Ask a Data Scientist: How Can Push Notifications Affect My Event?

Patrick McNally is Guidebook’s Director of R&D. He earned his doctorate in computer science at Northwestern University weathering the arctic conditions of Chicago. He likes clearly labeled axes and lunch conversations about gradient descent algorithms.

The Effectiveness of Highlighting Content with Push Notifications

Push notifications can be a powerful tool at the disposal of event organizers for reaching out and communicating with vast swaths of their attendee base. Used correctly, they can direct attendees’ attention with laser focus, allowing a single swipe or tap to move the user from whatever they are doing on their phone (or not doing if their phone is asleep) directly to a specific piece of content in a schedule or exhibitor list.

At Guidebook, we believe this sort of targeted content highlighting is good for both organizers and attendees. At big conventions or conferences all the panels and events on offer can be a lot to process. Competition among exhibitors for attention can be fierce. For attendees, push notifications can highlight content that might have been missed, helping people cut through some of the decisions in planning their experience. For event organizers, push notifications can help direct user attention or provide additional sponsorship opportunities.

I’d like to share some recent data illustrating just how effective push notifications can be at driving user engagement in an event app. The following graph shows in-app views of events by hour in the schedule of a fairly large convention on the Guidebook platform earlier this month.


Each colored line is a different event in the schedule. The clear cyclical patterns follow the day cycles of the four days over which this convention ran. People tend to look at events more in the hour leading up to them, as they decide on or double check the events they plan to attend. This particular event organizer sent out 13 push notifications over the course of this four day convention highlighting 13 different events in their schedule.

Here is the same graph as before except the events that were highlighted by push notifications have been removed:


And here is a graph showing only the events that were highlighted by push notification:


The y-axis of these graphs is constant so that they may be easily compared. One thing that should immediately leap out is that pushed events see 2x to 5x the highest hourly views that the most popular non-pushed events see in the same time periods. This is a huge effect.

Skeptics should be thinking it is at least conceivable that all 13 of these pushed events just happened to be the most popular anyway, and that perhaps the push notifications just piled onto an already stoked fire of attention. Here is a graph showing the most viewed event in the whole schedule.


Conveniently this event was not highlighted with push notifications. Furthermore, this event was wildly popular, seeing almost twice the total views the next most viewed event saw over the course of the four days this convention ran. Here we can clearly see what organic interest looks like. The views of this event are much more sustained throughout the course of the convention despite having a smaller maximal peak.

Finally, to really drive home the effectiveness of push notifications for directing views, here is the original graph with the hours after a push notification highlighted in gray:


The spikes we see in viewership of the 13 pushed events directly follow the use of push notifications. This, in conjunction with the different pattern of viewership we observe for the most popular non-pushed events make me pretty confident in saying push notifications drove the views of these 13 events, catapulting them into the ranks of the most viewed pieces of content in the schedule.

Push notifications should be used sparingly, however. There is a balance between annoying attendees and providing genuine utility. 3 to 4 non-overlapping recommendations a day can be well received by attendees, but more may begin to cross the line and create annoyance. If used sparingly however, push notifications can clearly be a powerful tool for directing audience engagement for event organizers.