Notifications Are The Evolution Of Email In An App-Driven World

If you’re like me, you border on being somewhat obsessive-compulsive.  I constantly make lists just so I can cross things off.   I can’t go to sleep without my inbox being less than one page.   If I have number notification on any app on the homepage of my iPhone, I have to click in and see what it wants me to do.  

This last example is only getting worse, because if you weren’t borderline OCD before, then your phone is slowly pushing you to the edge.  It’s training us to be like that little dog and Pavlov.  It’s amazing marketing, and there are things to learn there if you dive in deeply.

Notifications are like email, but better.  One might say they’re the evolution of email in an app-centric world.   Email was a tool developed for communication, but became a reminder engagement vehicle for marketers as they’ve tried to find the right balance between “not enough” and “too much.”   



Notifications have a similar role in that they exist to remind you why you should engage with an app on your phone.  Those little notification numbers rarely get seen as “too much” — the higher the number, the more anxiety you feel that you need to go in and do something.  

As I heard someone say recently, notifications manufacture demand. They are training us to respond and engage with our phone and brands are included in ways that email never has included them.  In some ways it turns engagement into a game as you try to keep the numbers low and the bubbles nonexistent.

The mobile marketing space has swung back and forth from apps to mobile Web, but I think most marketers realize it’s a balance of both.  Marketers have been unsuccessful when they simply create an app for marketing purposes.  A retail app that is focused on promotions is less effective than an app that offers a reward or a personal shopping service.   The more perceived value you offer, the more engagement you create.  

That being said, those notifications are what remind you to engage, because changing behavior and implementing a habit are hard.  With the average consumer accessing as many as 27 apps per month, vying for attention can be difficult.  You have to stay timely, find the right balance of updating content, and then use notifications to pull the user in.  

Some are better at this than others.  One of my favorite examples is the Ticketmaster app on my phone, which notifies me when bands I have in my iTunes are playing nearby and when tickets go on sale.   This is a simple execution, but one with massive value to a music lover like myself.

So what lesson can marketers learn from notifications, and how can these be applied to other areas of your marketing?  Can the browser or your website become vehicles for notifications, or is email the best you can do?  Will these lessons even matter as the world continues to shift towards apps?

Facebook and Twitter are the leaders in terms of understanding the roles played by notifications.  What else can we learn from them in this burgeoning marketing arena?

1 comment about "Notifications Are The Evolution Of Email In An App-Driven World".
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  1. Michael Kremin from NeoGen Digital, March 9, 2016 at 12:29 p.m.

    It is a fine line between what notifications are useful and those that are just a new form of annoying persistence. Thank goodness we can configure most in the app or phone settings to not send notifications. Yes, great for marketing, sucks for the user experience in the long term.

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