The Impact of Push Notifications on Mobile App Uninstalls


In mid-December, Localytics published a great study on push notifications that you should check out. The study focused on push notifications and consumer attitudes toward these high impact app mobile messages. I’m going to highlight just a few of the numbers they published and their implications for app engagement and mobile app uninstalls.

According to the Localytics study, the opt-in rate for push notifications dropped about a point and a half in 2015, to 49.4%. While any decline in push notification opt-in is disappointing, Localytics wisely interprets the finding as “an opportunity to find smarter ways to get users to agree to opt in. One place to start: build trust.”

Push and Engagement Rates

And regardless of this small decline, what’s clear is that push notifications are a critical tool to drive mobile app engagement. And engagement is your best defense against mobile app uninstalls.

According to the study, users that enable push notifications launch the app an average of three times more often than those who don’t. In total, those who opt in demonstrate 171% more total engagement.

According to the study, brands are issuing more frequent push notifications now than ever before. While uninstalls are surely one factor in this growth, the larger benefit of increased app engagement is clearly control to their appeal as a marketing tactic. Check out the chart below showing the mean number of pushes per month per app for the quarterly periods.

Push Notifications and Uninstalls 1

Intuitively, you might expect that response rates would be declining as the number of messages increases. But that is not the case. Check out the chart below.

Push Notificaitons and Uninstalls 2

Push and Uninstall Rates

Push also has great effects on keeping uninstall rates down. From the Localytics blog:

Push messages also help apps avoid one of their biggest fears: user churn. Utilizing push messages sets an app up to retain users both in the short and long terms. Push notifications remind users to continually return to an app, which helps keep it top of mind and strengthens relationships throughout the user lifecycle.

Check out these user retention and uninstall findings, which show the percentage of users retained for opt-in versus opt-out users. Opting in drives much stronger retention rates, both in the first month and in the out months.

Percentage of Installers Who Have Retained the App After N Days

Day                1-30      Day 31-60      Day 61-90
Opt-Ins         65%          46%                  37%
Opt-Outs      19%         14%                  11%

Those are absolutely gigantic effects on mobile app uninstall rates – indicating that push notifications should be a keystone of your uninstall marketing efforts. Users who opt-out are 2.3 times more likely to uninstall an app than those who opt-in. 1.6 times more likely across 60 days. And 1.4 times more likely over 3 months. The positive effects of push notifications on uninstalls were even stronger in 2015 than 2014, according to the study.

Now if you’re wondering why the effect diminishes over time, my theory would be that there are at least 3 factors:

1. Many apps have a finite lifecycle. You finish all the levels in a game, for example, and then you move on.
2. Other issues, like the need to make room for new apps on smartphones, have an effect
3. Over push notifying (of which more in a sec) ticks off some users.

Whatever the reason, the disparities are gigantic and warrant your attention.

When Push Goes Wrong and Drives UP Uninstalls

But all is not sunny in Philadelphia – err, push. A consumer survey conducted by Localytics showed that 52% of people think push notifications are annoying. That’s a bit troubling, but less so when you consider that 49 of those 52 points are probably the people who opt-out.

push notifications and uninstalls 3

That said, too much is definitely too much when it comes to push. Users surveyed said that 2-5 pushes per week will drive 46% of people to opt-out. And 32% of people said they would uninstall if 6-10 messages per week were delivered.

Food for thought. Similar pattern to what we saw on emails in the PC web.

Personalized Versus Broadcast Push and Uninstalls

The final point I would like to highlight from the data is that people have a strong preference for personalized content and offers.

push notificaitons and uninstalls 4

While there is no specific data on the relative uninstall effects of personalized versus broadcast uninstalls, its stands to reason that uninstall marketing is best served when you can deliver a reasonable number of personalized messages.

More and more Apsalar clients are using our Apsalar Audiences capabilities to define and securely deliver audience segments to automation and other platforms in order to power the kinds of personalized push messages people really want.

Probably the most important thing to remember is that average figures like those outlined above are just that – averages. The best way for you to define a push strategy that maximizes delivery of KPIs, including minimization of install rates, is to define and implement messaging and offer tests to audience segments. You may find, for example, that the ideal number of messages varies by cohort.

But it’s clear that as you consider your uninstall marketing options, push notifications need to be on your menu of tactics!

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