Mobile and Tablet Marketing

Top Factors For Effective Mobile App Push Notification Engagement

Gone are the times when producing great content was enough. Editorial teams now have to think about their distribution efficiency, and audience engagement makes the headlines.

How can a media app get (and keep) its users engaged? How do your metrics compare with the industry averages? Pushwoosh has analyzed push notification campaigns of 104 active news outlets and is ready to give you answers.

What Are The Most Engaged Media Apps?

From what we’ve observed at Pushwoosh, push notification metrics contribute a lot to a media app’s success in user engagement. Our recent push notification benchmarks research has revealed:

  • The average click-through rate (CTR) for media apps is 4.43% on iOS and 5.08% on Android
  • The average opt-in rate is 43.89% on iOS and 70.91% on Android
  • The average frequency of push messaging is 3 pushes per day.

We have also stated that, at maximum, media apps are capable of getting:

  • 12.5X higher click-through rates on iOS and 13.5X higher CTRs on Android;
  • 1.7X higher opt-in rates on iOS and 1.25X higher opt-in rates on Android.

Interestingly, the media apps with the highest user engagement metrics have the same push notification frequency: they send 3 pushes daily, just like the average.

8 Factors That Influence Mobile App User Engagement 

How do the leading media apps achieve to engage their readers that effectively? Here are the techniques and principles that the Pushwoosh study has confirmed.

Factor 1: The Speed of News Delivered in Push Notifications

You want to be the first to break the news — this makes absolute sense, but how do you ensure it?

  • Use the high-speed push notification technology to deliver news alerts 100X faster than the average

From our experience, when media apps speed up their push notification delivery, their CTRs can reach 12%. This is at least twice the average we have revealed in our data study.

  • Streamline the editorial process for sending push notifications

Make sure that promoting content via pushes is quick and simple for anyone in your media app team. Choose the push notification software that allows distributing news and longreads within a minute — without knowing how to code. In the course of a year, it can save you seven full working days!

Factor 2: A Custom Opt-in Prompt for Push Notifications

Here is a simple trick: ask your audience which topics they would like to be notified about instead of asking if they want to receive any notifications at all.

On the spot, this will ensure a higher opt-in rate in your app. Next, this will allow for more granular segmentation and precise targeting. You won’t have to wonder if the content you’re promoting is relevant — readers will only get the content they volunteered to receive! As a result, your engagement and retention metrics will grow.

Below are two typical examples of a subscription prompt shown in the CNN Breaking US & World News app (on the left) and the USA Today app (on the right).

mobile app custom optin messaging prompt 1

Be careful, though: while you want to grow a well-segmented base of opted-in users, you may not want to expand the list of your push notification subscribers by all means.

The Pushwoosh data study has shown that a high opt-in rate is no guarantee for high user engagement with your communications.

Mobile App Messaging Opt-in and CTR rate comparison iOS vs Android

The takeaway? Segmentation is key, so let’s dwell on it.

Factor 3: Push Notification User Segmentation

To maximize their audience engagement, the leading media apps target their notifications according to the user attributes (age, country), subscription preferences, past content consumption, and real-time behavior.

In our experience, this is how some publishers have grown their CTRs by 40% and even 50%.

Factor 4: Push Notification Personalization

Segmentation helps you recognize the interests of your readership. Personalization, in the meantime, helps your audience recognize your media app among all the others.

Customize every element of your media app’s push notifications to get noticed — from the title to the sound that signals your message delivery.

mobile app personalized messaging 1

Elements of a push notification that can be personalized

Add an emotional touch with emojis (when relevant) and personalize subscription offers by starting them with a user’s name. With such dynamic content, your push notifications can receive a 15–40% boost in CTRs.

Mobile App Message Personalization Examples

Examples of personalized pushes that media apps can send

Factor 5: Push Notification Timing

According to the statistics we’ve aggregated at Pushwoosh, the highest CTRs occur on Tuesdays, between 6 and 8 p.m. users’ local time. The problem is, it is impossible for media apps to schedule all of their notifications for this precise time. Oftentimes, editorials can’t plan their push alerts in advance at all — they have to deliver the news once it takes place.

What any media app can do, though, is to detect the time when its users are the most prone to click on notifications and try to deliver opinions and long reads then. A few tips to succeed:

  • Consider your readers’ time zones
  • Set silent hours accordingly
  • A/B test time frames and formats delivered
  • Ask your audience directly — like the SmartNews app that welcomes new users with a subscription prompt asking when they prefer to receive pushes
pooshwoosh mobile app push notification messaging 1

This is how a media app can resolve the problem with untimely and unclicked notifications, minimize opt-outs and maximize user engagement.

Factor 6: Push Notification Frequency

The more pushes a media app sends, the lower CTRs they get — and vice versa: do you believe this statement is true?

The Pushwoosh data study has revealed that push notification frequency and CTR are not dependent on each other — rather, there is a volatile correlation between the two metrics.

mobile app push notification frequency 1

The trick is, these are smaller publishers to send the least pushes per day — in many cases, they can’t obtain high CTRs because they haven’t gained a sufficient understanding of their audience preferences. Larger publishers, on the contrary, often send around 30 notifications per day — and yet, stay relevant and engaging.

Apparently, frequency matters, but you have to experiment to determine the ideal daily number of pushes for your media app.

Factor 7: iOS vs. Android Platform

Have you noticed how CTRs are typically higher on Android than on iOS? This is largely due to the difference between the platforms’ UX.

On Android, pushes are more visible to the user: they stay glued to the top of the screen, and the user sees them every time they pull down the notification drawer. 

On iOS pushes are only visible on the lockscreen — when the device is unlocked, pushes get hidden in the notification center. And with the new features restricting notifications in iOS 15, many alerts will be out of users’ focus.

Note that the number of readers you can engage with push notifications on iOS and Android will be different from one country to another.

In the UK, the percentage of iOS users surpassed the share of Android users only in September 2020, and now the audiences of mobile platforms are almost equal.

In the US, though, iOS users outnumber Android device owners by stable 17%.

This means that in absolute numbers, a media app may get more iOS users engaged in the US than in the UK. Keep this in mind when comparing your engagement metrics in different countries or benchmarking.

Factor 8: Acquisition vs Engagement Tweaks

Pushwoosh data shows that CTRs peak when a media app has 10–50K and then 100–500K subscribers.

At first, user engagement surges when a news outlet has acquired its first 50K subscribers. If a media app continues to focus on audience expansion, CTRs drop naturally.

However, if a publisher prioritizes user engagement over user acquisition, they can recreate their high CTR. By the time a media app gathers 100K subscribers, it normally has conducted a list of A/B tests and learned their audience preferences well. A publisher may now apply behavioral segmentation to increase the relevance of distributed notifications and their engagement rates.

Which Push Notification Techniques Will Keep Your Readers Engaged?

You’ve got a list of factors that have promoted user engagement with 104 media apps’ push notifications. Which methods will prove the most effective for you? Experiments and A/B tests will tell.

Base your strategy on the segmentation and personalization principles. Take note of what kind of content engages your readers the most. At the end of the day, the basics of journalism work in media app marketing too — it’s all about delivering worthwhile information to the right audience and keeping them engaged.

Pushwoosh is a cross-channel marketing automation platform that allows sending push notifications (mobile and browser), in-app messages, emails, and multichannel event-triggered communications. With Pushwoosh, over 80,000 businesses across the globe have boosted their customer engagement, retention, and lifetime value.

Get a Pushwoosh Demo

Max Sudyin

Max is the Customer Success Lead at Pushwoosh. He enables SMB and Enterprise customers to boost their marketing automation projects for higher retention and revenue.

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