How to Target Your Mobile Customers with Push Notifications

It’s no secret that our world is trending in a mobile direction.

As a marketer, you need to recognize this concept and adapt accordingly. Your customers are using their mobile devices to consume, so that’s where you need to target them.

Those of you who developed a mobile app are already heading in the right direction.

In fact, without the app as a platform, you won’t be able to use push notifications as a marketing tactic. But even if you don’t have a mobile app, you should continue reading this post.

While you may not be able to implement this strategy right now, you’ll be able to do so once your app launches.

Let’s start with the basics. What is a push notification?

I’m sure you’ve seen push notifications before, probably on your own mobile devices, even if you didn’t know what they were called. It’s a message that appears on your screen, similar to a text message, but it comes from an app.

This is a great opportunity for you to share information, provide updates, and stay in contact with users who have your app downloaded to their devices.

But with great power comes great responsibility. Overloading your customer with these messages could backfire, which I’ll explain in greater detail as we continue.

Use a limited number of words

It’s important you clearly understand the difference between texts and push notifications. Even though they are similar and look the same on the screen, they differ quite a bit.

For example, when someone sends you a text message, the opening lines of the text will appear on your home screen. When you open the message, you’ll see the full text.

But that’s not the case with a push notification.

When a user opens a push notification, it brings them to the app, but the message is gone. If your push notification is too long, part of it may get cut off, and the user won’t know what you’re saying to them.

To prevent this from happening, it’s best to use as few words as possible when crafting your messages. That’s why shorter push notifications are more effective.

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As you can see, fewer words lead to higher click rates.

While you won’t have as much liberty with your word count as you would with a text message, push notifications are still very effective.

SMS messages from businesses can be perceived as spam. But with a push notification, users know where it’s coming from since the app is installed on their devices.

Plus, it’s free for users to receive a push notification. But they may have to pay for incoming SMS messages, depending on their plans.

Unsolicited SMS messages are also illegal, so overall, it’s best to stick with push notifications and keep the word count low to ensure your entire message gets displayed on the screen.

Send personalized content

Now that you know how long to make your push notifications, it’s time to talk about the content and reasoning behind sending them.

If you just want to say hello and remind your customers who you are, push notifications are not the way to go.

It’s annoying and will end up hurting you instead of helping, but we’ll talk about that in greater depth shortly.

What type of content should you send? Personalized messages.

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As you can see from these numbers, your best bet is to stick to content that’s relevant and personalized to the user.

Here are some ideas to help you segment your audience so you can deliver content tailored to each user:

  • gender
  • location
  • age
  • interests
  • browsing history
  • purchase history

You’ve got lots of options to choose from.

For example, let’s say your company will be attending an industry event in South Florida. It wouldn’t make sense to send that notification to everyone who has your app.

Realistically, people aren’t going to travel for something like that. It’s a waste for you to send something irrelevant to them.

But you could send that notification to app users who live in Florida, especially if you’re offering them an incentive to attend the event.

This type of push notification is personal and adds value to the recipient.

Don’t be annoying

As I’ve said a few times already, you need to tread carefully with your push notification strategy.

Sending too many push notifications or irrelevant messages will backfire. That’s because users have the option to opt in and opt out of your messages.

That’s right. If you annoy a user, they will simply mute your notifications. People already have predetermined feelings about these messages. In fact, 52% of app users say push notifications are an annoying distraction.

Once you get muted, it’ll be nearly impossible for you to get the user to turn notifications back on.

You won’t have a way to contact them unless you send them an email. But sending an email begging a user to turn on push notifications isn’t the best look for your brand.

You’ll be better off trying to prevent this from happening in the first place by limiting the number of push notifications you send each week.

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As you can see, sending even more than two push notifications in a week can cause up to 37% of users to disable these messages.

Sending too many push notifications can result in an even worse outcome than getting muted by the user. More than 30% of users will stop using an app altogether if they receive between six and ten notifications in one week.

As a rule of thumb, keep your push notifications to one per week at the most. Only send content that adds value to the user, like a discount or an important update.

Promote flash sales

Flash sales are a great opportunity for you to take advantage of push notifications.

These types of promotions create the fear of missing out, better known as FOMO. The user will think that if they don’t buy something fast, they’ll miss out on a great deal.

Consider this. The app user is already interested in your brand. That’s why they downloaded the app in the first place.

They’ve probably purchased something from you in the past. The flash sale could be enough of a reason for the user to buy something that’s been on their mind.

Flash sales could run from a few hours to 24 hours.

Just make sure you send it out at an appropriate time. Don’t send a notification on Tuesday if the flash sale isn’t until Friday.

Remember, you’re trying to limit the number of weekly push notifications you send.

Also, don’t send it at 3:00 AM when people are sleeping. This may sound like common sense, but you’d be surprised how often I see mistakes like this.

If the flash sale is from 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM, send the notification at 1:00 PM. If you send it too early, people won’t be able to take advantage of the offer yet if they click through the notification.

You’d have to rely on them coming back later to buy, which they could easily forget.

Send timely updates

Use push notifications to enhance the customer experience. If your customers are waiting for an update on something, tell them via a push notification. Here’s a great example of this concept applied by Uber:

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The app notifies users when their cars are arriving.

Users don’t have to keep the app open and track the location of their drivers. They also won’t have to stand outside waiting in the cold, rain, or heat.

Even though this type of message doesn’t offer a discount, it still provides users with a value that improves their experience.

This tactic isn’t limited to ride-sharing apps. It can be used for any delivery service.

For example, “Your food is here” is another message an app user would want to receive.

They won’t have to stand outside waiting for the delivery driver. This also eliminates the need for drivers to make calls, which is a safer and more efficient process for your company as well.

This type of customer service goes a long way. The customer will be more likely to use your app and spend more money in the future so they can continue to get this type of great service that improves their lives.

Know the difference between Apple and Android

Not all push notifications are created equally.

If you have a mobile application available in both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, you need to know what these notifications will look like on the user’s screen.

Check this out. Look at the difference between iOS and Android users in terms of click-through rates:

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That said, iOS users open their push notifications seven times faster than users with an Android device.

Why does this happen? It has to do with the differences in the software on each device.

When an Apple user unlocks their phone, the push notification disappears from the screen. But Android users have to manually clear their notifications.

If they don’t clear the notification manually, they would have to open it to be removed from the notification screen. That’s why Android users have higher open rates, but Apple users open notifications faster.

There are also slight variations between the way notifications look on the same platform but from different devices and software versions.

You need to take all this into consideration when you’re tracking certain metrics.

Just because the click rates from your Apple users might be lower doesn’t mean those people aren’t interested in your brand. Don’t do something drastic like abandoning your marketing tactics targeting those users.

Use geofencing technology

Geofencing relates to personalization.

The app uses location-based services to target users.

Here’s how it works. Let’s say you have a chain of physical store locations. If a user has your app downloaded to their device, they can get a notification about a sale when they walk within a couple of blocks of your store.

Check out this example from Vitamin World so you can see what I’m talking about:

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When an app user enters any of those geofenced areas, they will receive a push notification of a discount on their phone.

This ensures your push notifications are timely and relevant. It works great if you have a mobile app for your restaurant business.

If an app user walks by during lunchtime, send them a push notification with a lunch promotion.

Even if you don’t have physical locations, you can still use geofencing technology to enhance your push notifications. For example, let’s say your mobile commerce brand sells equipment for water sports, like surfboards, paddleboards, and wetsuits.

If someone with your app enters a geofenced area by the beach, you could send them a notification.

But it wouldn’t make sense to send this type of promo to someone who is in the desert or in the mountains. Make sense?

Geofencing encourages your customers to spend more money. Once they get a notification, allow them to spend money right away from within your app.

Whether it’s for a product, service, or subscription, you want to make sure your push notifications are actionable.

Just remember what we talked about earlier. Although geofencing is a great marketing strategy, you don’t want to go overboard with it. You can still annoy your users and get muted if you send too many of push notifications.


Push notifications are a great way to improve sales from your mobile app. But there are certain things you need to keep in mind before you send them out.

Limit the number of words per notification. Don’t send push notifications too often.

The content of these messages needs to be timely, relevant, and personalized. Add value to the recipient by offering promotions or flash sales. Use geofencing technology to target app users in a specific area.

Understand the difference in behaviors of iOS and Android users in response to a push notification.

If you follow these tips, you’ll be able to improve your mobile marketing strategy and increase sales.

What types of push notifications are you sending to your mobile customers?


  1. As always a great article, Neil. I do see the difference in iOS and Android open rates for our App. Timing and frequency are really the key factors for push notifications.

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  3. Fazal Hussain :

    Sending Push notifications is a good marketing strategy but overdoing it annoys people and most of the times customers just turn off all the notifications from you. Push notifications are more like email marketing which you have to get done with exceptional caution because even if you deliver incredible content but you overdo it in sending emails to the list you have maintained than most of the people would block notifications from your address and same goes for the notifications if you annoy people with them then you are for sure destined to blocked by many.

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  6. Manoj Kumar Sethi :

    Very very true Neil ! Wonderful article and very important one for mobile optimization.
    Now I have a question on this :
    Performing A/B testing on mobile push notification or message text is highly important. Agree Neil ?

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  11. It was a great read. We promote articles like these though push notifications but engagement numbers are not great. But when there are flash sales offers, the numbers are much better.

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  30. Push notifications should be used only at important times so the user knows that when he receives a notification, it is usually something of value to him. This prevents the user from stopping notifications. In my experience, no matter how nocturnal your audience is you should not be sending push notifications after 11 PM.
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