4 Rules for Effective Push Notifications

Push Notifications have developed over time, since the advent of the smart phone, into what is a deeply personal connection, allowing the brand to connect with it's customers 24/7, without the passive nature associated with user-initiated communications. That's something you don't get on traditional media channels such as television or radio, the ability to send contextually relevant information to your user by knowing a bit more about her. 

Apple's development guidelines dictate that all apps should explicitly ask their users for permission to send push notifications, and once that's done, it's up to the app to send information that it's important and relevant, something that adds value rather than irritates. Sending out a push notification when there is a traffic incident that may slow down traffic at the right time, for the route the user normally takes adds value. Sending out mass marketing messages via push does not.

Push is a channel for brands to directly socialize with their best customers anytime anywhere
— Pocket Guide to Good Push Web

Apple Watch notifications

With Apple Watch arriving shortly, the importance of the notification ecosystem is even more prominent, which means being a good push notification citizen is the fine line between being engaging and rewarding for your brand, and the user deleting your app. 

he limited real-estate of Apple Watches means that notifications you receive need to specifically be contextually relevant, because getting interrupted by your phone vibrating isn't half as irritating as your wrist vibrating constantly. The aim is to get glance-able information quickly to the user, whether it's on the phone or wrist based on the user's interests and behavioral habits. The user can decide whether to action further based on the immediecy of the notification.

Thinking of push notifications as guests in one's phone that doesn't want to overstay it's welcome, here are the 4 Rules for Effective Push Notifications, that will allow brands to make the most of push notifications and staying clear of being an annoying citizen:

#1 be consistent and predictable

Sounds boring I know, but being able to provide a consistent push notification rhythm, makes for a consistent brand message. When sending out traffic alert messages, use the same language and tone, and format, with deep linking from the notification to the relevant part of the app, with best-practice UX in mind. The push notification sound should also be distinguishable and predictable, yet not annoying, to further enrich your brand recognition. 

#2 Be fun and interactive

iOS 8 improved how we work with notifications. Looking at the Facebook app, or even the stock messaging app, you can now respond to a notification within the notification. Or with Foursquare, check-in when you go to a prominent or usual location by swiping and pressing check-in, without even needing to enter the app. Being fun and convenient is the key to having a good push notification campaign

   You can now reply to messages within the notification, contextually. 


You can now reply to messages within the notification, contextually. 



Apple already enforce the rule of users requiring to explicitly authorize receiving push notifications on an app-level, as well as on a more granular systemwide level, but a good app citizen goes beyond that. It allows users within the app to decide on the frequency, and type of notifications she or he is happy to receive.

For instance, if you have a Walgreens app, you would probably be more concerned with new sales when you are about to enter the store, or when you usually shop, as opposed to sending out a text message at 9pm Pacific time (which will be midnight Atlantic time) en-mass. Build trust by giving fine-control back to the users. 

#4 NOTIFICATIONS mean something to users

People no longer tolerate receiving emails that are spam, so why should they tolerate receiving spam notifications on their iPhones, which they hold in greater intimacy? 

Your app provides you with the ability to learn more about your user's habits, their interests, so why not build on that by providing information based on what they are interested in. 

The NBA app should provide either epic baseball news of interest to everyone, or push notifications on your favorite baseball team. Even more, perhaps a Warriors fan may not be interested in draft news but just game-day news. Let the customers tell you what they want to hear, and not the other way around.