5 Questions to Ask Before Sending a Push Notification

Hal Conick
AMA Worldview
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Key Takeaways

​What? Push notifications can be an extremely personal way to connect with consumers. However, when used incorrectly, it may be the quickest way to lose a customer.

So What? Leanplum recently found that 63% of apps send their push notifications at the wrong time, which can lead to consumers unsubscribing and general annoyance.

Now What? "Push notification is that vehicle for doing something that is radically new. [Marketers] should be fighting tooth and nail every day to figure it out," according to Greg Stewart, CEO of the Mobile Marketing Association.

March 9, 2016​

A push notification at the wrong time means not engaging with consumers. Even worse, it may mean annoying them. What questions should marketers ask themselves before sending a push notification straight to customers’ devices to get the most out of this personal communication?

Everyone has experienced it: The phone beeps just after you’ve drifted off to sleep. You roll over to pick up the device, wondering who would text at this hour, and see a notification from that app you downloaded yesterday. It doesn’t create a pleasant experience for anyone, especially the individual who immediately deletes the app. 

Leanplum​, a mobile marketing automation company, recently released its “Breaking Barriers to Push Notification Engagement” report, which found an unpleasant truth: 63% of apps send their push notifications at the wrong time. 

Joyce Solano, head of marketing at Leanplum, says that the company analyzed more than 671 million notifications and found that marketers often don’t consider data such as time, location and message personalization.

Direct access to mobile devices, the most personal “in” that they have with consumers, means that marketers must ask themselves these five questions before scheduling push notifications.

1. Are We Sending Too Many Notifications?

Leanplum’s report found that the apps with the highest open rates sent fewer than 100 push notifications in 2015. Brands that sent the most ended up seeing a much lower rate of engagement. 

In fact, one company in the Leanplum report that sent nearly 500 push notifications received an open rate of approximately 2.5%, while a company closer to 0 messages than 100 had an open rate of more than 25%. Marketers must find their own sweet spot and refrain from getting an itchy trigger finger with regard to push notifications.

Photo care of Leanplum

2. Are We Retaining Customers?

One of the oldest rules of business is that keeping a current customer coming back is much less expensive than finding a new one. However, Solano says that many marketers end up wasting thousands of dollars on acquiring new users then fail to retain them.

Within the first few weeks of downloading an app, users will likely go dormant, Solano says. Even with messaging going straight to a personal device, marketers simply are not engaging in many cases, thus creating a huge challenge for themselves. One easy fix could be the aforementioned time issue, something she says many marketers don’t consider. 

“What we can draw from [the data] is we’re sending push when its middle of the day here without localizing it to the right appropriate time,” she says. 

3. Are We Annoying Our International Customers?

Oftentimes, marketers sending notifications to a foreign market may completely forget that there’s a huge time zone difference. Leanplum’s report found this in various cases, including:

- In the Europe, Middle East and Africa regions, brands tend to send late on weeknights, from 9 p.m.-1 a.m., but ignore the early hours, from 6- 8 a.m., where great opportunity lies. 

- In Latin America, brands tend to over-send notifications on weekday afternoons when engagement is lower and under-send at 8 a.m. and after 6 p.m. when more people are opening notifications.

- In Asia-Pacific, brands send too much on weekends 4-6 p.m. and not enough when the potential for an open is huge, from 7 a.m.-1 p.m.

Photo care of Leanplum

4. Are We Testing Enough Data?

Testing is often taken for granted, only done once a month, or perhaps even once a quarter. As quickly as data moves now, Solano says testing must be ongoing to get the best, most clear picture of who a consumer is and what they want.

“It’s really a DNA thing; you’re always testing, you’re always learning,” she says, adding that testing helps marketers understand why users are engaged and why they may not be. “[Testing is necessary] to really understand how those campaigns need to be carved out in ways that are segmented and based on behavior. To us, it’s something you should always be doing.”

Greg Stewart, CEO of the Mobile Marketing Association, says not testing mobile marketing is akin to not respecting the relationship with the customer.

“They will simply lock you out,” he said. “Unsubscribing on the phone is far simpler than over e-mail. Then you’ve lost the bigger opportunity in the world, which is to be extraordinarily close to the consumer.”

5. Are Our Messages Personalized?

Solano says the real value of mobile marketing should be unlocked by personalization and the contextual value of notifications sent to consumers. This means marketers need to do away with the one-size-fits-all message blast approach and start communicating with customers as if they’re people, which, by the way, they are. 

“One of the things we recognize is that mobile, being the most personal and intimate device, unlocks [personalization] for you,” Solano says. “It unlocks that for you being to target people through location, the right time, the right place, real personal behavior.”

One example Solano gave was simple: A customer walks into an airport and crosses the geofence. Their airport is then able to send them a push notification that their gate has changed or their flight is on time. It’s simple, but it’s engaging and sent at the right time in the right place. 

Stewart gave a real life example of a study he did for a quick-service restaurant, which figured out their mobile advertising was 1300% more effective from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. 

“There’s no way this quick-service restaurant ever would have figured out this information in any other [format],” he says. “Maybe by radio, but nothing has the ubiquity that mobile does. … Push notification is that vehicle for doing something that is radically new. [Marketers] should be fighting tooth and nail every day to figure it out.”

Author Bio:

Hal Conick
Hal Conick is a staff writer for the AMA’s magazines and e-newsletters. He can be reached at hconick@ama.org or on Twitter at @HalConick.
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