Airship’s Data Study Finds COVID-19 is Driving Notification Engagement Rates to Highest Levels in Years

Historic growth in notification volume and open rates across both mobile apps and websites show critical role of real-time information during COVID-19 pandemic

PORTLAND, Ore. — April 28, 2020 — Customer engagement company Airship today revealed findings from aggregate analysis of nearly two billion app installs that shows notifications have become even more vital with the global pandemic — both for brands and the consumers receiving them. In March 2020, direct open rates for mobile app push notifications reached their absolute highest average rate in more than four years, while nearly one-third (32 percent) of website visits by opt-in users in March 2020 were from direct opens of web notifications.

Businesses sent 16 percent more mobile app push notifications and 36 percent more web notifications in March 2020 over the previous month, and saw average direct open rates increase 22 percent for apps and 119 percent for websites. Eighty-eight percent of web notification direct opens originated from mobile devices rather than desktops — a 10 percent increase since January 2020 and a 42 percent increase year-over-year.

Opt-in audiences for mobile app notifications held steady from February to March 2020 — at more than 60 percent — while web notification opt-in audiences grew 14 percent month-over-month and 70 percent year-over-year. In addition, Message Centers, which are in-app inboxes, saw the number of messages delivered increase 42 percent from February to March 2020 with read rates 3 percent higher than the monthly average.

“Mobile customer engagement has steadily grown in importance for more than a decade, but in just one month the pandemic made it absolutely critical for every business as customers seek in-the-moment information, reassurance and even entertainment,” said Brett Caine, CEO and president, Airship. “These trends show increasing marketer reliance and consumer receptivity to in-the-moment notifications, which is positive, but businesses must ensure messaging is helping to streamline operations and orchestrate excellent customer experiences across channels to leverage as much from digital as possible in these trying times.” 

Among 15 industry verticals, Media saw the biggest month-over-month increases in push notification send volume (+43 percent) and push notification direct open rates (+60 percent). Growth in web notifications was also led by Media increasing send volume by 52 percent with web notification direct open rates growing 119 percent from February to March 2020. The industry seeing the biggest month-over-month drop in average push notification direct open rates was Travel & Transportation at -23 percent—coming from the second highest rate in February. However Travel & Transportation saw the largest increase in Message Center read rates at 158 percent in March, reflecting a dramatic shift from day-of-travel messaging to broader informational updates that app users can read at their convenience. 

Top Five Verticals for App Notifications Growth

Notification metrics show businesses and consumers aligned in the pandemic
Analyzing growth across app push notifications for February to March 2020 shows that industries and consumers are largely aligned on the most vital, real-time information to receive during the global pandemic.


Airship’s benchmark study analyzed data from nearly 2 billion app installs and more than 36 million users opted in to receive web notifications. Verticals included were those with at least one million app installs and/or one million monthly sends per channel. 

About Airship

Marketing and digital experience teams at thousands of the world’s most admired companies rely on Airship’s Customer Engagement Platform to create deeper connections with customers by delivering incredibly relevant, coordinated messages across channels. 

Founded in 2009 as a pioneer in push notifications, Airship now gives brands the user-level data, engagement channels, AI orchestration and services they need to deliver push notifications, emails, SMS, in-app messages, mobile wallet cards and more to exactly the right person in exactly the right moment — building trust, boosting engagement, driving action and growing value.

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