Mobile push notifications: an effective but underused marketing channel

New research from Econsultancy shows that a fifth (20%) of companies now use mobile push notifications.

The findings, which are included in the Cross-Channel Marketing Report 2014, struck me as quite surprising given that it has the potential to be a very effective marketing channel.

I’ve previously written of my love for push notifications as I think they’re a very effective way for brands to engage with consumers.

For example, if I get a message from my Rolling Stones app then I’ll almost definitely open it up and see what Mick wants to tell me.

Similarly if I get a notification that H&M has a sale on then I’ll probably see what’s up for grabs.

Data from Urban Airship shows that push messages increase both engagement and retention by as much as 40% and 116% respectively (though it’s worth noting that the company makes money by selling its mobile marketing services).

Similarly, data gathered by Localytics from 28,000 apps found that users who enable push notifications have a nearly 3x higher retention rate compared to those who disable them.

But as our research shows, relatively few brands are making use of the technology.

This may change with the emergence of iBeacons, which rely on the use of apps and push notifications, but at the moment it’s still an under-utilised technology.

With this in mind, here\’s a few examples of brands that are using push messages.

Brands using push notifications


In an example lovingly pinched from Mobile Donky, ASOS sent this push notification to iPhone users to notify them of a 50% sale.

The copy certainly grabs your attention and it’s a compelling offer. I’d definitely click through to the app.


I’ve previously blogged about Debenhams’ clever use of push messages, which are timed to coincide with seasonal sales or events such as Valentine’s Day or payday.

These messages were enough to make me click through to the Debenhams app, even though it’s not really the sort of retailer I tend to buy from.


I no longer have Walmart’s app, but when I did messages came in at the rate of about one a month.

They generally advertised seasonal sales, which is a useful and relevant way of engaging with app users.


Another example taken from Mobile Donky. Betting apps stand to make a lot of money from push notifications, as gamblers probably don’t need a lot of persuading to make an impulsive bet.

It would be quite easy to tailor these messages based on the user’s preferences (i.e. their betting history).

The Rolling Stones

I haven’t received a push message from the Stones in several months, and quite frankly I miss them.

The app would send me regular messages about tour updates, news, or just encouraging me to watch one of the band’s old YouTube videos.

For example, last year I received a message to tell me it was Keith Richards\’ birthday, while another one let me know that the app now contained a new video of the band performing ‘Miss You’.

Things to avoid

The personal, direct nature of push notifications increases the likelihood that they will be misused.

By that I mean marketers need to resist the temptation to spam the hell out of everyone who has opted into push messages, as it will erode consumer trust and reduce the efficacy of the channel.

A recent survey of 1,000 consumers by the DMA found that while seven in 10 (69%) have enabled push notifications, 78% of those people said ‘they would immediately delete the app or disable the notification’ if they were unhappy with the push notifications they receive.

So what can brands do to avoid annoying their app users? Econsultancy editor-in-chief Graham Charlton has previously looked at this issue, but the basic advice is:

  • Tailor the messages by asking for people’s preferences.
  • Don’t spam everyone.
  • Don’t send messages in the middle of the night.
  • Use push notifications for something useful, rather than just adverts.

Original article found here

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