Push Notifications: Keep Mobile Users in Touch

Written on
Dec 29, 2011 
Scott Kveton  |

ADOTAS – Push notifications are a messaging medium that allow applications installed on any connected device to actively communicate with an end user, even if the device is inactive.  It’s called “push” because the technology enables a device to listen for messages being “pushed” to it from the application owner’s servers. Push notifications are a powerful new mobile communications channel that create a persistent, streamlined and engaging mobile messaging experience. Similar to email marketing, push notifications can consist of plain text or rich HTML and must be opted into. Messages can be generated automatically from a server; triggered based on user activity, context (like user location) and preference; or sent manually through a web interface. Audience groups can be segmented providing the ability to create campaigns.  Like SMS, push gives you the same ability to engage users directly on their mobile devices, but at a fraction of the cost. Push costs less because it utilizes data and wifi networks instead of cellular networks. Push notifications are a direct, persistent, user-controlled and cost-effective mobile communications channel.

Why are Push Notifications important?

With the average lifespan of a mobile app hovering at 30 days after being downloaded, push notifications are becoming the centerpiece of solid, long-term mobile strategies. By driving increased consumer engagement, awareness and conversions, push notifications extend the life of an app and add usefulness to consumers. Push is catching on for companies big and small across all industries, giving brands a voice in the mobile channel and allowing them to create deep customer relationships. Push notifications provide personalized experiences, giving users control to personalize preferences and opt in or out at any time.

So what does it take to get started? To send push notifications, you first have to build an app. Smart phone users spend the majority of their time with the device in apps, creating a large opportunity for brands to connect with consumers in new ways. This opportunity is creating a demand for companies to invest more on building solid apps and measuring success in more tangible ways. Gone are the days of building throwaway apps and measuring success using download count and app store rating.  Today success is measured by how many times users open the app, how much time is spent in the app, and conversion rates, among other metrics.

Mobile networks, like Verizon, and platforms, like Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, are investing in push notifications too. They are answering the demand to build better user experiences on their devices and enhance capabilities for their customers. This evolution is providing businesses with a new ability to use social, local and mobile context to create more engaging and personal experiences. Social integration, geo-based messaging, the ability to create campaign landing pages within apps, business-friendly composition and measurement tools, along with investments in new offerings such as Notification Center and Newsstand, are helping to bring push notifications into the core of mobile strategies.

Use cases

Companies like ESPN, New York Times, Groupon, Dictionary.com, Warner Brothers and thousands of companies are using push notifications to drive user engagement, awareness and conversions. Push notifications are delivering new content, news, media, local information and deals, and they’re providing social dialogue between people. These companies all benefit from increased interaction and decreased messaging costs, while getting a “built for mobile” experience that can’t be matched by other messaging channels.  Here are a few examples of how Push is driving business results:

Delivering A Daily Dose Of Learning

Push notifications gave the world’s largest and most authoritative online dictionary, Dictionary.com, the ability to create a Word of the Day app that could actively engage their users. Dictionary.com uses push as a vehicle to deliver a new vocabulary-building word every day, directly to millions of iPhones and Androids. “We wanted to provide our popular Word of the Day to app users direct to their mobile device,” said Lisa Sullivan-Cross, Dictionary.com’s general manager for mobile. “Our word-lovers can enjoy our features without needing to launch another program or app.”

Making Radio Social

The Jelli music app aims to provide a dynamic, social, and gamified approach to radio. To better realize this goal, Jelli began promoting community and game features with a social strategy. It used push notifications through my company, Urban Airship, to revitalize social sharing and rating functions, delivering real-time alerts to highlight the app’s unique features. When users suggest a song to Jelli, they will get a push if their song makes it to the radio and if the community enjoys their song. The push notifications drove a 30 percent increase in user engagement along with dramatic increases in app usage and frequency.

Driving Commerce

According to comScore, 14 percent of users respond to offers via push notifications. LivingSocial, Groupon, and Swirl by Daily Candy all offer their daily deals to customers using push notifications. With push, these companies can assure that their customers never miss a sale, even when they are on the go. Giving users the ability to click from a daily push directly into the app has given Swirl a 60 percent increase in mobile traffic and a 20 percent increase in total mobile orders.  They are experiencing 40 percent higher conversion rates than through their mobile browser, which is driven primarily through email.

Scott Kveton is the CEO of Urban Airship, a mobile services platform provider in Portland, Oregon. He is widely recognized as an expert on mobile app strategy and cloud infrastructure. He speaks frequently on app monetization, engagement and the developer ecosystems around the various mobile platforms.

Under Kveton’s leadership, Urban Airship has added customers, employees and accolades at a rapid pace. The company powers some of the most successful brands in mobile, including ESPN, Tapulous, Groupon, dictionary.com, msnbc.com and Newsweek. Urban Airship’s flagship offerings—push notifications and in-app purchase—help apps gain success by increasing user engagement and delivering a path to monetization. As of August, the venture-backed start-up has delivered more than 5 billion push notifications across the Apple, Android and Blackberry platforms while enabling more millions of in-app mobile transactions.

Prior to co-founding Urban Airship, Kveton had more than a dozen years of experience building technology, developing business strategy and leading engineering teams with companies including Amazon.com, Rulespace, JanRain and Vidoop. He also co-founded the Open Source Lab (OSL) at Oregon State University. OSL was instrumental in helping several open source projects grow into mainstream usage, including the Mozilla Foundation, the Linux Kernel and Drupal. In recognition of his work at OSL and with the OpenID Foundation, Scott was named Red Herring’s list of "25 Titans in waiting" in early 2007 and Information Week’s "Change Agents" in December 2005.

Reader Comments.

Great article. I am hopeful that the political industry catches onto in-app push notifications in 2012.

Posted by Cami Zimmer | 5:36 pm on December 29, 2011.

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