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[Report] Push Notifications an Underused Tactic In Retail Strategy

While top retailers have jumped on mobile apps as a marketing tool, only a fraction of them use powerful push notifications to engage customers, according to a recent report from OtherLevels. The disparity suggests retailers are failing to understand and incorporate mobile messaging as part of their overall retail strategy.

Mobile Messaging Misses

According to the 2014 Retail Mobile Messaging Study, 77 percent of the top 100 Internet retailers have a mobile app, but just 31 percent of those have sent push notifications as part of their messaging strategy. The report examined the use of mobile messaging tools, including push notifications and alerts (messages that are delivered and displayed on a mobile device) and rich inbox (similar to an email inbox within an app).Movile app penetration among the top 500 retailers

The low usage of push notifications is particularly striking, given that 62 percent of the top retailers prompt users to opt into push notifications. In other words, even though the majority of retail apps request permission to send push notifications, most of them never actually send those messages.

“However sophisticated the app may be, the messaging, by and large, is an afterthought amongst many retailers,” study author Len Shneyder wrote.

The lack of messaging represents a missed opportunity for retailers, since push notifications play a large role in driving app usage. In its Good Push Index Report, push notification provider Urban Airship found that push messaging can more than double app user retention. Therefore, retailers that fail to use push notifications and other mobile messaging tools risk app abandonment.

Planet of the Apps

With smartphone penetration continuing to grow, retailers are under more pressure to develop app strategies that resonate with consumers. Nielsen reported in April that seven out of 10 U.S. mobile subscribers now own smartphones—including a record 51 percent of subscribers over the age of 55.

Those smartphone owners are spending more time on their phones each day, and they overwhelmingly use apps. According to mobile analytics company Flurry, the average American now spends two hours and 42 minutes a day on a mobile device. On average, 86 percent of that time is spent using apps.

“The data tells a clear story that apps, which were considered a mere fad a few years ago, are completely dominating mobile, and the browser has become a single application swimming in a sea of apps,” said Simon Khalaf, Flurry’s president and CEO.

Messaging Tips

A dynamic mobile messaging strategy can help retailers’ apps stand out in a crowded field. Like traditional email, mobile messaging provides another way for retailers to engage customers. The OtherLevels report offered several insights on how to strengthen mobile app messaging.

  • Support opt-in at initial launch: Retailers should prompt users to opt into push notifications the first time they open the app. That way, even if the user doesn’t open the app again, the retailer still has the opportunity to send messages coaxing the user back to the app.
  • Use an email login or social sign-on option: According to the report, fewer than 25 percent of top retailers leverage a social sign-on when users access a mobile app. That’s a missed opportunity to get to know the customer and create a better experience. “By connecting mobile user behavior to social and email, companies can create extremely valuable cross-channel messaging experiences for their consumers,” Shneyder wrote.
  • Establish the right messaging cadence: The top retail apps incorporate messaging that is relevant and personalized based on user behavior. “Don’t assume that everyone wants to receive your push,” Shneyder said. Retailers should test and adjust messaging cadence in accordance with holidays, seasons, and other factors.

Retail marketing teams can also take a cue from content marketers. Developing a superior mobile app is quite similar to to content marketing. The best mobile apps and mobile messages focus on customer experience and engaging content. The Free People mobile app, for example, allows customers to not only shop and find store locations, but also create profiles, share favorite items, and upload photos.

With a purposeful strategy, marketers can create an app experience that keeps users coming back for more.

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