Don’t be so Pushy

  • user
    RvT, Lee
  • date
    January 18, 2023
Don’t be so Pushy

To an earlier generation of marketers, the ability to push a personalised message into the pockets of your customers must seem almost magical. And then to have that message vibrate and chime too, to interrupt the customer from what they were doing and pay attention to you and your message. It’s everything that 20th century TV and newspaper ads weren’t.

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. You need to stay grounded with this quasi-magical power.

First, most people don’t want you to use your push notification powers. Android has an opt-out model, so lazily 91% of people accept notifications. But that doesn’t mean they want to hear from you. A better guide is the iPhone. It has an opt-in model. Only 43% of iPhone users opt-in to push notifications. What are you going to do to reach out to the other 57%? Do you have a post-notification Comms Plan B?

Second, sectors are not all equally popular for opting-in, with Finance leading and gaming lagging behind. Possibly because some games can be quite impertinent in their notification habits.

Business Apps

Source: Airship, Business of Apps (2022)

Let’s get real: CTR

Third, enabling notifications is one thing. Reading them and actioning them is quite another. Click Through Rates (CTRs) vary by industry and day of the week.

Average CTR

Source: VWO Engage, Business of Apps (2022)

News (media and blogging) and finance are clearly much more important for people. Digital Marketing less so. Noticeable is the Saturday dip and the Sunday recovery (except for software and retail - more physical at the weekend?). Of course, this is a CTR of those that opt-in. On iPhone that means between 4.5% and 2% of all your users will click through. On Android, double that, 9% - 4%.

Fourth, the usage during the day isn’t even and you must battle for attention during crowded parts of the day: lunchtime, early evening, and especially (ignoring all advice to switch off your devices before you go to sleep) at bedtime.

Reaction rate

Source: Airship, Business of Apps (2022)

The pressure is on to get it right

If you make mistakes with how you manage your push notifications, you will be punished by being ignored, or having notifications turned off, or even having your app uninstalled. Because it is such an intimate relationship, direct to people’s pocket, it is easy to get wrong. Our favourites mistakes include:

  1. Being too forward. Asking too early during onboarding if people want to receive notifications. People are only curious at this point, they haven’t used your app, they haven’t seen what value it can bring. Let your customers have a play and then ask if they would like to be notified about the feature they’ve just explored.
  2. Not selling yourself. Asking a set of technical permissions (which often sound quite scary) without contextualising why you need this or in what well it will help your customers.
  3. Not segmenting messages. Notifications are the most personal marketing channel available. So why would you send a message that isn’t personalised or at least segmented? Notifications are not a broadcast medium.
  4. Making it hard to turn them off. People who want to turn off notifications for whatever already have a bit of a downer on you. Don’t enrage them by making it difficult for them.
  5. Sending notifications at unactionable times. Most people sleep at night, work in the morning and afternoon, and are under time pressure a lot of the time. So be sensitive to the rhythm of your customers.
  6. Using only text. Technically this isn’t a mistake. But if you don’t use imagery and video, you are tying one hand behind your back, especially against any competition that do.

Why does it bother us?

Why do we, at San, care about this? We feel it’s part of our responsibility as consultants to advise our clients. Getting your first app can be an exciting experience for businesses. They are easy to show off. Feel powerful and modern. And open a lot of potential opportunities to interact with, influence and connect to their customers. The temptation to get a bit giddy about it and over do it is large.

That’s why, as part of our ‘Appcelerate’ process, we challenge our customers: do they really need an app? What do their customers need from them? And how much do they really want to be interrupted from the rest of their life to check out an important notification from you?


We’ve made a video to talk more about push notifications and show how some of the things above work with demos.

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