Don’t Be Pushy: 10 Useful Tips for Awesome Push Notifications

Parse Push

In today’s mobile world, a lot of the most popular apps are successfully using push notifications to increase user engagement. Push notifications are short messages sent directly to a user’s mobile device from within an app that, when used properly, can increase user traffic, notify customers of important information likes sales and new products, and much more. There has been a lot of chatter around the web lately about the right and wrong ways to use push notifications to generate traffic within your mobile app. In order to not annoy your users or scare them away with overly aggressive push notifications, we recommend following these 10 simple guidelines to keep people engaged and happy.

People sleep! Use local push.

If you want to notify all of your users that your online store is having a 25% off sale on all sunglasses for the month of December with a simple push notification, don’t risk waking up over 1/3rd of your customer base. If you set your push notification to send at 9 AM in the mobile device’s time zone using local push, you don’t run the risk of annoying your customers with an early morning push notification in Beijing. With local push, all of your customers with the mobile app installed will get notified at 9 am, no matter where in the world they are located.

Geo-marketing is powerful.

Many of you are probably thinking, “What is geo-marketing?” Geo-marketing is targeting audiences specifically based on their location and supplying them with relevant information. Using push notifications with geo-points within your app can be a very powerful tool. For example, do you have a restaurant review app where you sell advertising to restaurants? Imagine if you could notify one of your users when they are within a few blocks of a great new restaurant and offer them a coupon. With geo-marketing using push notifications, you can. With any push notification, be sure to limit the frequency of these notifications so that you don’t notify people too often of nearby deals.

Make it easy to turn on and turn off push notifications.

Even if you closely follow push best practices and only send relevant content, let’s face it: not everyone loves getting push notifications. Make push notifications opt-in only and within your app’s settings, make it very easy to turn off and turn on push notifications. When someone installs your app, send a quick message that asks if your user agrees to receive push notifications from your app. If they select no, don’t send them push notifications. You run the risk of the user un-installing the app if you do continue to send notifications to an opted out device.

Don’t over do it.

Most mobile devices today have tens, or even hundreds, of apps installed. With all of those apps, push notification frequency can get overwhelming. Applications with the highest frequency of irrelevant push notifications are the first applications to get un-installed. The solution is simple: don’t over do it. For social apps where people would like to be notified of someone commenting on their post or updates to a message board, notifications can be increased, but for advertising or promotional purposes, less is more. If you have multiple types of push notifications from a single app, make sure that your user can edit their push settings easily for each type of notification.

Preview your notifications.

Preview your push notifications to see how they look on mobile devices. Push notifications have to be under 200 characters for iOS devices, so we also recommend using a character count tool. One way to preview your notifications is by scheduling and sending your notifications through the Parse Push console, or you can send test notifications programmatically.

Understand your audience.

It’s no secret that different types of applications have different audiences and, in general, each audience has a different outlook on push notifications. If your app is a banking app and it uses push to notify your user that they have a low balance or fraudulent activity, your user won’t mind a quick push notification. If, however, you send them a push notification every day with promotional information, they will likely get annoyed. Along that same line, if your app is focused on daily deals, your audience would probably appreciate being notified of that day’s coupon every day.

Custom push sounds make your app recognizable.

Are you building a promotional app for a band? You can use custom push sounds, like a popular guitar riff, to notify the user of upcoming tour dates, new album releases, and more. This feature works better for promotional apps that don’t send a ton of push notifications and can become annoying when inappropriately or overly used.

Expire pushes that lose relevancy.

Not all push notifications stay relevant. If your sale runs for 30 days, don’t notify your users on day 31 of the ongoing sale because you forgot to expire your push notification. Scheduling, and subsequently expiring, push notifications is a great way to plan your push marketing strategy well in advance and then set it and forget it.

Use badge counts.

The badge count feature displays the number of notifications that have been unread within your application directly on the icon on the screen of any iOS device. For your basic to-do list application, the badge count can show the number of upcoming or immediate items that need attention. Does your app have a chat feature? Show the number of unread messages in your application easily with a badge count and keep your users coming back to chat often.

Be personable.

Sometimes it’s okay to take a break from business and let your customers know your company is not a robotic money-making machine. During the holiday season or on birthdays send a simple, “Happy Thanksgiving from Parse,” or “Happy Birthday. You’re Awesome,” instead of, “Save 15% on everything today only.” People will appreciate the friendly note and your app could see increased traffic without using a pitch.

Push notifications can be a great way to increase user engagement and get your message out when you follow the best practices of push notifications. We can’t cover every case in this post, but we’d be happy to help you figure out how to successfully utilize push notifications to keep your app relevant and keep your customers coming back for more. Questions about getting started with your own push strategy? Contact us here and we’d be happy to help you!

Ashley Smith
November 26, 2012
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