How Push Notifications Can Increase User Engagement (With Examples)

It’s hard to imagine going anywhere without your mobile device these days. From kids tethered to their phones, to grandmas Facetiming with their grandkids, our smartphones have become as much a part of our lives as our opposing thumbs.

But just how do companies get those opposing thumbs tapping when you’re not in store, checking your email, or browsing on social media? They do it through push notifications.

Breathing New Life Into “Old” Technology

Mobile phones have been around since 1973, but shockingly, they were only used to make or take calls (and they were bulky and expensive too). It wasn’t until 2001 that Research In Motion (RIM), the company behind Blackberry, changed how we communicated on our mobile phones, paving the way for what we now know as push notifications.

Back then, if you got a new email, you’d never know it until you went to physically check your messages. This involved sending a request to the server, waiting for it to download your recent messages, and then waiting even longer for it to notify you. Because of all this traffic going to and from the server, there were limits on how many times you could do this.

With Push, RIM and Blackberry made it so that emails and updates could be received instantaneously. Blackberry devices flew off the shelves. Even the iPhone, which we typically associate with being the real game-changer on the mobile device landscape, wouldn’t be released until six years later.

But Apple was watching – and in 2009, with its iOS 3.0 update, it introduced the Apple Push Notification Service, APNS, to the world. This system was further built upon and refined in subsequent years – making it a mainstay for the way we communicate with the mobile world around us.

What Push Notifications Are and Are Not

Like a gentle tap on the shoulder from an old friend, push notifications are friendly, helpful and inviting. They are not an excuse to spam or bombard your users with irrelevant news and details. Because Push Notifications are designed to be timely, many of them revolve around actions that the consumer initiated first, such as watching a series on Netflix or booking a flight.

KAYAK notifies users if the price on a flight they’re considering has dropped. (Image Source)

Netflix sends targeted push notifications to users to entice them to watch a series, or even a trailer:

Best push notification in the world. Thank you @netflix. I'm hyped now. pic.twitter.com/ypCRETMiMM

— Heather | Heat (@HeatwaveDesigns) August 4, 2017

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Some, like Waze, simply work as timely reminders, even if you haven’t opted in to receive notifications, but still use the app.

Wow. Amazing push notification from Waze. This impacts my daily commute and I did nothing to trigger it. Bravo. pic.twitter.com/wCwKseDOBK

— Jack Krawczyk (@JackK) August 28, 2014

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But how can marketers use push notifications to engage with their users in a way that’s not intrusive, but welcomed and encouraged? Below, we’ll take a look at several examples that showcase best practices for messaging — but first, you may be wondering:

Why Bother with Push Notifications At All?

New research suggests that up to 68% of users have enabled push notification for their apps, and marketers enjoy 50% higher open rates on push notifications compared to emails. If you have a mobile app, analysis from Urban Airship has shown that mobile app retention rates are up to 10 times greater the more frequently those users receive messages.

Like email, push notifications are a signal of user interest and some degree of trust, so keep the following strategies in mind when creating a push notification campaign your users will welcome.

Let Users Determine When, Where and How You’ll Contact Them

Starbucks Rewards has a preferences center where users can manage where and when they receive push notifications. (Image Source)

Giving the user a greater degree of control over where, when, and how they receive notifications demonstrates that you’re not only respective of their time, but are keenly interested in their business as well. This push notification doubles as a welcome message and a surprise coupon for users who sign up for Starbucks’ rewards program.

The customizability of notifications is so versatile, for example, that users can block out certain days when they don’t want to receive push notifications (such as weekends) as well as the days when they wouldn’t mind an extra caffeinated jolt (like Mondays).

Create a Rich Push Notification for Greater Engagement

A rich push notification is one that contains relevant calls-to-action, such as “shop now” or “browse”. Take a look at this example from Urban Airship which shows a push notification without and with rich media added in the form of shop and share buttons:

An example of a rich push notification with call to action buttons.
Learn how to create these types of notifications for Apple and Android devices. (Image Source)

Even if you’d rather not go quite that far with your notifications, simply piquing your users’ curiosity with emojis can help your message stand out, like this example from online shopping store Wanelo:

An example of a curious push notification with an emoji for flair. (Image Source)

Go Beyond Merely “Checking In”

Most push notifications are designed to encourage you to check back in with the app and start using it again. But what if you could do more? Here’s an example from Swarm, a mobile app that lets users share their location with people on their social network. The user in this example screenshot has just checked into a sandwich shop:

The Swarm app lets users notify their social networks when checking in to different places. (Image Source)

Not only has the app bolded the friend and the location, but uses relevant icons to share where and what it is. From here, you have the opportunity to “like” their check in or comment (perhaps on a particular flavor they should try), which in turn encourages even greater engagement.

Follow-Up Based on Previous Purchase History

You’re likely using email marketing for a great deal of order follow-ups, but what about push notifications? This example, from H&M, sends notifications out to users based on what they’ve bought previously:

(Image Source)

You can also do this with abandoned cart notifications as well to encourage users to come back to your site and complete their order, or add accessories or other products based on their prior purchases – the possibilities are just about as unlimited as those offered with email — and because push notifications are always on, you’ll have a direct line to your customer’s attention, anytime and anywhere.

Now It’s Your Turn…

Have you used similar strategies in your own push notifications? Or are you just getting started and looking for a little inspiration? Share your success stories and triumphs with us in the comments below!

About the Author: Sherice Jacob helps business owners improve website design and increase conversion rates through compelling copywriting, user-friendly design and smart analytics analysis. Learn more at iElectrify.com and download your free web copy tune-up and conversion checklist today!