This Is the Biggest Mistake You Can Make with Push Notifications

Hint: It's not sending too many messages

Push notifications provide markerters with potentially one of the most useful ways to connect with users. But they also run the risk of overstepping their bounds with consumers who have already gone through the trouble of downloading the app by delivering useless messages—or sending too many.

However, a number of experts interviewed by eMarketer said the biggest mistake that marketers make with push notifications is not related to frequency, but instead to asking consumers to opt-in too early.

In the new episode of eMarketer’s “Behind the Numbers” podcast, analyst Rahul Chadha digs into consumer attitudes about push notifications. Which sectors are consumers willing to hear from? Why are Android users more open to push notifications? When should marketers ask for permission? And when should they send them?

Subscribe to the "Behind the Numbers" podcast on SoundCloud, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Stitcher.

eMarketer's latest report, "Push Notifications 2018: How to Win Opt-Ins, Develop Metrics and Get the Creative Right," explains the best practices surrounding push notification use for marketers.

“There’s a very uncomfortable moment every time you newly interact with a brand’s app when you give the app invasive permission to your stuff. Are they allowed to access the GPS location data? The media on your phone? That’s the moment when users are stuck in—'If I don’t do it, it won’t work. But if I do it, I’ve basically given up access to my information,'” said Sophie Kleber, global executive creative director at digital agency Huge.

“You definitely don’t want the first thing they see to be the opt-in request,” said Aaron Sawitsky, director of product marketing at mobile app marketing service provider Localytics. “They haven’t even interacted with the app at all, and they’re already seeing a dialogue box asking, ‘Do you want to enable push notifications?’ How can you possibly know if you want to at that point?”

Instead, those overseeing an app's push notification strategy should take the time to build a relationship with the user to demonstrate the value of opting-in. In-app messaging can provide a useful means of communicating that value before asking for permission to send push notifications.

Research shows that there are significant differences in the opt-in rates of Android and iOS users.

According to Accengage, the average worldwide opt-in rate for push notifications was 67.5% in H1 2018. That rate was significantly higher among Android devices (91.1%) vs. iOS (43.9%).

But that's largely due to the fact that, until relatively recently, Android users were opted-in to push notifications by default, while iOS users were not.

Despite those differences, a more thoughtful push notification strategy can pay dividends regardless of whether a user is on an Android device or an iPhone, especially in an attention economy where breaking through the noise is increasingly difficult.

“One of the biggest trends we’ve seen is that customers are overwhelmed,” said Barry Nolan, chief marketing officer of Swrve, a mobile marketing automation platform. “People simply don’t have time to absorb so many demands on their attention.”