Jon Fletcher
Jon Fletcher 18 March 2019
Categories Advertising, Content, Mobile

Are your Push Notifications Actually Costing You Readers?

Push notifications are a gift to publishers. They re-direct offline users to their page and can form a direct channel to their most popular content. But, the way publishers measure the success of their strategies is at risk of affecting the reader experience. Discover a new metric to measure the real value of push notifications and see the exact point at which readers start to turn off.

SLTV: Setting a new standard for push notifications.

Publishers love push notifications. They provide a new channel to direct users to their content when they are offline or away from their app, which is a powerful asset. Despite the ubiquity of mobile apps, most users only frequently return to a handful of them so this extra ‘push’ can represent a real boost in traffic.  

The power of this dedicated and customizable channel means that over 80% of publishers use them to re-engage, and some publishers now report up to 20% of their traffic coming directly from push notifications.

But, push notifications can be a dangerous tool in the wrong hands.

It’s currently accepted that the more clicks generated by a message, the better. But, a high number of clicks can also come with a loss of subscribers and a net loss in readership.

All notifications are an interruption to a user’s intended task and they run the risk of alienating subscribers by overloading them with irrelevant content. Overuse the power of push notifications too often and your strategy can end up having a negative impact on your overall readership. A strategy that bombards readers may generate an initial spike in traffic, but this comes at the cost of the reader experience.

Publishers need to see the net increase in value that their strategy generates, not just the impact of each message.

Measure the value of the strategy, not the message.

To understand the absolute value of push notifications, it is crucial to look at the net impact on your readership that your strategy is having. This covers everything from your content, message creatives, to the frequency and timing of your messages. Finally, publishers need to be aware of the finite nature of push notifications.

There is an important consideration that most publishers don’t take into account when measuring their effectiveness. All readers will stop engaging with your notifications, at some point.

Publishing platform Marfeel recently observed this trend in their study into the value of push notifications. The longer a reader is subscribed to receive messages, the less likely they become to click a notification. On average, the CTR decreases by a factor 0.4 from week one to week five. That is if the CTR is 1% at week one, in week five it is at 0.4%.

Readers lose that initial dopamine hit from new notifications, they get better at skimming the information from the message content, and better at knowing if the content is going to interest them.

This means publishers have been trying to optimize their messages for an audience that is losing interest, making their strategy appear to have a negative impact. The, when new subscribers are added, the click-through metrics increase again. This leaves us with a distorted image of peaks and troughs as part of a larger downward curve. Reading this data fails to satisfyingly explain which parts of the push notification strategy are actually connecting with readers.

This is why Marfeel developed a new metric to map the net value of a push notification strategy, called Subscriber Lifetime Value.

This value combines click-through rates, average daily clicks, unsubscribe rates, and the natural rate at which engagement declines over time.

This formula then gives us an overview of the total increase in readership that each subscriber will add, due to push notifications, before they unsubscribe or become inactive.

Using this formula, publishers are able to compare multiple strategies beyond comparing the clicks they generated. By measuring SLTV, the long term readership and value from the overall strategy can be seen, giving publishers an objective overview of their best practices.

Once this new standard has been measured, publishers can then start to experiment with various ways to increase the value of their strategy.

For many publishers, this will start with the frequency of their messaging and the time sent. Then, altering the creative element to find the most engaging content style for their audience. Once a data profile has been established, these variables can be contrasted against more nuanced reader information, such as their engagement level, or the type of content they are receptive to.

In their experiments, Marfeel experimented with over 5 million push notifications, across 500,000 subscribers, building an engine that gauges engagement and reader interests. By measuring SLTV, they are able to create a framework for multiple reader profiles that can be shown to add the highest value possible.

SLTV gives publishers a clear, empirical view of their strategy, allowing them to effectively optimize their strategies for readership and value, all without harming the reader experience.

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