Push Notifications: How To Push Without Being Pushy

Push notifications are text alerts or badges you received from third-party applications on your mobile device. Push notifications are a method to remind smartphone users to re-engage with certain apps, take a specific action or to relay information. For example, Whatsapp will notify the user when a new message arrives and ModCloth alerts users when their site is having a sale. Push notifications represent another  communication and marketing channel — like direct mail, email, social media and in-store signage —  by which brands can engage with consumers.

Retailers often send two types of push notifications:

  1. Promotional notifications about product sales events, discounts, new products and product recommendations 
  2. Utility notifications such as item shipping status, account activity and loyalty rewards

 In this piece, we’ll focus on promotional push notifications.

The Reality of Relevance

What differentiates a successful push notification from an unsuccessful one is its relevance. Recent data on push notifications show a 40% click through rate for targeted messages. The relevance of a retailer’s push content is the deciding factor between what gets opened and what gets swiped away. If the content isn’t relevant to the user (which increasingly means personalized to their preferences, location and previous shopping habits) your push notification is likely to get pushed to the side.

How can retailers increase the relevance of their push notifications?

Ideally, you want to send each user information about new products he/she likes, sales events he/she is interested in and product recommendation he/she would agree with. The key challenge is a company’s ability to predict individual preferences accurately. Many retailers have numerous systems such as CRM, shopping cart management software and social media management tools to collect this type of data. Each system holds small pieces of user information. While some vendors in the market currently sell solutions that pull together data from one or more systems, they aren’t perfect and may still provide an incomplete or fragmented picture of your customer. Many retailers are also lacking in-house data scientists who can drive not only the integration of this data, but also manage complex data analysis. Fragmented data and no resources to integrate or analyze it fully means that creating push notifications that engage customers and meet their expectations for relevance is difficult. 

In the long term, retailers should focus on building integration between different systems to centralize data and building their internal data science capacity in order to generate better customer insights and accurate predictions of user preferences.

Improving your current promotional push notifications doesn’t require waiting until you have a Nate Silver type on staff, though. You can begin working with the data you do have at your disposal and that you know to be accurate. Most retailers with ecommerce websites already have some precise information about their customers, such as wishlist items, the last few products the user browsed and the items they added to a shopping cart but later abandoned.

As an example, a retailer can set up an automated push notification message for three days after a shopping cart is abandoned that offers a 15% discount on the cart contents or a push notification to alert a user that an item on their wishlist is now on sale or back in stock. This content is highly relevant to the customer and doesn’t require predictive analysis to uncover.

The Bottom Line

Retailers can’t treat push notification as an easy way to blast generic marketing messages to their target market. That simply won’t work. Like any other messaging channel, relevant content is king. Your push notifications should enrich your customer’s mobile shopping experience and build brand equity with your biggest fans – those customers who have actually taken the time to download and interact with your mobile app.