A while ago I downloaded a mobile app for sports updates, I was asked to confirm the use of push notifications within the app – and I did… The nightmare began when I started receiving push notifications in the middle of night regarding some girls volleyball team (no offense…) and a high school basketball team (yes…).
The average mobile user, although spending many hours a week using his/her smartphone, is not aware of the option of canceling the receiving of push notifications through the device's settings. In the good case – the user will delete the harassing app, but on the worst case and not so unlikely as you might think – having such a bad experience with push notifications will cause the user not to approve this feature for the next apps he/she will download, a big loss for many app developers.
The conclusion is that app developers share a mutual responsibility to one another when using this feature, and should consider that while using it in their apps. So how can you still use push notifications in a proper way which will increase your users' engagement and make them more active in your app?
1. Take schedules in to consideration
Remember that we don't all live in the same time zone. When you send a notification NOW because it seems reasonable for you, half of the world is probably a sleep! Not to mention weekends that are not the same throughout the world.
You can learn so many things from the users' behavior in your app – what are they interested in? When do they usually login? How frequently? Some apps even know their users' gender and age.
Take Ebay's mobile app for example – they saw I'm interested in computer gadgets, so they won't send me notification about books or sport events but they are going to send notifications regarding computers and gadgets and I'm going to approve of that – because it is relevant to my common use of the app.
Decide what? Many news apps ask you to choose your categories of interest upon your first activation off the app, and will send breaking news that are relevant only to those categories.
Consider the difference between "We wanted to inform you that…" and "You asked us to inform you when…". Users appreciate it – so should you.
I always like using this Thai phrase whenever I can, so why not?
There are some differences between iOS and Android notifications: maximum length of the notification ( 256 Bytes in iOS and 4KB in Android ), a custom title (Android only), images (Android only), badges (default in iOS, harder to use in Android) and more.
It's a shame not to use the advantages of each platform and to be aware to the disadvantages of it as well.
Treat the notification as the doorway to your app. Many apps just open the main screen after the notification and they miss the point of push – users that click on notifications are more prone to act in the app, give them something special that they are not used to see and increase your chances of gaining another click from them next time.
Unlike SMS for example – you can learn a lot from push notifications after sending them: what is your opening percentage? In what hours users tend to open the notifications more? On which platform? If you give this things enough consideration on your next pushes you are guaranteed to achieve better results.
What do I mean by that? Take Dominos Pizza's app for example. They don't send me notifications every day or on a fixed day – but they do before sport events and always with some special offer which is valid only for that evening.
8. Send short notification which will drive the user for action
As you are limited in the iOS devices for 256 Bytes anyway, you should treat the push as a billboard that your users cross by very quickly. If it's short and tempting and you made them stop and take a look for example – you did your job.
Implementing even some of these tips might prove very helpful for your push performance. It might seem like a lot of work, but the good news is that many 3rd party push notifications services offer this features out of box, and in a low cost.
Such is PushApps – the push notification service where I work and offer many of this features for app developers and publishers.