- App push notifications reached their highest average open rate in four years in March as consumers were more engaged with their mobile devices during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new study by Airship that was shared with Mobile Marketer. About a third (32%) of website visits by opt-in users were from direct opens of web notifications, the customer engagement firm found.
- Businesses increased web notifications by 36% and saw a 119% jump in direct open rates in March from the prior month. They increased app push notifications by 16% and saw direct open rates that were 22% higher for the comparable period. Eighty-eight percent of web notification direct opens originated from mobile devices.
- Among industry groups, media posted the biggest monthly increase in push notification send volume at 43%, while direct open rates rose to 60%. Travel and transportation had the biggest drop as notification rates fell 23% in March from the prior month. Airship analyzed about 2 billion app installs among 36 million users who opted in to receive web notifications.
Higher open rates for mobile notifications indicate there is greater receptivity among consumers to direct messaging from marketers during the coronavirus pandemic — a development that's consistent with other signs of a jump in mobile usage. However, with more businesses sending alerts and users opening them at higher rates, marketers need to be focused on delivering a high-quality experience, including not sending so many notifications that consumers ultimately get annoyed and start ignoring them.
Opt-in mobile notifications have the power to reach consumers immediately, almost guaranteeing that they will see the messages while their attention is focused on their smartphones. Notifications have been considered an important channel to reach on-the-go consumers, but they are now showing their value in connecting with people whose movements are restricted during lockdown, as Airship's data indicate.
Some mobile tech companies have also recently made changes that could benefit marketers as push notifications see higher engagement amid the pandemic. Apple last month updated its App Store guidelines to allow push notifications to include ads, as long as users had opted-in to receive them, as reported in The Verge. The policy change marked a major change-up for Apple, which previously banned apps that deployed push notifications for marketing, advertising or other promotional purposes.
While notifications from media outlets rose the most last month, Airship's study shows strong growth for other industry verticals as well, including retail (+29%), social media (+25%), entertainment (+20%) and medical, health and fitness (+19%). Media also led growth in open rates, ahead of education (+56%), medical, health and fitness (+49%), entertainment (+35%) and food and drink (+18%). Among the top five growth categories, the open rates were 4.6% for education, 3.3% for medical, health and fitness, 2.6% for food and drink, 1.7% for media and 1.2% for entertainment, according to Airship.
The travel and transportation industry saw the biggest monthly decline in average direct open rates for push notifications as the coronavirus limited travel for millions of consumers. While those direct open rates declined as consumers were less likely to look at notifications on travel days — such as messages about flight check-ins or delays — read rates of notifications that get stored in-app message centers rose 158% in March from the prior month. The growth signals a shift in consumer behavior toward reading app notifications at their convenience, per Airship.