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Now That Everyone Is Doing It, Are Push Notifications Worth It?

Advertising & Marketing

Mason Carter wrote this article


Push notifications have been around for quite awhile.

In fact, it was in 2009 that the Apple Push Notification Service (APNS) launched. Ever since, this technology has had at least some presence in our lives, changing the way we think and plan.

2016 was primarily a banner year for the technology.

With the launch of rich push notifications on iOS and Firebase Cloud Messaging on Android; these steps in push notification technology would allow for developers to produce much more complicated push notifications than ever before.

The last few years in the history of push notifications have been watershed moments for its saturation into our lives.

So now it feels like you’re always being bombarded by push notifications, right?

And likely so are your users.

While you may be tempted to start sending push notifications to your users, think about the impact and visibility that your message will have before you do it. Most importantly, always remember that using push notifications is a technique, not a strategy.

You’re competing with text messages, emails, and Facebook notifications…

…And not to mention how Google and Apple are finding their ways to take over the push notification space in people’s brains.

I couldn’t help but notice this with my new Google Pixel 2 phone that I bought.

There is only so much space in my brain that wants to see push notifications.

If it isn’t of any benefit to me, I’ll swipe it right away. I’m just getting too many notifications now.

Let’s also consider that push notifications themselves are competing with all of the other types of notifications that people receive on their phones. According to a study by Yale conducted back in 2010, text messages and other mobile notifications triggered the release of dopamine, which fuels reward-seeking behaviors in the brain.

Imbalance of dopamine release is also associated with addictive behaviors, which some mobile apps excel at exploiting.

Why is this important to know? Because this will tell you WHY notifications spark such a reaction in our brains, and some apps are more addictive than others.

What I commonly see when marketers horde to new trends is that they fixate on the tool rather than the purpose. Remember, you are competing with TEXT MESSAGES and SOCIAL MEDIA NOTIFICATIONS and even with those the dopamine hits vary based on the content of those messages.

So in other words, unless your push notification can incite a chemical reaction in the brain, you’re competition is going to be hard right out of the gate.

So how do you want to interact with your users?

Understanding the correct timing of when to send push notifications is the first step

One purpose that I like for push notifications is that they can serve to remind users that an app exists in the first place. Why not also utilize push notifications to tell users that they still need to make a crucial action on your app?

But the timing is critical here.

Push notifications greet you on your phone screen when you first wake up.

You know that morning rush.

Don’t bother with this time since I’m sure a lot of people are already bombarded with messages.

Evening hours are better, but more than anything it takes a lot of testing and surveying to see when your users respond to your push notifications.

You don’t know what works until you try it.

Constant information overload puts our decision-making and productivity skills at risk, too. A study from Microsoft Research estimates that it takes an average of 25 minutes to get back on task after being interrupted by a push notification during the workday.

According to Leanplum, 63 percent of marketers around the world send push at the wrong times, missing key times of the day when mobile users are most engaged.

Relevancy is not just a struggle with timing, but that metric is the bare minimum that marketers need to make an impact.

But if your timing is right, then the rewards are there: The 30-day retention rate for apps that use push is 44 percent, compared with just 17 percent for apps that don’t.

Bringing relevancy to push notifications – and personalization

Unlike your email inbox where you’ve been programmed to ignore most of the junk that comes in there, app notifications are not quite at that saturation point yet.

Keep in mind that it’s also pretty easy to turn off push notifications, so if you spam your users, they’ll figure out how to mute you fast. In fact, some even just turn off push notifications entirely.

Leanplum examined 1.57 billion push notifications sent to users around the world and discovered that brands that personalize their push notifications could increase open rates by up to 800 percent.

Right now is the time to take advantage of push notifications because sooner or later, it will be as saturated and as ignored like all other mediums to communicate to your audience.

Similar to emails, push notifications opt-ins from REAL users do show at least a passive interest in what you have to say.

You do not need to sell yourself because they already care about what you have to offer.

Give them value!

It’s all about the balance between what you say to users via push notifications, how you say it, and how much you say it.

And a little more perspective on how push notifications will go the way of email marketing soon – once upon a time, it wasn’t unheard of to have 10%+ open rate on email newsletters. Today, it is less than a 1% on average. Push notifications are currently still at the 10% rate, yet no one is paying attention. Don’t miss out. This is the new medium to win your customers over.

Push notifications can be a powerful tool when utilized correctly, but when overused or abused…

That’s it. You’ll get the opt-outs.

The problem is that many mobile marketing teams look at push-notifications as a way to push their message without considering the lives of the people receiving them.

When appropriately used, push notifications to enhance the customer-brand relationship and can break down the communication barriers that exist on email (for example, getting trashed into the spam folder by mistake or promotions folder on Gmail).

Always remember that you are competing for space on users’ phones, respect their time, and know when push notifications aren’t already bombarding them.

One thing that we have suggested to our clients is that they directly ASK their users when they WANT to receive push notifications.

That way there is no guessing game.

Apply this to other factors as well, such as the content that you want to personalize. Push notifications can be a chance to 1:1 communication but to achieve this you need to be transparent and open.

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