Anyone who has ever picked up their smartphone and responded to a notification on the screen, instead of sending that text or making that call they initially intended, knows it too well: Push notifications are a powerful tool to engage mobile consumers.

The prospects for marketers are equally enticing. Phones offer an “always-on” touchpoint for connecting with customers via notifications – day and night. Over 90% of mobile phone owners sleep next to their phones, says a recent Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) study.

At any time of day, when alerts, invites, status updates, and greetings sent through mobile apps flash on the screen, the connection is immediate, and responses are just a click away.

But getting your message on the screen is easier said than done.

Push notifications not only require users to install an app on their phones and allow notifications. The app marketplace is also highly contested, with frequent usage crystallized at the top end: According to Forrester, UK and US consumers use an average of 24 apps per month but spend more than 80% of their time on just five(!) apps.

Then again, that may change soon. The launch of the Apple Watch – soon to be followed by a slew of similar wearable devices – has the potential to re-shuffle the app line-up. And with vibration alerts on wearables bridging the gap between notifications and tactile experience, the connection to consumers is getting even closer.

This level of intimacy also calls for proceeding with caution. For marketers looking to leverage the power of push notifications without coming across as “pushy”, here are our 6 Push Notification Best Practices:

1. Offer real value, every single time. If customers don’t consider messages worth their time, they will disable notifications, or even worse, delete the app. A recent DMA survey of 1,000 consumers found that while 69% respondents enabled push notifications, 78% said they would “immediately delete the app or disable the notifications” if they were unhappy with the messages.

Before embarking on a push notifications voyage, take a closer look at your target audience and decide what type of messages are really worth their immediate attention. The long-term goal lies in building trust with your audience, so notifications need to be valuable every single time.

2. Know your audience, connect on their preferences. Thanks to the information provided by customers upon installing your app – together with data from in-app actions – you have a pretty good idea of who your users are and how they are engaging with your brand. Leverage that data and start segmenting your audience based on user demographics and/or behaviors that align to specific campaigns.

Treating your users as unique individuals will help better target your mobile marketing efforts. Sending relevant, context-appropriate messages will create positive experiences and ensure continued engagement with your brand’s app.

3. It’s about the language. Smartphone users expect only important and urgent messages to pop up on their screen, so the language in your push notifications needs to be clear and compelling in order to motivate user action. You can also use emojis as colorful symbols to liven up your notifications – or if that’s too fancy, good old ASCII symbols – but make sure this pictorial language matches the message.

When it comes to finding the right tone for your audience, use A/B testing strategies to determine which phrases, action verbs and character lengths produce the greatest results.

4. Don’t overdo it. Much like providing added value, nailing the right frequency is crucial in maintaining user engagement. You don’t want to annoy your customers, so be weary of sending messages too often.

There are no universally correct solutions for frequency – also see our guide on communications cadenc. It all depends on two factors: the type of app, and your audience. For example, social media apps can get away with more frequent notifications – many triggered by user behavior and responses – whereas promotional apps may have to curb their enthusiasm.

5. Respect the power of real-time notifications. Getting the delivery frequency right is great, but if your carefully chosen notifications arrive at an inappropriate time of day, results can prove disastrous. As a rule of thumb, remember that notifications pop up in real time, so make sure to let sleeping customers lie.

Planning ahead, make sure you localize your message schedule to target time zones and send at a respectful time. Similarly, analyze audience engagement levels throughout the day and leverage that data to optimize send times. For example, if you record higher app usage in the early evening hours, you may want to focus on this delivery window.

6. Offer easy opt-out, it’s the courteous thing to do. Nobody wants their app users to disable push notifications. But if you don’t offer an easy way to opt out, you run the risk of app uninstalls which can have far worse consequences. If the app remains installed, you can use other channels to encourage customers to fire it back up.



A good push notifications strategy can yield high engagement and increased customer retention. But always remember: The real make or break in this channel is the quality of the application itself!

Many businesses make the mistake of copying all of their website content into the app, thereby overwhelming users. The key lies in understanding what your customers are trying to do and problems they are trying to solve. Then providing the tools for removing barriers in the customer journey and ultimately unlocking positive in-app experiences that will delight users and keep them coming back.

For more strategic advice on engaging mobile customers with winning strategies, download our whitepaper Word to the Wise: Mobile Essential.


Mobile: Word to the Wise

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Push notification categories/example

  • Customer Service
    • Airlines - Flight changes
    • Uber car service – car arriving
    • Banking your payment due
  • Content/Entertainment
    • Podcasts
    • Music videos
    • Youtube
  • Collaborate/Social – gaming, twitter, facebook
    • Swarm
    • Twitter
    • Facebook
    • Gaming
    • Waze
  • Loyalty
    • Tripadvisor – reviews
    • Shopkick
  • Promotional/Couponing
    • Target app –
    • Walgreens couponing
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