Getting Pushy with Notifications Can Pay Off with Millennials


With the volume and velocity of messaging in the digital economy increasing seemingly exponentially, brands everywhere need to weigh not only what information and content they share but also how much and the delivery channel they use. When it comes to highly connected millennials who use location-based apps, brands and retailers stand a good chance of cutting through the clutter with push notifications.

In a survey of 500 U.S. millennials commissioned by Retale, a location-based mobile and digital company that connects shoppers with local retailers, 84 percent of respondents said they act on push notifications they receive. An even higher percentage (89 percent) indicated they likely would take action on a notification from a favorite brand, demonstrating again that loyal customers tend to be the best customers.

Those are extraordinarily high engagement rates, but then again, millennials have the reputation of never putting down their phones. research cited by eMarketer found that millennials spent more time than older consumers on nearly all mobile communication activities other than email.

Their reliance on their smartphones extends to location services. In the Retale study, use of location-based apps was near-universal, reaching 94 percent of respondents. That indicates a solid base for brands and retailers looking to connect their content with their customers’ context.

Coupons/discounts (61 percent) and customer rewards (61 percent) topped the list of millennials’ preferred types of information, followed more distantly by new product information and sale availability, at 35 percent, nearby store locations and store hours, also at 35 percent, and receipts after completing a purchase, at 27 percent. In-store guidance providing product location information finished at the bottom of the list, cited by just 16 percent of respondents.

Everyone likes to be in on a deal, but as beacons become more commonplace, retailers and their technology partners have begun thinking about ways to use mobile beyond as an efficient coupon delivery channel. Yext’s recently announced Xone, a beacon-based program for businesses to engage in-store consumers with relevant content, fits that mold. With Xone, businesses can deliver a range of information, from Wi-Fi codes and new product information to standard-issue sales promotions to incentives to download a brand’s app or become a social media fan or follower. One way participating businesses may use a program like Xone is to start by providing utility and move progressively to deeper engagement.

Relevance, frequency, and timing are key factors in making such a sequence work. In the Retale study, insufficient relevance (39 percent) was the top reason why respondents did not act on a notification, followed closely by complaints about intrusiveness (34 percent). One-quarter also said they received too many notifications and 11 percent stated those they received were “poorly timed.”

Being push-y can work for brands and retailers, especially with an always-on demographic like millennials, but as the Retale survey indicates, basic rules of engagement still apply.

Noah Elkin is Street Fight’s managing editor.

  1. October 27, 2015

    I think it’s worthwhile to consider if there’s an alternate reason why millentials might be more tolerant or even friendly to excessive push notifications. Could we simply explain the desire to be ready to pounce on flash deals to people are scavenging because they have less economic power or lack the life experience to realize that most of the time the things they ended up buying because of a price drop frequently come with lower total satisfaction than things that were purchased as the result of forethought and careful decision making?

    I’m in my 40’s and due to chance circumstances, I got online at an early age as did many of my friends. I’ve been online for just short of 30 years and I often see similarities with a former version of myself when I read about millenials and their online behaviors. No, the situations aren’t totally comparable because technology has changed a lot, but a lot of the explanations of my behaviors that I would have accepted back then as patterns of a highly connected person of his time in retrospect really were just the behaviors of a guy who had extra time, was not yet wise to the ways of marketing, and didn’t have much money.

    I’m none of those now. I especially don’t have time. I still would jump at the chance to save a few bucks or have a brag worthy steal to show off to friends, but you’re not going to get me to lose hours of valuable time getting distracted by notifications waiting for it. If I want it and need it, a few bucks is more effort than it’s worth. It’d be tempting to say that this is an exhibit of typical goal driven Gen Xer behavior., but I just see it as the behavior of someone who’s had enough dopamine highs from scoring a modest deal to realize that it’s really not that great of a high and someone whose priorities have shifted from conserving currency to conserving time and energy.

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