Study shows mobile users’ ad ambivalence, resistance to push notifications
Roughly 62 percent of survey respondents never want push notifications or want them less than once per month, even from their "favorite brands."
Late last year, comScore data argued that 80 percent of smartphone app time is being spent in a user’s top three apps. Now a SessionM study involving roughly 6,000 mobile users suggests much broader app engagement.
SessionM found that roughly 80 percent of users were in at least four to six apps every day, with 29 percent saying they used 10 or more apps daily. However, almost 25 percent reported that they had 10 or more apps on their phones that they had used only once.
The company also asked questions about users’ mobile relationships with brands. About 70 percent of mobile users said they had at least one “branded app” on their smartphones, meaning an app dedicated to a single brand. Some users had many more branded apps.
In many cases, there was considerable ambivalence about receiving marketing messages from these brands. Responding to the question, “When are you okay with seeing ads on your smartphone?,” survey respondents said the following:
- I’m okay with seeing ads on my smartphone at any time — 5.2 percent
- When I’m in a free app — 32.1 percent
- When the advertised product is relevant to me — 17.4 percent
- When the ad is from a company I like/trust — 12.2 percent
- Other — 7.4 percent
- I’m never okay with seeing ads on my smartphone — 40.2 percent
A substantial percentage (32 percent) appeared to recognize a basic value exchange: viewing ads for access to free content/functionality. But a larger number (40 percent) wanted no ads at all. Almost a third (31 percent) said they were “okay with seeing ads” when those ads are “relevant” or from a company “I like/trust.”
(These totals exceed 100 percent because the majority of questions invited respondents to “select all that apply.”)
Users were somewhat more receptive to email from their “favorite brands” than push notifications. Roughly one quarter (25 percent) said they didn’t want to receive email from brands, and 22 percent said they wanted emails less than once a month. About 49 percent expressed openness to email at least once a month or more.
They were more resistant to push notifications. In response to the question, “How often would you like your favorite brands to send mobile push notifications?,” they said:
- Less than once per month — 19.6 percent
- Once per month — 14.5 percent
- Two to three times per month — 8.5 percent
- Once per week — 9.8 percent
- Two or more times per week — 4.0 percent
- I don’t want my favorite brands to send me push notifications — 43.6 percent
In telling a “half-full” story with this data, one could focus on the segments that were open to push notifications (37 percent) and spin it positively. Yet it’s difficult to ignore the 62 percent who said they never wanted push notifications or wanted them less than once per month. Despite this apparent hostility, roughly 30 percent said they had made at least one purchase in the past month because of a push notification.
The survey asked only about “push notifications” generically and didn’t explore personalization or locally relevant notifications, which might have generated a more positive response. Regardless, as this and other data show, brands and publishers must be judicious with push notifications and take a very user-centric view of why and when to send them.
As one might expect, this audience said that mobile devices were the primary place they turned for pre-purchase product research. Nearly three-fourths (73 percent) said they used mobile, 48 percent used laptops and 28 percent visited stores before buying.
Given that most products (92 percent) are purchased in stores, I’m skeptical that comparatively few went to stores before buying. However, the larger point that smartphones are now primary devices for consumer research has been supported by numerous other studies.