I spent the last couple of months interviewing marketers and vendors to understand how brands integrate push notifications and in-app messages in their marketing strategy.
Even though my research was primarily focused on mobile apps, I was convinced that there was much more at play. In fact, brands that can harness the power of contextual data to consistently deliver customer value will deliver compelling brand experiences that will build brand preference and, ultimately, loyalty.
Even with the emergence of connected objects that send notifications, smartphones will remain the primary interface in which consumers will personalize their digital experiences. Smartphones will become the hub for most interactions between a brand and its customers. In the next five to 10 years, consumers will use smartphone apps to define and control the communication environment in which brands can interact with them. In particular, we see that:
Mobile will become the primary touchpoint for brands to engage consumers. Mobile traffic has already overtaken desktop traffic in five major countries: Nigeria, India, South Africa, Indonesia, and Poland.No doubt this will happen across the globe in the next couple of years. B2C marketers will become smarter in engaging customers via mobile, maturing their approach and moving progressively to the holy grail of one-to-one marketing.
Every time I download a new app to my smartphone, it bombards me with requests for personal details like my contacts, my location, my email, and my photos – followed by a request, “Name of App would like to send you push notifications.” After it’s asked for all those details, I almost always choose “Don’t Allow.”
And I’m not alone. Forrester’s Q2 2014 US 3D Panel Online Survey shows that US smartphone owners are also selective when it comes to the apps they choose to allow push notifications; about six in 10 only accept push notifications from a select number of apps, while 17% don’t accept them from any app at all. Why are consumers so discriminating? Because more often than not, people find these unsolicited app notifications are irrelevant, too frequent, and, most of all, annoying. If I were to allow push notifications from every app I use each month, there wouldn’t be a quiet hour in my day. How can companies create a better experience and use push notifications to deliver added value to their consumers?
Ok, well, some of them will. Those customers who are mobile-savvy enough (they are the shifted as part of what we call The Mobile Mind Shift) and engage with your brand frequently will. You own those mobile moments with your customers. They reach for their phones to engage with your brand. You will still need to work hard to keep them engaged, but it's a good start that they downloaded your app. It's even better if they allow you to send push notifications - that gives you the opportunity to create mobile moments with them.
If they don't download your app, borrow moments.
Let's face it. Lots of your customers won't download your app. They won't invest the time or energy. With these customers, you must borrow mobile moments - that is, you must engage with your customers on third party apps (really platforms).
We see more and more brands embracing this strategy. What is your strategy to engage with your customers through borrowed moments?
Google Maps released a new app version this week. Uber is integrated into the Map app if you are already signed up for Uber (and in this implementation have the Uber app on your phone.) Uber already owns mobile moments with thousands if not more consumers. Exposure through Google Maps gives them more upside. First, it will help them to acquire customers through exposure. Second, it puts Uber in the mix of transportation options I have as I evaluate how to get from point A to point B within my Map app that also shows me traffic and parking availability. Highly contextual.
If they do download your app, don't assume they will actually open it - kind of a hassle for quick tasks, right?
Push notifications make the most of mobile marketing’s unique attributes: intimacy, immediacy, and context. When consumers opt in to receive push notifications, it means they trust you to the point of giving you permission to contact them on their most personal devices. If your messages are not relevant, you will lose your best customers.
Our research shows that consumers who receive push notifications are also the heaviest app users. However, to avoid being spammed with irrelevant messages, consumers increasingly want to be in control, setting preferences on the types of messages they want to receive and when they want to receive them.
While push notifications enable better engagement, the challenge for marketers will be to think beyond just push notifications for smartphone apps. Push notifications already extend messaging to other connected devices. How will push notifications complement email, SMS, and in-app messaging? How will performance from various direct marketing channels evolve?
To differentiate, marketers will have to integrate push into cross-channel and CRM platforms and integrate mobile as a variable of their customer base. Marketing vendors will have to add new messaging platforms, like push notifications, into their core offerings, pushing for another wave of consolidation highlighted by the recent acquisition of Xtify by IBM.