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Last update: June 2020

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Digital Wellbeing and Dynamic Notifications: How OpenBack Puts the User First

Push notifications started off with good intentions. In 2009, iOS launched in-app messages for their iPhones and Android followed suit soon after. It began as a fast, efficient way for app developers to communicate with their users. Push notifications are easy, concise, and disappear as soon as the user interacts with them, meaning they don’t take up your device storage space. They have high delivery rates and don’t get caught by filters, the way emails do. And yet, mobile app users equate push notifications as spam. Infamously, Tim Cook has even advised turning off notifications as a rallying cry for digital wellbeing. What went wrong? More importantly, how do OpenBack’s dynamic notifications allow app developers to revert to their original purpose of providing useful, timely information that benefits the end user?

dynamic notifications

The Dark Side of Push Notifications

There’s no denying that over the years push notifications have gotten a little… pushy. One little ping to let a user know their rideshare has arrived at the pick-up point, or the dress they ordered has been shipped from the vendor, can turn into a deluge of irrelevant and unasked-for information. And multiply that by twenty apps, or fifty, or a hundred, and that turns into a never-ending stream of distractions. Lazy marketers who sent out notifications indiscriminately, without tailoring them to specific user segments or schedules, have turned what was once the mobile equivalent to email into a mental health crisis.

Many studies show how this sitting in constant expectation of the next tiny dopamine rush might be affecting our attention spans, as well as our work output. According to the Harvard University blog, the neural feedback loops created by notifications are the same pleasure bursts created by slot machines, or cocaine. And studies have linked excessive smartphone usage to higher levels of anxiety and depression, and poor sleep quality.

What Is Digital Wellbeing?

Digital wellbeing is a recent trend among tech companies to push back against the excess of distractions and white noise caused by our devices. And push notifications are one of their main targets. This includes Android’s Digital Wellbeing, which focuses on returning more control to the user of how much and how often they want to hear from their mobile apps. This includes features such as switching off notifications before the user goes to bed, putting your phone in “Do Not Disturb” mode when you place it face-down, etc. Android even offers the capability to divide your phone’s interface into a work profile and a personal profile. This keeps different categories of apps separate, so your work life doesn’t creep into your home life.

Apple has also launched their digital wellbeing suite with iOS12, called “Screentime.” This gives users more means of tracking their hours of phone usage, as well as the options to silence notifications and limit app use. Plus, it provides parents greater oversight on kids’ digital activities. Facebook has also been looking for a dynamic, proactive solution to notifications overload. They opted for a “quiet mode,” in which users can block out an 8-hour period of the day when notifications are muted.

ios12 screentime digital wellbeing
Image Source: https://www.apple.com/uk/newsroom/2018/06/ios-12-introduces-new-features-to-reduce-interruptions-and-manage-screen-time/

The Solution? Dynamic Notifications

Despite what tech gurus are saying, the answer to the overuse of push notifications is not to switch off completely. The onus should not be on users to defend themselves against a positive tool being used poorly by developers. The answer to communication overload is not to completely cut off all attempts at conversation. Because then you’ll miss out on the notifications that really matter: if your boss mentions you on Slack, if something you’ve been searching for online for weeks goes on sale, if your flight departure gate changes.

In this, OpenBack’s dynamic notifications return push technology to its original goal. And that is to communicate useful, relevant information to the app user. OpenBack has achieved this by completely overhauling the faulty architecture of the push notification SDK. By implementing edge computing and machine learning, OpenBack bypasses the need for user data to be siloed in a centralized cloud server.

With OpenBack’s dynamic notifications, user data stays on the device. And the entire process of data leverage and notification delivery can take place between the device and the app’s backend. This has many benefits. First, without the lag time endemic to using a third-party cloud server, it boosts delivery rate. This means dynamic notifications can occur in true real-time, rather than the best-effort send of the traditional method. When your marketing team schedules an app to send at 7:30 pm, it will arrive at 7:30 pm. Not 8 pm, not 1 in the morning, and so on. This means no more pinging users while they’re in the middle of their commute, or cooking dinner, or sleeping.

This higher reliability and accuracy in timing means with OpenBack developers can personalize notifications to an extent not previously possible. You can send users notifications tailored to their geolocation, their mood, their in-device activity, and 40+ other data signals. And you can trust that it will arrive exactly at the moment you want it to. OpenBack’s dynamic notifications allow you to access unread notifications to update, edit, or even delete inaccurate information.

OpenBack Dynamic Notifications and Digital Wellbeing

So how does this fit into digital wellbeing? It means mobile marketers no longer have to play the numbers game. Instead of sending all users 20 notifications , you can now send 2 notifications specifically targeted to the individual user. Instead of sending 5 notifications to stay abreast of a changing situation (say, traffic or news updates, or changes in a flight itinerary), you can send one notification and amend it as needed.

This means less noise, less hassle, and a more positive, respectful relationship with your user. And that, in turn, means more app opens and a healthier mobile ecosystem.

Contact one of our experts to learn more about dynamic notifications and how they can optimize your push campaign.

Read our blog post on “adaptive scheduling” to learn more about how sending notifications at the right moment can boost your click-through rate: Notifications Click-Through Rate Boosted by Adaptive Scheduling

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