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New data shows up to 60% of users opt-out of push notifications (Guest Post)

[Andrew: There’s a real shortage of information about push notifications, CTRs, response rates, etc. Partly this is due to the immaturity of mobile as a marketing platform, but it’s also because of the opacity of the iOS platform. I recently ran into Kahuna, a Sequoia-backed startup led by Adam Marchick that’s compiled a treasure trove of data about push notifications. Today, in an article authored by Shannon and Alli of the Kahuna team, they share some of what they know about why people turn off push notifications.  You can also hear me talk about this data and how to combat it in the video below.]

Why 60% of your users opt-out of push notifications, and what to do about it

In some product categories, over 60% of their users turn off push notifications. In others, a mere 20% do. That’s a huge difference when we’re talking about the primary method of retaining and engaging your mobile users. Recent data from Kahuna reveals that push opt-in rates vary widely across industries – ride sharing being the best performing, and social being the worst. Here’s a comprehensive look at the state of iOS push opt-in rates, as well as a roadmap for getting back on track if your app is trailing behind.

Here’s the data:


This data shows push enablement rates for iOS devices alone, because Android devices don’t ask users for push permissions. You can see that Ride Sharing’s average opt-in rate (79%) is twice the opt-in rate of Social (39%). This can translate to twice the engagement, revenue and retention, whereas low-performing apps are missing out.

People have an intuitive bias about push. They only want to receive push notifications that are relevant, time-sensitive, and valuable. Our data shows that consumers have innate assumptions about what an app will offer based on the app’s industry. As a result, an app’s ability to bridge the trust gap greatly impacts push enablement rates.

Attractive Industries
Clearly, some apps have an easier time getting push opt-ins than others. The industries with the highest average opt-in rates, specifically Ride Sharing, Food & Beverage (60%) and Financial Services (55%), are those with inherently time sensitive value propositions; users intuitively understand that push notifications will play an important role in the functionality of the app. For example, hearing about the arrival of your ride via push is very important, as is knowing the exact moment your take-out is ready for pickup. These industries benefit from the positive biases around push notifications, because people can see the value of push without much guidance.

uber push


Uber’s push notifications convey information that is integral to the functionality of the app and is supposed to be acted upon immediately. Users are able to understand this functionality without much explanation, which contributes to the much higher push enablement rates for Ride Sharing apps.

But What If You’re An Underdog?
If you are in an industry that suffers from low push opt-in rates, can you overcome this inherent user bias? There is a preconceived notion that these kinds of apps only send self-promotional push notifications, and users have a hard time seeing their value upfront. The good news: research shows that you can influence user opt-in rates with comprehensive onboarding strategies. Here are two different techniques to improve the user experience when you ask for push notifications to dramatically increase opt-in rates.

1) Make a Great First Impression
Start off the user’s app experience with a clear and informative splash page, an extra screen that pops up the first time a user opens your app. Use this prime real estate to showcase your app’s top features, and to demonstrate the value of opting into push notifications. When new users fully understand the value of your app and how push messages will add to their experience, they are much more likely to opt-in to push notifications. For example, the Crossfader DJ app launches an interactive tutorial upon first opening the app, explaining the core functionality and the role of push. This educational approach helps Crossfader achieve a 55% push enablement rate, significantly higher than the 44% industry average for News & Media apps.

Screen Shot 2014-08-03 at 9.55.13 PM
When Crossfader educates new users about what the app does in a visual and structured way, users feel more compelled to have a dialogue with apps via push. After the core functionality is explained and users know how to use the app, Crossfader outlines exactly how push will add value to the app, and then prompts them to accept push permissions. This strategic approach to asking for push leads to a significantly higher opt-in rate than the industry average.

2) Pop the Question
You have one shot to ask for push permissions; ensure it isn’t wasted by first asking in a pre-ask splash page or in-app message, rather than the official iOS page. By diverting the initial question and gauging the user’s interest, you can save your one opportunity for when the time is right. If the user clicks “YES” in the pre-ask page, prompt them to the official permission page; if the user clicks “NO,” wait until they are more familiar with your app and ask them again later. Cluster utilizes this tactic to achieve a 60% push enablement rate in the social category, with 100% of users opting into push after tapping “Notify Me” in their pre-ask page. By following these best practices, you should be able to improve the user experience and dramatically increase push enablement rates from the industry average.

TechCrunch shows that Cluster has 60% push enablement rate, and during user testing, they saw 100% success rate in iOS push notification permission after tapping “Notify Me.”

TechCrunch shows that Cluster has 60% push enablement rate, and during user testing, they saw 100% success rate in iOS push notification permission after tapping “Notify Me.”

If you take a tactful approach to push notifications, you can turn push into a communication channel that users embrace. Make sure you ask for push permissions very carefully to increase your app’s push enablement rate so you can take advantage of push’s full potential.

3) Maintain the Relationship
Once your users begin receiving push notifications, it is critical that you respect this incredibly personal communication channel. By only sending hyper-targeted, personalized push messages that actually add value, you can ensure that your users don’t later opt-out of push, or worse yet, uninstall your app.

There’s no reason your app can’t overcome bias about push notifications. Whether you’re in a high-performing industry like Ride Sharing or Food & Beverage or a low-performing one like News & Media or Social, there is always room for improvement. With a thoughtful, educational and transparent onboarding strategy, you can optimize the user experience and significantly increase your app’s push opt-in rate. Focus on creating and nurturing these important mobile relationships with push notifications to come out on top in the exciting future of mobile. Stay tuned for more data from Kahuna on how users are really responding to push.

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