Brands Are Pushing More Notifications During Covid-19. Here’s Why
With no theaters to visit, stores to shop at, or bars to drink in, Americans have largely spent the past few months at home. This shift in the way we live our lives has manifested clearly in mobile phone data usage, which grew by more than 50% this spring. It has also materialized in the historic growth in engagement with mobile notifications since March, when shelter-in-place orders went into effect across much of the country.
That’s good news for marketers.
According to a benchmark study of more than two billion app installs, recently released by the notifications and customer engagement platform Airship, users are quicker to click on notifications now than before the pandemic began. Thirty-two percent of website visits by opt-in users in March were from direct opens of web notifications, as direct open rates for mobile app push notifications reached their absolute-highest average rate in more than four years.
Marketers who were tracking these new dynamics as they unfolded were quick to pounce. Airship’s analysis found that businesses sent 16% more mobile app push notifications in March than in the previous month and 36% more web notifications. For their efforts, marketers were rewarded with direct open rates that increased an average of 22% for apps and 119% for websites.
“The current global situation makes digital engagement more important than ever,” says Mike Herrick, senior vice president of technology at Airship. “Businesses are rolling out new operational procedures and policies to adapt to unprecedented times, while historically high notification open rates show that customers are responding as they seek out real-time information, reassurance, and even entertainment.”
With 88% of web notification direct opens originating from mobile devices rather than desktops—a 10% increase since January 2020 and a 42% increase year over year—Herrick says it’s clear that mobile is now the dominant screen. In Airship’s study, opt-in audiences for mobile app notifications held steady from February to March 2020 at more than 60%, while web notification opt-in audiences grew 14% month over month.
While mobile customer engagement has been growing steadily for the past decade, Covid-19 has made it even more critical for businesses to start sending what Airship refers to as “in-the-moment” notifications. The company’s study found that consumers are more receptive to notifications now, but in order to keep up that level of engagement, marketers must keep their messages relevant and streamlined across channels.
“The scenario of blasting customers with one-size-fits-all messages, and across all channels is all too common and really only advisable for super-critical, time-sensitive communications,” Herrick says. “Segmentation, personalization, real-time automation, and AI-guided cross-channel orchestration go a long way to making sure customers get the right messages on the right channels at the time they are most likely to respond, boosting response rates dramatically.”
Although marketers have been sending more emails since the pandemic began, a notification on a phone’s lockscreen is still much more immediate and less cluttered than a message that shows up in an overflowing inbox. As a best practice, Herrick says businesses that have relied predominantly on email or SMS should use these channels to invite customers to connect in other valuable ways, such as by downloading a mobile app or opting-in to receive mobile push notifications.
In-app messaging has some of the biggest upside for marketers, since it doesn’t always require an opt-in and it can be used to reach customers in-session and on specific screens when they are already engaged with the brand.
“With the world’s reopening, we’ll undoubtedly see notification volume rise as businesses seek to recoup losses and consumers continue to take advantage of once necessary and now extremely convenient digital operations,” Herrick says. “Organizations that have established audiences across multiple digital channels will be better positioned to promote new policies, services, tips or offers that assuage consumers fears and get business back to normal, or beyond, as the world cautiously reopens.”
Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.