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New data on push notifications show up to 40% CTRs, the best perform 4X better than the worst (Guest post)

[Andrew: A few weeks ago, the folks at Kahuna released some great data showing that up to 60% of users opt-out of push notifications. Now they’re releasing some new data on the click-through rates of push notifications, showing the differences between app categories and breaking down the reasons why some apps are so much stronger than others. They were gracious enough to share this data for the first time, as a guest post  on here – you can get in touch with the author, Alli Brian or Adam Marchick, Kahuna’s CEO.]

Push notification click-through rates via Alli Brian @ Kahuna

The best apps know how to use push notifications to their advantage. They’ve figure out how to make their service part of their users’ daily routine, and they leverage push as a vehicle to do this.

Recent data from Kahuna reveals that push engagement rates vary widely across industries – utility and financial services apps seeing the highest performance, and retail and social experiencing the worst. Here’s a comprehensive look at the state of push engagement rates, as well as a roadmap for getting back on track if your app is trailing behind.

Here’s the data:

push engagement graph

You can see that push engagement rates for utility and financial services notifications (40%) are nearly four times higher than for e-commerce & retail notifications (12%). While all industry notifications benefit from significantly higher engagement rate than they see from traditional email engagement, the wide discrepancy can result in significant revenue loss for underperforming apps.

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Apps That Are Winning
High push notification engagement rates are most often seen by apps with high frequency users. These apps use notifications to nudge their users do something that has become part of their regular routines. Utility, Financial Services and Ride Sharing apps lead the way – think about how normal it is to make these apps part of your daily or weekly routine. Looking for directions, watching your budget and taking a taxi are very regular activities, and using push to incentivize these actions is extremely effective. Here are a few examples:

1 - waze push

Utility apps have an obvious job to do – know your users daily routines and help them out when they appear to be getting into trouble. That’s what this push notification from Waze did – it was sent to Waze users  folks who regularly take the 280 freeway from San Francisco to Silicon Valley. And Waze users appreciated the heads up. Other high performing notifications from utility apps like job search or apartment rental services include new job listings or apartment availability alerts.

User engagement with these notifications (when appropriately timed) can be off the charts – as high as 80%.

2-levelmoney notification


Financial services apps also experience strong push engagement. By nature of the industry, money management is an important part of our daily lives. Hold the purse strings (or send a notification about them) and your users will be quick to respond. Take a look at this notification from Level Money. Their push engagement is off the chart.

But What If You’re Having A Harder Time Of It?
If you are in an industry that suffers from low push engagement rates, how do you overcome this? Retail, social and media apps typically have a more difficult time creating push notifications in a way that provides real user value. The good news: research shows that you can influence push engagement rates by using strategies that motivate users to integrate your app into their regular routines. Here are the top three techniques that will improve your notification response rates.

1. Find your Cadence:
Notification tolerance varies across app industries and individual users, so make the most of your notifications. Not all apps should be sending push notifications once a day, and engaged users have a vastly different tolerance for notifications than do new users or dormant users. Rather, it’s about sending the right message to the right person at the right time. In many cases, the elegance is in knowing when not to send a message. Check out the example below.



Netflix does a great job of personalizing their notifications to the individual receiving them. Every user receives a unique message about the specific show they have been watching.  Rather than sending every user a notification every time a new episode of any show is released, consider one perfectly personalized notification. Crunchyroll could take a page out of their book.

Note: Sophisticated automation that limits and prioritizes the number of pushes each user is eligible to receive is the best way to achieve the appropriate cadence, given the numerous corner cases.

2. Make it personal
Don’t assume every user wants to hear about the same thing. Sending a notification that is valuable to the user isn’t just about a 10% coupon – it’s about presenting a relevant offer. The most compelling offer is one that contains information that the user deems important. Check out reactions to the notifications below.



fantasy football


These notifications both came from sports apps but elicited very different user responses.  The FIFA notification about the world cup was perceived as spam – simply because the app users to which it was sent was uninterested in the particular game mentioned in the message. In contract, the notification from SportsCenter that referenced the user’s specific fantasy football league was perceived as delightful content.

Worst of all is the mis-personalized push notification. We can’t emphasize enough how critical it is to gather accurate, person-level data to inform your notification. Use a unique identifier so even anonymous users will get accurately personalized notifications. Check out what happens if you send notifications to “devices”, not people.



As you can see above, device-based tracking does more harm than good. For example, if your wife borrows your phone and does a bit of browsing, all of a sudden you’ll be receiving notifications about irrelevant flash sales.

3. Timing is everything
Great timing should consider both user behavior and urgency. Notifications that include urgent information need to be sent at a time that is relevant to the context of the message, such as the notifications below.



As you can see, the notifications sent by Refresh and United Airlines both reference urgent and important information, and are tailored to the specific person receiving the message. As such, the response to the notifications are very positive.

For notifications that are not critically urgent, the goal is to minimize disruption and maximize delight. The horror stories about waking up to a mis-timed push notification abound, and users are not forgiving (see below).

9 - espn8- guardian


Considering every user keeps a different schedule, the only solution is to send push notifications at the time when each user is most likely to engage with your app. Kahuna data reveals that customizing delivery time based on user preference results in an average conversion uplift of 384%.

Great push is all about inspiring delight – facilitating a relevant and valuable app experience for your users and securing a prized place in their daily routines. Whether you’re in a high-performing industry like Utility or Financial Services or a low-performing one like Retail or Social, there is always room for improvement. Focus on understanding what your users value about your service and tailor your messages to their unique needs and interests. You’ll see push engagement skyrocket, and your users transform into rabid advocates.

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