How Tinder nails activation with push notifications

A flow diagram summarising the key points of the article: week 1 CRM should drive toward core actions, week 2 should cut the noise, week 3 should encourage users to explore more and finally week 4 monetise inactive users.

Normally, I’m a no-push sort of person. I like my days distraction-free. But after hearing that Tinder converts 8% of singles into customers, I had to take a look.

Mobile push notifications are one of the most essential CRM channels to activate and retain users — there’s a reason why apps are stickier and drive up to 3.5X higher lifetime value compared to mobile web.

But more and more, people are opting out. Android used to see 37% higher opt in rates compared to iOS, but Android 13 (released on 15 August 2022) now means all mobile app users have to give the thumbs up to receive push (finally), and we expect to see a decline in opt-ins as a result. Now it’s even more crucial to get your push strategy right.

So, here’s what I learned in my first 30 days of push with Tinder.

A special thank you goes to my boyfriend for allowing me to play around on Tinder in the name of research. You’re the best.

Tinder is a networked product, meaning the more people that join the app, the more value there is for others.

I’m in a hugely dense area: London. In my first session, I was not left wanting for people to swipe on with a population density of 5,700 people /km2 in the capital.

It is also worth bearing in mind that the hard side of the network on dating apps is young attractive women, aged ~18–35. As odd as this sounds, it’s something Andrew Chen explains in his book the Cold Start Problem. Essentially, a small number of users create a disproportionate value for the rest of the users.

So? The geographic and demographic qualities of my profile mean that I am, by default, on Tinder’s happy path (lots of options, lots of likes, lots of creeps, etc etc. — kidding on the last one).

Now on to CRM.

After installing Tinder, I opted in to push notifications during onboarding (towards the end of the flow, after key setup tasks like profile pics and interests). At first, the push prompt UI was actually quite…uninspiring.

A flow diagram showing where notification opt in sits within Tinder’s onboarding
Push opt-in sits 13 steps into onboarding, second to the end (as of Feb 2023)

On reflection what struck me is the focus on core actions on the opt-in screen: “Find out when you get a match or a message”. It’s plain and clear, notify me so I can grab a date and get out of here faster.

My day 0 to 7 pushes focused on CTAs that drove me down Tinder’s happy path, focusing on swiping, matching and chatting.

I made 2 matches in the first few days, which apparently wasn’t enough for Tinder. I was prompted to match more by time-based and behavioural pushes.

To get me to swipe and match:

Wanna be a success? You have to give likes to get likes

It’s hot in here, or is it just us? Peak time on Tinder isn’t the same without you 👉

Your daily Top Picks are ready 💎 Tap to view” (sent around midday each day)

Somebody likes you 😍 Open Tinder to see who” (These were capped — as I received 60+ likes on D0 and didn’t get the same number of pushes)

To get me to chat:

[Name] sent you a message

Don’t keep your match waiting. Send them a message 💌

To get me to pay:

Oops! You missed a match! Get Gold to see who likes you

Screenshots of Tinder’s push notifications, broadly grouped into Match Chat and Pay. The copy for these notifications is the same as in the article above
The match pushes felt much higher in frequency, getting me to match with more suitors.

In general, notifications triggered by user actions (‘behavioural pushes’) drive better engagement by between 400% and ~2,000% (depending on other variables such as copy, rich media & personalisation).

What’s super interesting is the direct message notification. There is no preview… surprising compared to most messaging apps like Whatsapp, Messenger etc.

Why? Perhaps to avoid giving too much away & discourage people from using the notification centre as an app summary.

Instead, Tinder want me in the app as much as possible, so they’re not giving me the juicy details too soon.

I was struck by how quiet my notification centre was outside of my behavioural pushes for matches and messages. Without engaging with the pushes, I saw them die down. My ‘Top Picks’ stopped altogether, giving my notification centre a cleaner feel.

Paying attention to the silence, it’s clear Tinder wants the most important pushes to cut through in days 0 to 14.

The more pushes you send, the less effective each one gets. The average US smartphone user gets 46 push notifications per day, meaning competition for attention is high. Over time, users will disable if they’re not getting value (too many/irrelevant pushes/clickbait pushes), meaning you’re one CRM channel down.

Image showing notification centre on iOS mobile and how easy it is to turn off notifications
If you push them too hard, you’ll lose the channel altogether. Its easier than ever to opt out.

As a general rule, it is better to send a few high-quality notifications than 10s of poor notifications. As a user, my preference is 1–2 per day outside of key notifications such as DMs.

As users travel down your funnel, make sure to ease up on certain pushes if they’re not working. This signals to users that you respect their time, energy and attention.

On my third week of Tinder (my true love gave to me..), I fell into a pre-churn cohort. I’d not engaged much, not chatted to more than 2 users.

At this point, I started to receive Tinder’s profile completion push series encouraging me to invest more time into making my profile full, fresh & trustworthy:

  1. Verify profile: Let them know you’re as real as it gets by verifying your profile and getting the blue check of approval
  2. Add bio: Big FOMO is real. Short bio > no bio so add one now to give them another reason to match with you 👉
  3. Add more pics & bio: Minimalism is cool, but not when it comes to your profile — add more pics & complete your bio to get the most from your experience 🤩
  4. Add bio repeat: We’re sure you’re great, but no one would know because your bio has no words, just vibes
  5. Add pics repeat: Let’s add some more profile pics. Have at least 4 showing your face, style and vibe to improve your chances of matching with your crush 📸

These pushes were interesting for three reasons:

First, they were fresh and unexpected. Adding users onto a new, curated push series in week 3 after below-average engagement is a good way to get attention back. It is also an excellent example of progressive disclosure: unveil your product gradually to avoid overwhelming.

Second, I love Tinder’s use of brand voice. The copy feels like a friend giving you a pep talk to get out there and date. The hint of sarcasm, ‘vibes’ and emojis 🤩👉, means that the copy overflows with personality. Not to mention emojis improve results by between 5–20%.

Last but not least, of all the set up tasks bio seems to be key for Tinder. Of the five pushes, three asked me to complete my bio and two asked me to add photos. I imagine that adding more pics and a bio lead users to retain better (a good example of investment loops — i.e. when users invest time and data, they’re more likely to come back).

Flow diagram showing the push notifications for completing my profile. The copy is the same in the article above
Fresh, great copy and drive toward key set up tasks. Great series

It’s 7am on day 21, and I wake up to “Today only: 50% off Tinder Gold!” ⭐

Limited time offers increase urgency via the scarcity principle (get it before its gone mentality). As well as the time-bound offer, the huge 50% discount is a compelling CTA.

I’m prompted again the next day (also in the morning) “ONE HOUR LEFT! ⏰ 50% off Tinder Gold!” in what feels like a final push to get me to take action.

At this point, I haven’t paid, I haven’t chatted or activated properly. I fall into the bucket of “well if they’re not going to play, they should pay”.

What’s interesting is that the discount pushes are a lot more concise than others — one-line for clarity and readability. There’s also no ‘Tinder’, just ‘Special Offer’ in place of the app name. A huge contrast to their 4-line profile completion series. Reducing cognitive load for key actions increases conversion.

Image comparing the small amount of copy in the discount push notifications versus the longer notifications for profile completion.
Clear difference in push structure for set up tasks and push to drive to purchase.

After vibes, FOMO, emojis & discounts, my 30 days of Tinder’s push journey came to a close. Here are my three key takeaways:

  1. Make core actions your top priority, especially on days 0–14. Cut noise during this time to respect users time and keep them laser-focused on funnelling through your happy path.
  2. When a user isn’t engaging, spice it up with some fresh, curated pushes in days 14–21 to cut through and get them back into the app. If not, tone done pushes all together to avoid users disabling the channel altogether.
  3. If users are low-engagement even after your fresher pushes, offer them discounts to try monetise your low-impact cohorts

I love a visual, so here’s a flow summary:

A flow diagram summarising the key points of the article: week 1 CRM should drive toward core actions, week 2 should cut the noise, week 3 should encourage users to explore more and finally week 4 monetise inactive users.

What push journeys have caught your eye lately?

Categorized as UX

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