Push Notification Blocking: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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An Adotas Q&A with Momchil Kyurkchiev, CEO and co-founder of Leanplum, explores the issues surrounding push blocking.

Q: Leanplum’s latest report indicates users engage with push notifications on Android 2x more often than on iOS. Why do you think that is?

A: It all comes down to design. Android users open push notifications twice as often as iOS users, but they also take much longer to open them (the median being 48 minutes versus seven minutes), which tells me Android messages are stickier. On Android, even after someone unlocks their screen, there’s an icon that appears at the top of the home screen. That person must open or dismiss the notification for it to disappear. On iOS, push notifications are much more ephemeral and can disappear before the user gets a chance to actually notice them.

Q: How do you think this news from Android that users can now block push notifications from the home screen will change that disparity between Android and iOS?

A: It might even the score a bit. An Android user being able to block messages from an app on the lock screen could be comparable to the fact that, on average, only 42 percent of iOS users opt into push notifications in the first place. On the other hand, this move from Android ensures that the people who get an app’s push notification actually want to receive it.

Q: How will the OS update impact mobile apps trying to connect with users?

A: An update like this can really affect the return on investment an app puts into mobile messaging. However, a lot depends on the mobile strategy. We like to say a great push message cannot save a bad app. A brand can’t just rely on push notifications to engage its audience — though done well, they’re very effective — and should employ other messaging channels in and out of the app itself, from email to SMS to app newsfeeds. Optimizing the in-app experience and content is critical so that you are delivering value across all the mobile touchpoints.

Also, while developers are for the most part at the mercy of the operating system, there are ways to get around the factors working against you. For instance, since the push opt-in rate for iOS is low, savvy apps often suppress the automatic prompt from Apple in favor of a tool like Soft Ask, where they can craft their own custom message explaining the benefits of push and time the message to appear when a person is more engaged.

Q: What can apps do to better engage users and ensure their push notifications aren’t blocked on Android?

A: More than ever, it will be critical to present users with timely, relevant, and personalized push notifications. It remains to be seen how quick Android users will be to block an app straight away, but there will be a steep learning curve for those apps that blast push notifications indiscriminately.

The key is to provide real value in every approach. Even beyond push, this is what consumers expect today — especially on mobile, where their time and attention is most precious. To be useful, apps need to customize their approach by incorporating factors like behavior and preferences, time of day, location, and more. We offer a machine learning algorithm that analyzes individual app usage patterns to automatically deliver push at a time when users are most likely to open. Solutions like Optimal Time recognize personalized behaviors and respond at scale, making personalization easy.

Q: Why aren’t mobile brands making the most of push notifications right now?

A: Some brands only see push notifications as a broadcasting tool – which is far from the best way to use them. Other brands see tackling mobile strategically as more daunting or costly than it needs to be. Some steps brands can take to do better are as simple as understanding that people prefer to engage at different times in different parts of the world, as 63 percent of marketers don’t even do that.

Apps also need to learn from the past: analyze engagement to determine what tactics worked and what didn’t. By not examining their own data, apps are hurting their chances for engagement.

For more information, click here to read Personalize or Bust: The Impact on App Engagement.

Momchil Kyurkchiev is the CEO and co-founder of Leanplum, a mobile marketing platform, designed for intelligent action. Leanplum’s integrated solution delivers meaningful engagement across messaging and the in-app experience. Momchil co-founded Leanplum in 2012, graduating from Techstars Seattle. Before founding Leanplum, Momchil spent five years as a lead engineer at Google optimizing video ads. Momchil has spoken at top industry conferences, such as Mobile Shopping Summit, eTail Asia, and Mobile Apps Unlocked. Leanplum has also been recognized as a leader by VentureBeat’s GrowthBeat Innovation Showdown and Developer Week’s Top Innovator in App Testing. Both Momchil and Leanplum are considered experts in mobile app marketing, sought after for opinions on the evolving digital relationship between brands and consumers, and the future of marketing in a connected world.

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