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While brands with mobile apps can benefit from using push, not all push notification platforms are the same. To help ensure brands make the most of of this powerful tool, we spoke with Johanna Lazar, Content Marketing Associate at Branch, to find out the five things to look for when choosing a push platform.

When it comes to connecting with customers across their user journey, one messaging channel stands out: Push notifications. These brief, eye-catching messages can be used to re-engage lapsed users or notify customers about app updates, new content, time-sensitive promotions, and other key information. And marketers have taken notice: In Branch’s 2019 Mobile Growth Survey, 72% of respondents say they rely on push notifications to motivate mobile users to re-engage with their apps.

But while any brand with a mobile app can benefit from using push, not all push notification platforms are created equal. Just sending notifications isn’t enough—you have to have the tools you need to send notifications that speak effectively to the people receiving them. To ensure you can make the most of this powerful tool to successfully engage your users, make sure the push platform you choose has the following capabilities:

1. Personalization for Push Notifications

Sending your users generic, one-size-fits-all push notifications is a mistake. Users don’t want to feel like just a number; instead, they value and desire recognition on an individual level. According to Smarter HQ’s 2019 Privacy and Personalization Report, 72% of consumers said they only engage with marketing messages that are customized to fit their specific interests. To avoid alienating consumers, brands need to ensure that the push platform they’re using allows them to adjust their messaging based on user data, behavior, interests, and any other factors that support increased relevance and value for recipients.

This push re-engages users by promoting content based on their interests and previous engagement

What does that look like in practice? For example, if a user left items in their cart on your app, you could send them a push personalized to highlight the items they’ve left behind and encouraging them to complete their purchase. Or, if your brand is in the media/entertainment space, you could send push notifications including recommended videos, articles, or other media based on the content they’ve consumed in the past. And personalization isn’t just for promos—this sort of customization can also help make messages based around product information, how-to tips, and reminders more relevant by adjusting them to fit the interests and needs of the customer receiving them.

Personalization shouldn’t stop with the message copy—make sure that your push notifications leverage deep links to send each recipient to the section of your app that’s appropriate for that message (and that user). If you send a highly relevant, individually customized push promoting a sale and then dump customers who click onto your app’s main page instead of the sale page, you’re going to undermine the good will earned by the message. Don’t put your marketing in that situation!

2. Sending Location-Based and Geo-Triggered Push

Sometimes providing relevant brand experiences isn’t about how your users are engaging—it’s about where they’re engaging. If your push platform supports targeting messages based on users’ locations and triggering notifications via geofences, it’s possible to leverage the location-related information that smartphones collect to provide users with highly relevant, regionally specific outreach that’s timely and compelling.

This push notification prompts users to order from local restaurants to receive free delivery

According to the Pew Research Center, up to 83% of app users see location data as critical to their mobile experience, but too many brands are neglecting to leverage this information to provide a better experience for their customers. If you have members of your audience who have shared their location data with you, it’s important to show them the value of making that choice. That could mean targeting them with promotions specific to their neighborhood or current location, or updating them with breaking news related to their home city.

This push leverages a geofence to ensure timely delivery when a user is near a brick and mortar shop

Geo-triggered push notifications are sent when a user enters, leaves, or dwells within a geofence (that is, a predetermined location tracked using GPS, RFID, Wi-Fi, or cellular data). You can leverage geo-triggered push to share useful information when users are actively moving between locations in real time—think letting them know when they’re passing one of your stores on foot, or reminding them about your ridesharing app when they exit an airport. The key? Make sure that your push provider can pull in and automate campaigns based on this kind of location-based information; otherwise, this powerful strategy may be out of reach.

3. Message Testing Support for Notifications

When it comes to effective push notifications, you’re not always going to get it right the first time. Sending great messages takes time and care—and iteration. With the right data and testing tools, it’s possible to take messages that aren’t working and improve them, send-by-send. How? By leveraging A/B and multivariate testing to try out variations to see what factors can lead to stronger engagement and results among your users.

With multivariate testing, you can dig into multiple message variants to test and improve your push notifications

Messaging testing allows you to determine the best kind of messaging that gets your users to act and engage with your brand, whether that be through purchasing or interacting with your brand through some other way. If your push platform doesn’t support A/B and multivariate message testing, you’re not unleashing your push notifications’ full potential.

4. Push Scheduling Options

Timing matters—especially with a time-sensitive messaging channel like push. Catching your customers at that exact right moment can be the difference between making a sale and making for an annoyed recipient. To give your push notifications the best chance to resonate with recipients, it’s important to ensure that your push platform gives you a variety of different message delivery options. Some of the key ones?

  • Time-based scheduling — This type of scheduling allows you to send immediately or at a pre-chosen time (whether once or on a recurring schedule, like sending every Monday, for instance), perfect for breaking news notifications or messages letting people know that their favorite show is about to come on.
  • Action-based scheduling — This type of scheduling automatically triggers push notifications when a user takes a specific action, supporting highly responsive, relevant messaging on an individualized basis; think sending a thank-you push when someone donates using your charitable group’s app.
  • Send-time optimized scheduling — This type of scheduling automatically sends messages during each recipient’s unique high-engagement windows, ensuring that they see them when they’re most likely to take action.
  • API-triggered scheduling — This type of scheduling allows marketers to trigger messages not just based on customer actions on their app or website, but also in connection to information on their own proprietary servers or systems, or from an external API, like a weather information or location data platform.

There’s no one ideal scheduling option for every situation. As with anything related to customer engagement, you’re going to want to fit the specific tool to your audience’s specific needs—and if you don’t have the right tools at your disposal, you’re going to struggle.

5. Actionable Push Campaign Analytics

When it comes to sending great push notifications, knowledge is power. If your push platform doesn’t give you in-depth engagement data around how your push campaigns perform—and how each recipient is engaging with the messages you send—you’re effectively flying blind. You need that information to determine which users are responding to your messages, what types of campaigns are seeing the strongest response, and more. That sort of information makes it possible to adjust your push strategy in response to the facts on the ground, instead of forging ahead based on gut instinct and hunches. So when choosing a push notification platform, be sure that the solution you choose provides detailed insights into the analytics and performance of your pushes.

That said, push notifications aren’t sent in a vacuum. It’s critical that push engagement data be easily assessed alongside metrics for emails, in-app messages, and other channels, in order to avoid silos and give a clear picture of overall messaging performance. Smart brands also bring in other sources of data to give key additional context to their messaging performance information. Case in point: If you’re not tracking your push notifications’ performance in tandem with a trusted attribution provider like Branch, an action might get attributed to a Facebook ad 27 days ago when the action was actually caused by a push notification yesterday.

Final Thoughts

Choosing a push notification platform isn’t a decision to make lightly. To ensure that you’re setting your marketing programs up for success, keep these five capabilities in mind as you assess your options and remember that the purpose of sending push isn’t to force your customers to pay attention to your brand; it’s to keep them up to speed on the things they care about. As long as you have the right technology and the right, customer-first mindset when you approach your push strategy, you’re going to find yourself heading in the right direction.

Interested in digging a little deeper into what it takes to send push notifications successfully? Check out this look at the technical side of push and how it can impact campaign performance.