Executing Marketplace Push Campaigns Without Annoying Users: Lessons from Listia

By: Kahuna | March 10, 2015 | Customer Spotlight
How to Execute Ambitious Push Campaigns Without Annoying Users: Lessons from Listia

For its mobile marketplace, Listia knew that push was the key to building a thriving community of buyers and sellers. With the majority of revenue and activity coming through its mobile app, push notifications quickly became the best way to reach users on their go-to devices. There was a world of potential to engage and re-engage marketplace customers with push throughout the day: sending reminders, alerting them to sale items, and extending offers. Listia’s mobile messaging strategy was ambitious—to seize every opportunity possible to offer value to its customers through push notifications.

Push is one of the most effective ways to engage users, but for every customer you delight, another may give you the cold shoulder. Listia asked: how do we maximize the potential of push without annoying our users? How do we create a proactive push strategy that inspires users to list and bid on items without going overboard with our messaging?

Here are the three lessons Listia learned along the way:

Lesson 1: Speak to customers differently based on their level of engagement

Understanding your customers’ real-time connection to your brand is highly important to your push strategy. The messages that will resonate with engaged users are different from those that will delight a dormant or new user. If you don’t keep this in mind, friendly “nudges” become unwelcome pleas.

Listia realized that they needed a way to test and evaluate the effectiveness of their messages across user engagement states. The team tried out this message among already engaged users, encouraging them to start listing old stuff to get more credits:

Listia campaign to engaged usersListia campaign results

As the reporting shows, this test proved unsuccessful. The campaign (A) caused fewer users to take the goal action of listing their stuff when compared to the control group (G). The reason: engaged users were already listing and bidding on items—and a push notification urging them to do so felt redundant, resulting in fewer lists and a higher rate of app uninstalls.

But while engaged users responded negatively, Listia discovered that dormant users responded very positively to a similar campaign. Listia sent these messages to dormant users encouraging them to browse and bid:
Listia campaign results

The positive results of the two campaigns (A and B) revealed that these once-active users appreciated the reminder about their available credits, and they placed many more bids as a result compared to the control group (G). And because the message was valued by the users receiving it, the app uninstall rate was lower than it was among the control group! 

Key learning: For dormant users, send messages that inspire them to use your product more regularly. For engaged users, send messages that deepen their relationship with your brand rather than trying to establish a habit of use they already have.

Lesson 2: Watch your cadence

Listia also found that it was better to ease new users into push campaigns slowly and ramp up the messaging frequency once users had taken milestone actions—like listing or bidding on an item. “We found that when we were too aggressive with pushing to users before they bought in to the value of our service, they became annoyed and often uninstalled our app,” said Gee Chuang, Co-Founder. Below is an example of one of those campaigns sent to users too early in the lifecycle.

Listia campaign to new usersListia campaign results

As you can see from the data, the message (A) hit the wrong nerve with this less engaged group of new users—both increasing app uninstalls and reducing user engagement compared to the control group (G). Getting push right requires understanding how your users feel about you and messaging them accordingly.

In contrast, campaigns sent regularly to engaged users performed very positively, inspiring 50% more listings and bids, without prompting users to uninstall the app. “It’s really beneficial to test and get insights quickly,” said Gee. “There are actually a number of campaigns we are running now where our campaign uninstall rate is less than the control group.”

Key Learning: People are happier to hear from friends than they are from strangers, so the volume and frequency of messages you send should reflect how familiar they are with your brand. It’s all about making customers feel comfortable as they are getting acquainted with what you’re offering.

Lesson 3. Activate the power of personalization

Nobody wants to be bombarded with mass marketing meant for many, and personalization is the antidote. Mobile users love to hear about themselves, a welcome respite from the advertising messages constantly coming their way. For Listia, communicating information about a user’s account—by reminding them of their unused credits—increased the number of lists and bids significantly and even decreased the number of app uninstalls compared to sending no message at all. Below are the results of one of these campaigns:

Listia campaign results

In the case of this campaign (A), users were more likely to place bids and less likely to uninstall the app when compared to a control group (G).

Key Learning: Over time, people become indifferent to your app and forget its value. Often, they will choose to declutter their phone by uninstalling it. Personalized push notifications can bring your app out of irrelevance and remind users of its benefits without seeming too promotional.

In Conclusion

Every step of the way, push notifications show Listia users the value of the service and remind them to engage and re-engage with the marketplace. But this type of strategy hinges on understanding your brand’s relationship with different types of customers and how that informs what messages they find worthwhile. How familiar are they with your brand and how much do they like you? What actions have they already been taking and what would nudge them toward a deeper relationship with your app? More generally, how do you bring users to closer affinity with your service? Thinking about these questions as you’re planning your mobile messaging strategy will help you activate all the powers of push—without seeming too pushy.


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