How Push Notifications Drive Mobile Engagement

By: Eduardo Fenili | August 11, 2015 | Campaign Strategy
Brand loyalty through mobile engagement

Kahuna Field Notes is a series offering observations, strategies, and practical tips from the Kahuna Customer Success team. Each installment will be authored by a different Customer Success team member, with the goal of providing insights for mobile marketing professionals.

As a product of the early 1980s, I find myself in a privileged position of having lived in a world before personal electronics became commonplace but young enough to have grown with the technological revolution that we’ve seen over the last 30 years.

Having worked in the mobile space for the better part of a decade, I often find myself talking about the age old question of how all of this technology really fits into our lives. How valuable are all of these advances? How have these helped us as individuals?

Since the introduction of the iPhone, one of the most fascinating topics in technology has been how smartly building mobile apps can make companies successful. A brand now has access to billions of new customers and, more importantly, has access to them all the time.

One of the best ways companies are taking advantage of this access is through mobile messaging like push notifications. We receive push notifications on our phones, tablets, wrists, and soon, on other devices. But are these messages really helping or are they just bothering us?

Push Notifications can improve Mobile Engagement

In far too many cases, a push notification is an irrelevant ping to try to get something out of me. Push notifications essentially started life as the ugly cousin of emails, delivering reminders and updates, along with a stream of rarely relevant messages, to try and pull users back into the grasp of one of hundreds of waiting applications. Why, oh why, are you sending me messages in the middle of the night to use an app I used once at work three weeks ago? If I signed up to give you my mobile habits, at least use them to make my life better!

But fear not, there are mobile companies and apps starting to do what is right by users. Luckily, enough of the mobile industry has grown and matured that there has been a shift albeit a slow one to where brands are finally understanding that delivering value to users and enhancing their experience through mobile engagement has lasting value.

But what really makes for effective push? I can give you a hint—it’s all about me. Well, maybe not me, personally, but it’s really simple: put yourself in your user’s shoes and ask yourself, “What have you done for me lately?” If you aren’t delivering some kind of value to your user through your message, it’s a waste of everyone’s time. There are three straightforward questions brands can ask to know if they are delivering value with their mobile messages:

  • Why did I receive this message at this time?
  • What makes this relevant to me?
  • Is this message speaking directly to me?

Timing: It’s no longer enough to guess what time of the day a user may be at work or may be taking the kids to school. The technology exists to learn and know when the best time is to reach your customer. Better yet, lean on technology to iterate and optimize that time automatically as data come in.

Context: What has the user done to receive this message? And I’m not talking about sending a message because a user asked for a reminder. You should care enough about what your user is doing inside your app to intelligently predict when a message could add further value to that user’s life, based on what they’ve already shown you through behavior.

Content/Personalization: Write your message to really resonate with your audience. Your app’s value and user demographics will determine whether your content is funny, straightforward, or high-minded, but the one thing all messages benefit from is personalization. A user wants to feel like this message is tailored for him, individually. This means more than talking to users by name or username, as you must incorporate their interests and actions from the app to create really compelling content.


Mobile Engagement leads to better push notification

Timing: I launch this app around 5:30 p.m. most days.

Context: I have listened to a lot of R&B and, most recently, the artist Miguel.

Content: A casual message giving me a little nudge to continue my engagement. Because I’ve been listening to Miguel lately, this message feels like it’s meant for me.

By taking a small amount of effort and time to understand the user, you have now created an incredibly personal experience that delivers value and drives engagement.Think about that the next time your apps are talking to you or if you are talking to your users through your own app. Are the messages nagging for attention or are they delivering value seamlessly into your day?

I know which apps I would keep.

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Author: Eduardo Fenili

Eduardo Fenili is the Product Lead at Kahuna, a data-centric engagement platform that helps companies maximize value by harnessing data signals. A computer science turned psychology major he focuses on discovering the best ways to take incredibly sophisticated systems and making them intuitive and powerful to any user.

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