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How Push Notifications Can Help You Increase App Retention

Engagement is core to the success of any app, however getting your app to be one of the chosen few that a user regularly opens can be a tough task. The average smartphone owner uses only 5 of the 25 apps they’ve downloaded,  highlighting the importance of an app retention strategy, especially for apps that aren’t “addictive” by nature like gaming or social networking apps. While your content and app features are responsible for grabbing user attention,  the best way keep your app top of mind is by using push notifications.

Push notifications are an app marketer’s best weapon for fighting low usage and abandonment because they can help bring lapsed users back into the app after a period of inactivity. Push notifications can be sent to any user who has enabled the feature when installing your app, so getting users to opt-in right from the get-go is crucial.


Increasing opt-in rates

A study from Localytics found that users who enabled push messages on average open the app 88% more times than users who disable them. Furthermore, users who opt-in to receive notifications show higher app retention rates compared to those who disable push. On average, 62% of users will return to the app in the first month if they are being engaged with push messaging, and will actually continue to use the app at a higher rate than users who opt-out.



While the promise of increasing user engagement and minimizing churn certainly make the case for using push in your app marketing strategy, getting users to opt-in is a whole other story. While average opt-in rates can be anywhere between 50-60%, here are a few tips that can help nudge your new app user to click accept:


App store optimization

Your app description, screenshots and preview video tell users what to expect when they download and open your app. By mentioning the benefits of notifications and focusing on how they improve the user experience, users understand early on that there is value in opting-in.



Users will be asked to accept push messages when they launch your app for the first time, so it’s important to get them to accept during onboarding.  In addition to the standard opt-in pop-up include a screen that promotes the advantages of alerts. Many apps do a great job at this, including Flipp, who psychologically set up the user to accept notifications by include an “OK, got it!” button during onboarding.


Flipp promote push notifications in their app store screenshots as well as during onboarding

Flipp promote push notifications in their app store screenshots as well as during onboarding


In-app messages

Sometimes users don’t accept right away, but that doesn’t mean all is lost. You can still catch users on their next visit or after they’ve completed a specific actions (like favoriting an item, reaching a certain level, or making a purchase) with a pop-up message similar to the one you used during onboarding.


Sending push messages that convert

Although most app marketers are familiar with push notifications, there’s still some confusion about how to use them and that has spawned quite a few myths, including that users equate them with spam. To reduce the risk that users ignore or opt-out of receiving notifications, here are 3 key steps to follow:


1. Craft compelling messages

Whether your notifications are about breaking news, special offers or new content, messages need to be relevant and “click-through” worthy. Notifications that get clicked are short and sweet,  peak curiosity and make user want to open the app to know more. The best way to test your copy is to set up A/B tests that track app open rates as well as app events attributed to your message. Also – a quick tip – don’t go beyond the 128 character limit when drafting your messages otherwise they’ll get cut down and won’t make much sense to the reader.


2. Be strategic and take advantage of automation

Developing a mobile CRM strategy can help you decide what type of message is important for which type of user, and when. New users might need more incentives to start using your app, while loyal users may just want monthly reminders that are based on their preferences.


Map out your customer journey and push relevant messages that increase engagement

Map out your customer journey and push relevant messages that increase engagement

An unfortunately common trend for newbies is to overuse push notifications, continually ping-ing users with alerts of little value. This practice not only exploits the feature, but also puts you at risk of users deleting your app.

While there is no holy-grail for messaging frequency, a good practice could be one push a week, which is enough to keep your app top of mind, and then slowly move users to a monthly cycle. The line between providing useful updates and spamming is extremely thin, and different for each app. The best recommendation to not overstep the boundary is to put yourself in your users’ shoes and use your judgement wisely.


3.  Be smart about personalisation and targeting
Push notifications that are strategic and well-written can definitely get more users opening your app, but at the end of the day you also want users to perform specific actions, like viewing a specific screen, completing an action or making a purchase. The trick to increasing conversion is to take advantage of segmenting features like personalisation and targeting.

Users who receive segmented push messages convert 3x more often than users who receive generic notifications, proving that a little segmentation can go a long way. Personalisation can be based on user information, past activity or even predictive behavior, while targeting can leverage demographic data or specific locations including setting up geofences or utilizing beacons for proximity-based campaigns.

While users are happy to share personal data and their location when there are benefits, they are also quick to deactivate messaging when there isn’t any value. To avoid “creeping-out” users with personalisation and targeting, remember that they are best used to maintain a relationship with users who have already been using your app.


Push it, push it real good

Finding the sweet-spot for your push strategy will depend on your specific app, but the principle of developing a CRM strategy with relevant, personalised and targeted push notifications remains the same. By optimizing your messages to increase app open and conversion rates you’re not just improving app retention, but you’re also setting yourself up to increase LTV. So what are you waiting for?




A version of this article was originally published on the AppsBuilder Blog, found here


About the author:

This article was generously submitted by Krista McLandress, Marketing Manager at AppsBuilder  – a professional, yet easy to use mobile app development platform.

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