With consumers becoming increasingly annoyed by a barrage of messages, how can marketers break out of the noise? Columnist Josh Todd offers some tips on how to create thoughtful, personalized content that speaks to users.


Burning and churning. If you had asked me a year or two ago, those aren’t words I would’ve used to describe the status of your average mobile user base. But, as I mentioned last month, times have changed, and we’re now in a mobile engagement crisis — so those words are now top of mind for me and many other mobile marketers.

While we have increasingly powerful tools like push messages and in-app messages at our fingertips, consumers are becoming jaded. Our recent research shows that a whopping 52 percent of consumers view them as an “annoying distraction.”

So, what’s a marketer to do?

Over the past few weeks, I considered this question head-on. I dug into research around our broad customer base and surfaced a number of push notification best practices that can help marketers create the deep, personalized relationships that delight users. Below, I’ve outlined the top five.

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Best practice #1: Think big

When integrating push notifications into your engagement strategy, be sure you are delivering unique, specific value to end users, which requires out-of-the-box thinking. Too often, push messages are used incorrectly as just another version of email.

Start by first identifying your customers’ mobile use cases: How are they interacting with you? What are their needs? What is the context of their request?

Once you have this data, you can then strategize how push helps you deliver value in those moments of need versus when other marketing strategies may be better suited.

This is where thinking big comes in. Companies often think of push only as a means to re-engage inactive users. What if you changed your perception to seeing push as not just an integrated part of your communication strategy, but an integrated part of a user’s mobile experience with your brand?

Think big, and I’ll bet push notifications will help you deliver unique, valuable interactions your users have never experienced before.

Best practice #2: Segment smartly

It’s not enough to just use push; you need to put intelligence behind those messages.

We’ve previously shown that users are three times more likely to convert from a push message when it’s personalized. But how deeply should you personalize?

Personalization depends on a solid segmentation strategy. You can start by segmenting users based on their in-app behaviors or known information about them from your CRM (customer relationship management).

It’s a great way to start: Click rates increase to 8.6 percent for behavior-based personalization and 13 percent for profile-based personalization, compared with the “send to everyone” average of 7.4 percent.

The real gold comes at the next level of segmentation, when you segment audiences by both user profiles and behaviors. The average click rate for push messages sent based on behavioral and profile data is an impressive 30.6 percent.

Don’t forget that marketing automation also has made it possible to segment down to an audience of one, and, even in these cases, personalizing the content based on what you know about the user is critical.

Best practice #3: Define your KPI

Defining a mobile key performance indicator (KPI) matched to a business goal is the difference between just copying one of your digital strategies and becoming a true mobile leader.

While click and conversion rates help you understand the initial success of a particular message, they can’t reveal the long-term benefits of the campaign. In other words, did the message actually move the needle on downstream metrics like lifetime value (LTV)?

Instead, I recommend you start with a KPI like engagement, revenue or lifetime value, long-term conversion or retention.

Understanding the true impact of your mobile engagement efforts on your users through these in-depth KPIs is the only way to truly take advantage of the promise of mobile.

Best practice #4: Timing matters, and so does testing

Finding the best time to send a push message may be an afterthought, but it is often the difference between a welcome message and a spammy one.

Our data shows that currently, Thursday has a slight edge as the best day for high click rates, but there is very little variance between days. Time of day, on the other hand, actually matters significantly more, as our data shows that sending messages between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. results in the highest average click rate, at 15 percent.

Not only must you test to find out the best timing for your push notifications, you also must continuously learn about your audience and adapt over time. It was just a little over a year ago when Friday had the highest click rate and the afternoon was the best time to send a push message.

As you can see, the mobile world changes at the speed of light — timing and testing are two of the keys to keeping up with consumers.

Best practice #5: Use proven words and CTAs to entice users to take action

Depending on the app category, the content of a successful push message can vary dramatically. However, there are words and tone that can make a huge difference with click rates.

Some of the top words included “off” (for discount promotions) — which resulted in an average click rate of 15.5 percent, a lift of 5.3 percent compared with the average. Additionally, “come” and “only” showed great click-through rates too, with 13.2 percent and 12.9 percent on average — likely because they showcase new features that might be available only for a short time.

Regardless of what you choose, what’s important is to personalize the content of a message, and then test and iterate on it as you learn what your users may and may not like.

All of this shows us that while users may be increasingly bombarded by messages and advertisements, intelligent marketers break out of the noise by being thoughtful, creative, informed and strategic about the ways and times that they send push notifications. By leveraging the power of analytics, a marketer can prevent a user from churning and transform him or her into a loyal user for life.

So much for burning and churning.

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