Last week Urban Airship released their first Mobile Benchmarks report on notification opt-in rates using a dataset including nearly 3,000 apps and 100 billion push notifications sent to more than 500 million users through all of 2014.

Stephanie Capretto, Strategic Consultant at Urban Airship, shares some insights of this report that are specific to retail apps:

Retail Sees Biggest Average Decline in Opt-in Rates

Of the six industries examined, retail saw the steepest decline year-over-year with average opt-in rates going from 46 percent to 37 percent. A closer look at holiday shopping season data, using the same 150 retail apps in 2013 and 2014, offers compelling perspectives and context.

In 2014, retail apps doubled their notification send volume on key shopping days—Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday—and consumer response rates also doubled, despite the majority of those notifications being general sales promotions sent to all users. However, had retail apps focused more messaging on pre-shopping activities where consumer engagement rates were higher, they could have determined shoppers’ interests to tailor subsequent notifications and achieve four to seven times greater response that highly targeted notifications receive over messages broadcast to everyone (Good Push Index: Targeting, May 2014).

Notification Engagement Rate - Urban Airship | Poq

It’s also important to note that high-performing retail apps achieve opt-in rates that are 55% higher than the average rate. These apps have earned an advantage over the competition, as other Urban Airship data studies have found that users who opted in to notifications are four times more engaged with apps and are retained at the double the rate of opt-out users. Push notifications light up device home screens of opted-in users to garner immediate attention, and that interruptive nature demands additional best practices to keep the opt-in once you’ve got it. Here are Urban Airship’s top 10 tips for encouraging consumers to opt-in and stay so:

1. Make sure your app’s value is clear and encourage opt-in in your app store description

It’s never too early to convey your app’s unique value proposition and why users should not only get it but opt in to push notifications as well. Considering there are now more than 1 billion apps in both the App Store and Google Play, your app store listing needs to be clear, concise and convincing.

Insider Tips from the Poq team: Read more about app download promotion, with tips from an expert at Google, in our post about App Promotion with AdWords: How to drive downloads.

2. Market your app in offline settings to increase your possible opted-in user base

Businesses with physical presences should promote their apps’ unique value proposition with in-store signage and at the point of sale. Help people understand how it will enrich their experiences, as well as any exclusive offers that will be unlocked by getting the app.

Insider Tips from the Poq team: This also works great in any printed material, for instance in catalogues or look books, and when used in conjunction with communicating an app exclusive promotion.

3. Use email to persuade users to download, install and launch your app, and why they should opt in to push

Already have customer emails? Use them to drive customers to engage with your brand on mobile, and usher in new levels of immediacy and contextual understanding.

Insider Tips from the Poq team: A great way to go about doing this is by adding a banner to the bottom of regular emails, reminding customers of the app. To make customers aware that they are missing out by opting out of push notifications, mention push-exclusive offers in email communications: Add a little reminder that in the next week or month, customers can expect to receive push-exclusive promotional codes to access a sale early or to receive exclusive offers. 

4. Prompt mobile web users to download your app

Every digital property you have should support your app recruitment effort. It can be the difference between being where consumers can find you, to being able to effortlessly reach out and engage them.

Leading up to 2014 election day, ABC News replicated app preference buttons displayed on election-related stories to also appear on When people find a link to in their Facebook feed, or on Google, Yahoo or Drudge, they are taken to its mobile web site. With this new technology, ABC News was able to offer all of these users an onramp to get the ABC News app and sign up for election alerts.

“For us, it was a really unique use case and opened a new way to gain and engage users. It helped draw in and convert new users who may not have downloaded the app previously,” said Peter Roybal, Head of Mobile at ABC News. “New app downloads were triple the volume we normally see.”

Insider Tips from the Poq team: The best way to prompt mobile web users to use your app, is to add a banner that sends them to your app. For other tips around app promotion, read Cally Russell’s 4 Tips for Promoting Your Retail App.

5. Know when to ask for the opt-in, and set the stage to ask again

The opt-in ask should never be once and done. Consider pre-asking users, and give them time to evaluate the app before asking again through in-app welcome messages or customized screens.

6. Make it easy to turn push notifications on and off

Rather than relying on users to navigate system settings in Android and iOS, consider adding an on/off button within your app. Doing so, allows users to turn notifications off during busy or inopportune times; for example, not wanting to receive spoiler alerts for the big game they are DVR’ing. More importantly, this enables users to more easily turn notifications back on. It may also save your app from deletion for people that simply don’t want to receive notifications no matter how tailored they are to their interests.

7. Prioritize preference: let users know how they can set preferences as part of your welcome series

Helping users understand upfront that they can customize their notification settings to receive only what they want, when they want it, can be a critical nuance to securing the opt-in.

8. Track users that opt out to re-solicit with highly contextual in-app messaging

If opted-out users view specific products, visit the “Deals” page, or perform some other in-app activity that signals strong intent, use the insight to tailor in-app messages offering single tap sign-up to related notifications. If users understand the additional and targeted value they’d receive through the immediacy of notifications, they’ll be more likely to reconsider their initial opt-out decision.


About Stephanie:

Stephanie Capretto is a strategic consultant at Urban Airship, partnering with brands to deliver tailored, relationship-based mobile strategies that increase app engagement and boost business metrics.