The 7 Push Notification Strategies That’ll Ruin Your Customer Relationships

Push notifications are an excellent way to reach users, but if not handled properly, they can do just as much harm as good. We tell you which ones to stick out with - and which ones to stay clear of

Matt McAllister
October 11 2017

Push notifications can be one of the most effective tools for building strong, long-lasting customer relationships. They present an excellent opportunity to engage with users on their most personal devices and build fruitful, long-last relationships.

Push technology is getting more complex. There are more available options for customization than ever before. Marketers need to resist the urge to dive in head-first. Instead, take a moment to consider the complexities these options introduce and be mindful of their potential to negatively impact your customer relationships. When designing your push notification strategy, here are seven strategies to avoid if you don’t want to ruin your customer relationships.

#1. Requesting Permissions on Launch

Most devices and applications require users to opt-in to receive push notifications. Prompting users on startup ensures that the maximum number of prompts get delivered. It also shows a lack of consideration for your users by demanding their trust up front with no explanation of what they can expect. When discussing push notification strategies for mobile games, Upsight’s Evan Fradley-Pereira recommends brands “… wait until your players have had a chance to play the game before you ask, and contextualize the request so that players know what they’re signing up for.” Whether it’s games or apps, keeping users informed is the best way to win their trust.

#2. Sending Multiple Notifications Per Day

Push notification permissions are a privilege. Users can take them away at any time. If users are getting multiple notifications from you on a daily basis, you’d better personalize their content and ensure that users are engaged. Measure push responsiveness to see whether or not you’re getting them back into your app. If not, dial back the frequency immediately, or risk losing their attention entirely.

#3. Including Destructive Options

Recent updates allow developers to embed app-specific actions within the notification UI that appears on a user’s lock screen. When using this feature, keep in mind that users tend to deal with push notifications quickly and oftentimes abruptly, and as a result, they can be prone to error. “Notifications can be dismissed accidentally—imagine the confusion and frustration accidentally deleting a message could bring,” says Joshua Mauldin, the Principal UX Designer at Cardinal Solutions. Don’t include any options that a user can’t undo. Leave those for your in-app UI when you have your user’s full attention.

#4. Always Using Max Priority

Android lets developers choose from one of five priority settings for their push messages, ranging from minimum to maximum. Always choosing maximum is like adding [URGENT] to the subject line of every email you send: it’s a good way to get ignored. Instead, choose a priority that reflects the content of your message. Maximum level messages should be reserved for user safety or limited-time opportunities. Midrange priority messages should reflect a user’s demonstrated interest in their content. The minimum level is a safe bet for drier content like patch notes or standard news updates.

#5. Using Notifications as an Advertising Channel

With a large enough audience, mobile marketers might consider using push notifications to promote external revenue channels like an e-commerce store. Not only is this a bad user experience, it’s also against Apple’s terms of service: “Push Notifications … should not be used for advertising, promotions, or direct marketing purposes or to send sensitive personal or confidential information.” Keep your notifications relevant to the products and services provided in your app. Promoting anything else could get you banned.

#6. Deploying to All Time Zones

You’ve spent time and resources acquiring your users, earning their trust, and keeping them retained. Sending a push notification at a time when they’re unlikely to engage is like fumbling the football a foot from the end zone. “Think about when customers are likely to be more receptive and time your alerts for then. And try not to wake them up.” says Graham Charlton, former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Schedule all your notifications according to their respective time zones. One-off deployments aren’t an option when you’re speaking to a global audience.

#7. Targeting All Users

One-size-fits-all messaging are becoming less relevant. Just ask the direct mail industry. In addition to geographic considerations, behavioral segmentation and personalization are table-stakes when it comes to developing an effective push strategy. Notifying non-converted users about a sale on a $200 IAP will not only fall on deaf ears, it will prove to customers that you’re not paying attention to their habits. Keep content relevant and segmented and your loyal, engaged user base will reward you.

Mobile marketers need to pay close attention as push notification technology continues to evolve. Every iteration of the major operating systems introduces exciting new opportunities and potential pitfalls. No matter which new features come out, keep your customer relationships top-of-mind. Respect their time and attention, and they’ll repay you handsomely. But abuse these technologies or use them incorrectly and you’re practically guaranteed to burn your customer relationships.


Matt McAllister

Matt McAllister is the CEO of Fluid PR, Inc. and twenty-year marketing veteran. Matt most recently ran marketing for Tapjoy, a mobile ad-tech platform. Matt also served as VP of marketing and content for High Voltage Interactive, an online ad network that was acquired by Aptimus, Inc. He started his career as an account executive for the PR agency Niehaus Ryan Wong.

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