Omniata BlogOctober 9, 2015

Designing Effective Push Notification Campaigns

With increasing competition for users in mobile apps, the use of push notifications has become a powerful tool for marketers and product managers to retain and engage users. Despite their popularity, most push notification campaigns fail to serve their intended purpose and can actually increase user churn because they are not designed properly. In this post we will review the methodology of designing an effective push notification campaign.

The Problem

Imagine that you have a level-based game and you notice that the user drop-off is relatively high in certain levels. After analyzing the issue, you realize that the levels in question are in fact difficult to pass, maybe due to a complex sequence of actions required to pass the level, poor game balancing, or an unclear path. What can you do now?

A solution is to send the users a tip that would help them pass the level and continue their progress in the game. The first step would be to identify all the levels that show significant drop in users (if not intended to be a paywall) and then design unique content (tip) to match each level.

Let's see how you can design a successful push campaign that will bring back users.

Elements of a Successful Campaign

When planning for a push notification campaign, the following aspects should be considered:

  • What users will be targeted?
  • What will the users receive?
  • When should the user receive the message and how long should the campaign run?
  • How will you analyze the results?

Targeting Users

You can send a generic push notification to all users, but then you will miss a great opportunity to target specific users with informative and relevant content. And you may also turn off few users potentially resulting in user churn.

To maximize the campaign’s positive impact, the first step is to create specific target segment of users. It is reasonable to assume that if the user has not returned to the game after 7 days, he or she may have dropped off.

Hence, you should define a target segment consisting of users who 1) have been inactive for 7 days (potentially churned user) and 2) last played the game at one of the drop-levels. Once we have decided who to target, the next step is to define what content they should receive.

Content Delivery

The content, in this case the text of push notification, should be relevant and informative to the users. In our example case, the content could be a tip thats help users progress in the game. For example, “You can use the Double Jump to pass the second wall” enables the user pass the level and continue engaging with the app with a renewed interest.

Another aspect of content is country localization. Depending on the markets in which the app is published and the size of user base in these markets, it is often worthwhile to localize the content. The more personal the message is, the more likely it will result in a user clicking on the notification and returning to the app.

Also, if applicable, it is recommended to utilize deep linking in the content. This means that clicking the push notification will open the level in which the user dropped off.

In our example push campaign, users who dropped off because the level was too tough to pass would receive a notification on how to pass that level. The deep linking would direct the users to the exact level to try out how the tip works. Now let's decide on the timing and duration of the campaign.

Campaign timing and duration

Another point to notice is that this will not be a one-time campaign, which means this campaign should be automated and is applicable to any user who drops off for a set duration in the future. This duration is normally the time during which your product experience does not go through any changes that can impact the experience on the drop-off levels.

Additionally, you should set the delivery time of push notifications in the users’ local time zones, and at the time when the users are most likely to engage with the product.

After creating a campaign that has the relevant content and is targeting the specific user groups, the campaign should run automatically and deliver the push notifications in the local time zone of your users. Once this has been set up, you’ll be able to start measuring and analyzing the results of the campaign.

Measure the impact

You can not decide whether the campaign was effective if you do not measure the impact on metrics. It is recommended that you always assign a small number of users, such as 10% of the total group of targeted users, to a control group that won’t receive any notifications. This allows you to compare the two (or more) groups of users that received the content to the users that didn’t receive any notifications. As there may be several different contents with different copies and even languages that you wish to try out, you might think of the campaign and content through a matrix with different dimensions (for more details on this take a look at a related blog: Sequential A/B Testing and Variant Design).

In this use case, the main metric will be the percentage of users who returned to the app after receiving the push notification. In addition, you can gain a deeper understanding of the impact by looking at the retention of the users who received the push notifications. One way to do this is to define a segment of users who received the push notifications and to track the retention of this cohort. This requires a tool that allows the creation of new user properties and segments in real time.

For campaigns that focus on engagement of active users, the key metrics are session metrics and overall activity with focus on retention. With campaigns that focus on re-engaging inactive users, the most relevant engagement metric would be Lift. Lift is defined as the percentage difference between re-engagement rates of users who receive the content (the test group) and users who did not receive the content (the control group):

  • Lift (%) = (Re-engagement rate (Pushed users) - Re-engagement rate (Non-pushed users)) / Re-engagement rate (Non-pushed users) (*100)

The re-engagement rate is calculated as re-engaged users per target segment size. This measure is available for both the test and control groups. The control group is included in the calculations because some of the users will organically return to the app regardless of receiving a notification or not. This will also impact the pushed users re-engagement rate. To eliminate these organic returnees, the rate of the control group is subtracted from the rate of the test group, with the assumption that both groups have the same organic re-engagement rate. These metrics allow you to calculate the impact of the push notification campaign.


Re-engagement push notification campaigns can increase lift as high as 250%. This means that 2.5 times more users returned to the app due to the push notification than would have returned without the notifications.

Key Takeaways

  • Target with precision
  • Make content relevant
  • Deep link, if applicable
  • Automate campaigns
  • Make sure to measure the impact

Push notifications are an incredibly powerful tool to automate the marketing of the app itself. This is an important point to make as most mobile devices have an abundance of applications, all competing for the users time.You have one chance to impress re-engaging users. Make it count with relevant content!