Can Mobile Push Notifications Replace Marketing Emails?
Smartphone notifications are all the rage. Contributor Aaron Strout explores when they're useful and how they fit with marketers' email strategy.
If you have a smartphone, chances are you get regular push notifications from apps like Facebook, your bank, your favorite news sites etc.
These notifications exist on most (if not all) of the major mobile operating systems and range from: “dumb” (not informed by anything other than the fact that you have an app, your notifications for that app are turned on, and the company that built the app decided it wants to send out a message) to “smart” (informed by the user’s location, time of day, proximity to someone or something or triggered by an activity).
While the number of these alerts have grown in volume over the last several years (and will continue to grow), inevitably the amount of spammy alerts will also increase. At present, 52% of users enable push messaging on their mobile devices.
Push Is On The Rise
Better yet, data on more than 10 million push notifications from mobile automation company Kahuna indicate that they can garner up to a 40% click through rate. These are ridiculously high numbers that are sure to drop over time, but in aggregate, I envision that consumers will be inclined to get more of their alerts via push messaging versus email.
As the effectiveness of email continues to decrease (although still an effective medium), marketers must look for additional ways to break through the clutter and connect with their audiences. As I’ve written about in earlier articles, not every brand should have their own app.
But there are ways — through third parties like Apple Passbook, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter — that allow brands to create messaging — in some cases, geo-specific — that let them connect with their customers even without their own app.
Another option that retailers, in particular, can think about is using technologies like Bluetooth low-energy (BLE), beacons, or wi-fi grids that allow for the delivery of in-store, relevant messaging to customers.
The Golden Rule: Don’t Kill The Goose
While push messaging may eventually replace email (or at least supplant a large portion of it), one of the things that any brand marketer must remember (and this applies whatever the message or medium) is the cardinal rule of the “value exchange.”
While people do like coupons and discounts and additional information about products, they don’t like to be bombarded by messages as they’re walking down the street or through your store.
And, like email, where many marketers may have killed, or at least wounded, the goose that laid the golden eggs, extreme caution must be exercised by considering when and how they are communicating with their customers.
One of the reasons why push notifications are so successful today is because they’re impossible to ignore, are timely, and are usually more relevant because the application has more data to work with.
But imagine a scenario where hundreds of push notifications pop up on your smart phone in the course of a few minutes and how quickly the “52%” of people that currently have notifications turned on will be inclined to turn them off.
Essential Questions Before Sending Push Messaging
As marketers are considering what types of notifications to push and when, here are five questions that should be top of mind:
- Is this the right time to be pushing this notification to the customer?
- Am I able to gather any additional information based on time location or context that can help make this notification more valuable?
- How many other notifications have been pushed within the last hour/day/week/month?
- Which types of notifications have worked in the past? Just because they worked in the past will they work again today?
- What does the mix of messages to this customer look like? Are some educational in nature? Are any personalized? Has everything about this customer been taken into consideration?
Keep It Short, Sweet & Simple
Similar to Twitter, one of the best things about push notifications — one where email tends to fall down — is the forced need to keep the message short and sweet. And in most cases these notifications are graphic-less or at least light on graphics.
This will evolve over time but given the limitations of the mobile screen (which can only get so big) there will always be some need to be pithy, direct and provide a explicit connection to something else — whether it be a link, a photo or a longer message.
There are a few risks with push notifications that could pose problems as marketers use them more and more, and these challenges may eventually cause people to be less inclined to look at them.
Unlike e-mail, these notifications may or may not show up on multiple devices (like your laptop, phone and tablet), although if you are logged into an app with the same username and password on different mobile devices, you will see messages on both.
Additionally, even if you’re sending a critical service notification, users may miss it or ignore it if there are too many other push notifications that move them off the main screen.
In general, the answer to the question that the title of this article asks is “no.” Push notifications and email should work in a complementary fashion with fewer emails being sent — especially for alert-type messages.
Ironically, emails are actually a type of push notification, but given their less ephemeral nature and ability to be archived and searched, they have a longer shelf life than most.
The default answer to any marketing question when it comes to one medium replacing another (unless it’s a fax machine) is that it’s more often an “and” versus an “or.” It just requires a different mindset in terms of how each is used.
How about you? Are you using push notifications as part of your marketing strategy? If so, how?