A Wake-Up Call to App Publishers and Mobile Marketers

New data study finds targeting massively boosts push messaging response rates

As marketing’s newest communications channel, push messaging is now a mainstream phenomenon. If you have a smartphone or tablet and more than a couple of apps, you’ve probably received a push notification. Most of us get several notifications a day (Thailand military coup, anyone?). There are great reasons consumers want push notifications, such as breaking news/sports scores, social notifications, and special offers and content from favorite brands. There are equally great—but sometimes overbearing—reasons why apps want to send push messages.

Not only does push messaging help overcome “APPathy”—the tendency of users abandon or delete an app within 30 days of download—push messaging drives more response than is typical of traditional marketing channels. According to Forrester Research, "Marketers we interviewed already witness 50% higher open rates on push notifications versus email. Click-through rates can be twice as high, too.” (Push Mobile Engagement To The Next Level, Forrester Research, Inc., Oct. 17, 2013)

With these business results, it’s easy to look at push messaging as a magic bullet: just keep blind firing and the returns will roll in. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what many apps do, short-changing themselves on even greater results and happier users. The majority of Mobile Maturity Self-Assessment respondents deliver the same messages and app experience to all users. Worst still, more than one-third of companies that collect user preferences, behaviors and location data don’t use this insight to tailor content and messaging (Urban Airship’s Mobile Maturity Benchmarks Report, February 2014).

Bad Push is the mobile age’s incessant salesperson or telemarketer who could care less about how you’re feeling or what you want at that moment. It’s a one-way, in your face, repetitive shout for attention that just won’t get a clue and go away—until you get that app shaking in its boots and delete it.

In contrast, Good Push can take advantage of mobile’s unparalleled insights and targeting capabilities to deliver personally relevant, valued, in-the-moment information. There are many great reasons Forrester Research said, “Push notifications are the ideal tool to combine mobile marketing’s unique benefits: intimacy, immediacy, and context.” (Push Mobile Engagement To The Next Level)

Sure, when thinking about Good and Bad Push, we get emotional and perhaps even a little preachy. But mobile is the most personal screen ever. For TV, commercial broadcasts are the accepted (and now often skipped) cost of entertainment. For personal computers, banner blindness, skipping pre-roll video ads the second it’s allowed, and simply ignoring versus unsubscribing to spam email are commonplace and accepted as the cost of the medium.

On mobile screens, every interaction—especially those that light up device home screens and audibly interrupt people— solicit an emotional response ranging from delight to distain.  Most importantly, on mobile the user is in charge.

In an effort to bring cold, hard facts to the debate and continue to advance the state of push messaging, our latest GPI study zeroes in on users who are opted into push messaging and their response to messages that were either highly targeted or broadcast to most of an app’s users. As you might expect, targeted messages trounced the response rates of broadcast messages.

We also broke out results by six industry verticals—Retail, Media, Sports, Games, Gambling and Entertainment—with some surprising results. In addition, we shared insights into the related strategies and successes of leaders including ABC News, NBC-owned startup Breaking News, the NHL, Paddy Power, REI, SnipSnap and William Hill. 

Check out some of our top-level findings and download the full study here:

  • Highly targeted push messages drive 293% more response on average than broadcast messages
  • Some industry verticals achieved nearly 7x greater response from highly targeted messages
  • Even a single targeting element, such as location history, can boost response rates 4-5x

The future of push messaging as a channel and your app’s long-term effectiveness depend on concerted efforts to make every interaction as personally relevant as possible. Targeting will not only boost your business results, it will delight your customers in ways never possible before.