Using push notifications for mobile app retention

For mobile marketers, the stakes have never been higher. Apps are continuing to lose more and more users. How is this happening?

And more importantly, how can we make it stop?

Let’s face it, not every app can be Snapchat or Instagram, and even the largest iPhone or Android device isn’t big enough to house even a fraction of the millions of apps that exist in the leading app stores alone.

Ultimately, people will pick and choose and keep only the apps that are the most important and valuable to them.

Something that’s often not taken into account is just how fickle users are. In fact, 21 percent of people will only use an app once, and 71 percent of them will churn within 90 days.

So, how exactly do you hold onto users who are abandoning your mobile app? One way that might be overlooked is by using push notifications.

Push notifications

Push notifications are the bread and butter of many mobile app marketing strategies, and they can be incredibly effective if used correctly.

The good news for marketers is that people have become more receptive to push messages in general. A recent survey by Localytics found 52 percent of people reported that push notifications are better nowadays than they were a few years ago.

I’d like to see that number go up, and there are ways to get there. Let’s looks at several ways to do this.

Push volume

Bear in mind the sheer volume of push messages you’re sending. It’s very easy to go overboard with push and end up annoying (or bombarding) your users with irrelevant, unhelpful messages — or just too many.

You need to be especially careful of overstepping the line with behaviorally-targeted push notifications because personal data privacy is top of mind these days. Data tells us that sending one push message per week for behavior-based campaigns works most effectively.

This type of push notification makes perfect sense for some players, however. If, for example, you’re a streaming app like NBC or Netflix and you want to be able to reach a user who watched the first three episodes of a show but didn’t watch the fourth, this is a great way to bring them back into the app.

We’ve found that 90 percent of people are OK with receiving one form of push notification per week, making experimentation here relatively safe. But send more than one, and you run the risk of pushing your users too far and prompting them to opt out of notifications.

Push preferences

We’ve learned it’s important to offer users more preferences up front, rather than plowing ahead with sending notifications based on location and behavior and assuming it’s OK.

Better to ask them up front which kind of notifications they’d like to receive. By providing options for specific types of notifications, you’ll create a more receptive audience.

Consider including an option for notifications about content. Push is a great tool for showcasing new content, such as the preview for the long-anticipated season of “Game of Thrones,” offering that little black dress in your user’s size or updating people with timely information such as breaking news.

After stated preferences, we’ve seen users point to location tracking as the most valuable trigger for push notifications. So, if you’re a business with physical locations, geofencing is worth a try. Mobile is inherently location-based, and geofences give marketers the ability to connect with people the way they want, when they want, based on where they are.


At the end of the day, all marketers need to make it their priority to improve retention and reduce churn. Adopting some of these push notification tips will help set you on the road to keeping your users around for the long haul. After all, people just want to know you’re paying attention to them and catering to their needs.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

As the Director of Marketing Communications at Localytics, Kristin is focused on driving the public relations, analyst relations, thought leadership, event sponsorship/speaker’s bureau and social media strategies for the company. She brings 15 years of experience in leading global public relations, marketing communications and content marketing campaigns and programs for a range of B2B technology companies, including early stage startups all the way up to large public companies.

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