Push notifications give brands the ability to reach their customers when they’re not in your app, making these friendly little messages a crucial secret weapon for promoting engagement and supporting retention. Being granted permission to send customers push notifications is like receiving a golden ticket with a one-way, at-will clause. Customers can revoke your push permissions at any time, for any reason, which means brands have to be strategic about their pushes--what they say, when they send them, why they’re sending them and how many. We advise brands on these very topics everyday and have identified some best practices that all types of businesses can employ. Read on to learn four ways to deliver push notifications people won’t opt out of!

Get off on the right foot.

You’ve overcome the first hurdle of getting someone to download your app. The last thing you want to do is make the person regret her decision by inundating her with a ton of push notifications before you even know what she likes. That being said, not acknowledging the new customer at all is not only a rude way to treat a new friend, but also a missed opportunity to get to know the person better. To get off on the right foot with customers, start by sending a push notification that’s helpful and creates the chance to learn more about the person without being too pushy (pun 100% intended, obviously) so you’ll be able to keep communicating with her in more meaningful ways in the future. For example, send a new customer a push requesting their date of birth in exchange for a complimentary gift or discount in celebration of her special day.


Don’t send too many.

Knowing that the average person looks at his or her smartphone 46 times every day, it may sound like a good idea to send a push notification about every discount, product release, holiday, etc. -- but it’s not. Sending your customers too many push notifications is like begging them to opt-out. As a consumer, it’s annoying enough to go through your inbox deleting a bunch of emails from the same brand and even more annoying when your pocket keeps buzzing from relentless push notifications. Recognize that consumers have an intimate relationship with their smartphones. Be respectful and don’t just barge in whenever you feel like it. Because nobody needs another distracting coworker, nagging mother, or clingy significant other (which is to say, that’s how your customers will think of your brand if you send them too many push notifications). “Consumers want to be in control of the type and timing of the content they receive via advanced app preference settings” (Forrester Research, Inc., Upgrade Your Marketing Plans With Push Notifications And In-App Messaging, 10/16/2015). Take the guesswork out of determining the right amount of push notifications to send by putting the reins in the consumer’s hands.


Make them relevant. Make them personalized. Add value.

Sending the optimal number of push notifications alone is not a guarantee that a customer won’t opt-out of receiving them. When it comes to delivering push notifications that consumers won’t opt-out of it’s also about what you say and how you say it.  Again: what you say and how you say it -- deep translation: don’t send generic, mass messages. Instead, make sure that each and every one of your push notifications is catered to the individual consumer.


Brands can do this by leveraging a huge variety of data sources at their disposal, such as geographic location and timezone, purchase and browsing history, etc. What you’re saying in your push messages is relevant and personalized. How you’re saying it is about catering to the consumers’ interests and needs (versus your agenda) by using your push to add value. For example, using data about the types of items or brands someone prefers, send a push notifying the person when something he likes goes on sale, or provide recommendations for similar products.  Or when a shopper fills his cart only to close out the app before completing the purchase, send a push reminding him of the neglected contents.


Using deep-links in your push notifications is another great way to ensure you’re adding value to your consumers’ experience. Deep-links make it possible to connect a customer directly to a specific screen within your app from an email, SMS message, social or mobile webpage. Let’s say that a new customer downloads your app and indicates they’re located in Boston on the registration form. You could send a push with a deep-link to a screen in your app with all the store locations in the person’s area.


Armed with these push best practices, your brand will have a strong defense against opt-outs.  They’re not a silver bullet though. That’s why there’s Plan B: “When consumers have not opted in to push notifications, marketers can still try to engage consumers via in-app messages: personalized messages consumers will access when using the app” (Upgrade Your Marketing Plans With Push Notifications And In-App Messaging, 10/16/2015). Brands can leverage in-app messages for many of the same purposes as push notifications (letting customers know about store sales promotions, discounts, customer service messages, etc.). Oh, did we mention in-app messages can also grease the wheels for customers to opt in to push notifications? And just like that you’re back in the game.