Last update: December 2018

5 mins to read

What it means to truly personalize your push notifications

Personalization, it’s a popular topic that frequently comes as you work closely in the mobile app space, especially to do with mobile marketing engagement to drive growth. A ‘buzzword’ that has become an industry movement and standard, it is used to describe a way of targeting customers with specific communications, specifically meant for them.



 The more detailed description of personalization is a means of meeting the customer’s needs more effectively and efficiently, making interactions faster and easier and, consequently, increasing customer satisfaction and likelihood of repeat visits, building engagement (reducing churn) – hence increasing mobile growth. Personalization can be attributed to all types of marketing campaigns, and we will focus on how it’s used for push notification campaigns and explain why most mobile marketers aren’t truly personalizing their notifications as much as they could do.

Every marketer who looks after push notifications thinks of them in a different way. Personalization is primarily thought of from the marketer’s perspective, as they believe to know their customers best. As a result, push notifications are sent using combined knowledge of the user’s profile, history, recent activity and typically time is used to determine when the message will go out. At first, this may seem like an opportune time to re-engage an app user, but does time really make it all that personal?


The Best Time is Rarely the Best Moment

An example would be if an app sent a push notification with the goal of getting a user to complete a purchase. Today, it would be scheduled a few days after app install and at a specific time of day, let’s say delivery at 5pm PST. Although a potentially good time to complete the purchase, what happens to all those users commuting home stuck in traffic, in meetings at work or anyone else occupied away from their phones. This is a good example of a wasted opportunity.

On the surface, this thinking isn’t completely wrong, in fact, it’s the most common way to think about push today. The real problem is that marketers use powerful tools to collect crucial customer data and learnings and then use it to map out the best delivery time from their perspective, and less so from the user’s perspective. It’s important to note the word ‘time’ in that last sentence, as it literally means a time of day. Today, marketers commonly use ‘time’ to deliver a push notification, when in reality, they should use the right ‘moment’ instead. Time is not effective anymore because marketers will never truly know when it’s the right time for every app user. When factoring other information, like all the constant ‘noise’ that mobile devices generate, busier daily / on-the-go lifestyles or user context, time isn’t good enough on its own – unless it doesn’t matter if the message is read or not. The right moment should mesh together knowledge of user info, with meaningful context and real-time data to ensure that each and every user receives that message in a similar but personalized type of experience. This is true advanced personalization.

Smart marketers who want to truly personalize their push notifications think about ‘best moment’ instead of ‘best time’. Let’s take a look at an example of this, using the same mobile purchase criteria from above: deliver a personalized purchase notification at the best moment for each user, no matter what. If context is added to the equation, then that same notification will trigger between the hours of noon and 5pm local time, when the device is first unlocked, the user is connected to Wi-Fi and they are at home, on a weekend. Here’s an example of true advanced personalization because it uses real-time user context to guarantee a better delivery moment than the original example. It’s important to remember that true personalization is meeting your customer’s needs more effectively and efficiently, whilst increasing satisfaction and likelihood of repeat visits – remember from the definition above.

Here’s why advanced personalization makes sense. When push notifications are tailored for the right moment and take into consideration user context, then you’re thinking user-first. Messages delivered in this way are seen exactly when they’re meant to be, tend to live in the lock screen less often and lead to improved overall app experiences. The needs of mobile users are satisfied without needing to be bombarded with too many poorly managed messages. Less is more.

Data-driven marketers can demonstrate the impact of advanced personalization campaigns by comparing notification analytics. While it differs greatly from app to app, and message to message, the well acknowledged benchmarks for push notifications are 2-4% click-through rates*, with no guarantee that the messages are delivered in the first place. With such low expectations, marketers’ resort to analyzing for other metrics like Daily Active Users (DAU), Monthly Active Users (MAU) and even app usage following push notification campaigns. Advanced personalization techniques, using Smart Push Notifications contribute to interaction rates of 60-70% and app open rates of 20-45%, and often 10x times industry norms.


Looking Ahead

Mobile marketing will continue to be an important part of an ever-evolving market, and it’s almost certain that technological breakthroughs will continue to rapidly advance new opportunities along. For all those data-driven marketers out there, we suggest that you try adding contextual triggers, user names, and other rich information in your next notification campaign. Begin to think about the moment that your message is delivered from your user’s point of view. It’s worth noting that this article was mainly written to highlight problems associated with personalized delivery of a notification. Other areas of advanced personalization to consider include adding first names into the message content, use of emojis, alternating display types and maintaining consistent display settings and global notification limits.