Last week I finished my blog on push notifications with two questions which still need exploring:

  1. “How do I prevent users from leaving?”
  2. “How do I get iOS users to accept push notifications?”

Hopefully you have come from that post but if not and you want some more background into what we are discussing today please click here to read my first post on push notifications.

Problem 1: How do I prevent users from leaving?

If you only solve one of these problems make sure it’s this one as it affects both platforms. This issue is entirely the fault of the type, timing and frequency of the push notifications users receive. In other words… It’s all your fault! The good news though is that this is also the easiest problem to solve, it just requires a bit of  discipline from the marketing team rather than development in the studio.

Marketing legend David Ogilvy said “The headlines which work best are those which promise the reader a benefit” and this absolutely applies to push notifications too. In our case, we provide value to our users by giving them something that is immediately of use to them. This is why when you look at the figures produced by VWO Engine last year regarding the push notification users are happy to receive, the clear favourites are from social media platforms, which directly play into users fear of missing out and keeps them actively engaged.

For those of us not lucky enough to run a popular social media platform we have to be a little more tactful. More often than not our app promotes a single service or a specific product range that our marketers live and breathe and are desperate to shout about but users most likely don’t want to hear about on a daily basis. This is why timing and personalisation are your two biggest advantages in the fight against push notification churn.


Making sure people receive notifications when they are of use to them is step one. There’s no point in sending any notifications at all while your users are asleep for instance. The best case is that they see them first thing in the morning (so just send them at that time instead), the worst case is that it wakes them up and they angrily turn them off or even uninstall your app.

There are a growing number of machine learning SaaS options out there such as Airship and Firebase that analyse your users usage habits to help send push notifications when they are likely to have the biggest impact and the lowest churn.


This isn’t as simple as just adding their first name to the push notification, personalisation in this instance relates directly to the earlier quote from David Ogilvy and are all about how you can benefit the reader in the moment. For instance, you’re onto a winner if you and combine multiple benefits into a single push notification:

“Hi <First Name>, you’re only 100m away from our shop and you have XXXX loyalty points to spend worth £XX. Today only use code XXXX to receive an additional XX% discount.”

Let’s break this down into each section:

“Hi <First name>” – Yeah I know what I said earlier but adding the users first name does help make a message feel more personal, just don’t use it as a crutch to get attention for an otherwise boring post.

“you’re only 100m away from our shop” – Using geolocation you have served them a push notification when they are in a position to physically take advantage of it.“you have XXXX loyalty points to spend worth £XX” – A nice reminder that they could walk into the shop and make a saving, possibly even picking something up for free.

“Today only use code XXXX to receive an additional XX% discount.” – An extra incentive on top of their loyalty points to get them into the shop. Adding a deadline also adds urgency making a conversion more likely.

The downside of this message is it’s length and it is admittedly a best case scenario push notification but it gives you an idea of what’s possible and how you can keep your users engaged by giving the people what they want when they want it.

  • Only send users push notifications when they are likely to benefit from them most.
  • There is software available that can help determine when the optimum send time will be based on the habits of your users.
  • Using personalisation, location and previous usage will provide the best results for targeted push notifications.

Push notifications are a powerful tool but with great power comes great responsibility. Marketers have a horrible tendency to ruin things for everyone else and push notifications could very easily be confined to the spam folder of tomorrow if we abuse the trust of our users.
However, if used correctly, push notifications will continue to provide our users with the up to the minute information and offers they actually want for their favourite games, brands and products for many years to come; and for the developers and app owners, notifications will continue to drive sales and keep users engaged in a crowded market where everyone is fighting for attention.

To read the next article which begins to solve the problem,

“How do I get iOS users to accept push notifications?”

Click here and by the end of that you should have a good idea how to go about using push notifications responsibly and effectively.

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