Push notification engagement naturally degrades over time

So, why do readers lose interest?

Readers lose the ‘novelty of the notification’.

New colors, new branding, and a new set of notifications initially stimulate the dopamine response of users.

However, once these notifications become familiar, the effect is reduced. The first message has the highest potential for reward, but as user receive messages that are less relevant to them, and less rewarding — known as negative prediction error — the dopamine signal decreases.

In addition, as users click, they begin to understand the expected personal value of clicking the notification better. They can instantly judge the expected value of a headline, in relation to their interests. They learn to scan the headline for the key information, passive reading without clicking the notification.

‘Swipe to exit’ then becomes a default learned behavior. With the rise of on screen and in-app notifications for things such as cookies, GDPR notifications, and subscription requests, mobile users often clear notifications before reading.

Once users have been subscribed for a longer, they have better navigational knowledge of the site so can find the stories that interest them without notification support. Swiping away a notification loses this reader nothing. They scanned the headline so they know the topic, and now they are familiar with the site, can navigate to find it easily.

Then, the hyper-engaged readers will have already seen the content via another source. There are multiple channels, that some of the core audience for notifications is likely to find the content elsewhere.

All of these factors lead users to learn that — due to the unpredictable and varying nature of push notifications — they can’t rely on them for content or value every time.

This can mean that they have found more effective ways for them to find the content they want from your site, rather than being dissatisfied by imprecise notifications.

Fighting the decline

The first step to a clearer measurement system is to establish this rate of degradation as an average. This has to then be combined with the active unsubscribe rate and factored against the click-through rate of messages and the number of clicks, per user, per day.

This accounts for this natural decline and provides an all-encompassing view of added readership, and value generated by push notifications.

With this value, marketers can look at different push notification strategies and get a clear picture of the value added — or removed — by their growth hacking strategies.

You can read the full report on the investigation into the value of push notifications here.

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