Push notifications are a common mechanism for a team/league/venue mobile app to call a user’s attention to a piece of information, or to notify a user of an event or occurrence immediately. While push notifications are essentially asynchronous (i.e., they are not triggered by the user’s actions, they can occur at any time, and they can interrupt what the user is currently viewing/doing on their device), the intent behind them is to enhance, and not disrupt, the fan’s experience with the mobile app. Push notifications are always opt-in, i.e., they are disabled by default, and a fan must voluntarily elect to enable the notifications, and a fan only sees those notifications that he/she has explicitly subscribed to receive.

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At YinzCam, we have developed our own in-house push-notifications service that is available within all of our team/venue/league apps. Our clients use push-notifications for a variety of purposes, including press-conference reminders, Pro Bowl picks, Draft picks, Hall of Fame selections, transactions, franchise records broken, stadium/game-day/training-camp reminders (bag policy, roof open/closed, parking lots full, type of jersey worn by players that day, tailgating areas/reminders), injury reports, recoveries, tickets made available for a specific game, and more. By the middle of 2015, we have sent 3 billion push notifications across all of our 85+ sports-team mobile applications. Here are some of the insights and lessons, both from our analytics as well as from our interactions with teams and sports fans.

1. Opt-in rates are high. When a team app supports push notifications (as most of our team apps do), an average of 71.69% of the fans who download that team app tend to subscribe to receive the app’s push notifications.

2. Not all push notifications are created equal. It is important to classify the push notifications into categories that are meaningful to fans/teams, and to give fans the choice to subscribe to categories of interest, rather than through a one-category-fits-all-notifications policy. Our data shows that fans subscribe most to the following categories:

  • Scores/stats
  • Schedule announcements
  • Injury reports
  • Draft picks
  • Transactions

3. Automated score-alerts are highly popular. Some of our team apps provide special push-categories that are related to real-time stats/scores, i.e., push notifications for the start of game, end-of-quarter score, final score, three stars of the game, etc. To deliver these score-notifications to team apps, our server-side system processes the team’s/league’s real-time statistics feeds and automatically dispatches the correct alerts to the smartphones of subscribed fans. When one of our team apps supports the automated-score push-category, it is common to see 97% of all push-subscribers (for that team app) opting in to this push-category.

4. Beyond simple push-notifications. Teams have worked with us on interesting and clever uses that enhance the traditional use of push notifications. Here are two use-cases.

  • Audible notifications. For some of our team apps, we associate a specific audio clip with certain types of push notifications. For example, our Detroit Red Wings mobile app automatically plays the sound of the Joe Louis Arena goal-horn every time that the Red Wings score a goal.
  • Deep-linked notifications. For some of our team apps, we associate additional links (into the app itself, or to external mobile websites) to enhance the push notification with more information. For example, as a part of every automated-score notification, several of our NBA-club apps supply fans with a link to a shot-chart or a shot heat-map (located within a different part of the app) so that the fans can visualize the spread of the shots/plays better.

Push notifications can serve as the first, and most authentic, voice for any kind of breaking news or real-time developments from a team. When used properly, push notifications can make fans feel that they have their fingers on the pulse of their team and all of the team’s activities. As we look forward to sending our next billion push notifications, we hope to discover (and share) more insights from using this valuable mobile capability in new and innovative ways.

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About Priya Narasimhan

I am the CEO and Founder of YinzCam, Inc., and a Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. I am the Mom of an amazing 9-year old.

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