Your Push Notification Strategy Needs an Upgrade for Wearables and iBeacons

Mobile devices like the smartphone or tablet have become an integral part of our daily lives and activities. Now, the same spirit of innovation and disruption that produced these devices has compelled us to envision an “Internet of Things” that will interconnect our society more than ever before–not just to each other, but also to the structures, machines, equipment, and computers that surround us.

These days the term “mobile device” has expanded to include wearable technology like Google Glasssmart watches, health trackers, and recreational equipment, as well as increasingly popular smart home devices and appliances. It is the responsibility of app developers to manage the user experiences created by our sudden immersion into these new vast, real-time, targeted data networks, or else they risk overwhelming their users with distractions.

Managing this new super-connected user experience starts with rethinking Push Notification Strategy.

Notification Centers

Google and Apple foresaw the role of push notifications changing in 2012, as they should have, and it’s clear both put serious thought into the evolving role of push when designing and building their latest mobile operating systems. Whereas a push had a short lifespan before notification centers emerged–meaning they would normally live and die on the lock screen–now most devices have robust notification centers that make push notifications visible and accessible long after they are received. This allows app developers to design each push so that it adds active or passive value to the app, and to consider that not every push necessarily has to engage users in real-time.

Using Push to Establish Value

With over 1 million apps in both Google and Apple markets (and growing every day), push has become a priority because apps that once easily found their way onto a user’s home screen are now competing to stay on the phone at all.

To keep bringing users back to your app, you must use push notifications with a marketing sensibility to consistently engage the user and reiterate the usefulness of the app’s features, but without bothering them so much that they turn them off—or worse yet, delete the app entirely. After all, users today are deleting 20% of all apps they download after only using the app once.

Different Push Types

How do you avoid letting your push strategy become a nuisance? It starts with communicating the benefit of your pushes clearly in the app, and offering users the ability to control what types of push alerts they’ll receive. While today’s operating systems allow users to dictate how their device receives and displays all pushes, most are skeptical that they need or want to see all of your app’s pushes.

So don’t make it an all-or-nothing option; instead, provide users with a screen in your app allowing them to opt-in to each type of push. For example, I would agree to receiving a push from my bank’s mobile app when my deposits go through, but I certainly won’t want to receive one every time I make a purchase or withdrawal using my debit card.

[image source: MallMaverick]

Wearable Devices and iBeacons

How does the emergence of the wearables market affect the push paradigm? Simple: Push notifications are now the single most important piece of mobile/wearable strategy, because they are a call-to-action that can be received on multiple devices with differing capabilities. When deciding which device should receive a push, we must isolate the goal of each notification, and prioritize it accordingly. Just like an email or text, there is more than one type of push you might send, and any number of actions each push prompts.

For example, there’s a vast difference between the aforementioned push from my bank app letting me know that an invoice or check has gone through versus a push from LinkedIn’s app alerting me to a new connection. Both are important to me as an entrepreneur; but while the bank app’s push passively reassures me that an expectation has been met, the LinkedIn push instead prompts immediate action or thought (Who is trying to connect? How do I know them? Should I accept? And so on…), even though that push is not necessarily going to prompt every LinkedIn user to take that immediate action.

Wearables also mean we must envision new use cases and predict new habits, especially with the emergence of iBeacon marketing. Ever since I began wearing a smartwatch, I look at my smartphone less often. I can glance at my watch during a meeting, whereas pulling out a phone is at best distracting, and at worst an insult to others present in the meeting. I’ve also started checking my heart rate more often to monitor my conditioning as an athlete. I’ve been using more voice activation to reply to emails and texts, which has surprised me because while I’ve had that feature available on my Android phone, before the smartwatch I never used it.

The Big Picture

In September, Apple is largely speculated to reveal their newest iPhone, along with a long-rumored wearable device commonly known as the iWatch. Meanwhile they, along with Samsung and Google, have already announced new health-tracking platforms that will integrate with their smartphones and wearables.

Not only is the amount of data we are gathering now increasing at an exponential rate, but mobile devices themselves are quickly evolving in form, function, and relevance. We must carefully consider how we employ push on these devices to maximize their efficiency and establish their benefits.

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