How Push Notifications on Mobile Are Changing Hyperlocal

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When you think about mobile today, its hard not to think about a time when your phone buzzes and you look down and see a text message that informs you that you are roaming and should buy an additional data plan or that there is a great deal nearby. Push notifications have come a long way in the last 24 months.

As businesses and brands we can no longer ignore the potential available to us to reach large audiences via this simple engagement model.

Xtify, a leader in this space announced last week that its platform recorded over 1 billion monthly location updates for the first time in May. Xtify’s push notifications are used by leading brands to engage their mobile audience, influence customer engagement, and drive purchase activity. Xtify’s platform works worldwide for native iOS, Android and BlackBerry smartphone and tablet applications as well as apps developed with Adobe’s PhoneGap platform.

Perhaps more intriguing is that their data suggests that smart notifications sent using Xtify’s real-time location-triggering technology have demonstrated sustained action rates 3 times that of non-geo triggered messages. This indicates that a location-specific alert is much more effective in reaching an audience that can be influenced to drive traffic to your intended destination.

According to CNET, Apple has added push notification-support for Government alerts (“AMBER Alerts” and “Emergency Alerts”) in iOS 6. As you can see in the associated image, two new toggles — one for “AMBER Alerts,” and another for “Emergency Alerts” — have appeared in the “Notifications” section of the built-in Settings app in iOS 6. Users have the option of enabling what they presume to be push notifications for these two alert-types, meaning that in the event of an emergency, users would receive a notification on their iDevice.

There are many subtleties to the push notification conversation. How, when and why to deploy push notifications depends, on the type of app (a news app, social app or game, for instance) but also on the type of platform they are being pushed from. Android, iOS and Windows Phone all handle push differently and that can be a source of frustration for developers.

The consensus among many developers is that the way push works on Android is the most preferable in terms of user experience. For instance, if an app sends 20 push notifications to an Android smartphone, only the most recent notification will show in the users’ message tray.

Whereas in iOS notifications almost always arrive in real time and are gathered in a drop-down notification tray that was released with iOS 5.0. iOS notifications are also the most intrusive. Unlike Android, all notifications are shown in the tray, and they tend to build on top of each other.

Apps like those from The Weather Channel and Words With Friends have shown that push notifications can be very effective . If there is severe weather, like a large tornado coming my way, you best believe I want a timely push notification. The Weather Channel is parsimonious about how it sends notifications, usually only pushing news when something dramatic is about to happen. Words With Friends is the best example of a game using push to tell a player when it is their turn. It is one of the features that makes the game so addictive.

Coming at it from another angle, we have all seen in-app ads in several shapes and sizes and in all of their screen hogging glory. Enter Airpush, which has introduced their own style of push notification advertising, a new method to deliver ads that will supposedly increase click-through rates (CTR) up to 40 percent without interrupting the users’ in-app experience. This type of ad service offers a platform that utilizes the drop-down notification window of your Android device to deliver ads. Put another way, instead of serving an in the app, they push an ad into the notification tray, which is always on.  No need to make sure you’ve launched the app

It remains to be seen whether this is simply over the top and will be construed as spam by consumers, but smart businesses should no doubt be testing this type of advertising now.

Since consumers likely have their phones with them at all times, sending a push notification to alert consumers of an app update or sale opportunity can serve to drive the brand to the forefront of consumers’ minds. In addition, brands can take advantage of location-based technology to interact with consumers if they are in a certain area or if they enter a store.

One such brand, Saks Fifth Avenue sends push notifications to consumers who have downloaded its app. The brand’s messages span everything from available products to in-store events.

Asif R. Khan is a veteran tech start-up, business development and marketing entrepreneur currently serving the community as founder and president of the Location Based Marketing Association (The LBMA). Weekly podcaster at This Week In Location Based Marketing every Monday. Can be found at @AsifRKhan @TheLBMA on Twitter.