Beyond The Download: Using Push Notifications To Boost Retention

If 1,000 new users downloaded your app today, you’d probably be pretty excited.
If 770 of them were no longer active three days later, you’d probably be a little confused.
And if 900 of the original 1,000 were inactive 30 days in, how do you think you’d feel then?

Discouraged? Disappointed? Downright distraught?

Well, statistically speaking, this nightmare scenario should actually make you feel remarkably average.

The good news is, there’s no need to become a statistic. You just need to start thinking about user retention as strategically as most people think about user acquisition. And one of the most versatile weapons in your user retention arsenal could be the push notification.

Push Notifications Produce Results
The mobile push notification is a relatively new tactic that has only recently attracted serious research attention. But from the data that’s emerged so far, we see plenty of reasons for optimism.

Across devices and industries, the average mobile app has permission to send push notifications to 63% of users.

By comparison, most online marketers would be ecstatic if they had the ability and permission to send emails to just 10% of their website visitors. And if 30% of emails they delivered were even opened, they’d probably throw a pizza party.

This unparalleled access to something as intimate as a smartphone home screen means push notifications don’t have to battle for attention in the way traditional marketing tactics do. And when this privilege is put to good use, the results can be quite impressive.

In fact, apps that employ push notifications are twice as likely to retain users 90 days after download than those that don’t.

When Should Retention Strategies Start?
As the advertising agency adage goes, the day you sign a client is the day you start losing them. But by starting push notifications soon after user onboarding, you can stifle the symptoms of churn before it starts and spark some early engagement instead.

The key phrase above is “after user onboarding.” While most app publishers are eager to initiate conversation as early as possible, overwhelming users with push notifications on Day 1 is often the fastest route to app abandonment and uninstallation.

Additionally, observing user behavior over the course of several days or several sessions gives you the context necessary to send more personalized messages. So don’t be afraid to press pause and let users get acclimated to your app for a bit.

Aim For User Registration
The value of registration is obvious to any app publisher. Signing up for an account is one of the strongest predictors of long-term loyalty — and user profiles volunteer the kind of data mobile marketers dream about.

To the users themselves, however, the value is not necessarily so clear. As a result, increasing your registration rate often requires offering an incentive. The good news is, push notifications are a perfect vehicle for delivering these gifts.

Discount codes and limited-time offers tend to be most effective — and a user’s lifetime value can significantly outweigh what may initially feel like a painful financial sacrifice. But not every perk needs a price tag. Ticket presales and access to exclusive media content can inspire solid conversion rates as well.

Amplify Early Success
Considering the average app user retention rates we discussed in the introduction, publishers may be tempted to fix their focus on the app’s unengaged majority.

It’s only natural, of course, to wonder why so many seem to be missing a value proposition they can see so clearly. But while curiosity and continuous improvement certainly have their place, the tiny percentage of users who are engrossed in the app should not be lost in the shuffle.

Mobile app affection can quickly turn to obsession if developers know what buttons (or notifications) to push, and this transformation typically happens in the first month of the relationship. As a result, you should keep a special reserve of messages ready for users that show early signs of infatuation.

Badges, for example, are a nominal reward that cost you nothing to give but mean a lot for certain users to receive. If your app contains any community features, the bragging rights associated with these digital status symbols can be priceless. And even if the acknowledgment is only seen by the original recipient, it still lets them know their engagement is appreciated.

But let’s not be naive. Some users do put a price on their loyalty. Competition in the mobile app marketplace is as fierce as ever — and it’s a buyer’s market. As a result, push notifications offering power users tangible perks like exclusive access and premium upgrades should also be part of your communications plan.

Don’t Dismiss The Long Game
User behavior is rarely as rational or predictable as any of us would like to think. As a result, you shouldn’t necessarily assume that inactive users are lost for good. Sometimes they just need a push in the right direction.

If inactive users left some clues in their previous app behaviors, push notifications personalized to their historical interests are the perfect fuel for re-engagement campaigns. If you can remind them of the value they initially saw in your app, you can create late-blooming loyalty. And if inactive users aren’t motivated by your message, nothing was lost in the venture.

Low-effort, low-risk, and (potentially) high-reward.
Is that a recipe any of you marketers might be interested in?

Let us know in the comments below :)

1 reply on “Beyond The Download: Using Push Notifications To Boost Retention”

It seems like really the best way to use push notification is to collect & correctly interpret meaningful data of the user’s behavior. Personalization seem here to be the key since the app’s usage of push notifications is actually fulfilling the user’s need that’s still there, but for a moment was out of someone’s attention.
This is where UX comes in, and a need to reconstruct users’ stories about our app is needed. Since it’s their perspective and need that has be met if push notification is to work and app to seem intelligent and useful.

Thanks for the post. Push notifications are definately a powerful weapon, not yet explored for improving user experience and hence upgraing user retention.

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