For retailers and business owners who have invested in mobile applications, push notifications are an innovative way to speak directly with customers.
Simply defined, push notifications are a smartphone-based alert method used to notify the recipient that new messages await them within specific applications on their mobile phones. In order for a user to receive push notifications, they must first sign up for the specific application and then agree to receive push notifications from the app itself. Users remain in full control of the push notifications they receive. They can opt to only receive push notifications that meet certain criteria or, if they choose, they can opt-out of receiving push notifications altogether.
In today's competitive market, any popular technology that enables a company to communicate with consumers in a direct, personal way is a worthwhile investment. Mobile apps are, hands-down, the most popular technology around. When businesses, especially retailers, gain consumer attention via mobile apps, their promotional campaigns are far more likely to succeed. Push notifications are the #1 method of inviting consumers to enter a mobile app, read the notification message, and engage with the brand that is communicating with them through that push notification message.
The best push notification strategies in the world won't do you one bit of good, however, if no one has downloaded your mobile app. First and foremost, users must discover and download your app, and easily create their accounts within it. Let's take a look at how you can ensure that people find and use your mobile app.
App Store Presentation
There are two major app stores—Apple App Store and Google Play Store. Making your mobile application available in both of these app stores is an absolute must. But just because you list your app in these stores doesn't mean that consumers will automatically download it. You must take special care to present your mobile app in the best possible light and follow our best practices to ensure each store amplifies your app's ranking so that app store visitors are able to discover your particular mobile app.
● Create a readable, unique, and relevant app name
● Develop an eye-catching, stylish app icon
● Write an excellent, informative app description using keywords and a CTA
● Include screenshots of your app's interface
● Use text to describe the app's features, benefits, and rewards
Developing a complete onboarding strategy is really only necessary if your mobile app is complex or complicated, or if it could be perceived as confusing. If your mobile app is naturally user-friendly with a simplistic interface that resembles other popular apps, then creating an onboarding strategy is unnecessary, as we mentioned. For what reasons would the average user consider an app complicated? Apps that offer such unique features that the overall UI (user interface) and UX (user experience) differs greatly from most apps. Also, apps that require users to provide a great deal of detailed information prior to using the app are also considered complicated. Onboarding can troubleshoot your app's complexities if you follow our best practices.
● Highlight the value of your app, focusing on the benefits
● Reduce the number of steps users need to take to access your app
● Make onboarding an interactive experience for users and demonstrate key features using actions, not text
● Include a CTA at the end of the onboarding session to improve user engagement
● Send a push notification after users onboard to thank them for joining your app
Account Creation & Sign-Up Process
One of the most important aspects to keep in mind when designing your mobile app is to make sure that the users' process of creating accounts and signing up for your app is fast, easy, and visually engaging. If you made the most out of the app store presentation of your mobile app, then users should have gotten a solid sense of how your application functions based on the screenshots and any tutorials you included in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. Just be certain that the user's real-life experience lives up to your app store presentation. Additionally, we recommend that you follow our best practices for the account creation and sign-up processes of your mobile app.
● Offer a login-free option for first-time users
● Provide an efficient sign up process to improve conversion rates and overall user engagement
● Require users to register before accessing your app
● Allow users to only access a limited view of your app if they haven't created an account
● Allow full access to your app without signing in for users who have made account profiles
Before we dive into the 5 how-to strategies to boost app engagement with push notifications, it's important to bear in mind that all push notifications you send must be:
● Valuable in terms of Quality, not Quantity
"Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren't used to an environment where excellence is expected." —Steve Jobs, Co-Founder of Apple
In this article, you will not only learn 5 push notification strategies to increase mobile app engagement, but you will also learn how to apply those strategies to the loyalty app you've launched as part of your customer loyalty rewards program.
CONVINCE USERS TO ACCEPT PUSH NOTIFICATIONS (Push Notification Strategy #1)
Users found and downloaded your mobile app within the app stores thanks to your app's attention-grabbing presentation. The onboarding, sign-up, and account creation processes were intuitive and user-friendly for everyone who installed your mobile app. Congratulations! Now, it's time to guide your users through the push notification opt-in process. In other words, it's time to convince users to accept push notifications so that you will be able to communicate directly with them and increase app engagement in the long run.
"I think a simple rule of business is, if you do the things that are easier first, then you can actually make a lot of progress." —Mark Zuckerberg, Co-Founder of Facebook
Without push notification agreement from your app users, you will lose control of user engagement and have virtually no influence on the people who use your mobile app. The best way to get your new mobile app users to accept push notifications is to make sure they understand the value that your push notifications will add to their lives. What is the value of the content you plan to deliver to your customers via the app? Your push notifications opt-in form should make the benefits of signing up loud and clear.
Examples of Push Notification Opt-In Forms for Customer Loyalty Rewards Programs:
● (Brand name) would like to send you updates about discounts, deals, and freebies designed just for you! Sound good? After tapping "yes" a notification prompt will appear to confirm your approval.
● Rewards Galore Await You! Be the first to know about loyalty deals, discounts, and freebies by opting-in to push notifications!
● Hello, new best friend! Opt in to receiving push notifications from us and get ready for a long, beautiful relationship!
SEND VANISHING MESSAGES & OFFERS TO USERS (Push Notification Strategy #2)
Once your mobile app users have opted into receiving push notifications from you and have experienced the frequency, quality, and purpose of the push notifications you send, try utilizing vanishing messages and offers. A "vanishing" message is a time-constrained offer, such as a single-use promotional code, that must be used quickly before the offer expires and the mobile app message "vanishes" forever. Vanishing messages and offers can help train your app users to immediately open push notifications from you in the first place and also to make fast decisions about acting on time-sensitive deals.
"The best feature is less features." —Kevin Systrom, CO-Founder of Instagram
The advantages of including the "vanishing message" tactic as part of your push notification strategies is that it will directly impact your engagement, especially your sales. While the actual notification itself will never vanish, the notification messaging should state clearly that it contains a vanishing offer that will expire at such-and-such date and time. Include a photo or image within the vanishing offer and in-app links to direct users to check out the products or services that are associated with the limited-time deal.
Examples of Push Notification Messaging for Vanishing Messages within Your Loyalty App:
● Sale ends today! Last chance to earn 500 points by saving $50 when you purchase these 5 products!
● Wow! You're not going to believe this sale, exclusive to loyalty members like you! Better act fast, this message will vanish in 24 hours!
● Only two more days to sink your teeth into this incredible (your branded food product) before this exclusive deal gets eaten up by our loyal customer base! Swipe to learn more!
PERSONAL ASSISTANT & PERSONALIZED DEALS (Push Notification Strategy #3)
If we've said it once, we've said it a thousand times—personalization works. Rather than send out universal messages to your customers, instead contact segmented customer groups with highly personalized messages. Sending personalized messages to customer segments will always result in far more engagement. The same is true when it comes to push-notification content "hooks," as well as the specific in-app messages those push notifications lead to. We will examine the difference between push notifications versus in-app messages in the next section, but for now all you really need to know is that the more targeted and personalized your push marketing campaigns are, the higher your return on investment, i.e. user engagement.
"Meet customers where they are; question how to make the tools that customers use more valuable." —Jack Dorsey, Co-Founder of Twitter
Think of the push notification method of communication as a digital A.I. personal assistant who alerts your customers to the most important information they need to know. What is most important to one customer will always be what is highly personal to them, a concept we've repeatedly discussed throughout our blog. Using customer data and insights, you can segment your app users and alert them to only the most relevant messages and promotional deals.
Examples of Personalized Push Notifications for Customer Loyalty Rewards Programs:
● Loving your new (specific garment the customer recently purchased)? How would you like to earn 200 points for purchasing one of these matching accessories to complete your fashionable ensemble?
● New workout for you! Hey (first name), it's time for your midweek workout! Log in to get pumped and record your cardio!
● Yoo-hoo, (first name)? You left our Swag Shop before redeeming your rewards points for the (specific item) you were browsing! Come back before this exclusive item is no longer available
ALERT USERS TO IN-APP MESSAGES (Push Notification Strategy #4)
There is a difference between push notifications and in-app messages. Push notifications are messages that the user sees without opening the app. Typically, when a push notification comes into a smartphone, a pop-up box will appear momentarily on the phone's screen. Within the pop-up box will be a very short message containing a "hook" that intrigues the user to tap the push notification, which will open the app to reveal the full in-app message. In a sense, all push notifications alert users to in-app messages, but precisely how a push notification alerts the user will be the focus of this strategy.
"All humans are entrepreneurs not because they should start companies but because the will to create is encoded in human DNA, and creation is the essence of entrepreneurship." —Reid Hoffman, Co-Founder of LinkedIn
The actual text space that a push notification provides for you to compose a short message is extremely small. Depending on the operating system platform, whether iOS or Android, you will only have 65 characters for your push notification title and 240 characters for the full description contained within the push notification. That's not much so you really need to make it count. The trick is to use "hooks" instead of attempting to convey every last shred of information.
Examples of Push Notification "Hooks" to Attract Users into Your Loyalty App:
● We're calling it "the greatest rewards weekend!" Peek inside the secret vault of our all-time greatest deals ever, exclusively available through Sunday at 9pm!
● Be one of the first 15 members to correctly answer this question and earn 5,000 bonus points!
● Deep thoughts with (brand name): if "going against the grain" means driving in a driveway and parking in a parkway, how crazy will our going against the grain sale be this month?
WE MISS YOU (Push Notification Strategy #5)
No matter how popular a company's mobile app, there will always be a percentage of users who have become completely inactive. Even Facebook users, from time to time, totally drop off from using the Facebook mobile app. But that doesn't mean that you, as a retailer and business owner, should let those inactive users fall to the digital wayside. Instead, we recommend that you automate a "we miss you" push notification campaign that will deploy once a user hasn't logged into the app for a set period of time.
"There's a waterfall of content that you're missing out on." —Steve Chen, Co-Founder of YouTube
The formal term for a "we miss you" message is called a "re-engagement campaign," and we're mentioning it here as our last push notification strategy because it works. If you want to improve mobile app engagement, then you have to re-engage your inactive users, period. The actual messaging of your automated re-engagement push notification campaign must include a CTA, or promotional offer, that is worth the user's while. In other words, make sure the content of your push notification is valuable and rewarding, and causes the user to swipe into the app to take advantage of the deal you're offering.
Examples of Re-Engagement Notifications for Customer Loyalty Rewards Programs:
● Hey (first name), we created a special surprise just for you! Swipe now to discover what we have in store for you! We promise it'll be worth your while!
● Nothing says, we miss you (first name), like creeping your purchase history to design a personalized promotion just for you! Take advantage of 50% off your favorite items throughout the weekend to receive your top Wishlist product for free!
● Please come back! Swipe to claim 1,000 bonus points! We miss you!
Communicating directly with your customers in real time via mobile app push notifications strengthens customer relationships and builds customer loyalty. Push notifications have the power to increase in-app engagement in general, but when it comes to apps built specifically for customer loyalty rewards programs, in-app engagement can quickly lead to earning and burning rewards points. With loyalty apps, retailers can now configure their targeted promotions to automatically deploy directly to their customers' smartphones. Customers will receive a push notification for each promotion you schedule, and app engagement will naturally follow, ultimately leading to increased sales at your business.
"This is the biggest strategic mistake we've ever made." —Mark Zuckerberg reflecting on Facebook's first mobile app that was built with web-based HTML5 software.
Loyal~n~Save, a premium customer loyalty rewards program, comes with a fully customizable loyalty app designed to increase customer engagement, retention, and sales. Unlike the first mobile app that Facebook developed using HTML5, our loyalty application has been thoroughly tested and finely tuned with user experience in mind. Easy to download, our mobile app offers ample marketing opportunities for your business.
If you would like to learn about our loyalty technologies and software solutions, and how our mobile app provides the best digital marketing platform available today, feel free to get in touch with our loyalty specialists any time.
This article was written by Loyal-n-Save, an omni-channel customer loyalty solution for retailers looking to increase customer retention and new customer acquisition.