conversions. This is why you’re sending your push notifications in the first place, right? You want to get a result. You want people to buy that product. You want them to complete that survey, complete that goal, or do that particular event. So throughout all of this push strategy, relevance, analytics, sensitivity, understanding your push open rate. But moving beyond the open of the push, what happens next? Do they actually complete this goal? And have you instrumented conversion tracking within your mobile application?


Right after the order confirmation page, after they’ve completed that survey, after they’ve commented on that thread, booked that flight, whatever you want them to do, make sure that you understand the goal of the campaign that you’re sending out. And is that goal is actually fulfilled? A open rate is an initial indicator. But really, whether your goal has actually converted, that will determine alone whether your push campaign has been successful or not.


So guys, thank you very much for tuning in to our very first episode of Pulsate Academy. I’m very much looking forward to sharing with you guys every week new episodes on how you can supercharge your app engagement and take your mobile app to the next level. See you next week for Episode #2 Master App Store Optimization in 5 steps New Call-to-action