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Last update: July 2020

7 mins to read - 2020/07/23

12 Types of Push Notifications Users Actually Engage With

. So you’ve selected a state-of-the-art mobile engagement SDK to run your push notification campaign. This is when the real fun begins. Push notifications are in many ways the most exciting form of marketing, because it means your brand can communicate with users one-on-one, in real-time. However, there’s a narrow window of time that app users will pay attention to notifications. Push notifications become something you have to get just right: sent at the right moment, hyper-personalized, and using the perfect language to engage. If your notification doesn’t tick all three of these boxes, your user will probably swipe it away. Here are 12 types of push notifications you can send that users will actually engage with.

For more great ideas on how to boost engagement with your push notifications, download our whitepaper:

1. Informative Notifications

Break the stereotype of push notifications as interrupting spam for your phone by delivering users timely information that they get value from. What this information entails depends on the scope of your mobile app – and your rapport with individual users. It can range anywhere from info pertinent to your app (alerts, updates, etc.) or breaking news from the wider world.

types of push notifications: informative

These are the types of push notifications that users appreciate, as they result in a better app experience. Similarly, notifications that give users much-needed information pertaining to a real-life situation are always engaged with. For example, notifications keeping travelers updated on their flight status, gate changes, delays, etc. Or reminder notifications for an event or action they need to perform. Or any sort of breaking news or local traffic that your user may find relevant.

2. Positive Attitude/Congratulatory Notifications

There’s no getting around the fact that there are certain types who see push notifications as invaders to their phone screen. A lot of push notifications can come off as aggressive and – well – pushy. Let users know you have friendly intentions by wording notifications in as positive a manner as possible. This can help users get through an engagement block that’s keeping them from using your app. For example, motivate them to get through the app onboarding process and consent to receive notifications with a celebratory video. Then use this to explain how receiving push notifications will help them have a great app experience.

hq trivia pre-permission message
Image Source: HQ Trivia app

Whenever a user completes a milestone, send them a congratulatory notification to reinforce their feelings of success. Conversely, if you’re trying to spur a churning user into using your app more, don’t nag them for going AWOL. Instead, motivate them to engage with positive language.  Even if they’re not quite there yet, let them know you’re rooting for them:

3. Notifications Using Geolocation to Help Out

Geolocation is a fantastic tool for personalizing push notifications. But you have to be careful… you want users to know you’re aware of where they are, but not to make them think you’re stalking them. Achieve this by only referring to a user’s whereabouts when it’s directly relevant to something they might be interested in.

An app with a brick-and-mortar business can alert app users who walk within a certain distance of one of their stores. Especially if there’s a sale on, or some other limited-time opportunity, users tend to appreciate these types of push notifications. Pokemon GO do a great job at this by sending users alerts when there is a raid on a gym, or Pokemon to be caught in their immediate area.

4. Calls to Action

Everyone enjoys a little extra motivation. And if you can inspire a user to take action or do something that needs to be done, they will appreciate it. This message can vary, depending on what your app deals with. You can urge a user to seize a moment and book their summer vacation using your travel app. You can suggest they bite the bullet and start working on their taxes using your financial planning app.

There’s lots of potential here for gaming apps especially. No matter what point your user has left the game, you can invite them to come back and beat the Slime Dungeon, get a Triple Gem Combo, go on a quest to the Sol Nebula, etc. You can even let them know whenever one of their friends has beat their high school to foster some competitive spirit!

5. Limited-Time Promotions and Discounts

Push notifications and eCommerce go hand in hand. Even if your app isn’t a retail app per se, there is more than likely a page for users to make in-app purchases. And for a lot of free-to-play (F2P) apps, in-app purchases are the main source of their monetization.

While a lot of people are open to suggestions to buy different things, others may need some extra motivation. But push notifications are the perfect vehicle to convey information of limited-time sales or discount codes. Anything that can inspire a spur-of-the-moment purchase can make for an effective alert. For example, Kohl’s does a great job at combining the allure of a sale with the casino-esque rush of a mystery reward, as utilized by loot boxes.

6. Order Confirmations

In a similar vein, push notifications are the ideal means of letting a customer know their order has shipped. It’s the sort of information everyone is anxious to receive. And once they know for sure that their purchase is in transit, they can swipe the notification away and not have it clogging up their device.

order confirmation push notification

Bonus points if you send them a link where the fussy customer can track their order. This more medium- to long-term information can also be sent to the app inbox, so the user can check up on it periodically until their purchase arrives.

7. Trivia/Fun Facts

For some apps, their content is their product. This can go for streaming services, for news sites, for blogs, etc. In their case, the best way to get a user to click into your app is to offer them a taster of what they’re missing. Make it exciting. Use emotional language to pique users’ curiosity, and spice it up with a few emoticons for good measure, as in the concise yet thrilling push notification below.

Image Source: https://www.buzzfeednews.com/

A trivia tidbit could even be used to achieve an underlying goal, such as getting a user to make a purchase, upgrade to a higher-tier subscription, and so on. For example:

Taylor Swift recorded her first single, “Tim McGraw,” in 2006. Buy her latest single today!

8. Push Notifications That Appeal to Users’ Interests

Personalization is the golden rule when it comes to mobile marketing. This means going that extra mile to get to know your user… Let them know that you have their benefit at heart. And the key to doing that is in leveraging data. All types of actions completed on a users device leave behind a data trail. And that data can be used to customize different types of push notifications. This can mean using information of past purchases to send notifications suggesting complementary items they might want to buy.

It can also mean learning about what their work and commute schedule is like. Find out when they’re busy with more important things, and don’t alert them during those hours. Or compiling their “favorites” and “skipped” songs in your streaming service into a playlist that perfectly appeals to their taste in music. It can even be as simple as addressing them by name in your notifications.

And personalization doesn’t just benefit the user: studies have shown that personalizing your notifications correctly can result in up to 800% increased open rates.

9. Requests for Ratings or Feedback

App Store ratings can make it or break it for an app. Good user feedback can bump up your ASO and affect your in-store rankings. The trouble is, unless they’ve had a terrible experience, most users won’t rate your app unless they are prompted. Luckily, most users who enjoy using your app will have no problem leaving a starred review if you ask them to.

The trick is to make the process as easy and painless as possible. Send them a push notification asking for their feedback, and include a deep link to a page in the app store. And if you want to make sure that only the best reviews go public, first send them a notification asking if they liked the app or not. Thumbs up will take them on to the App Store, where they can leave a starred rating. Thumbs down will direct them to a page in your app. There they can give you more detailed feedback on what went wrong.

types of push notifications: request for ratings
Image Source: https://thetool.io/2017/improve-user-ratings

10. Notifications That Let Users Pick Up Where They Left Off

The modern era is full of distractions, and push notifications often get a bad rap for adding to the noise. However, they can also help make up for our collective lack of attention span by acting like a bookmark for where a user last was in your app.

For example, say you were booking a vacation on a travel app. You’re in the middle of going through the involved process of securing flights, a hotel, and a car rental. But before you get to the checkout step, you’re called away for something. A push notification that could draw you back into the process, without your having to backtrack and redo steps, would save a lot of time.

This is especially useful for mobile games, particularly games featuring expansive, quest-driven worlds that are easy to lose track of. If a game doesn’t have many checkpoints where you can save your progress, the thought of going back in and redoing part of the game may feel intimidating to some players. A notification that takes them directly to the point at which they left off means none of their gaming was wasted.

11. Notifications That Act Like Part of the App Experience

This is another one that works particularly well for mobile games. However, it can also work for any app that uses gameification as its engagement model. Use push notifications as a way to convey a message that acts as a teaser for actual gameplay. Send a combo of exploding crystals to lure them back into your crystal-exploding game. Send invitations to go on a raid or complete a quest in the voice of a non-player character. Use language and graphics to charge up the curiosity and excitement that drove them to play the game in the first place.

Headspace is particularly good at this. They send the types of push notifications that don’t necessarily require the user to enter the app to get value from them. But by sending out small snippets of mindfulness, on which users are encouraged to meditate for a few moments, they achieve two things:

  • They extend their app experience into the real world, making it a more solid part of users’ lives
  • They remind users of the greater value they obtain from the app itself, thus driving long-term use
Image Source: https://www.headspace.com/

12. Hybrid Push Notifications That Combine Any/All of the Above

It’s clear that there are as many types of push notifications as there are situations where a user would open your app. And these categories are by no means mutually exclusive. So compose push notifications that extend the app experience into the real world, while inviting a user to make a purchase. Send users a call to action targeting specific segments based on their geolocation. Also, send users a piece of useful information or trivia… but that leaves them feeling super-positive after receiving it.

Push notifications are a valuable tool, and what makes a good push notification is how successful it is at forging a connection with users. Get in touch with one of our experts to learn more!

For more fantastic tips on how to build a powerhouse push notification campaign, read our article: Top 30 Best Practices for Push Notifications in 2020.

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