Push notifications are a fantastic and proven strategy used to increase both user engagement and user retention – but are they worth the cost?
The short answer: most of the time. But let’s get into the reasons why.
The cost of implementing push notifications
Let’s start with the lowest cost option first – sending out push notifications on your own. In order to do this (at least for iOS), you’ll need to:
- Sign up for an Apple Developer Program Membership ($99)
- Set up a push notification certificate for your app ID (which you’ll get when you sign up for an ADPM)
- Download a push notification app from the App Store
- Set up a server from which to send push notifications to your users’ devices (costs for servers vary, and largely depend on your data loads)
- Use callbacks in the app to receive and handle push notifications
You should note that for iOS users to receive your push notifications, they must opt-in. For Android, it’s the opposite – users are automatically set up to receive push notifications when they download an app. Because of this, Android apps see a much higher opt-in rate than iOS – 91% compared to 43%.
Also remember that just because you’re sending out push notifications yourself doesn’t mean that it’s free – if you’re the CEO of your company, you’re using your own time. If an employee of yours is sending them out, they’re using their own time – and time is money.
Sending a push notification, no matter if you’re supplying the backend infrastructure, is never truly free of cost. There’s also one glaring issue with sending out push notifications yourself – you lack the ability to study your push notification analytics.
Implementing push notifications through an analytics platform
If you’re invested in making a successful app, you’re most likely going to use an analytics platform in order to, well, analyze how users engage with your app. If you use these types of services, they might just have their own push notification service.
While this does cost more than sending out the push notifications on your own, successfully running an app without the support of an analytics platform is nigh impossible. So if you’re already utilizing a service like this, you might as well make the most of it.
There are a lot of analytics platforms, but we prefer Kumulos. A major reason for this is because through their platform, you can schedule, send out, and analyze your push notifications – as well as create segmented campaigns.
Bringing your analytical capabilities and your push notification campaigns together has an extra bonus – you’re able to study patterns of user behavior (like the day of the week, or hour of the day) that a user is most likely to open up your app. If they didn’t open up your app at their usual time yesterday, send them a push notification with a message that serves as a gentle reminder for them to engage with your app.
Now, we’ve stated this before, but we’ll say it again: it’s incredibly important to keep one fact in mind when sending out a push notification – you are interrupting your users’ daily lives. It’s the digital version of being handed a flier while you walk down the sidewalk – or being asked to write down your signature for a cause.
That’s why there are four key factors behind successful push notifications:
- Immediately beneficial to your users
- Billboard rule (less than ten words, ideally 7)
If your push notifications fall into the realm of “sales-y,” you actually run the risk of decreasing your app’s user engagement, and increase the chances of users abandoning your app in favor of one that doesn’t annoy them.
Bob Lawson, Founder, Kumulos says, “We 100% agree that push notifications are worth it, when done correctly. It’s far less expensive to retain existing app users than work on acquiring additional users. Having the ability to analyze the results of push notification campaigns is key to driving successful outcomes for any app.”
If you’re using a platform like Kumulos to both analyze user behavior and send out push notifications, you’re more likely to find the sweet spot between grabbing your users’ attention (for their own benefit), and interrupting them (for the benefit of your metrics). Users can easily tell which category your message falls into – and they’ll react accordingly.
This is why, even though it costs more (at least initially) to subscribe to an analytics platform with push notifications capabilities, it’s ultimately more economical to do so than going the “free” route.
Targeting the needs of your users, and providing them with a pertinent CTA is how you increase your user engagement. Shouting into the void, or asking your users to do something for your app while providing no benefit in return is how you lose users.
Here’s an example of a bad push notification:
Hi! This is _______! We’d love it if you could review and rate ______, the app you love, in the app store! Here’s a link to share us on social media: [link]
And here’s an example of a push notification that accomplishes the same thing, but in a way that’s beneficial for both your app and your users:
One month free for rating ______: [Link]
Now, that might seem like a low effort sales pitch, but what’s less of an interruption? “Here’s the thing,” versus “Hi! Here’s this great thing we’d like you to know about! If you want to act upon this thing, visit here!”
The second example also provides users with an immediate benefit: “one month free.” Don’t bury the lead.
There are other strategies for getting the most from push notifications, namely Proximity Marketing. If you’d like to learn more about that, check out our guest blog from Kumulos’ Caroline McClelland.
The last thing we want to cover is that sometimes push notifications aren’t the best way to go about increasing your user engagement and retention. Like anything in this world, context is key to success.
Understand how your users’ interact with your app, and if that interaction could receive benefit from push notifications. If there’s no benefit they could provide your app, don’t use them.
So, how much do push notifications cost?
As much as you want them to. Just remember; the more investment you put into analyzing your users’ needs and usage patterns, the more targeted (and segmented) of a push notification campaign you can make – which in turn results in better responses to your push notifications.
Don’t be the seedy car sales representative. Be the friend who wants their friend group to know about the cool thing.