When coming up with the idea for this blog post, I asked a lot of my colleagues why they don’t open push notifications. The responses I received were all over the map:
“Because they send them to me during the work day when I’m busy.”
“I get the same exact push at the same exact time every morning. They don’t even bother to update the copy.”
“There’s this one app I really like, but sometimes I receive a push notification from it about an action I’ve already taken. It’s pretty annoying.”
The above isn’t surprising to me. As someone who has a plethora of apps on her phone, I have experienced all of the above and then some when it comes to terrible push notifications. Trust me. And while the complaints may vary, I’ve found that the following emojis perfectly embody almost all push notification grievances:1. (You've reached out at a very inconvenient time)
Timing is everything when it comes to push notifications, both literally and figuratively. Unless a world crisis is happening that I absolutely need to know about; if you send me a push at 3am I’m going to hate you. Not just because you woke me up, but because you’ve violated my trust. I gave you the ability to reach me at anytime on my smartphone and you abused that privilege.
It’s also important to consider time of year and how experiences vary based on your location. I often get “Spring is here!” marketing in early March. Apart from one glorious day the sun gods grant us to remind us why we still live here, I can assure you that spring does not arrive in Boston until late April. I’m not ready to think about sundresses and bathing suits when I’m still fixated on winter gear and shoveling. I get your weather’s great in SoCal but stop rubbing it in unless you want to awake my inner Masshole.
The moral of the story here is that marketers often become unintentionally nearsighted to their own surroundings. It’s all too easy to forget that people live in different timezones, climates, and overall realities that may greatly vary from your own. It’s on marketers to be much more mindful about this or risk having some pretty irate users.
The second worst type of push notification to the 3am one would be one that leaves you looking like Obama does here:
Getting a push notification that’s completely irrelevant to me is beyond annoying. Especially when I’ve given you some key information about me through my profile and user data. I really thought we were getting to know each other better but clearly you don’t know me at all. And that sucks, given the time I’ve invested in your app.
True story: I once received a push notification letting me know about a concert happening in Chicago when I hadn’t been to Chicago in over two years. You can imagine my face looked something like this:
We talk a lot about individualization on the blog a lot and I can’t stress enough how important it is. It can literally make or break your mobile marketing strategy. If I’m giving you personal information I expect you to use it to my advantage. That means you need to know me - my preferences, my location, my interests - and make damn sure you don’t interrupt my day with pointless pushes.
Ever get a push notification that left you wondering if someone got fired as a result? I have. I’ve seen some pretty egregious push notifications in my day. Everything from typos to terrible jokes. I’ve even received breaking news alert telling me the Atlanta Falcons won the Superbowl, only to get a correction 2 minutes later that the Patriots had actually won. Talk about fake news.
All of the above can be summed up in two words: bad messaging. And look, nobody is perfect. Sometimes marketers miss the mark. But as bad as it is sending an email that has a typo or unintentionally offends most of your audience, I can assure you sending the consequence for doing this with push notifications is even worse.
Mobile devices are incredibly personal. App users expect a world-class experience and if we don’t receive it, we’re unforgiving. Did you know that 80% of app users churn within 90 days?
The moral of the story here is to have the same editorial process in place for mobile messaging that you do for the rest of your marketing. Make sure you’re running a tight ship and it aligns with your overall brand voice and tone. Looking to test out being a bit risque or funny? That’s why A/B testing was invented. You have 5 seconds to pique my interest so don’t screw it up with bad messaging.
I’m inundated with push notifications on a daily basis. And while some catch my attention, the vast majority of them just become another message in a sea of endless alerts. Why? Because you’re not doing anything special to get my attention.
I have a few apps where I’ve signed up for alerts and they literally send the exact same copy every day. How boring. I get it can be hard to think of how to put a new spin on the same alert but figure it out. That’s why you’re in marketing. You don’t send the same email over and over, so why is it acceptable to send the same push notification?
And for all of you sending those one-off push notifications, here’s a wake up call for you. If you’re not utilizing rich push and just sending me standard push notification (which 95% of the apps on my phone currently are), I’m quickly growing weary of you. The technology is there. The incentive for you to use it - an average of a 30% uptick in engagement - is also there. So stop doing the bare minimum and have some flair.
Are you reaching out to me all the time? Seems stalkerish. Look, I know you’re just trying to keep me in the know but you need to understand I’m busy adulting. I don’t have time to pay attention to you every day unless I’ve explicitly asked you to send me daily alerts.
What I’m looking for in an app is for it to update me whenever something you deem newsworthy qualifies for both of the below criteria:
For the vast majority of apps outside of news and social media, less is more when it comes to push notifications. The more you reach out to me, the more likely I am disable push notifications. So give me some space and let me live. Be confident in your app and that I will engage with you when I’m ready. After all, nobody likes a stage 5 clinger.
So there you have it. My unabashed, emojified take on why I’m not opening your push notifications. And if someone who is inundated in the mobile app marketing space is feeling this way, you can rest assured you audience is too. My hope is that this serves as a wake up call to mobile app marketers--the vast majority of you have become complacent and are not doing push notifications justice. You have a unique opportunity to connect with your users in a way other marketers only dream about. Make them proud by taking advantage of this great technology by creating powerful relationships with your mobile users.
If you’ve been on the receiving end of any bad push notifications, I’d encourage you to share below so that we can all learn from them and get better. Be sure to include the emoji that best describes how it made you feel.
Thanks for signing up. Look for your first email shortly!
We’ll reach out shortly to schedule a time to talk.