The term “push notifications” was all the hype in 2010. What are push notifications, and why are they so important to your mobile app?
Push notifications are instant messages sent to a user’s smartphone. It consists of a pop-up window which appears over any application that they are running, or on their home page if the phone is inactive. What is key to understanding push notifications is that users inevitably see them.
Push notifications can be sent automatically to a user’s device based on a set of criteria (if he is within a certain radius of a predefined x,y coordinates, for example.)
What is really valuable to retailers and advertisers is the ability to reach users when:
1. They aren’t currently thinking about their brand or product
It’s a good way to remind them that you exist. You can take this opportunity to invite them to take a quick tour of your app for new content or special offers (this WILL lead to increased visits.)
2. When they might be in a particular setting which is relevant to your offering.
Let’s say for example you own a restaurant. You might want to send a push notification to users within a certain radius (less than 1km) at a specific time (between 11ham and noon) informing them of today’s specials.
Why push notifications work
While you might think that this represents a high number of unwanted SPAM-like messages, users have indicated that they are open to receiving offers and messages from retailers within their vicinity.
The intimate bond between a user and his smartphone is what makes this kind of advertising so efficient.
Users carefully select which applications they install on their phones. I guarantee you, if someone doesn’t like your brand, your app isn’t on their phone. Users also have the option of opting-out of the push notifications sent from your app.
This means that you’re sending push notifications to a built-in audience who’ve indicated that they: 1) are attached to your brand, and 2) are open to receiving messages and offers from your brand.
This is undoubtedly efficient targeted advertising.
UPDATE 1/25/2011 : Jared Reitzin, CEO of mobileStorm, agrees with me:
[Speaking about the massive amount of available apps] Personally I think this is too much choice, which is why it’s even more important that businesses have a way to communicate with their customers to drive usage of their app.
This can be done with push notifications, a technology mobileStorm is currently developing and integrating into our new platform that’s set to launch to the public in April.
The idea is that you can easily create a message — be it text, video or images — and send the content to an iPhone, Android or Blackberry (oh and Windows, but they have to catch up).
What’s great about reaching customers this way is that you can get stats back like “opens,” a familiar stat for email marketers but not so much for mobile marketers.
Also, because geo-location is so easy to build into an app, you can send someone a notification when they come into a geofence, making your communication very relevant.