Get Smart About Your Mobile Notifications Strategy to Avoid “Tune Out”

Guest author Brad Gagne, VP of analytics for POSSIBLE Mobile, says it’s critical to look at a combination of metrics to improve your mobile notifications strategy, your user retention rates — and ultimately your app user’s experience.

Mobile notifications and message centers continue to evolve into live, interactive spaces to communicate with your customers. The opportunity to re-engage users while adding value to their experience has been shown to reduce churn and add real business value to brands.

For example, when my favorite sports app sends me a push notification that my home team is about to pull off the upset, I’m likely pleased by that. If they follow up with a notification that includes a video clip from the “play of the game,” it might excite me enough to open up the app and start following along.

But what if that notification stream becomes a live game play-by-play? Too much? Or perhaps I’m left wondering why the app didn’t alert me when the game first kicked off.

The options for how and when to best communicate with your audience are endless. For many users, the default notification settings are all that stands between loving your app and annoying them to the point they turn off notifications completely.

“The options for how and when to best communicate with your audience are endless. For many users, the default notification settings are all that stands between loving your app and annoying them to the point they turn off notifications completely.”

So how do you determine the optimal cadence and triggers for your audience? Start by measuring the right things.

Use a Combination of Metrics to Improve Your Mobile App Notifications Strategy

For app marketers, it’s inspiring to know that your notifications drove a million launches. You might see push notification users engaging at a rate 50% higher than direct launches.

But by focusing on those two metrics alone as your KPIs, you would be completely unaware of the declining percentage of users responding. Worse yet, you might not realize that many are turning off notifications completely or uninstalling the app.

“KPIs followed in isolation become vanity metrics” says @brgagne @POSSIBLEMobile

KPIs followed in isolation become vanity metrics. We suggest using a combination of mobile analytics that indicate reply volume, along with in-app engagement and opt-out rates to improve your notification strategy in the short term — without increasing churn in the long term.

Your KPIs should be monitored consistently, with benchmarks set at key moments to account for seasonality, campaigns or app updates. These same KPIs should be applied to any tests conducted.

Fine Tune to Avoid Tune Out

Circling back to the matter of optimizing your mobile notifications strategy: It’s always best to start broad. While A/B/n content tests (outlined nicely here) and landing environments are highly valuable in determining what inspires people to act, the question of “when” may determine how often they will read them in the first place.

Triggers and cadence are two levers that you can pull to tune your mobile notifications strategy for your entire audience. In some cases, they can be mutually exclusive.

For example, a retail app may want to test sending push notifications to users triggered every time a sale begins, compared to a weekly “flyer” that promotes the best deals that week.

A travel app could test award point bonus opportunities compared to hot hotel deals, examining them exclusively or together.

The focus of the exercise is to learn broad preferences of your audience. This will inform default notification settings, as well as the types of personalized notification settings you enable.

Bottom Line

Like the marketing mantra says, “delivering the right message, at the right time, to the right audience” will always be the end goal. But in the mobile app world, it seems that timing is everything. A broad, well-planned strategy to optimize when mobile notifications are delivered will have both immediate and long standing benefits.

Brad Gagne is the Vice President of Analytics for POSSIBLE Mobile, a mobile software consulting organization that marries strategy, design, and development to build some of the best mobile apps on the planet. Brad has been a leader in the POSSIBLE analytics group for over 10 years. His current and past clients include Turner Broadcasting, Microsoft, TDAmeritrade, IHG and Hyundai. You can reach Brad on Twitter, LinkedIn, or by email at

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