[Part 4] Push 101: Timing Is Everything

By: Kahuna | November 24, 2014 | Campaign Strategy, Push Notifications

Push notifications are the building blocks of every great mobile marketing strategy, but sending the perfect push isn’t as simple as it may seem. If you are a mobile marketer or product manager looking to learn more about using push notifications effectively, you’ve come to the right place. This post is the fourth in the introductory series Push 101: A Beginner’s Guide To Crafting Great Push Notifications. Follow this series or download the full guide to master the basics and discover what push notifications can do for you.

Let’s start with the basics.

Why is message timing important?

Just because you can access your mobile users immediately and at all times, doesn’t mean you should. The horror stories about waking up to a mistimed push notification abound, and users are not forgiving. In today’s mobile-first world, it is the brand’s responsibility to communicate important information without causing unwarranted disruption to the user. Making sure that your push notifications arrive at the right time is a critical component of modern marketing.

What time is the right time?

A successful push notification strategy approaches message timing from the perspective of the end user. When would the user appreciate receiving the information conveyed in the push notification?

Great timing should consider both user preference and the urgency of the message. Read on to learn how to deliver push notifications that minimize disruption and maximize delight.

How does the type of push notification affect timing strategy?

There are two types of push notifications: transactional and engagement. Transactional push notifications convey information that a user expects to receive, such as a receipt or calendar reminder. These push notifications typically include time-sensitive information, and the context of the notification dictates the time at which it must arrive.

Engagement push notifications are marketing messages. When done right, these notifications deliver valuable content and keep users engaged with your app. Considering every user keeps a different schedule, the only solution is to send this type of push notification at the time when each user is most likely to engage with your app.

Here is a deeper dive into making sure every push notification arrives at just the right time.

Best practices for transactional notifications:

Transactional push notifications are the building blocks of the user’s app experience. They build trust between you and your users as they deliver essential information exactly when the user needs to receive it. The timing of this type of push notification is dictated by an external event, a taxi arrival or flight update, for example.


This is one of Uber’s most sent push notifications.

Uber Push Notification

The transactional nature of the push notification makes it obvious that the message must arrive at a specific time and not a moment too late.

How can I make sure my transactional messages arrive on time?

Take a hard look at the delivery speed of your push notification system. This tells you the number of messages that can be delivered per minute. When hundreds of thousands of Uber cars are arriving per minute, can Uber ensure that every message goes out without delay? Depending on the size of your user base, this can be a significant challenge that is often overlooked.

Best practices for engagement notifications:

When it comes to engagement push notifications, the strategy around message timing is equally important. If your marketing goal is engagement or revenue, your customers must want to receive your notifications. As a result, every engagement notification needs to arrive at the preferred time for each user.

It can be tempting to think about sending these types of messages all at once, or scheduling these messages to arrive at a specific time per time zone. Now, think harder. 8 AM is Dave’s yoga class, 9 AM is Leah’s standing office meeting and 7 PM could be when Raheem is putting his son to bed. A push notification sent at a bad time is one of the best ways to ruin the user experience and potentially lose a user forever.


This graph reveals the optimal message send time for an app with tens of millions of monthly active users.

Optimal Send Time Graph

As you can see, 10pm is the time at which the most number of users are engaged with the app. But perhaps even more interesting, there is no clear winning time. At 10pm, nearly 90% of users are not using the app or interested in receiving a push notification.

The important takeaway is that every user is different. Users keep different schedules and have varying patterns of usage. The only solution is to ensure that every push notification arrives at the unique time of day when each user prefers to engage with your app.

How difficult is this to implement? Does personalized message delivery really make a difference?

Sending a message at a specific time for each user requires that your push notification system have a way to understand your users’ behavior and usage patterns. This may sound complicated, but there are easy ways to automate personalized message delivery. Learn more about how Kahuna can do this for you with Send Optimally™.

The results of this strategy are undeniable. Based on Kahuna’s analysis of millions of messages, messages that arrive at the preferred time of day for each user perform on average 384% better than messages that arrive all at one time.

Anything else I need to know about message timing?

There’s always more to know, and now that you’ve mastered the basics, consider tackling more advanced concepts. For example, consider optimizing other forms of message timing. If a user does one action (adds to cart) but not another (completes a purchase), how long should you wait to send them a push notification? Read more about how to trigger this message at just the right time.

Want to know more about push notifications?

Get the full guide to crafting perfect push notifications.