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Last update: February 2020

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How to Avoid Push Notification Fatigue for Your Users

It’s no secret that push notifications don’t exactly have a great name in the mobile world. When marketers don’t take the time to personalize, when they send out notification blasts with no regard to the user’s convenience, they become a nuisance. In 2020, with mobile marketing strategies more or less unchanged for over a decade, device users are suffering from a bad case of notification fatigue. Even Apple CEO Tim Cook has famously told iPhone users to follow his lead and turn off their notifications.

So what is really causing this fatigue? And how can mobile marketers change tactics to be more respectful of their users’ headspace?

Notification Fatigue and the Attention Economy

Push notifications, social media, and checking email are all addictive in the same way. The need for instant psychological stimulation, which provides us a quick burst of dopamine, results in endlessly scrolling down our newsfeeds, or checking our phones. In official terms, this is called a “compulsion loop.”

This plays into the so-called “Attention Economy,” a business model launched by the internet era. The attention economy, in an age where free content proliferates, has instead monetized consumers’ attention. Sizmek defines it as:

“An environment where consumer attention is the resource. This resource is increasingly scarce because of media overload, the amount of places we can receive messages and the flood of content we receive every day.”

This has been exploited by digital marketers who assume the best way to get noticed is to play the numbers game. To be the one brand who screams the loudest. But with every other app using the same strategy, they all blend into a crush of white noise. Not only is this distracting to users, but it can be harmful to their mental health as well. Living in a state of constant distraction results in lowered productivity at work. Studies have shown that, once distracted from a task, it can take an average of 23 minutes before you can refocus your mind on that task again.

This can result in depression, anxiety, and linked mental illnesses. Overuse of smartphones has also been linked to poorer quality sleep. And, of course, we’ve all seen that episode of Black Mirror.

Notification Fatigue Also Harms Your App’s Profitability

Are you convinced that the very structure of push notifications is long overdue a revamp? If not, consider that the old method of indiscriminate notification blasts harms your app as well as your users. More and more people are fed up with their notification fatigue, and switching off push notifications altogether. That in turn drastically decreases user engagement with your app. Some people are even so fed up with the constant barrage of messages that they’re downgrading to dumbphones.

The difference in how iPhones versus Androids treat push notifications speaks volumes. Android automatically enables push notifications, and the user has to manually opt out of them by going into settings. Conversely, iOS requires users to opt in if they want to receive notifications from a particular app. Upon downloading an app, they are asked whether they want to receive notifications. As a result, apps downloaded on Android phones have nearly twice the opt-in rate as those downloaded on iOS phones.

In some cases, push notification fails – and this can mean too many push notifications as well as poorly timed or irrelevant ones – can even result in users uninstalling the app. It’s a classic case of “this is why we can’t have nice things.”

When done correctly, push notifications that take into account app users’ needs and schedules can boost both engagement and revenue. By waiting for the right moment and adopting an adaptive notification roster that complements your users’ schedules, mobile marketers can see a boost in click-through rate of up to 60.7%. 

Here’s How OpenBack Can Help

How can we win back our users’ trust? How can we cut out all the spam and make sure we’re sending them only notifications that will pique their interest?

At OpenBack, our push notification architecture is structured in a completely different way from traditional, cloud-based push platforms like APNS and FCM. By using edge computing and machine learning, we leverage user data directly on the device. This does away with the time lag that exists in the standard push architecture, meaning app users receive notifications in real-time in and the exact order in which they’re sent. This allows developers to pinpoint the right moment to send notifications. No more pinging users when they’re driving, or at work, or at 3 in the morning. Real-time notifications, informed by leveraging users’ schedule and calendar data, mean you can be considerate of their daily lives.

Our 40+ data triggers also mean you can personalize notifications to an unprecedented extent. This means no more spam. No more casting wide nets of generic messages in hopes of boosting your click-through rate. OpenBack provides you the tools for customizing notifications to your users’ exact interests. This means users will receive less distractions, but with a higher likelihood that they will find value in your notification. And thus a higher likelihood of meaningful engagement. Everyone wins.

While it’s too late for Andrew Scott’s girlfriend in Smithereens (spoiler!), we’re confident that OpenBack will be a frontrunner of the mobile engagement revolution. With marketers carefully deliberating on what notifications to send – and when to send them – that will be of utmost benefit to their users, we are looking at a complete change in how people interact with their smartphones.

Get in touch with one of our experts to learn more.

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