In retail, it’s context, context, context!

22 May 2019

In which contexts do users prefer to receive notifications
from retail apps?

In which contexts do users typically use retail apps?

These are the two questions that we wanted to address to help marketers of retail apps improve their campaign strategy. The results revealed a clear opportunity for the marketing teams of retail apps to maximize campaign success and user satisfaction by putting context at the center of their mobile marketing strategies. In fact, the data above shows that there are contexts in which retail app users are more likely to respond positively to engagement campaigns.

Our key findings are:

  • At home & shopping or running errands are prime contexts that marketers should target in their engagement strategies. These are the only two contexts in which users clearly prefer to receive notifications from retail apps, and the gap with the rest of the contexts is wide.
  • Marketers have an opportunity to use moderate/low-interest contexts for different engagement types such as In-App messages or actions.
  • Marketers can also increase the success of their campaigns by omitting low performing contexts.

Too often, mobile apps engage users in a similar way, using the same content and frequency whether the user is at home, in commute, at work or in a bar, omitting the fact that users have different needs for apps according to their context. When it comes to marketing strategies of mobile apps and the context of their users, marketers need to acknowledge that one strategy does not fit all.

Based on our research, it is possible to create three distinct groups of contexts, each of which holds a different meaning for the user and therefore different opportunities for retail apps.

  1. High Usage – High Engagement: Contexts in which there is a high usage of retail apps, and where users are open to receiving notifications from retails apps
  2. Moderate Usage – Low Engagement: Contexts in which there is a moderate usage of retail apps but where users are less open to receiving notifications from retail apps
  3. Low usage – Low engagement: Contexts in which there is both a low usage and a low openness to notifications from retail apps.

This topology of contexts presents an opportunity for marketing teams to optimize how their retail app is reacting to the user’s context and needs.

This group is composed of two contexts, “at home” and “while shopping or running errands,” that can be referred to as “super contexts” for retail apps.

  • “At home” is leading with 56% of users saying that they use retail apps at home and 50% of them selected this context as one of their preferred contexts for being notified by retail apps.
  • “While shopping or running errands” comes second with 46% of users using retail apps in that context, and 24% of users chose it as a preferred context for retail engagement.

This “supergroup” is far ahead of other contexts in terms of popularity with retail apps users. This is particularly clear with the “openness to notification” metric for which the 50% and 24% values of this group mark a big divide with the next highest value: “on the street” with 4%. There is, therefore, a striking fit between these two contexts and the use of retail apps.

We believe that this data highlights the strong opportunity that marketers should seize by experimenting with notification campaigns that target these two contexts.

A notification campaign that targets users at these high usages – high engagement moments will not only have likely higher open rates but also have a direct impact on the app’s stickiness and retention. By placing context at the center of their engagement strategy, marketing teams can increase their campaigns’ success rate while decreasing users’ perception of being spammed.



The second category of contexts encompasses, “on vacation,” “while in passive transit,” “on the street” and “at work,” which are less clear-cut contexts. On one hand, there is moderate use of retail apps in these contexts: between 13% and 23%. However, on the other hand, only 1- 4% of users select these contexts as one of their preferred contexts for retail notifications.

These are users who sometimes use these apps but are generally unwilling to be notified by them. Here it would not be necessary to conduct notification campaigns targeting users but rather to trigger in-app messages or actions when users are actively using the retail app in these contexts.

By sending in-app messages instead of notifications in these contexts, marketing teams can avoid annoying users with unwanted notifications while still engaging them and increasing the chance of a conversion into a purchase.



This final group of contexts (“in a bar, restaurant,” “while taking care of myself,” “while exercising outdoors,” and “while in active transit”) is characterized by a low usage (less than 10% of users say they use retail apps in these contexts), and low openness to notifications (less than 1% of users select these contexts within their preferred contexts to be engaged by retail apps).

The data indicates that this group does not present an optimal fit between the content and services proposed by retail apps and the needs of users in these contexts. As a consequence, marketing teams can exclude these contexts from their engagement campaigns altogether.

Omitting these contexts in marketing campaigns has the potential to increase their overall success rate, while also retaining a higher user opt-in rate for push notifications. The user opt-in is precious and, by being laser-focused on exactly when and where users have a need or interest for their app, marketers can better protect and retain this opt-in.

Make your engagement strategy user-centric!

In conclusion, there is a clear opportunity for marketers to put user context at the center of their engagement strategies. This will enable mobile apps to provide users with a better experience in the app, by spamming less and offering convenient information when users need it, all the while increasing the success rate of their marketing campaigns through higher engagement, retention and opt-in rates.

Act now!

Herow is a SaaS solution that allows mobile apps to engage with their users in particular contexts such as at home, at shopping areas, transit hubs, at work and more. By effectively communicating in the right context at the right time, mobile app clients will see an increase in the open and engagement rates of their campaigns threefold!

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