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NHL?s average app session length spikes 36pc with push notifications

NEW YORK ? A National Hockey League executive at the 2014 MMA Forum discussed how the sports organization leverages push notifications in driving engagement for its mobile applications.

Executives from NHL and Urban Airship spoke during the ?NHL Focuses on Mobile Moments for its Power Play? session spoke on how the sports league uses push notifications to keep hockey fans engaged with its applications. NHL uses push notifications for two separate initiatives ? one is for NHL news, and the other is notifications associated with games.

?We noticed specifically at the NHL that the average session length when someone had turned on push notifications was 36 percent higher than someone who had turned it off,? said Matt Restivo, head of digital product at NHL, New York.

?That?s a huge difference in engagement and time spent, which is kind of the new metrics of what people are caring about these days,? he said. ?It?s push messaging ? it seems so simple. You send a message, it goes to the front of someone?s screen, it?s a marketer?s dream so to speak.?

Keeping sports fans in the know
NHL news alerts are sent out when a piece of news aligns with a fans? specific interest, and the game notifications are automatic.

Both efforts are geared towards giving the consumer control over how they receive messages from the hockey organization.

For example, sports fans can customize the messages so that they only receive certain notifications. 

The game push notifications on the other hand are triggered by something happening at a game, such as when a goal is scored, that is sent to a wider group of consumers. These messages link consumers straight to in-app content related to the game.

When it comes to how marketers should make the most of push notifications, Mr. Restivo urged product marketing and product development teams to work together internally on push notifications.  

A/B testing is also important in helping the NHL constantly evolve and tweak its mobile app strategy.

Going forward, the NHL is focused on connected devices and an improved experience for the GameCenter mobile app.

Segmenting consumers
Mr. Restivo also spoke about how push notifications played a role in his previous job at ESPN.

One of the more interesting findings about Mr. Restivo?s work with ESPN is the role that segmentation played in getting consumers to engage with messages.

For example, when ESPN segmented its push notifications to hit consumers who were interested in a specific sport such as tennis, viewership for events including Wimbledon shot up. 

The NHL also has a big opportunity with push notifications to target sports fans by specific teams and location.

According data from Urban Airship, segmenting push notifications can result in open rates up to 287 percent.

At the same time that push notifications offer marketers direct access to consumers, brands should continue to be wary in sending out too many push notifications that annoy users to the point that they will delete an app altogether.

?I think we often times glaze over just how important that message being on the front of a user?s device is,? Mr. Restivo said. ?It is the most powerful medium you have to access customers.?

?When you send something, it better be important and it better engage me,? he said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York