How to maximize opt-in rates for mobile push notifications


Transactional notifications are a great way to deliver user value. To capitalize on the benefits, it is crucial to maximize opt-in rates.


With the average consumer using 32 apps per day, it is becoming more and more difficult to stand out from the crowd and create notifications that your users value keeping live. App usage increasingly accounts for much of our day to day productivity, meaning notification centers are oversaturated with messages from demanding apps desperate to snag our attention for their services.

Transactional notifications are a prime method for delivering value to mobile users, even when an application is only running in the background or when the phone is locked. These event-driven notifications deliver actionable, realtime information. By keeping users updated with tailored messaging, you can increase convenience, engagement and retention.

To capitalize on the benefits, it is important to consider your strategy for encouraging users to:

1. Accept push notification permissions
2. Keep push notifications enabled

This article will outline methods for increasing and maintaining notification opt-ins.

Default Notification Permissions on Android vs. iOS

The two major mobile operating systems have different default systems for enabling notifications. Android automatically opts-in all users to receive push notifications when they install an app. iOS users must decide whether to permit or deny notifications via a prompt message; they are required to make a decision before receiving any notifications, meaning that users do not know what they entail before opting-in. If iOS users decline, they will have to navigate to the settings menu and enable the notifications manually.

This leads to a great discrepancy between notification enablement for iOS (43.9% opt-in) and Android (91.1%).

The goal should be for iOS users to approve the initial permissions request. It is highly unlikely that users will go out of their way to re-enable notifications, so it’s crucial to get it right on the first engagement.

Encouraging Users to Accept Notification Permissions

The reason why iOS applications have such a low notification acceptance rate is often due to the lack of an effective opt-in strategy. Unless your application demonstrates the value it will bring to your users, they have no incentive to enable notifications.

Why would they?

They don’t know what they’ll get out of the app. Nor do they have any idea what those notifications entail. Are they even going to continue using the app? How many times before have they been bombarded with annoying notifications when they opted-in right off the bat?

This is where the real world value of transactional notifications can be used to your advantage. Identify a key point in the customer journey when your app has already proven the value it will bring and offer them the opportunity to receive critical transactional information updates. If you request permissions at the right point in the journey, you will be playing off a user’s expectations and delivering a critical feature, thus increasing the likelihood that they will accept.

It’s about timing – event driven prompts help to set the scene. Once the user has completed an action, inform them that a push notification can be an easy and convenient way of staying updated. User actions such as placing an order, subscribing to a newsletter or joining a social media group are prime examples for following up with a request.

It’s also about context – customize the notification request to describe what the notifications entail. Explain what the notifications will contain and when they’ll receive them.

Here are a few examples across common verticals:

  • Retail – Once users place an order, you can prompt them to receive shipping updates: You can receive realtime shipping updates by enabling push notifications.”
  • Travel – Upon booking a flight, let users know that they can receive realtime information, changes, and reminders: Enable push notifications to get alerts about your flight, including boarding times and gate changes.”
  • Social – When users upload a picture, you can encourage them to track their post’s activity with notifications: Receive realtime notifications when somebody likes your post.”

But how can we know if these transactional notifications are genuinely useful? Their job is to inform users about events in realtime. Once that is done, the notification can (and often will) be dismissed. The Guardian’s Mobile Innovation Lab reports that 84% of users dismiss a notification once they take in the information they need.

Without delivery guarantees, it’s already a task to determine whether users received their notification, let alone whether they read it or found it useful. Pusher Beams provides a solution to the mammoth task of tracking notification delivery via Beams Insights. Developers can see an aggregate view of engagement through a helpful Google Analytics-style dashboard, or even watch users open notifications in real-time through the Beams Debug Console.

Transactional push notification value is harder to determine than that of marketing push notifications. While marketing push notifications usually prompt the user to open up the app to claim a reward or discount, transactional notifications are typically dismissed when a user has the information they need. It’s easy to determine the success rate for marketing notifications based on how many users engaged and how many claimed rewards – this is not the case for transactional notifications.

As long as your notification enablement is up, it’s fair to assume your users are getting their value from transactional notifications. But there are some techniques you can use to further engagement and get a better understanding of your success. With the easy access data provided by Beams Insights you can experiment with a number of techniques, while tracking the effect on your user engagement.

Keeping Users Engaged = Push Notifications Enabled

Transactional notifications must deliver value for both iOS and Android users to justify keeping notifications enabled.

We saw earlier that 91% of Android users have notifications enabled. As these are enabled by default, 9% of users go out of their way to disable notifications. Why would they? The main reasons boil down to either too many notifications or the notifications not being useful.

A 2021 study looked at the user’s threshold for disabling notifications. It suggests that nearly 90% of responders would disable notifications if they received more than 2-5 or more per week.

Translating this into a real-world example, we can imagine a retail application sending out shipment updates whenever there’s a change. Your package was picked up from our warehouse. Your package reached the distribution center. Your package arrived in your country. Your package is at your local distribution centre. Your package is due to be shipped in the morning. Your package was picked up by your delivery driver. Only 3 more stops until the delivery driver arrives at your location.

Annoying, right?

It is vital make the most out of the notifications that are worth sending out.

Enter Rich Notifications.

Besides text, your app can also send out other types of media. Android only supports images (.jpeg, .png) while iOS also supports .gif, audio and video.

Rich Push Notifications have a reported 56 per cent increase in direct open rate compared to standard notifications – which also suggests a better user experience and lower likelihood of notification disablement.

Taking the above shipping update example, your app could send out a notification containing a snip of the package’s location.

Rich Notifications also allow for the integration of Action Buttons. These enable users to interact in realtime with the app just from the notification. Users can approve a payment or transfer, snooze a reminder, or instantly respond to a message – all in one convenient click.

By including an action button in your notification you can also encourage a customer to enter the app and interact with another feature. Within your dispatch notification you could direct the customer to a realtime location feature which will allow them to follow the journey of their order on a map, reducing the number of notifications required while giving the same level of detail as the less than desirable previous example.

Here are some more examples:

  • Ticket Retailer – “Here’s your QR code ticket for the upcoming event. Why not add this event to your calendar?” Guests are reminded of the event and have the ticket immediately available without the app running in the background.
  • Social Media – “Somebody you follow uploaded this picture, give it a like!” This maximizes user engagement by delivering highly personalized and relevant content
  • News Organisation – “See tonight’s top headlines in this video. Click to read more.” Users can conveniently view a snippet to determine if they’re interested in the content, improving overall experience

Significant data points give clear indications for the way push notification requests should be tailored. Keep in mind these three key aspects:

1. Understand the opt-in system for each OS.
2. Request permissions at a relevant point in the user’s journey, Stating explicitly what they’ll be signing up to and how it helps them.
3. Deliver valuable and relevant notifications to keep a user’s attention. Rich notifications are a good way to pack in more information when text doesn’t do the whole job.

Transactional push notifications are a crucial part of user experience, so you must tailor your messaging mindfully to encourage users to opt-in.

Using a hosted push notification API like Pusher Beams makes it easy to reach Android and iOS users with one simple request. We host and manage your complete token lifecycle so you can stop wasting time with complicated FCM and APNs gateway infrastructure. Our rich notifications feature and flexible pub/sub model allows you to quickly build useful, engaging notifications which deliver real value through critical transactional information. With Beams Insights we provide visibility into which types of notifications are being opened, helping you to fully understand your app’s aggregated acknowledgement and maximize your opt-in rate by focusing on the most successful approach.