3 Ways Emojis Can Save Your User Retention

For mobile apps, message engagement is critical for retention. Push notifications are one of the best ways to keep your app top-of-mind. In fact, data has shown that app publishers who send push notifications can boost retention rates 20 percent, and 7x if they personalize those messages.

But there’s another secret to push notification engagement that too often goes overlooked: emojis 😉.

This might come as a surprise, but hard stats show that mobile users love emojis even when they’re used in marketing messages. Push notifications that include emojis experience more opens than their emoji-free counterparts — up to 85 percent more, in fact. And since emojis are so effective at boosting push engagement, they have a direct impact on long-term user retention.

With these three tactics, you’ll see how emojis can work wonders for your mobile marketing.

1. Emoji-Powered Push Notifications Are Opened 85% More Often

emoji-engagementComparison of push notification open rates with and without emojis

Believe it or not, emoji-powered push notifications really are more effective than their emoji-free kin. Open rates are almost twice as high in messages that feature emoji — that’s almost twice the number of people returning to the app.

But why do push notification open rates ✉️ matter? Some would call open rates a vanity metric, and there’s merit to that. Users might open a spammy or attention-grabbing push notification, but if the message doesn’t provide the expected value, they may revoke push permissions out of frustration. What really matters is how push opens affect conversion and retention metrics.

Luckily, there’s a quantitative link between push notifications and retention. The simple act of sending push notifications can increase 30-day retention by 20 percent. Considering that most users never return to the app after their first use, boosting 30-day retention increases the odds that users will stick around in the months to come.

average-retentionAverage 90-day retention rate

There are many finer points to the art of push notifications. For instance, Marketing Land explains that time-optimized ⏱ push notifications offer a 7x lift in retention. It’s important to optimize both message timing and message content.

Anecdotally, some mobile teams have already started experimenting with emoji-powered push notifications. The results are looking good. One team increased day two retention by 28 percent, just by including emojis in a push notification.


In summary, there’s a concrete link between emojis and retention, so it’s worth investing in an emoji-powered messaging strategy 🚀.

2. Emojis Resonate on an Emotional Level

It’s great to know that users love emojis, but why is that? As it turns out, the science behind emojis explains that our brains process them as non-verbal communication. This adds an emotional dimension to your copy that’s hard to capture through text.

In a way, emojis are the successors of old-school emoticons like the classic smiley :-). It’s hard to convey sarcasm and humor over the internet, so emoticons help clarify when a statement is made in jest. We process them almost like tone of voice — something that pure text lacks.

Emojis, with their bright colors 🎊 and vivid expressions 😆, are even better at conveying emotions. Qualitatively, we might describe emoji-laced copy as having more “flair” or “impact” than its plain text counterpart. And it’s comforting to know that there’s a scientific basis to this intuitive reaction.

It’s hard to measure the emotional impact of emojis on mobile app users, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. Forming an emotional bond with users will change their view of the app, on top of quantitatively lifting open rates. Who wouldn’t want to open a message that makes them feel warm and fuzzy ☀️?

3. Emojis Let Brands Speak the User’s Language


In the distant past, marketing messages were generally distinct from personal communications. Marketing occupied the world of billboards and flyers, while one-on-one conversations occupied the world of letters and in-person meetings. But mobile is an inherently personal medium.

Channels like phone 📞 and email 📧 were always shared by both marketers and personal friends, but that was just the beginning. Now, marketing messages reach us regardless of where we are or what we’re doing, on the same device from which we access our entire personal network.

With this great power comes higher user expectations — dry, corporate-sounding push notifications look bad next to messages from friends and family. It’s time for marketers to get personal.

Emojis are like slang, in a sense. They let brands speak the same language as their users. And as the stats show, those ever-elusive millennials engage more often with emojis than other age groups. This makes emoji-powered messaging doubly important for brands that want to woo millennials.

emoji-millennialsApp usage is at its highest among the same demographics that regularly use emojis

The average 13–24 year old spends 20 percent more time in apps than the average 25–44 year old, and 70 percent more time in apps than the average user over 45. Every app has its own target audience, but the majority of mobile users are in the younger generation. And the trends show that emojis can help win this generation over.

Win More User ❤️ With Emojis

These are a few ways in which emojis can boost retention, but they all come down to one theme: emojis win user love.

Whether we measure the impact of emojis through open rates or psychology, users are demonstrating that they love seeing emojis as much as using them. Brands can’t afford to ignore this trend if they want to stay relevant.

With engaging and emotionally resonant marketing comes increased customer loyalty — and with loyalty comes retention.

About the Author: Stefan Bhagwandin writes content for Leanplum, the most complete mobile marketing platform. He follows startups, technology, and the many points of interest that fall in between. If you’d like to read more about emoji-powered push notifications, get the full report.

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