The Secret Ingredient to Successful Push Notifications

Note: This post originally appeared on Appcues.

Push notifications can easily be a blessing or a curse. Many users opt-out of push notifications because they’re sent too often or don’t provide relevant information. But notifications are also one of the best ways for brands to retain their users in one of 30 billion mobile moments that happen in the US every day.

In a recent study, eMarketer found that a mobile app’s retention rate more than doubles when push notifications are involved in its customer engagement strategy.

push notifications

This makes sense. Push notifications help re-engage users by bringing them back into an application. Without push notifications, users may never re-open your app.

We recently released a new data science guide examining 1.57 billion push notifications. The results were striking. Brands that personalize their push notifications can increase open rates by up to 800%.

The full guide goes into four big factors that impact user engagement: platform, content, delivery type, and geographic region. Today, we’re going to dive deep into the value of personalized content: what it looks like, how you can do it, and the value it brings.

What Is Personalized Content?

Personalized content can be executed in a number of ways, from lightweight to contextual. It can factor in small details, such as the receiver’s first name. Or dive deeper to include an event parameter, action item, language, lifecycle, real-time location, and more.

The results of personalized content come from making each user feel engaged. Personalization initiates a one-to-one conversation, rather than putting the user on the receiving end of a generic blast.

app optimization notification

Ways to Personalize

You’re probably already compiling rich user profiles based on the data you are collecting, and it’s this information that enables your WOW-worthy messages.

Personalization is a cinch with rich user profiles. This information is the core of how you personalize messages, campaigns, and content.

personalize your push notifications with a rich user profile

Even though a lot of aggregated data goes into one personalized push notification, the end result feels natural. An integrated platform that can personalize on a long list of attributes makes content-rich messaging a breeze.

The most successful marketing strategies recognize user behavior, provide value, and in turn ask users to take action inside the app. For example, a push notification could be as specific as, “Hey [Tina], you left an [African Print Skirt] in your cart. Only [two] left in stock. Come back and check out.”

The Effect of Personalized Content on Open Rates

Personalization opportunities are vast. And research shows that personalization works. Here’s a look at how users respond to non-personalized versus personalized content:

push messages

On average, 1.5% of total users open a push notification sent with generic content, while 5.9% of users open a push notification with personalized content—anything from a name to an event parameter. That means personalizing the content in your push notifications can result in a 4x lift on open rates.

personalizing content in your push notifications can result in a 4x lift in open rates

The Effect of Personalized Content on Time to Open

Here’s the average time it takes for users to open push notifications with personalized content versus non-personalized content:

how personalized push notifications affect time to open

The difference points to an interesting paradox. Earlier, we learned that users are most likely to open push notifications that contain personalized content. Here, we learn that users also take longer to open those messages. Why is that?

One theory rests around the required action. Users who receive a generic message at an inopportune time may dismiss it without a second thought. However, users who receive a message tailored to a relevant action item during an inopportune time may instead wait for a better time to open the message.

For example, a retail app could send a user a push about completing a purchase in the middle of the work day. Instead of acting immediately, the user waits to get home from work before opening the message and finishing the purchase.


If by sending any kind of push notifications, you can increase your user retention by 2-3.5x, and by sending personalized messages, you can improve opens by 4x, creating a game plan for personalized messages might be the biggest impact experiment you can run for your app today.

To go another level deeper on how to personalize your push notifications, check out Leanplum’s complete guide, Personalize or Bust: The Impact on App Engagement.

Leanplum is the most complete mobile marketing platform, designed for intelligent action. Our integrated solution delivers meaningful engagement across messaging and the in-app experience. We work with top brands such as Expedia, Tesco, and Lyft.

Schedule your personalized demo here.