The Art and Science Behind NASCAR’s Mobile Messaging

Learning more about their users has upped campaign success

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At NASCAR, our approach to mobile push notifications is one part math, one part art—what we feel is a nicely blended strategy that incorporates both right- and left-brain manners of thinking to yield an optimal experience for our ever-growing fan base.

A mathematical approach with data allows us to intentionally target exactly who we want—that is, segments of users with empirical evidence to suggest not only are they most likely to open Push A, but who also crave whatever information Push A contains.

Math is essential here, because it is numbers and data. It is true and inarguable.

The art does make it more fun, however. We consider our messaging within push notifications to be like an artist putting finishing touches on his or her piece of work. We’re invested in our messages—often less than 100 characters—in an attempt firstly to inform, educate or entertain a user… and then pique their curiosity, which results in an app open to learn more and, hopefully, explore all that our mobile app has to offer.

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Crew chiefs aren’t as well-known as drivers, so this alert gives a user key info. If they want to know more, opening the alert sent them to our story. This has been our most-opened alert.

Both aspects of this approach require intentionality. Whether it’s breaking news, or a live event update or a trending topic on social media, our approach in both language and segmentation is intentional. The worst thing we can do is annoy people with our cadence—some of which we discovered by trial and error—or bore them stiff with stuffy language.

Our weekly reporting has yielded incredibly useful insight. We measure every push we send, with our internal key factors being the push notification’s open rate, rate of app opens most likely influenced by the push message, total opens, and uninstall rate. The numbers after our first two months of tracking things this way in the Appboy Dashboard forced a total change in thinking.

Our app users have four ways of accepting mobile push notifications: one for breaking news, and then live event updates for each of our three series (Sprint Cup Series, XFINITY Series, Camping World Truck Series). But how does each user define “breaking news”? Very differently, it turns out. Instead of putting everything that wasn’t Sprint Cup Series, XFINITY Series, or Camping World Truck Series into “breaking news,” we asked ourselves if there was a proper channel we could create to disseminate strong, interesting content that doesn’t fit into one of those four buckets. Our data showed us that using that master list of breaking news opt-ins provided the best user experience for true breaking news alerts.

We feel our other content pieces do provide a value to the user, but the key is that our data helps us determine which users.

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On NFL Draft night, we had our own project of drafting the top 25 NASCAR drivers. We sent this out to die-hard fans about 15 minutes before the NFL Draft started.

Since March, we’ve drilled down to create custom segments. Some segments are for fantasy news, weekly franchises, or users most likely to engage in trending or social content. Now we’ll also create custom segments for one-off pieces of content, targeting our most active users, or who users select a favorite driver, or even looking at users’ past history of opening push notifications.

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Dale Jr. named one of his race cars “Amelia” after Amelia Earhart following four finishes in the top 3 in 2015. In 2016 at the Daytona 500, his car wrecked. People on social media were mourning the loss of “Amelia,” but his crew fixed it up in time for the next super speedway race in May. This alert went only to Dale Jr. fans, so we don’t have to explain who Amelia is—they mainly know.

As a result, our push notification open rate over a nearly three-month span (Martinsville race to Pocono race) yielded an increase of 148%. To look at a specific example:

A March pre-race push notification teasing fantasy advice corresponded with an uninstall rate that was too high for our liking. So we worked on it. The same type of push sent in early June went to a much more intelligent segment of people, those who actively play fantasy (which we can measure) and those who have opened a similar type of notification in the past. By targeting more effectively and intentionally, we reduced the total uninstall rate per app open by 75%.

The great thing about our user base, too, is that we’ll continue to add more members every day. New trends and habits will develop, and we’ll discover smarter ways to segment. As our users’ habits evolve and change, so will ours.

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