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New data on push notifications show up to 40% CTRs, the best perform 4X better than the worst (Guest post)

[Andrew: A few weeks ago, the folks at Kahuna released some great data showing that up to 60% of users opt-out of push notifications. Now they’re releasing some new data on the click-through rates of push notifications, showing the differences between app categories and breaking down the reasons why some apps are so much stronger than others. They were gracious enough to share this data for the first time, as a guest post  on here – you can get in touch with the author, Alli Brian or Adam Marchick, Kahuna’s CEO.]

Push notification click-through rates via Alli Brian @ Kahuna

The best apps know how to use push notifications to their advantage. They’ve figure out how to make their service part of their users’ daily routine, and they leverage push as a vehicle to do this.

Recent data from Kahuna reveals that push engagement rates vary widely across industries – utility and financial services apps seeing the highest performance, and retail and social experiencing the worst. Here’s a comprehensive look at the state of push engagement rates, as well as a roadmap for getting back on track if your app is trailing behind.

Here’s the data:

push engagement graph

You can see that push engagement rates for utility and financial services notifications (40%) are nearly four times higher than for e-commerce & retail notifications (12%). While all industry notifications benefit from significantly higher engagement rate than they see from traditional email engagement, the wide discrepancy can result in significant revenue loss for underperforming apps.

Get updates to this essay, plus more on push notifications:

Apps That Are Winning
High push notification engagement rates are most often seen by apps with high frequency users. These apps use notifications to nudge their users do something that has become part of their regular routines. Utility, Financial Services and Ride Sharing apps lead the way – think about how normal it is to make these apps part of your daily or weekly routine. Looking for directions, watching your budget and taking a taxi are very regular activities, and using push to incentivize these actions is extremely effective. Here are a few examples:

1 - waze push

Utility apps have an obvious job to do – know your users daily routines and help them out when they appear to be getting into trouble. That’s what this push notification from Waze did – it was sent to Waze users  folks who regularly take the 280 freeway from San Francisco to Silicon Valley. And Waze users appreciated the heads up. Other high performing notifications from utility apps like job search or apartment rental services include new job listings or apartment availability alerts.

User engagement with these notifications (when appropriately timed) can be off the charts – as high as 80%.

2-levelmoney notification


Financial services apps also experience strong push engagement. By nature of the industry, money management is an important part of our daily lives. Hold the purse strings (or send a notification about them) and your users will be quick to respond. Take a look at this notification from Level Money. Their push engagement is off the chart.

But What If You’re Having A Harder Time Of It?
If you are in an industry that suffers from low push engagement rates, how do you overcome this? Retail, social and media apps typically have a more difficult time creating push notifications in a way that provides real user value. The good news: research shows that you can influence push engagement rates by using strategies that motivate users to integrate your app into their regular routines. Here are the top three techniques that will improve your notification response rates.

1. Find your Cadence:
Notification tolerance varies across app industries and individual users, so make the most of your notifications. Not all apps should be sending push notifications once a day, and engaged users have a vastly different tolerance for notifications than do new users or dormant users. Rather, it’s about sending the right message to the right person at the right time. In many cases, the elegance is in knowing when not to send a message. Check out the example below.



Netflix does a great job of personalizing their notifications to the individual receiving them. Every user receives a unique message about the specific show they have been watching.  Rather than sending every user a notification every time a new episode of any show is released, consider one perfectly personalized notification. Crunchyroll could take a page out of their book.

Note: Sophisticated automation that limits and prioritizes the number of pushes each user is eligible to receive is the best way to achieve the appropriate cadence, given the numerous corner cases.

2. Make it personal
Don’t assume every user wants to hear about the same thing. Sending a notification that is valuable to the user isn’t just about a 10% coupon – it’s about presenting a relevant offer. The most compelling offer is one that contains information that the user deems important. Check out reactions to the notifications below.



fantasy football


These notifications both came from sports apps but elicited very different user responses.  The FIFA notification about the world cup was perceived as spam – simply because the app users to which it was sent was uninterested in the particular game mentioned in the message. In contract, the notification from SportsCenter that referenced the user’s specific fantasy football league was perceived as delightful content.

Worst of all is the mis-personalized push notification. We can’t emphasize enough how critical it is to gather accurate, person-level data to inform your notification. Use a unique identifier so even anonymous users will get accurately personalized notifications. Check out what happens if you send notifications to “devices”, not people.



As you can see above, device-based tracking does more harm than good. For example, if your wife borrows your phone and does a bit of browsing, all of a sudden you’ll be receiving notifications about irrelevant flash sales.

3. Timing is everything
Great timing should consider both user behavior and urgency. Notifications that include urgent information need to be sent at a time that is relevant to the context of the message, such as the notifications below.



As you can see, the notifications sent by Refresh and United Airlines both reference urgent and important information, and are tailored to the specific person receiving the message. As such, the response to the notifications are very positive.

For notifications that are not critically urgent, the goal is to minimize disruption and maximize delight. The horror stories about waking up to a mis-timed push notification abound, and users are not forgiving (see below).

9 - espn8- guardian


Considering every user keeps a different schedule, the only solution is to send push notifications at the time when each user is most likely to engage with your app. Kahuna data reveals that customizing delivery time based on user preference results in an average conversion uplift of 384%.

Great push is all about inspiring delight – facilitating a relevant and valuable app experience for your users and securing a prized place in their daily routines. Whether you’re in a high-performing industry like Utility or Financial Services or a low-performing one like Retail or Social, there is always room for improvement. Focus on understanding what your users value about your service and tailor your messages to their unique needs and interests. You’ll see push engagement skyrocket, and your users transform into rabid advocates.

PS. Get new updates/analysis on tech and startups

I write a high-quality, weekly newsletter covering what's happening in Silicon Valley, focused on startups, marketing, and mobile.

Why Android desperately needs a billion dollar success story: The best new apps are all going iPhone-first


Why startups are all going iPhone-first
There’s been a number of articles over the last year that reiterate a simple fact: The best new apps are all going iPhone-first. Here’s three popular articles on this topic over the last few months:

At this point, going iPhone-first is a widely held best practice. It’s our generation’s version of “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM.” While there’s some debate on the margins on how quickly you should follow up with an Android app, certainly no one is arguing for Android-first (meaning, don’t do iPhone). There’s a number of reasons for this consensus, which the above articles thoroughly explain- here’s the superset of the reasons they give.

  • Device fragmentation – both OS versions, carrier/handset add-ons, and hardware itself
  • Less advanced, less stable tools and documentation
  • Larger install base, but smaller addressable market (Feldman states that a 50% market share really translates to 12% if you support the most recent versions of Android, versus 30% for iPhone)
  • Less valuable audiences on Android, losing ground in the US in key demos
  • Cheaper iPhones may steal marketshare from Android in the future
  • Higher cost of development for Android (2-3X claims Steve Cheney)
  • $800k-$1.2M seed rounds leading to a “all-in on one platform” strategy

Note, I’m not saying I agree with above, just summarizing what’s been said.

In addition to this, I’d also like to add a couple more human aspects of the decision:

  • Many/Most startup founders and employees are Steve Jobs fanboys, carry iPhones, and want to design for themselves
  • Their friends carry iPhones, and they want to make something for their friends
  • There’s more hipster designery mobile developers who build for iPhone, and that’s the supply-side of talent in SF Bay Area
  • Investors (other than Bubba Murarka) usually carry iPhones, so it’s easier to pitch to them
  • More tech press outlets want to cover iPhone-specific news

Whether you agree if the above is sane or not, the reality is, there’s a lot of friction to going against the norms. In order for a whole class of developers to move en masse to the Android platform is going to require a big carrot. I’m going to argue that this big carrot is going to be that the best developers, the ones who are investing $1M+ into a single app, need to feel like there’s such a huge opportunity in Android that they can’t miss out.

What Android can learn from Microsoft Windows
This consensus towards iPhone-first is happening at a critical time for Android. In many ways, the platform has been a huge success, and many who lived through the Windows vs. Mac years could make some interesting comparisons.

Here’s a stab at it- here’s some of the key reasons why Microsoft Windows won:

  • Cheaper
  • Ubiquitous
  • More open
  • Better penetration into the workplace
  • Lots of applications that were exclusive to the platform

I’d argue that on almost all the point above, Android has achieved the same success as Windows. It’s cheaper, there’s more devices sold, it’s more open. But a critical component, of having more apps, isn’t there. Remember how there was always some key games that’d run on Windows that wouldn’t exist on Mac? Or how there were a bunch of business applications that would only run on Windows? That meant that the Windows platform had the virtuous cycle between developers and users to drive total domination.

But Android is not Windows. When you look at the current mobile ecosystem, iPhone has more apps. It has better apps. It gets the designery, well-funded startups to build iPhone-first.

Consumers and developers, together, will continue to choose the iPhone until that network effect is broken.

Today, Android is merely playing catchup – every time there’s a proprietary iPhone app, soon thereafter, they’ve done a good job convincing developers that they also need to release an Android app. Yet, to play to win, Android needs to convince many, many developers to create apps exclusively for their platform, just like Windows did a generation ago.

How does Google get there?
To me, the biggest thing that Google is lacking is a billion dollar tech startup story that’s exclusively about how Android is a better platform for developers. That story doesn’t exist, and as a result, people have focused more on the friction in going Android-first, rather than the opportunity.

IMHO, Android gets there by rewarding startups that are exclusively choosing its platform. I’m talking my book here, as I’m involved with a few Android-first products, but it’s also nevertheless from direct knowledge. Google should extensively feature apps that aren’t merely clones of iOS apps – it’s not enough to play catchup. Instead, Android should seek to really showcase apps that take advantage of very differentiated features and APIs. There should be a billion user success story around Android launchers and lock screens in the US, rather than acquihires/flips of Aviate, Emu, Cover, and others. These were solid companies led by good teams that wanted to go Android-first, but there was a missed opportunity in supporting them.

App store discovery for iOS is a glaring weakness. It’s editorially driven, and doesn’t give great new apps the chance to be successful, which is why four companies own 70% of the top apps – Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and Apple. They’ve created a winner-take-all environment, especially as Facebook has shown how to effectively use App Constellations to drive traffic between apps. Instead, Google could create a much more fluid ecosystem, which would reward and boost apps the way that search has driven traffic to millions of long-tail websites. Everyone does SEO because they know that yes, you can create a public company like Yelp, or a fast-growing startup like Genius, on the Google Search platform. There’s no story like this in mobile.

And yes, shifting installs from the “head” developers into the long tail might make it less attractive for some, but the biggest developers will always develop for both – they don’t have a choice. The battleground is for the hearts, minds, and product roadmaps of new, innovative apps that will drive adoption for their parent platform.

Android is an important platform, and it’s built more closely to the open nature of the internet, and so for that reason I’m rooting for it. But to make it the first choice for developers, it needs to do more than it is.

Do you work at Google?
Finally, if anyone at Google is reading this, email me: voodoo [at] gmail. Like I said, I’m happy to talk my book :)

PS. Get new updates/analysis on tech and startups

I write a high-quality, weekly newsletter covering what's happening in Silicon Valley, focused on startups, marketing, and mobile.

Early Traction: How to go from zero to 150,000 email subscribers (Guest Post)

[Andrew: Starting up from zero is one of the hardest things you can do with a new product. Especially in the age of SaaS and content marketing, building up to the first 150k users is a key milestone that can prove out product/market fit, generate a revenue stream, and secure investment. This is a guest post by my good friend Noah Kagan (@noahkagan), who is previously from Mint (acquired by Intuit), Facebook, and now Chief Sumo of AppSumo. They are releasing some marketing tools focused on early traction companies, over at SumoMe.com]

Zero to 147,973 email subscribers by Noah Kagan, AppSumo


During the first 10 months of 2012 AppSumo grew 147,973 new subscribers from running Giveaways. What started out as an experiment for growing our small audience became one of the key marketing activities that helped grow our customer base.

Growing your audience in the early days is one of the hardest things in any startup. There are a few tactics to get your first customers such as buying ads to landing pages via Facebook or Google, content marketing with a blog, getting covered in press, a Kickstarter campaign that magically takes off or creating a YouTube teaser that goes viral.

The majority of these methods can be costly and / or time consuming. As well, there’s no guarantee that the customers it generates will be profitable or you’ll be able to even get customers at all.

So where is the best place to begin? If you look at all the marketing activities available when starting out, it looks like a pie. No one piece of that pie will get all of the customers you want or be as effective for you as it is for someone else. So you have to attempt multiple methods to eventually reach all of your customers.

At AppSumo.com over the past 4 years we’ve done all of the above. The one method I can consistently recommend for people starting their customer base has been giveaways.

What the heck is a giveaway?

Good question.

A giveaway is giving away some physical, digital item or service to people in exchange for a visitor signing up for your newsletter. At AppSumo we further incentivized those customers with getting additional entries by referring friends via Facebook, Twitter or sharing an incentivized link however they please.

Here’s a recent giveaway we are running for AppSumo. The tool we are using is KingSumo Giveaways that we released to the public a month ago.

Screenshot 2014-07-24 14.09.44

For this Giveaway we generally seed the initial users in hoping it goes viral.

First I’ll tweet or email a few people who I think will be interested.

Screenshot 2014-07-24 14.10.54

Then people will see that and enter the giveaway.

Afterwards they’re incentivized to share:

Screenshot 2014-07-24 14.11.43

The timer encourages urgency so people are incentivized to share sooner.

Then we’ve optimized which buttons to show and where so people will share the giveaway so we can get even more people to join.

Screenshot 2014-07-24 14.13.05

Giveaways vary in performance but let me repeat that they are one of the most cost-effective ways of getting new customers.

Let me show you some exact statistics from AppSumo doing over 25 giveaways in the past 4 years:

  • 528,238 total subscribers
  • $866,265.69 in revenue
  • $442,802.72 in gross profit*.

*This does NOT include unsubscribes / email-removals or the costs of the giveaways.

Here are some stats based on giveaways that had at least 1,000 unique entries.

Overall profit per subscriber across all Giveaways

Screenshot 2014-07-17 11.03.01

The average is $0.83 gross profit per new subscriber

Biggest flop of a giveaway based on gross profit per new subscriber:

Giveaway 2 Macbook Airs


  • 48187 total new subscribers
  • $11,550.08 gross profit
  • $0.24 gross profit per new subscriber
  • Cost of laptops: $2400
  • ROI: 4.81X

Best giveaway based on gross profit per new subscriber:

Monthly1k Entrepreneur Getaway

Screenshot 2014-07-09 16.39.31

  • 3846 total new subscribers
  • $26,572.90 gross profit
  • $6.90 gross profit per new subscriber
  • Cost of Giveaway: $2500
  • ROI: 10.62X

1- Buy facebook ad traffic against the company you are sponsoring or towards your target audience. We’ve seen CPAs lower than our regular ad buying.

2- When doing a giveaway try to co-partner with a company so they’ll promote for you and you can promote their product.

3- Giveaway a smaller more related item to your audience versus a broader item like Kindle, Laptops or Netflix subscriptions. For example, iPads got us a ton more emails but profit is what pays the bills and our entrepreneur giveaway was 2.3x more profitable.

4- AB test your messaging for giveaways. The message people share for your giveaway can have a huge impact on the vitality. Try variations to see which gives you the biggest boost.

5- Most giveaways get 25-40% new subscribers for email your list so don’t worry about your overall unsubscribes and promote your giveaway to your email list.

6- Twitter followers increase as people share your Giveaway more. Nice benefit. Here’s an example from my personal account via a Giveaway from last month.

Screenshot 2014-07-17 11.18.26

7- There’s a diminishing marginal return to doing Giveaways so don’t do them weekly. I recommend doing them quarterly.

Overall, Giveaways are a great tactic in your marketing arsenal. Use it and let us know how it works out.

If you haven’t run a giveaway you should. Just for readers of Andrew Chen’s blog for the next 48 hours we are doing 50% off the normal price. After that it goes back to regular. Use code (ANDREWCHEN) at KingSumo Giveaways.

PS. Get new updates/analysis on tech and startups

I write a high-quality, weekly newsletter covering what's happening in Silicon Valley, focused on startups, marketing, and mobile.

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