Blackberry are credited with giving us the first instance of the push notification. This was as simple as a small notification that informed users when they had received an email. Over time the push notification has grown in both sophistication and ubiquity.
The Blackberry was, as we know, targeted at business users. Apple’s iPhone brought the push notification into the mainstream – alongside the app. Google would follow when it entered the smartphone world.
The modern push notification can include media, action buttons, and can be tailored to individual users. They can be used to convey information and updates, encourage users to engage with an app, send reminders, serve as a step in the user journey, and much more. They also extend beyond mobile devices, to web push notifications on laptop and desktop computers.
In on the ongoing battle to keep users engaged in a high competition, high-stakes marketplace, push notifications can play a key role. They can also, however, be problematic if used thoughtlessly. Indeed, too many pushes can even cause users to uninstall an app entirely.
Learn more about push notification below, with statistics on who sends them, the best times to send them, what sorts of pushes users like to receive, and how to increase engagement and CTR.
Table of contents
Key push notification statistics
- Average US smartphone user receives 46 app push notifications per day
- 40% of web push notification senders belong to either the ecommerce or media, publishing & blogging sectors
- Opt-in rates are much higher on Android devices (91.1%) than iOS (43.9%); users for the latter have to actively opt-in, while the former are automatically enrolled, say Accengage
- Localytics peg overall opt-in rate at 53.3%
- 7% push reaction rate on Android devices; 4.9% on iOS (Accengage)
- CleverTap find CTR of 4.1% on Android, and 1.7% on iOS
- Highest push reaction rate of 8.4% occurs on Tuesday
- Emojis (20%), rich formats (25%), tailored send times (40%), advanced targeting (threefold), and personalisation (fourfold) can all improve reaction rates (Accengage)
- CleverTap stats show basic personalisation can improve open rates by 9%, as can emojis (4.94% CTR compared to 3.01%)
- Localytics find app retention rate (11+ sessions) stand at 39% if push notifications are targeted, compared to 21% for broadcast messages
- Only 8% of marketers use rich push notifications, one source claims
- PushCrew find that 38% of push notifications are rich format
- 85% of push notifications were segmented in 2017; up from 65% in 2015
- One weekly push notification per week can lead to 10% of users disabling notifications, and 6% to disable the apps
- 31% of users do not like to find push notifications helpful at all; only 18% always find them useful
Push notifications opt-in rates
According to Accengage’s 2018 Push Notification Benchmark, opt-in rates for app push notifications are far higher on Android (91.1%) than iOS devices (43.9%). This is explained by the fact that iOS users must actively consent to push notifications, whereas Android automatically enables push notifications. Average opt-in rate across the two biggest mobile operating systems stands at 67.5%. (To see the kind of things that might make people turn off push notifications, see the ‘What makes users disable push notifications?’ section below).
It should be noted that the mean average here gives the two operating systems equal weighting. This does not necessarily represent the balance we find in the market. As of Q2 2018, Android devices accounted for 88% of new device sales, compared to iOS’s share of 12%. This 50/50 balance is used throughout the report when an ‘average’ push notification statistic is given.
The study analysed 50 billion push notifications sent to 900 million users over H1 2018 over Accengage’s own platform (so not necessarily perfectly reflective of the general market, though certainly an instructive insight into it).
Localytics pegged the overall opt-in rate at a slightly lower 53.3% in May 2018, noting that we have barely seen any change since 2014, when it stood at 52%.
Accengage’s push notification statistics are broken down to analyse how behaviour pertaining to app push notifications differs in various contexts.
Breaking the opt-in data down by industry, Accengage found that finance was the subject around which users were most likely to enable to push notifications. This was followed by travel and ecommerce.
If we just looked at Android devices, entertainment would creep ahead of ecommerce. There is a greater disparity between top and bottom on iOS devices, in both proportional and absolute terms – perhaps giving a stronger indication of push notification content that users are interested in they actively enable push notifications.
On the other hand, the plateau we see in Android devices suggests that if an opt-out rather than an opt-in system is used, users are less choosy about the industry genre of push notifications they receive.
Push notification opt-in rates by industry
Push notification opt-in rates do not seem to vary a great deal between continents, Accengage’s push notification statistics seem to indicate. The highest iOS push notification opt-in rates are reported in Africa, at 45.2%, 2.4% greater than the lowest figure of 42.8% in North America.
For Android devices, South America reports the highest push notification opt-in rates of 93.8%, while Oceania reports the lowest, at 89.4% – a difference of 4.4%.
In short, it seems that the push notification is a global phenomenon, with no region seeming to like or dislike them much more than any other.
Push notification opt-in rates by continent
Focusing in on western Europe (Accengage is France-based), the highest app push notification opt-in rates are found in Spain on Android devices at 93.4%, and in France on iOS at 45.3%. According to Accengage’s ‘average’, Italy tops the list. Again, we do not see a great deal of divergence between countries.
Push notification opt-in rates in European countries
What makes users disable push notifications?
The average US smartphone user gets 46 push notifications every day report CleverTap – something of a bombardment (it is unclear whether this includes emails, WhatsApp etc.).
Restraint can be key, therefore. Localytics find that one weekly push will cause 10% of users to disable app push notifications. We see a positive trend here, however, with the percentage of users who turn off push notifications after receiving five or fewer per week falling from 59% in 2015 to 47% in 2017. This is perhaps reflective of the greater care taken by marketers in sending targeted messages.
The message remains stark, however. Sending five push notifications a week and you stand to lose nearly half of your prospective audience for this marketing channel.
Number of weekly pushes that cause users to disable push notifications
PushCrew find a slightly higher cut-off point for five key push sending industries. Results vary across them. Recipients of software & SAAS pushes consistently unsubscribe at the highest rate, and see a real spike in unsubscribes at the 11-15 per day mark. Senders of ecommerce and media, publishing & blogging push notifications enjoy the greatest levels of tolerance, while BFSI can get away with five before faced with a sharp increase in unsubscribes.
Push frequency vs. unsubscribe rate by industry
Across industries, unsubscribes remain below 1% up to the five pushes per day mark in this analysis. The sharpest increase lies between 11-15 per day (a touch under 3%) and 16-20 (7%). Certainly marketers should think carefully before sending in excess of 15 push messages per day.
Send too many, and it runs the risk of crossing the line into spam. This is about more than frequency of sending. It seems senders and recipients (‘subscribers’ are recipients, while ‘users’ are senders of push notifications in the below chart) differ in their interpretation of what qualifies as spam.
What makes push notifications classify as spam?
PushCrew surveyed subscribers of push notifications to identify their reservations around them. Over half of their sample simply said they were irritated by them. Nearly as many find them a distraction, and comfortably over a third said they disturb them at the wrong time.
All the more reason, clearly, to be measured in usage.
What do recipients find annoying about push notifications?
Push notification reaction rates
The Accengage report gives an overall average push notification reaction rate of 7.8% (see note in opt-in rate section). Breaking it down by operating system, we see a 10.7% push notification reaction rate on Android devices, and a 4.9% push reaction rate on iOS devices.
The relation between Android and iOS devices is around the same here, with the overall percentages reported for the former roughly double those of the latter.
Localytics push notification statistics find that engagement has been on the increase, with recipients of push notifications engaging with apps 30% more in April 2018 as compared with January 2017.
Push notification engagement rates
CleverTap similarly find that Android users are more likely to click through, with a CTR of 4.06%, compared to 1.7% on iOS. As well as Android’s opt-out system, it should also be noted that app push notifications remain on the Android lock screen until they are dismissed. Whereas on iOS, they disappear as soon the user unlocks their phone.
In the Accengage report, we see similar trends in push reactions by industry as we do in opt-in rates, with travel, finance, and ecommerce leading the way – with entertainment again edging ecommerce for Android users.
Push reaction rates by industry
CleverTap also provide a measure of open rate according to industry. Business and finance once again take the top spot, followed by entertainment & events, and deals & coupons.
CleverTap speculate that the low open rate we see for food and delivery could be down to the fact that the push notification may contain the pertinent information – thus precluding the need to open the app. Order status and delivery updates are potential forms such a functional push notification could take.
Push notification open rates by industry: overall
Breaking it up by operating system, we see the difference between Android and iOS seems to be particularly pronounced in certain verticals. Business & finance, for instance, sees Android opens hugely outstripping iOS. While on the other hand, in retail there’s only 0.5% difference.
By this measure, it seems iOS open rates are fairly consistent, while there’s more variance in the Android figures.
Push notification open rates by industry: Android vs. iOS
If you’re looking for engagement from push notifications, then it seems you’ll have most luck in Europe, which sees the highest push reaction rate on both Android (11.4%) and iOS (5.5%) devices.
Again, things seem fairly consistent across geographies, though proportionally speaking the difference between top and bottom is more pronounced.
Push reaction rates by continent
In western Europe, German Android users are most likely to react to push notifications at 12.2%, while the highest push reaction rate on iOS devices can be found in Italy, at 6.3%.
Push reaction rates in European countries
The highest push notification reaction rates globally occur on Tuesday, at 8.4%, followed by Sunday at 8.1%. Accengage do not break this stat down by operating system. There’s one percentage point between highest and lowest – which happens to be on Wednesday. This perhaps suggests that we perhaps ought to be careful about drawing significant conclusions from this.
Push reaction rate by days of the week
PushCrew’s push notification statistics look at how CTR varies by day of the week for the top five push-sending industries. It doesn’t show a great amount of variation over the course of the week; indeed, perhaps the most notable observation we might make is of what appears to be a Saturday lull.
CTR by day of week/industry
A combined-industry analysis confirms a Sunday/Monday peak in activity. We don’t, however, see a great deal of variation between days.
Perhaps we might get more from looking at times of the day when we see the most push notification reaction activity. Indeed, this seems to fall into a more edifying pattern. We see a daytime peak at lunch time, thickly sandwiched by lower activity during work and commuting hours.
When the work day has ended, we see a clear upward trend that reaches a pinnacle around the time we would expect people to be winding down and going to bed – seemingly with phone in hand and open to distraction.
Push reaction rate by time of the day
According to CleverTap push notification statistics, the story in terms of the best times for click through ratios is slightly different. Here, we see a main peak occurring for two hours around lunchtime, which remains fairly high into the evening (with a slight dip during the homeward commute hours). As with the Accengage stats, we see another peak around bed time. This is followed by another perhaps self-explanatory peak seven or eight hours later.
CTR by time of day
Those looking for the ideal time to send a push notification might also consider with how many other app push notifications they will be vying for attention. CleverTap identify the morning peak as being a particularly low-competition time to post. The same might equally be said of the bedtime peak. We might cross reference these peaks with the user preferences outlined below.
When are push notifications sent?
Push notification senders
In push notification statistics pertaining to their own customers, PushCrew found that ecommerce businesses were the biggest senders of push notifications, followed by media, publishing & blogging. These two alone account for 40% of businesses sending push notifications. These stats seem to refer to web push notifications.
Push notification users by industry
The ecommerce sector primarily uses push notifications to announce offers and discounts, with five out of six businesses using them for this purpose. New product announcements of time-limited offers are the next most popular options.
For what are push notifications being used in the ecommerce sector?
Key push activity times vary by industry, though there does seem to be a concentration of pushes in the afternoon, midweek. This is interesting, as we see below that this is not a time that users prefer to receive pushes, nor the time they are most likely to react, according to much of the analysis we see.
When are push notifications sent? By industry
As we will see below, taking certain steps can deliver significant results. Many developers/marketers are not taking them. Apparently, only 8% of marketers use rich push notifications, according to POSSIBLE Mobile.
PushCrew’s analysis of its own clients also finds some interesting results in this regard. Only 20% of push notifications are segmented, for instance. While the figure of 38% for rich notifications is higher than the above, it still means that nearly two thirds of push notifications do not utilise rich features.
Utilisation of advanced push notification features
This is not borne of ignorance. Compare these figures to the respective importance such features are ascribed.
Perceived Value of advanced push notification features
We are seeing a gap, seemingly, in knowledge and practice.
Push notification user preferences
According to PushCrew’s stats, users are most keen to receive app push notifications from social media platforms. This is the only option chosen by more than half the survey sample – though news & information comes close. Beyond these two, no option garners more than a quarter.
From what sort of apps do users like to receive push notifications?
Push notifications are certainly not considered to be a universal good. Only 18% of users find all updates useful. Positively, though, a further 50% like to receive them, but only if they are by choice. App marketers will find the 31% that do not like to receive them at all a distinctly tougher sell.
Do users find push notifications useful?
The morning, the evening, and the weekends – i.e. downtime – are the times when people are happiest to receive push notifications; tarrying somewhat with the peak reaction times above. In this instance, the people know what they want (except when it comes to weekends perhaps).
When do users like to receive push notifications?
How to improve push notification performance
Various tactics can be taken to increase reaction rates, Accengage’s push notifications statistics show. Emojis increase reaction rates by 20%, rich formats by 25%, and tailoring send times for each user by 40%. Then we have the big ones: advanced targeting can increase reaction rates threefold, and personalisation fourfold.
CleverTap state that even basic personalisation increases open rates by 9%. It also finds that emojis can increase CTR – 4.94% with emojis compared to 3.01% without. Some emojis work better than others. Anything involving money seems to work well, as do the hearts of ‘in love’ and ‘two hearts’, and (perhaps more surprisingly) the ‘see no evil’ monkey, among others.
Certain facets of personalisation are more effective than others. Stated preferences, for example, will result in higher levels of usage, while addressing a user by name is not likely to be as effective.
It’s worth exercising an element of caution also; sending messages based on ‘real-world’ behaviour may make 37% of people use the app more, but it will also make 25% of people use it less. The same applies to location-based tracking, and in-app behaviour (presumably there is significant crossover, demarcating a demographic that does not like its behaviour to be tracked).
App personalisation preferences
Urban Airship push notification statistics find that using rich push notifications can result in increases in open rates of up to 56%. They cite the example of USA Today – which saw an increase of app opens attributable to push notifications of 18% though the use of rich formats in 95% of push notifications.
Brazilian ecommerce retailer Dinda managed to drive a 25% increase in its direct open rate though a combination of rich notifications, segmentation, and A/B testing. This increases further if we use influenced open rate as our measure.
PushCrew peg the rich push notification CTR at 9.2% – compared to 6.9% for simple push notifications.
The type of push notification can help too, say Accengage. Interstitial notifications enjoy a reaction rate of 35%, compared to 18.3% for an alert box and 12.5% for a banner. It helps, it seems, to get in a user’s face…(within reason!).
Localytics’ push notification statistics measure the open rates following different types of push notification against each other. We can clearly see that, even without segmentation of the userbase, dynamic messages garner the best results. The holy grail of push notification, however, is a dynamic segmented message.
A business that takes both of these steps looks set to see users launch the app twice as many times as those sending any other type of message, and three times more than a standard broadcast message.
Engagement level by push notification type
Looking it another way – direct open rate – yields similar results, albeit less stacked in favour of the dynamic/segmented. Using dynamic push notifications again is the simplest way to achieve better results.
Direct open rate by push notification type
Things look a bit different, however, if we look at conversion rates: i.e. how many of users actually complete an action after receiving an app push notification. Here, we can see that segmentation becomes the difference. Indeed, dynamic/broadcast messages seem to be less successful by this metric.
It should be noted, say Localytics, that this might be down to the goals related to dynamic messages being more specific than broadcast messages. The latter may be broader, ergo meaning easier to achieve. The value of building wider engagement, they also note, are worth keeping in mind.
Conversion rate by push notification type
PushCrew find a marked positive effect when it comes to segmentation. Media, publishing & blogging, BFSI, and digital marketing agency push notification senders profit the most from segmentation.
Segmented vs. non-segmented push notifications CTR
It seems we are seeing a positive trend in push notification segmentation, with more and more marketers sending segmented rather than broadcast messages – suggesting that they are getting the message on this.
As of 2017, the percentage of push notifications that had been segmented had climbed to 85%, as compared to 65% in 2015.
Broadcast vs. segmented push notifications
As well as the above, we see marked improvements in both open rates and conversion rates where geotargeting is applied. Close to double in terms of the former and in excess of double in the latter.
Success rate of geotargetting
The ideal length of a push notification varies according to the industry in which the poster operates, according to CleverTap. Those looking to attract clicks in the health & fitness and travel & hospitality industries should aim for 90 characters, according to this research. Those pushing deal & coupons, on the other hand, or education & training need to be more disciplined, with notifications of 20 and 25 characters respectively getting the best results.
Ideal push notification length by industry
The point in the user journey when a push is sent also has a bearing on success. Localytics set the sweet spot for sending one at between four to six sessions.
And it should go without saying that the frequency of notification has an inverse relationship with CTR. According to PushCrew push notification statistics, peak CTR comes at two pushes (for businesses in the ecommerce or digital marketing space, one) – after which the laws of diminishing returns apply.
There is, however, notable variation between industries. We might note that at the 16-20 push mark software and SAAS push notifications are still registering superior CTRs to any other industry after five (or ecommerce after one) – perhaps aided by a high unsubscribe rate leaving more engaged users. BFSI sees a marked drop off after five pushes, while digital marketing agencies actually get better results on the fifth than the fourth push.
Frequency of push notifications/CTR
Across all industries, we see a tail off in CTR after five pushes. Three seems to possess some of its famous magical properties here, giving better results than two.
Using their push notification data, PushCrew identify the ideal number of pushes by industry. According to these numbers, careers & training apps and digital marketing agencies can profit from sending more push notifications. Those in arts/sports/entertainment and online directories, on the other hand, should practice restraint (among others).
Ideal number of push notifications for maximum CTR by industry
It can be as simple as using certain words. CleverTap, for instance, identify a range of words that seemed to occur frequently in push notifications that result in strong engagement.
These words can hardly be considered obscure, but clearly serve a useful purpose in guiding users to open the apps. Words suggesting urgency feature heavily: ‘today’, ‘soon’, ‘now’, ‘limited’, ‘missed’, ‘don’t miss’, etc. We also see words alluding to quality (‘indulge’, ‘premium’, ‘awesome’), action words (‘explore’, ‘reserve’, ‘enjoy’), just a friendly ‘hey’, and of course ‘free’ and ‘get free’.
‘Power words’ in push notifications
There are also words that are best avoided. CleverTap break this down by industry. These are less obvious.
Those in finance should avoid ‘trade’, ‘price’, and ‘please’ (leave your manners at the door); entertainment & events app users are unmoved by ‘special’, ‘blockbuster’, and ‘get ready’; and in the world of health & fitness no one wants to hear ‘treatment’, ‘pain’, and the insult to the vanity of the userbase that is ‘old’.
Other basic steps that can help can really be considered Marketing 101. Things are simple as adding a CTA increases CTR, for example (the fact that this can be measured suggests that it is not a step taken by all marketers).
CTR and CTAs
Picture size can also help…people like to see big pictures. This is particularly the case when it comes to ecommerce, perhaps for obvious reasons. Most industries can profit from this, however.
CTR and picture size
Push notifications and app retention
The percentage of people who will stop using an app after receiving push notifications is not a great deal smaller than those who simply disable app push notifications. 6% of users will abandon an app after receiving just one push notification per week – a figure that remained unchanged between 2015 and 2017. The better news is, outside of these hardcore push objectors, it seemingly is taking a greater number of push notifications to upset users to the point of uninstalling the app.
There seems to be a cut-off point. Send 10, and you’ll lose 59.5% solely on the basis of too many push notifications.
Number of weekly pushes that cause users to abandon apps
This surely is not a liberty marketers can take; 21% of users abandon apps after one use as it is.
eMarketer stats also show that users are opening fewer and fewer apps overall. In 2018, the average monthly figure for apps opened stood at 20.4; down from 21.6 in 2015. By 2022, they predict this will be as low as 19.2.
Push notification opt-in can give a clear indication of retention rates, representing an investment in an app by a user. Most users who have enabled app push notifications will be around for at least nine sessions, with 46% remaining beyond the unofficial retention point of 11 sessions.
On the other hand, nearly half of those who do not enable push notifications will be lost after a mere two sessions.
Retention rates opted in/opted out of push notifications
As above, there is a clear merit to sending out targeted messages; not just for the sake of CTR, but also for app retention. Send out broadcast messages, and you stand to lose over half of your audience after three sessions.
On the other hand, 39% of audience members will stick around for over eleven sessions with targeted notifications. It should be noted, however, that we shouldn’t overstate the significance of these numbers; broadcast message-sending apps retain 21% to the 11+ mark, while targeted message-sending ones lose 20% after one session. The decision taken by a healthy proportion of users to stick with or dispense with the app will have nothing to do with the nature of push notifications they are sent.
Retention rates by push campaign type
Push notifications can clearly be an effective channel to reach users. They can also be a quick way to annoy, alienate, and ultimately lose an app’s userbase.
They must be used, therefore, with caution – and with reference to either the plentiful resources available online, or ideally with propriety data and A/B testing to gauge what works most effectively in any given context.
There are, however, some clear-cut ways marketers can increase the effectiveness of their app push notifications. While more and more seem to be cottoning on to the importance of segmentation and personalisation, there still seems to be plenty of room to improve. Namely in the use of rich formats, user preferences (including those for no push notifications), and other simple touches which will make push notifications more compelling.
As the possibilities grow with improvements in tech and the availability of data, the potential to engage audiences through innovative and relevant push notifications will surely grow – as will the potential to irritate, particularly with numerous apps vying for our attention.
Striking a balance between grabbing attention and not becoming obtrusive in the process is the great challenge of the push notifier. Get it right, though, and the results can certainly pay off. Get it wrong, on the other hand, and you would probably be better off not sending any at all…