Mobile App Optimisation

How to create a killer push messaging campaign

5th January 2016

Making your app stand out from the crowd is hard work. This is where push messaging comes in. The mobile marketing space is currently saturated with apps that go unnoticed, destined to sit dormant for all eternity inside your customer’s  smartphone. Trying to keep users constantly engaged with your app requires hard work and careful consideration. This is where push notification messaging campaigns come in. Push notifications are a great way to keep users engaged with your app and set you apart from your competitors. If you’re already up to speed with push notifications and looking for a suitable provider, we recently covered the top players in the mobile messaging space. You can check out the best push notification companies here.

What is a push notification?

For those of you still getting to grips with mobile marketing, push notifications are short messages that can be programmed to appear on your user’s home screen, even when they’re not using the app or engaged with their device. But getting push messaging right is very difficult. It’s easy to bombard your users with messages that don’t add any real value to their app experience. The trick here is to always add value. This is easier said than done. Very often, when it comes to creating a killer push messaging campaign, less is more when it comes to nudging your users.

Good push notification messages should be personal and immediate and serve to engage your app user without being overly frequent or obtrusive. This can be a difficult balancing act if you’re creating your first push notification campaign. But what’s important is to experiment, evaluate, optimise and repeat until you find a formula that works for your various push campaigns. In order to avoid some of these pitfalls, we’ve outlined the things you can think about in order to get your push messaging campaign up and running quickly.

1.) Segment your audience

In today’s hyper competitive mobile marketing landscape, it’s simply not enough to create a one-size-fits-all, blanket bomb style campaign. You’re going to need to dig deeper than that and really understand who your customers are and the messages that are liable to cause them to interact with your app. If your messaging is poor or too generic, all that’s likely to happen is that users will opt-out of your campaign and you’ll experience low rates of engagement. For instance, “check out our latest news article” is unlikely to set the world on fire and appeal to your entire base of app users. You need to be more focused than that.

The trick here is to bunch together groups of your app users based on similar behaviours, traits and characteristics. To give you an example, if you’re running a mobile commerce operation  and selling products through an app, sending a message to previous buyers offering a new version of the product would be suitable. Similarly, sending a discount code to users earlier in the buying cycle would also make sense as a means of stimulating their first transaction. One great way to do this is to segment your audience via their stage in the buying cycle. Organise your user list into people that have already bought and people who are yet to buy. You can refine this over time to provide more detail in relation to your customers buying habits but this acts as a good start point.

Whatever your approach, a blanket-bomb strategy is not a suitable way to deploy push messages, The best place to start is to bunch your users together into groups with similar characteristics and according to their perceived stage in your buying cycle. Make sure that you adapt your messaging to suit each individual segment of your audience.

2.) Find the right push platform

We covered this in a previous post and just wanted to reiterate how important it is to find the right platform to deliver your targeted push campaign. We previously evaluated Carnival, Urban Airship, PushWoosh and Parse. Each of these push platforms has it’s own unique set of features so it’s essential to select the appropriate platform based on the requirements of your campaign. We trialled each of the platforms in order to provide a considered viewpoint on the best push provider. Based on our experience of each, we found Carnival to offer the best service. But don’t take our word for it, if you’re trying to get something started, you should evaluate each provider on it’s own merits and choose what works best in the context of your own mobile marketing plan.

3.) Use the data relentlessly

Push notifications are a numbers game. If you want to get serious about push messaging you’ll need to develop a firm grasp of the analytics. It’s easy to rely on stats like the number of times an app has been opened but this will only tell you so much. App open rates are critically important but only represent what’s happening at surface level. To truly understand your audience you’ll need to dig much deeper and exploit all of the analytical capabilities at your disposal as a mobile marketer. If you’re sending a discount code or voucher you actually want to understand the percentage of people that make a purchase as a result of your message.

The right analytics and conversion points will vary depending upon the type of app you’re marketing. If you’re selling stuff you need to measure purchase activity in relation to each campaign. This is essential if you’re serious about effective mobile marketing practice.

This process of optimisation requires serious commitment and getting down and dirty with your analytics requires dedication to the cause. You need to work out the stuff that works and do more of it. Similarly you need to weed out the things that don’t work and just not do them. The key is to start off by doing something, analyse the performance, adapt it based on what works and repeat. You keep going until you get it right based on the numbers.

4.) Develop a split testing plan

Creating a killer push campaign is a science, not an art form. In order to get it right, you’ll need to et heavily involved with analytics and data in order to inform your decision making. What you think works best doesn’t matter, getting it right is dependent upon informed decision making that’s driven by data and numbers, not subjective personal opinion. The trick here is to understand the wording and types of messaging that consistently resonate with your audience. You can use split testing to identify which messages work, the style of wording to use and the frequency of your deployments. You can experiment with all sorts of different messages at different times until you get the blend right. This is not something you can expect to achieve overnight. But if you’re committed to the data and enabling the numbers to make decisions for you, you’ll get it right eventually.

5.) Adopt throttle control

This is one of the toughest aspects to get right when it comes to creating a killer push campaign. Getting frequency and throttle control right is a challenging balancing act for any mobile marketer. How often to send messages depends very much upon the type of app you operate. As an example, if it’s a news app, users might expect relatively frequent updates to interesting stories throughout the day. The same cannot be said if you’re selling a product, users will not expect promotional messages 5 or 6 times a day.

The key here is to adopt a ‘less is more’ approach to push messaging. If you’re in doubt, you’re probably already overdoing it. Push messaging can be your best friend if you get the frequency right and your worst enemy if you over bake it. You must also determine the frequency of your messages based on the characteristics of the app you’re marketing.

6.) Make it simple for users to opt out

There’s nothing worse than being constantly bombarded by push messages that add no real value to your app experience. It’s essential that you make it easy for users to opt in and out of your push campaign, so you’ll need a platform that facilitates this. There are two key points during the onboarding process whereby you can ask users to opt-in to your push campaign. You’ll have an opportunity to request an opt-in when they download the app for the first time and also after they first use the app. Assuming your app users are on iOS8 or above, push messages will automatically be activated by default.

The key here is to be completely straight with your users and provide some genuine transparency. If you want your users to opt-in, you’ll need to create a compelling case as to how you intend to add value to the app experience. Once you’ve set expectation levels, your job is to deliver against your promise in a consistent and timely fashion. This is essential if you’re to build a trusting relationship with your push recipients. However, it’s also essential that you make it simple for users to opt-out. If you deploy messages too frequently or provide the wrong type of content, your campaign is likely to end up with users uninstalling your app.

In principle, always ensure you make it easy to opt-in and opt-out of your targeted push messaging campaigns, they key here is to provide genuine value for your users. You should convey the benefits of an opt-in and set expectations early in the process, either when the user first downloads the app or when they open the app for the first time.

7.) Create an awesome call to action

Your app users don’t just expect personalised, contextual push messaging content, they actively demand it. Creating killer push messaging is tricky, but you have to start with the end in mind and establish how you want your users to behave. If you’re offering a daily deal or discount, you need to tell the user what they need to do in a clear fashion by creating a call to action. This means injecting a sense of urgency into the message and ensuring that the app user understands the nest stage in the process. If you’re selling ice skates, you could say something like: “Available today only | 40% off all ice skates | Tap here to view”. This contains a sense of urgency (it’s a one day limited edition offer), explains what the value proposition is (40% of) and explains what the user needs to do in order to take advantage of the promotion (tap here).

There are set limitations and constraints when creating a push notifications campaign. There is a set format you need to become familiar with and a character limit for each message. This can make it difficult when creating compelling push content with a clear and understandable call to action. Remember, the more relevant the content is to your audience segment, the more likely they will be to make a buying decision and opt-in for future campaigns. This is where ‘deep linking’ can be incredibly useful. Make sure that if your user does respond to your push message that you direct them to a screen that will enable them to make a purchase. Directing them to your homescreen will likely result in an opt-out.

Always be clear and create actionable messaging. Make sure that your push messaging content relates to your users characteristics and buying patterns and make sure you guide each user to the screen that relates your message in order to increase the likelihood of them making a purchase decision.

8.) Use sensible timing for push messaging

When you deploy a push messaging campaign it’s likely to notify your user with an accompanying vibration or ringtone via their smartphone. This means it’s really important to get the timing right and not interrupt your users at inappropriate times (i.e. when they’re asleep). Make sure that you segment users by location to avoid messages being sent at awkward and inappropriate times. If you get this wrong there is always a chance the app user could either opt-out of future campaigns or simply uninstall your app. It’s not just time of day that counts, it’s also important to consider seasonality and time of year. Creating timely notifications based on occasions such as halloween, christmas or valentines can be an excellent way to tweak people’s attention.    

So make sure that you pay attention to where your users are located and their associated timezones. You can also consider special occasions in the calendar to make your messages more relevant and increase the probability of engaging the app user.  

The final word on creating a killer push campaign

So now we’ve covered all of the elements you need to consider when developing an awesome push messaging campaign. You’ll need to find the right platform to use (we recommend Carnival) and you need to consider how to make it simple for users to opt-in and opt-out of your campaigns. It’s essential that you segment your audience and bunch users together based on similar characteristics in order to provide relevant and highly engaging push content. Make sure that when you’re sending push messages that there’s a clear call to action that clearly outlines what your app users need to do in order to perform the action that you wish for them to perform. Make sure that you don’t upset your push audience by sending messages and making their phone vibrate when they’re busy sleeping (this will result in an app uninstall). Think carefully about how frequently you deploy push messages as this will depend upon the type of app you’re operating. If you;re unsure what works and what doesn’t, you can always create a split testing plan to analyse the data. With that in mind, you’ll also need to focus relentlessly on your app analytics in order to make informed decisions about the most effective means of deploying the right type of push content.

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