May 7, 2014, 5:13 PM

Two-thirds of top e-retailers pull consumers in with push notifications

The number of e-retailers employing push notifications in mobile commerce apps increased 48% between 2012 and 2013, a new study says. Push notifications are key tools developers and businesses can use to increase customer engagement with apps, which often linger, forgotten, on consumers’ mobile devices.

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Two-thirds of e-retailers with a mobile app employ push notifications, which pop up on a smartphone or tablet when a consumer isn’t actively engaging with the app, according to a study by OtherLevels, a mobile messaging analytics firm. Push notifications work even if the consumer opened the app just one time, presuming the customer approved the use of push notifications when prompted by the app.

The study looked at the top 100 e-retailers, according to the 2013 Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, and found that 77 had mobile apps—an increase of 7% from 2012. In the recently released 2014 Top 500 Guide, 82 of the top 100 e-retailers have a mobile app—an increase of 6.5% from 77 in 2013. The percentage of e-retailers with mobile apps drops to 40% when looking at all 500 merchants in the 2013 Top 500, and 42.5% among all 500 in the 2014 edition.

Among the top 100 e-retailers in 2013, only 62% request permission for push notifications when a user first opens an app. “Even if you’re not ready to start a mobile messaging campaign, or aren’t sure how to do more than broadcast push notifications, it’s important to opt customers into receiving push notifications down the road,” writes Len Shneyder in the report. “Don’t assume that it will be easier to do this in the future because you may only get a single chance to open the lines of communication. If a user never opens your app a second time, you will never be able to communicate with him or her.”

Although the number of retail apps employing push notifications increased 48% from 2012 to 2013, only 66% of the top 100 retailers with an app used them. “Clearly, there’s still a massive disconnect between publishing an app and actually leveraging the app to send push notifications,” Shneyder says.

Push notifications have been shown to increase engagement and retention among consumers, especially in the retail industry. Consumers who opted in to push notifications on retail apps generated 40% more monthly app opens than opted-out consumers, according to a study from Urban Airship, a vendor focusing on mobile push messaging. The average increase in engagement across the gambling, media, entertainment, retail, games and sports industries was 26%. The average opt-in user opened a retail app 12.5 times compared to 9 times for opt-out users. The percentage of consumers still using the app after six months was 21% for those who opted in and 10% for those who did not.

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