Push marketing, not just another channel…

Push marketing is a hype that slowly evolved into a skill that you either own or neglect. A slight mistake by your campaign manager can have a devastating effect on your user-base, your brand and your revenue! It’s a common mistake to think you can just let some junior marketeer play around with a bunch of funny push notifications and let them learn by failing, which is a common tactic with a new tool. But is it fair to put so much weight to only one of the many types of marketing?

Before we continue, have a look at these stats. It should directly influence all the decisions you take from now on. Half of your recipients will be annoyed by receiving a push notification without you even trying hard on sending the right message. This means that whatever your intentions are, keep in mind that it will be perceived as an 1unwanted and annoying distraction.

A gentle touch for attention

Unlike email marketing, push marketing gives you the opportunity to disturb a loyal customer in his daily life. The sound and vibration of that push notification announcing it’s appearance is like a gentle touch on the shoulder, just enough to get some attention, but not enough yet to change the receivers intention. That’s where content, timing and relevance come into place. The wrong combination, or even a wrong use of a single element, can result in the opposite behavior of what you aim for. Unfortunately or not, a 4th element is introduced, called expectations.

A great example of all four is an experience I had with Google maps. Google obviously knows where you are now, and using the data they secretly collected in the past, they can predict where you are heading to (intrusive? Maybe a bit). Back in The Netherlands, they started providing me with a notification literally right before I jumped into the car to let me know how long traveling to Amsterdam would take me that morning. Since traffic jams in The Netherlands are inevitable, it was of great use to me. It got interesting when they even managed to predict when I went to the soccer club or to the other side of the country twice a week. The content was exactly what I needed. It was personalized to my situation, and the timing was perfect, so every day I expected them and relied on it. And the good thing is, I never even asked for it. Job well done Google!

As a user living in this tech era, we are trained to easily adopt new things, and build expectations on top of that. We are no longer surprised by something new, but do get annoyed when expectations are not met. You might not notice it directly if a recurring happening suddenly stops, but it will hit you at a certain moment. It can be a mistake or it could be part of a really well planned push strategy if applied properly.

Analyze, prepare, jump and learn!

Push strategies can be found in every company. A strategy can even be to send out random broadcast notification and don’t measure the results. It’s not a great strategy though. The best way to make your strategy successful, is to work step by step. I’d like to refer to the Dutch ‘Vistrap’, probably best translated to fish pass. The fish pass is used to give fish the opportunity to transfer themselves from one level of the river to a higher level step by step. Each step requires timing, analyzing, preparation for the jump and then go for it. If they succeed, they reach the next step, learned a bit and moved forward upstream with the end-goal to be successful and move to next challenges elsewhere in the world.

You saw the reference with strategies? When the fish wants to jump from the first step directly to the last, without a proper plan, he is more likely to fail. If you want to start with push marketing, failing means that you provide users with a good reason to either abandon your app or in the worst case delete your app. You can’t have a successful push strategy in one try (or else tell the world how you did that). You’ll have to do it step by step.

Preparation is the key to success!

That all said, let’s have a look at some (in my opinion) important elements you need to consider while preparing your push strategy.

On-boarding — The first step in your push strategy, and directly the most crucial one. Signing up for push notification is an investment made by the customer. Where ‘No’ is the easy option for a customer, it’s trust and value that can pull the customer towards that yes. Making the customer understand that accepting push notifications will improve his or her experience will more likely increase your potential audience. Failing in this step directly results in a poor opt-in rate. (KPI 1 for push marketeers). And it’s not easy, as stats show that the number of opt-ins are already decreasing YoY.

Tagging — When planning on using trigger based notifications, a proper tag planning is a must. Make sure you know upfront what positive user behavior you need to award with a push, and what negative triggers should help to keep users engaged. Send them when you are certain they’re not using the app. Plan ahead, draw the lines and check for conflicts. Nothing is worse than getting to many push notifications in a short period of time. TIP: plan a silence period. Nobody likes receiving an unwanted push message at 3am. Many platforms provide you with the tools to do so. Make sure you understand your tagging ambitions before you choose a platform.

According to a survey, receiving between 2 and 5 messages in one week would cause 46% of respondents to disable push notifications. 32% of respondents said they would stop using the app altogether if they received between 6 and 10 messages in a week’s time. (source: Localytics)

A/B Testing — Even with the best copywriters on board, you will have to make sure you send the right message. The only way to find out if you message is converting, is by trying. Send 2 or 3 messages to 5% of the target group and send the best of those to the remaining users. Research the options you have to test your notifications. Not all platforms provide the right tools, and even less provide you with great insights in the results. Make sure you can measure Conversion Rates, and Click Through Rates (CTR) to maximize the success of each individual message. (KPI 2 and 3 for Push marketeers)

Audience management — So you figured out what the right copy is, now it’s even more important to understand the audience. Most marketeers see an audience as a group that is about to receive any type of communication, but forgot about what happened to them before. Keep track of a users history. Label them as a receiver of a campaign to ensure the user doesn't get mixed up in multiple campaigns and gets overloaded by your well meant communications. Even better to keep track of users across all platforms. Ultimately, a push notification that is read could save you a banner impression/click and an email sent. Maximize your knowledge about your audience and with that your marketing efficiency. This doesn’t end with only proper tagging and goes far beyond the average level of marketing, so that’s something for another blog post.

Results — Measuring conversion, opt-in rates or revenue increase (or decrease in the worst case) are short term KPIs that you should be focussing on, when analyzing an individual message. But it’s not enough! Using push notifications should increase user engagement. One push notification might not directly lead to that desired conversion but it can contribute to the receiver becoming a more loyal customer. It’s unfair to call a campaign unsuccessful if you forget to look to the bigger picture. Understand upfront all the metrics you want to measure and don’t try to focus on short term KPIs only. Focus on LTV and User Retention Rates (KPI 4 and 5 for Push Marketeers) to measure the result of your Push strategy as an asset itself. A well planned campaign can contain multiple communications that all contribute in their own way to the final goal (conversion / user retention)!

Measurement should go beyond typical campaign metrics, like conversion rates, to include long term business metrics, like a push notification campaign’s effect on app user retention. (source: Localytics)

Let the learning begin!

Sounds like there is a lot to take care about before you can start. And that is where good strategy and planning come into place. But as all strategies for mobile, nothing is written in stone. Learn by doing, but don’t fail by neglecting it’s power. In this world the price for an app install (CPI) is high, and deleting an app is kind of like the end of your customer’s loyalty. Getting those customers back will be challenging. Don’t use Push notifications as your last hope, but treat it as one of your strongest assets.

Don’t forget, Push technology enables you to disturb the customers daily life at any moment of the day. How and why you do it can make or break your app.

I could write a book about push notifications but time doesn't let me. It’s a mistake to think we know everything about push notifications as a starting marketeer or even a full grown marketing team. We have such a diversity in what we can send to our users, but we have to keep in mind that we do it for the right reasons, with the right content and on the right moment. I’ve spoken about some of the elements you need to think about before you start push notifications, and there is a lot more to tell you about what hazards to be found in the content of a notification. Maybe next time!

Any questions? reach out to me!

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