The Promise and Peril of Push

Keeping in contact with a consumer on the desktop web depends on email. In the mobile world push is quickly becoming the de facto standard — with a host of new opportunities and challenges.
Reaching a consumer through direct contact has always surrounded having their contact information. The evolution went from snail mail, to email, to text message, but each source required that the user disclose personal information, such as an address or phone number. With the rise of mobile apps, push notifications are the next evolution in reaching users, but require much less action on the user’s behalf.

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It’s easy to look at just the positives of push notifications, but to reach an audience by this method, the app has to have quality content or another way to create a tight connection with the user. The fact is the mobile phone is a personal device — and push notifications feel a lot more interruptive to users than getting an email they can check later.

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“The only way you’re going to get a phone number or email address is for the user to trust that brand,” said Josh Schiffman, vp of business development at push notification solution Xtify. “Through push notifications in apps, marketers are able to communicate with users who wouldn’t normally give you a phone number or an email address.”
Instead of entering an email address or phone number, the point of consent for a push notification begins when the user first runs an app. Depending on platform, the app may ask if it can provide the user with a notification when it has something to share, like the New York Times providing a breaking news alert compelling the user to enter back into the app. Without the user entering an email address or phone number, the publisher and advertisers now have direct access to the users when they’re out of the app.
Removing the request for information may seem like a backwards play for most marketers, but in the app ecosystem, there is a high level of accountability and tracking with a very low level of personal information. Tracking the continued actions of a user with a brand outside of an app is difficult at best, with the app having to ask for personal information. Using a service like Xtify, the brand can easily track interaction within the app, going so far as to record how long it has been since the last time the app was run, and allowing the publisher and advertiser to take advantage of the information to better target the audience.
“Push is not a replacement for other channels as well,” warned Schiffman. “If you decide building an app is useful, this is how you’ve decided to interact with some segment of your users. Your users have opted in to say they want to interact with your brand through this method.”
Frequency needs to be taken into account on every campaign as well, just as it is for text message. Handling push notifications for a publisher is drastically different than for an advertiser. Unless the content is something a user is going to find relevant and highly engaging, using a push notification can backfire more than it can do well. But this is not something new to marketers, who should be treating this approach in the same vein as email and text messaging.
As privacy continues to be an issue, users are less likely to give out all of their information. While users of an app may also be users on an email list, this is their preferred method of interaction. Tailoring a marketing strategy to fit the comfort level of a brands users would lead to higher interaction rates, as proven by Xtify’s 30-60 percent open rates and 4-10 percent interaction rates (with spikes as high as 40 percent). With the ability to drive the user back to the app through push notifications, a brand utilizing this functionality shows actual commitment to the platform and model, instead of simply using it as a tool to gain more information for other modes of marketing.

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