App Development

Mobile notifications part 1: a gateway to app engagement

App notifications are a tried and proven tool to increase app engagement. But, new mobile OS versions such as Android Nougat are giving users easier ways to get rid of notifications that they don’t care to see. It is important for app owners to be mindful of what they are sending. Analytics tools such as Firebase Analytics, which automatically log Firebase Notifications, can be used by app owners to help develop the best notifications for their app, which serve to increase user engagement. If users get put off by an app’s notifications, they have a higher chance of uninstalling or blocking all notifications from the app.

Urban Airship, who provides push notifications as one of their services, conducted a study in February 2017 in which they examined the behavior of 63 million app users over the course of their first 90 days using apps. When zero notifications are sent, user retention is dismal on Android. Urban Airship found that the first week user retention on Android with zero notifications is about 19% and drops to 5% after 90 days.
android new user retention Graph by Urban Airship

Users that opt-out of notifications behave similarly. We can see here that it is a really good idea to send notifications, but not to the point that users opt-out.

Similarly, on iOS we see the 90 day user retention after zero notifications to be very low at 15%. ios new user retention Graph by Urban Airship

It is interesting to note that user retention is inherently higher on iOS in the first week regardless of push notifications. But opt-outs and zero notifications leave user retention at around 15%.

User retention naturally drops off as time passes after installing an app, but users that leave push notifications enabled and receive them are much more likely to continue using an app. The absence of push notifications affecting user retention is not a new phenomenon. Localytics, an analytics company that also provides push notifications, has seen the same user behavior from as far back as October 2015. And we know that in the tech world, things change quickly. user retention improvement

App stakeholders should be mindful about what notifications they send - sending too many irrelevant notifications to a user risks annoying them and they might disable notifications or worse, uninstall the app. When users disable push notifications, retention takes a big hit. With notifications enabled, Localytics observes 65% retention in the first 30 days, but with notifications disabled we see retention down to 19% in the first 30 days.

Google has been improving the notification experience for users. Android Nougat has introduced the ability for users to easily silence or block notifications from the Notifications Shade. If a user deems a notification block-worthy, they can simply long-press the notification and disable notifications for that app. android notification settings App creators should review their notification strategy and make sure they are sending the notifications that they really want to be sending, because if a user blocks an app’s notifications they are much more likely to stop using their app as time goes on.

If you would like to learn more about some of the useful notification types available for Android, you can read my second blog post on the topic, check out my Android NotificationsDemo app on Github, or download the app for yourself from the Google Play store here.

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