Confessions of a Push Notification Convert

I am a push notification convert. Having experienced marketers’ abuse of the email channel, I envisioned being assaulted by notifications as I walked through a shopping center, my phone buzzing constantly, delivering mobile ads.

A conversation with smart person Dylan Boyd of Urban Airship, however, made me see the light. The myriad advantages of push notifications make them a must-consider for mobile marketers.

First, the basics. Push notifications, for the purpose of this discussion, are messages delivered to those who have downloaded your app and accepted notifications. Notifications can be delivered whether or not the user is using the app at the time of send. Done well, they provide breaking news of interest and keep users engaged with your app. Done poorly, they are intrusive ads delivered to a highly personal device and will encourage users to delete your app.

Examples of notifications that consumers value include sports scores, breaking news, stock movements, game challenges, low bank balance alerts, and auction bid updates – information you want to know now.


Notifications can take advantage of location, delivering information relevant to where you are, e.g., a Playboy app will send notifications when you are near a venue it has reviewed. Retailers can send offers when you are near their stores.


So back to my original concern – what prevents marketers from barraging you with updates and offers as you shop? Customer selectivity and control. Consumers will only receive notifications for the apps they download, and it is unlikely that even the most enthusiastic shopper will have apps for more than a handful of brands.

In addition, the customer must accept notifications and can delete the app any time they find the experience underwhelming or annoying. The save-and-search aspect of email allows us to find them as needed, so we have come to accept a lot of chaff with our wheat. For push, we must be relevant and timely, or die. Remember the mobile mantra: IWWIWWIWI – I want what I want when I want it.


And now, my favorite part: the advantages of push:

  • Rich media-friendly, unlike email. You can send video, audio, forms, and maps.
  • Lower cost and better tracking than SMS.
  • No cost to the customer for rich media, unlike MMS.
  • It’s not regulated by the FCC or the FTC because it is entirely permission based.
  • Can target to events and times when most users use your app.
  • Can notify users when a message is waiting, creating an in-app inbox.
  • Can incorporate users’ location to deliver relevant content.
  • Marketer-friendly interface for campaign setup, send, and reporting. Little IT support is needed.

On the downside, your reach is limited to those who download your app and accept notifications. Prerequisites are a robust app and a serious commitment to its promotion. Don’t discount other channels, as each has a place in your digital marketing plan and can be useful for promoting your app as well.

But if you’ve got a high-value, customer-focused app and push notification strategy, you can deliver rich content to highly engaged customers. And that, my friend, is mobile marketing nirvana.

Related reading

A QR code which leads to the URL for the ClickZ article about QR codes. Meta.