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.
Key push notification statistics
- Average US smartphone user receives 46 app push notifications per day
- Opt-in rates are much higher on Android devices (with medium – 81%) than iOS (with medium – 51%); users for the latter have to actively opt-in, while the former are automatically enrolled, says Airship
- Airship pegs overall push notification opt-in rate at 60%
- 4.6% push reaction rate on Android devices; 3.4% on iOS (Airship)
- Airship find CTR of 4.6% on Android, and 3.4% 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 personalization (fourfold) can all improve reaction rates (Accengage)
- CleverTap stats show basic personalization can improve open rates by 9%, as can emojis (4.94% CTR compared to 3.01%)
- Upland 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, according to Airship
- VWO Engage 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 the Airship’s 2021 Push Notification Benchmark report, opt-in rates for app push notifications on Android ranges from 49% to 95%, with medium equal to 81% and on the iOS side it ranges from 29% to 73%, with medium equal to 51%. The higher medium on the Android side is explained by the fact that iOS users must actively consent to push notifications, whereas Android automatically enables push notifications.
The medium value gives Android a clear advantage over iOS, this represents the in-balance we find in the market. As of Q2 2021, Android devices accounted for 73% of new device sales, compared to iOS’s share of 27%. Although, today’s Android’s edge over iOS is smaller, in Q2, 2018 the split was 88% and 12% respectively.
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The study analyzed 600 billion push notifications sent to 2 billion users over H1 2021 via the Airship’s own platform (so not necessarily perfectly reflective of the general market, though certainly an instructive insight into it).
Airship’s push notification statistics are broken down to analyze how behavior pertaining to app push notifications differs in various contexts. The benchmarks were broken down into high (90th), medium (50th) and low percentiles (10th). The 50th percentile number is the median for the vertical. The 10th percentile number means 10% of the apps had a lower value, while the 90th percentile number means 10% of apps had a higher value.
Breaking the opt-in data down by vertical (we took only 7 verticals from the report’s data pool to provide a clearer picture), Airship found that on Android finance apps are on the top of opt-in push notifications ratings, with 96 % of mobile users who accept to receive push notifications. Education and medical closely follow with opt-in rate around 94%.
Push notification opt-in rates by vertical on Android
Overall the iOS opt-in rates are way lower that the Android’s ones because the latter has push notifications set on by default, meanwhile iOS users are offered to make a conscious choice to accept push notifications or not. The most striking difference between Android and its iOS counterpart lays with social, the low, medium and high are respectively 30%, 48% and 75% against Android’s 55%, 94% and 97%.
Push notification opt-in rates by vertical on iOS
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. Dedicated customer support company Helplama finds that one weekly push will cause 10% of users to disable app push notifications. Going with 3-6 push notifications will get you into bigger trouble, with 40% of app users say “no more push notifications” if they get that much of the messages. But then an interesting thing happens, sending more than 20 message will cause only 5% of app users to turn off push notifications on their smartphones. We believe the key is what kind of messages are being sent and if the message implies sending multiple messages regularly users really don’t mind.
Number of weekly push notifications that cause users to disable push notifications
VWO Engage 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 un-subscribers. Looking at these numbers, it seems like on average app users don’t expect to receive push notifications from software-as-a-service companies and prefer to be in a control when to engage with the app or web service. When it comes to media, getting extra nuggets of information is something that is expected and push notifications come handy.
Push notification frequency vs. unsubscribe rate by industry
Source: VWO Engage
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?
Source: VWO Engage
VWO Engage 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?
Source: VWO Engage
Push notification reaction rates
The Airship report gives an overall average push notification reaction rate of 4.6% for Android and 3.4% for iOS.
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.
The 2019 Localytics (acquired by Upland software in February, 2020) push notification statistics report shows that engagement had been on the increase, with recipients of push notifications engaging with apps 60% more in H2, 2018 as compared with H1, 2017 for iOS and 67% for Android. Engagement is calculated as the number of sessions the average user completes within seven days of push receipt.
Push notification engagement rates
In the 2021 Airship report we see an overall medium open rate for iOS is 3.4% and 4.6% for Android.
When we look at specific verticals on the Android side, education, food & drink and travel & transportation lead the pack, with the high value reaching 30%. For iOS education and medical & health & fitness verticals demonstrate the highest open rate, reaching 15% – 18%.
The 2018 CleverTap report also sheds light on the open rate, showing that 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, about 8% against roughly 2% on the iOS side. 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 notification reaction rates by continent
|Continent||North America||South America||Africa||Europe||Asia||Oceania|
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 notification 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 notification reaction rates by day of the week
VWO Engage’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
Source: VWO Engage
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 notification 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 Airship stats, we see another peak around bed time. This is followed by another perhaps self-explanatory peak seven or eight hours later.
Push notification 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, VWO Engage 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
Source: VWO Engage
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?
|Sector||Announcing new offers||Announcing new products||Sharing time-bound offers||Announcing price drops||Welcoming new subscriber||Sending personalized product recommendations|
|Percentage of users||83,33%||50.0%||33.33%||25.0%||16.67%||16.6%|
Source: VWO Engage
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
Source: VWO Engage
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 Airship.
VWO Engage’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.
Utilization of advanced push notification features
|Feature||Scheduling Expiry||Rich Notifications||Welcome Drip||Audience Segmentation||Multi-website||Smart Campaign|
Source: VWO Engage
This is not borne of ignorance. Compare these figures to the respective importance such features are ascribed.
Perceived Value of advanced push notification features
Source: VWO Engage
We are seeing a gap, seemingly, in knowledge and practice.
Push notification user preferences
According to VWO Engage’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 kind of apps do users like to receive push notifications?
Source: VWO Engage
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?
Source: VWO Engage
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?
Source: VWO Engage
How to improve push notification performance
Various tactics can be taken to increase reaction rates, Airship’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
|Which types of app personalization make you see an app more or less?|
|Use app more||Use app less||No difference|
|The app always applies my stated preferences (e.g. sport team, home town) into content displayed or push messages sent to me||49.20%||15.3%||35.5%|
|The app knows my location and factors that into content displayed or push messages sent to me||42%||24.90%||33.1%|
|The app factors my actions in the “real world” (e.g. a purchase in a store) and reactors that into content displayed or push messages sent toe me||37.2%||25.4%||37.4%|
|The app tracks my in-app behavior and factors that into the content displayed or in push messages sent to me||32.5%||29.2%||38.3%|
|The app addresses me by name||26.8%||15.1%||58.1%|
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.
VWO Engage 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 Airship. 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
VWO Engage 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
Source: VWO Engage
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.
And it should go without saying that the frequency of notification has an inverse relationship with CTR. According to VWO Engage 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
Source: VWO Engage
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, VWO Engage 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
Source: VWO Engage
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
Source: VWO Engage
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
Source: VWO Engage
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…