Understanding CTR in Digital Marketing

Before we dive into the specifics of what CTR means for SMS and push notifications, let's first define what click-thru rate means in the broader realm of digital marketing.

Click-through rate (CTR) is a metric used to measure the effectiveness of an advertisement or marketing message by assessing the percentage of people who click on a specific link or call-to-action (CTA) after viewing it. The higher the click-through rate, the better.

The click-thru rate formula is number of clicks divided by the number of impressions, expressed as a percentage:

CTR Formula:

Here's the CTR Formula to calculate your click-through rate.

CTR has long been hailed as a vital metric in digital marketing as it provides valuable insights into the performance of your campaigns as, by analyzing click-thru rate, marketers can gauge the level of engagement and interest generated by their ads or messages. A high click-thru rate indicates that your content is resonating with your target audience and driving them to take action. 

But should click-thru rate really be the golden metric, or is there something better?

Let's dive deeper into the importance of CTR and look at some alternate metrics specifically in the context of SMS and push notifications.

The Importance of Click-Thru Rates for SMS and Push Notifications

For most marketers, when it comes to SMS and push notifications, click-thru rate holds immense importance as it directly indicates the engagement level of your target audience. A high CTR signifies that your messages are successfully capturing the attention of recipients and motivating them to take action.

If your customers aren’t clicking, they’re not buying, so it’s crucial to establish a good CTR on your SMS and push notification campaigns and continuously work towards improving it.

Most articles tell you to improve CTR by focusing on message timing and crafting compelling and concise messages that grab the attention of your recipients. They’re not wrong — by using attention-grabbing headlines, clear and concise language, and enticing offers, you can increase the likelihood of recipients clicking on your call-to-action.

But we’re here to tell you that the answer is much more nuanced than that. We need to first explore if CTR is even the right metric to track, and what better alternatives might be.

What is a Good CTR rate for SMS and Push Notifications?

While specific benchmarks may vary across industries, it is generally considered a good practice to aim for a CTR that is higher than the average for your respective platform or channel.

Industry Standards for SMS CTR

In the case of SMS marketing, MessageDesk says the average CTR for an SMS with a link is around 36%. However, certain industries may experience higher or lower CTR rates based on the nature of their target audience and the effectiveness of their campaigns. For example, the retail industry often achieves higher CTR rates due to the urgency and time-sensitive nature of their offers.

 Again, several factors can influence the CTR of your SMS campaigns. The timing of your messages, the relevance of your content, and the clarity of your call-to-action all play a significant role in determining the success of your campaign. 

Additionally, personalization and segmentation can greatly impact CTR, as tailored messages tend to resonate better with recipients.

Industry Standard CTR for Push Notifications

When it comes to push notifications, BusinessofApps notes that the average CTR rate is considered to be around 3-9%, but they note that this is dependent on many factors, including everything from the device to whether or not you use emojis. However, it’s important to note that achieving such high CTR rates requires a well-crafted message strategy and engaging content.

As with SMS, Push notifications offer a unique opportunity to capture the attention of your audience instantly, but unlike SMS, push notifications are “free” to send.

When should you use push notifications vs. SMS? We wrote a helpful guide here!

Also similar to increasing click-through rate in SMS, best practices include creating concise and compelling messages that provide value to the recipient and personalization and localization can further enhance engagement, as users are more likely to respond to notifications that are relevant to their interests and location.

Factors Influencing CTR in SMS and Push Notifications

Various factors can influence the click-through rate (CTR) of your SMS and push notifications. Understanding these factors and effectively leveraging them can make a significant difference in the success of your campaigns.

When it comes to SMS and push notifications, content quality plays a crucial role in determining the CTR. It is essential to create messages that are not only concise but also personalized and compelling. By offering clear value to the recipient, you can increase the likelihood of engagement. Tailoring your content to resonate with your target audience and addressing their pain points can further enhance the CTR.

More than just telling your users what to do, your message should resonate with the reason why they would want to take action. Take this example from the trading app, Robinhood:

...but why?

Note that the message of what you need to do is clear, but the why is completely missing.

In reality, your users have a variety of reasons why they like interacting with your app, and you should strive to capture each of those motivations into your messaging:

Each of these messages addresses a different user motivation for investing

However, content quality is just one piece of the puzzle. Another important factor to consider is the timing of your SMS and push notifications. The timing can greatly impact their CTR (we’ve actually found timing to have the biggest effect on push notification and SMS click-through rates). To determine the best time to send your messages, it is crucial to understand the behavior and preferences of your target audience.

Consider factors such as time zones, daily routines, and previous data analysis to identify the optimal timing for maximum engagement. You can rely on manual means to determine your ideal SMS and push notification message timing, but we’ve found that AI does a much better job at determining the best timing to send your messaging than humans ever could.

In conclusion, the CTR of your SMS and push notifications can be influenced by various factors. By focusing on content quality, timing, personalization, attention-grabbing and value-based subject lines, and device optimization, you can increase the effectiveness of your campaigns and drive higher engagement.

…but this begs the question —

Is CTR really the best metric to track?

Maybe not.

We’ve seen several messages that drive an impressive CTR, but fail to deliver actual results.

Take this message for example:

It got a very high CTR — most likely because at a quick glance, users thought they had missed actual calls — but once users had clicked on the message, they quickly realized they had been duped and didn’t continue on to finish their order. (Similar to the Robinhood message we looked at, this message doesn’t address the user’s why.)

As another example, look at these two messages. The bottom message got a slightly higher CTR:

But, when you drill down further, you can see that the top notification actually drove a ~13% higher activity rate, ~4% higher add to cart rate, and double the conversion rate than the bottom message.

If we judged purely by CTR rate, these two messages would have seemed mostly indifferent, but when we look at the full funnel metrics, we see that these two messages have very different success rates. The first message was obviously better at driving conversions than the second, and conversions equal revenue.

Thankfully, due to the concise nature of SMS and Push Notifications, along with the typically quick response rate, it’s possible to build a full-funnel attribution model for these channels.

Our SMS and push notification attribution model considers many factors, including if someone clicked on the notification, but also if they visited the app, and if they did, what they did after they visited. All of our values are pro-rated based on timing relative to the message receipt, relevancy to the message contents, and measured against our one-to-one continuously adaptive control group. If you’d like more details on our attribution model, please reach out to hello@aampe.com.

So, if you’re only measuring CTR, you could be leaving a lot of money on the table.

Strategies to Improve the CTR and effectiveness for SMS and Push Notifications

From the millions of push notifications we evaluated, there were two interesting aspects we noticed that all of the highest performing messages had in common:

  • They were incredibly specific in a useful and meaningful way
  • They resonated best with a smaller percentage of the total audience

Here’s an example:

This is a customer’s messaging, ranked by conversion effectiveness and “label” (When sending message with Aampe, you label each of them with different buyer personas and motivations. For example, messages about “Ownership” are ones that say something like “It’s in your cart, now make it yours!”).

Note two things:

First of all, notice that, while the messages labeled with “Ownership” are the most effective at driving revenue (4.88% CTR and 3.58% revenue rate), but that we’ve only sent 26,929 of those messages (the first row under the “Total send volume” column). Meanwhile, messages labeled “FOMO” (Fear of Missing Out) were less effective (CTR of 3.59% and revenue rate of 2.67%), but we’ve sent almost 225,000 of those messages.

If the “Ownership” messages were so much more effective than the “FOMO” messages by CTR and revenue rate, why didn’t we send more of them?

That’s easy, because we only sent the “Ownership” messages to people who respond to messages about “Ownership,” and we send messages about “FOMO” to the individuals who respond to messages that emphasize the fear of missing out. The audience that responds to “FOMO” just happens to be bigger.

If we would have sent more “Ownership” messages out, individuals who don’t resonate with those messages would have received them and it would have brought the CTR and message effectiveness down.

(Also note as we discussed above, that messages about “Convenience” had the highest click-through rate, but only the fifth highest conversion/revenue rate. If we went purely by CTR, we would have potentially missed out on that 3.58% revenue success from our “Ownership” messages!);

How do we know which users are interested in which message?

Unlike traditional CRM systems where you have to manually set up user journeys and schedule messages, etc. Aampe runs a hybrid contextual bandit algorithm and reinforcement learning pipeline to programmatically manage companies’ marketing messaging including SMS, push notifications, WhatsApp, etc.). By clustering users and evaluating individual responses to different messages, we can determine which users are responding to which specific messages and track this over time to optimize performance.

If you want more details on how our AI works, you can reach out at hello@aampe.com or read more about it here.

Other patterns in effective SMS and push notifications

As we discussed, the most significant trend observed across the board in the most effective SMS and push notifications was messaging that addressed each user’s why paired with effective segmentation (we actually use a clustering algorithm instead of manual segmentation because we find it to be much more flexible and accurate. More details on our unique approach to segmentation here.), but it’s not the only pattern we’ve seen.

Another common pattern that highly effective push notifications and SMS messages have in common is that they’re tied to trigger events. 

Trigger events are significant events on your app that a user has completed—Things like completing a lesson, abandoning a cart, or even viewing an item.

This doesn’t mean that you should create a rigid user journey for each of these events, but it does mean that you should have some triggered messages set up to acknowledge and keep momentum going around these critical events.

Measuring the Success of Your CTR Improvement Efforts

Evaluating the effectiveness of your CTR improvement efforts is crucial to refining your strategies and achieving long-term success. To measure CTR accurately, utilize effective tracking tools like Aampe and interpret the data to gain valuable insights.

Tools for Tracking CTR

There are various tracking tools available that help measure the CTR of your SMS and push notifications. Utilize analytics platforms specific to the channels you are utilizing, which can provide detailed information on impressions, clicks, conversions, and other valuable metrics.

Aampe pulls together all of the key metrics for each of your messaging channels (SMS, push notifications, WhatsApp, and even in-app messages) onto a single dashboard, so you can evaluate and act on trends across your full multi-channel strategy in one place.

(Don’t worry, if you already use a CDP like Amplitude, Mixpanel, or Firebase, we integrate with them too.)

Interpreting CTR and Notification Effectiveness Data for Future Strategies

CTR and revenue rate data from your messaging can give you a lot of amazing insights about your audience. By monitoring these metrics over time, you can identify patterns, audience preferences, and trends that can guide your future marketing strategies. Adapt and refine your messages based on the insights gained to continuously improve your CTR  and effectiveness and drive better results.

If you have any other questions on how to improve your SMS and push notification effectiveness, please reach out. We’d be happy to answer any questions you have with the data we’ve collected from sending millions and millions of them ourselves.