nGrow: Harnessing the power of push notifications
min read
May 14, 2023

nGrow: Harnessing the power of push notifications

push opt-in

Mobile gaming is one of the most technologically sophisticated industries out there, with a world class tech ecosystem supporting and fueling its growth. However, one piece of the puzzle has been sidelined and under-optimized for too long: push notifications. 

Push notifications have the potential to provide game developers a powerful boost in engagement, retention, and revenue. Unfortunately, the tools available to help developers truly leverage the power of push notifications have been limited - until now.

Keep reading to learn why game developers can’t afford to miss out on push notifications, why we launched nGrow, and how we’re solving the industry’s push notification blindspot to fuel growth for developers.

Why now is push notification’s moment

Various factors are combining to make the need for an effective push notification strategy increasingly urgent.

Firstly, higher CPIs in the post-IDFA marketing landscape means games must increase the lifetime value (LTV) of users. Without doing this, user acquisition will fail to provide ROI and game growth will become unsustainable. 

Secondly, the pressure to increase retention and meet user expectations for a constant stream of exciting and innovative content has made LiveOps a crucial part of most games. 

Developers, as a result, are spending significant resources on running live games. In order to maximize the return on their investment, they must do everything they can to increase engagement with new content. 

Push notifications have an important role to play in this.

But, I hear you ask, push notifications are far from a new tactic, so why are they worth talking about now?

person holding black samsung android smartphone
Photo by Onur Binay

The limitations of traditional push notification strategies

Most mobile game studios get their push notifications wrong. Research by A/B testing company VWO Engage is testament to this. They asked app users what they found annoying about push notifications: 24% said they're irrelevant, 21% said they serve no purpose, and 12.5% said they are impersonal.

As a result, push notifications often have limited impact and in turn, get demoted in a game team’s ladder of priorities.

Yet despite these limitations, the potential opportunity to boost game KPIs is there when we look at the opt-in rates for push notifications. 

According to Airship’s Push Notifications & Mobile Engagement: 2021 Benchmarks report, which analyzed 600 billion push notifications sent to more than 2 billion users in 2020, on the Android operating system the opt-in rates range from 49% to 95%, with a median equal to 81%; on iOS, meanwhile, opt-in ranges from 29% to 73%, with a median of 51%.

Here are common mistakes I see when it comes to push notifications:

1. Developers not even requesting permission from users

As a by-product of inefficient and under-optimized push notification strategies, there is a common belief among developers that requesting permission for push notifications by sending local or server-side pushes will negatively impact the game experience and damage retention.

I won’t call this a misconception, because the often poor use of push notifications can damage the user experience. 

However, this is far from the case when push notifications are executed smartly. With the rise of advanced push notification tools like nGrow, developers shouldn’t be afraid to ask users permission and test the impact on retention, open rates and ARPDAU. 

2. Inaccurate and slow measurement 

Developers often fail to accurately measure the incremental impact of push campaigns. Important analytical practices such as sample balancing, and establishing statistical criteria for certain types of metrics relating to push campaigns, tend to be left out of the equation. As a result, it is an uphill battle to properly understand which campaigns perform well, and which don’t. 

In addition, the traditional A/B testing approach, in which traffic is tested evenly with different variants, then results are calculated, statistical analysis is carried out, decisions are made, and the campaign is re-launched using the winning variant, is a very time consuming process. 

It makes the scale of testing required extremely difficult: the most effective push notification campaigns can include over 100 variations, so running A/B tests using the traditional method is slow and sub-optimal.

Instead, game developers should use algorithms to help scale the testing process. nGrow, for instance, leverages multi-armed bandits as a main A/B/n testing tool, making experiments 10x faster and helping improve our partners’ conversions and overall impact from notifications.

Ultimately, the lack of proper measurement tools leads to spamming users with irrelevant notifications, harming user engagement and retention. 

3. Lack of segmentation

Data from Localytics highlights the importance of segmentation. Looking at the impact on engagement from different push notification types, they found that the lowest open rates came from standard broadcasted campaigns (2.36%), while push campaigns that are both segmented and dynamic bring the highest open rates (6.49%).

Despite the evidence, unfortunately many developers continue to miss the mark with their core audience by sending generic, broadcasted notifications, often multiple times a day, that do not resonate with them.

For instance, developers create trigger-based transactional pushes for clients such as daily rewards, invitations to play, battle passes, or game event pushes, typically with the same creatives sent at the same time each day, regardless of the player's in-game progress.

Typically, if any segmentation has been done, it’s basic, limited to parameters like: "not logged in for the past 14 days" or "no purchase of gears/loot boxes".

And then they wonder why the results are disappointing. 

4. Under-optimized copy

Too often, developers serve under-optimized copy in their push notifications - resulting in generic messages that perform poorly. This is partly due to the lack of text optimization functionalities in traditional push notification providers like OneSignal or Firebase. 

From our experience, copy optimization with frequent testing can bring up to X% uplift in CTRs for push notifications.

For example, adding different types of emojis, using various ‘power’ words, and experimenting with different call-to-actions can have a positive impact on performance. It’s really just a numbers game - large-scale testing of copy is the only way to unearth these insights. The limitations of existing push notification platforms is what stifles developers here. 

a person holding a cell phone in their hands
Photo from Pandhuya Niking

nGrow: Leveling up game developers’ push notifications

In my 11 years of experience with mobile apps, I saw repeatedly that push notification campaigns targeting specific user segments, with well-crafted texts, brought about an incremental increase of up to 20-25% in retention. 

That's why I created nGrow, with robust tools that access all the data and leverage AI optimization to create smarter push campaigns than the majority of the ones currently on the market.

Let’s unpack how nGrow helps game developers create winning push notification campaigns:

1. AI text generator

All nGrow customers have access to our push notification text generator. This generator is based on a large language model (LLM) model, similar to ChatGPT, that has been trained on data related to mobile game content such as App Store reviews, ASO texts, and other user experience data. 

By utilizing this technology, we’re able to produce user-generated texts that are optimized by AI specifically for push notifications, resulting in the best performing push notifications for our clients.

Booster, for example, on the first test launch with nGrow, increased revenue by 27% thanks to our automated text optimization. On the very first test, the team uploaded over 50 push texts in multiple languages in order to find the most effective copy.

black android smartphone on white table
Photo from pixel7propix

2. Robust measurement and segmentation

As mentioned earlier, the vast majority of developers fail to accurately measure the incremental impact of push campaigns, or test variants at the necessary speed and scale, which can lead to spamming users with irrelevant notifications. 

nGrow solves this problem: we establish both global and local control groups for each push campaign, which enables us to measure the incremental impact on various metrics such as retention, sessions, session time, ARPU, and product funnel progressions. 

These control groups are transparent, and we use automated A/A testing to ensure their accuracy. If needed, the control groups are automatically adjusted to provide more reliable results.

Combined with our deep segmentation capabilities, with event level and user level parameters, game developers have a powerful solution for running push campaigns that increase revenue without damaging retention. 

Just ask Artstorm, developer of hit game Modern Warships, who grew revenue by 27% within just a few weeks through nGrow.

Philipp Mischenko, VP of Business Development at Artstorm, said: 

nGrow perfectly understands how to engage our users with push notifications for better performance.

3. Minimal operational overheads

nGrow’s smart push notifications can be implemented on top of already existing mobile analytical platforms like Google Firebase or Amplitude. This allows a very simple setup process, with just a few lines of code - no SDK needed. 

In addition, our integration support team consists of experienced marketers and analysts with over 7 years of experience in the field. 

They’re dedicated to creating high-performing push campaigns that deliver continuous results, from the initial setup to ongoing optimization. Our customers communicate with the team via an individual Slack channel for real-time support.

A new era for push notifications

Push notifications are a low hanging fruit for game developers. Until now, this fruit has been viewed as unappealing and ineffective due to poor usage and limitations of traditional tools. 

With nGrow, we’ve created a robust, data-driven push notification tool that empowers developers to create push campaigns that positively impact their game’s retention and in-app purchases. 

And most importantly, we’ve made it significantly more affordable than traditional push notification tools, paving the way for all game developers to leverage this opportunity - not just those with the deepest pockets. 

If you’d like to learn more, feel free to book a free demo or connect with me on LinkedIn.