OpenBack and the Heavy Hitters of Push Notifications
In a digital age where customer engagement drives the attention economy, push notifications are an app’s primary method of communicating with their users. Americans alone spend an average of 5 hours per day on mobile devices. With over 90% of that time being app usage, that is an enormous amount of engagement that can be leveraged.
According to a Business Insider report, in the eCommerce industry alone, return visitors spent $2.7 billion in Q4 2015, nearly twice the amount spent by new customers, despite there being roughly the same amount of them. And in such a competitive market, every single user an app retains is a massive win.
Clearly, obtaining a customer is only the start of the battle – for an app to reach its full potential, it will want to keep up dynamic interactions with all of its users, to keep them coming back time and time again. This means offering content that is relevant and custom-made for them, delivered reliably and at a time of maximum customer convenience.
A variety of companies have risen up to provide SDKs for app developers to manage their push notifications. However, not all of them are created equal, and different SDKs have different offerings that may not fully align with what you want for your app.
Push Notification SDKs: How They Measure Up
First, let’s take a quick look at the industry standards, and the solutions they provide. Depending on the needs of your brand, you may be satisfied with a basic package, or you may require something more bespoke.
OneSignal is the Goliath of the industry, and the numbers show: with their SDK integrated in over 50,000 live apps and helping send out a staggering 4.2 billion messages daily, OneSignal is likely the first brand that comes to mind when you think of push notifications.
They are able to consolidate push into a dashboard with simple APIs and offer a full range of SDKs to send out your app’s push notifications. This is an automated messaging mobile platform that includes iOS, Android, and Amazon Fire. Their backend platform also includes machine learning and offers tools for a high level of customization of your notification campaign.
Outside of push, they also provide web push for websites, in-app, and have recently added some email support.
OneSignal is the industry benchmark in terms of scale and regular push sending. They offer features such as rich media and deep links to make your notifications engaging and interactive. Their dashboard offers tag and variable substitution, so you can send out personalized messages.
And it goes without saying that with over 32,000 iOS app installs alone, their greatest strength is the fact that they already have a large share of the notification market.
OneSignal’s business model has traditionally been to offer a free service, making a profit by selling user data to third-party researchers and advertisers. They harvest personal information, down to phone numbers and IP addresses. And while they now offer paid package plans where data is not sent to third parties, this is only a recent development.
While this hasn’t harmed their company thus far, in a landscape where mobile users are becoming more savvy about their personal information and how it’s handled, this may drive customers away from your app.
It also leaves apps to their own devices when it comes to complying to local data laws, such as the EU’s GDPR and the United States’ HIPAA and COPPA.
Airship, formerly known as Urban Airship, are a customer engagement company with a focus on hyper-personalization and forging connections between brands and their users.
Unlike competitors who hone their attention on customer retention, Airship takes a broad approach to managing customers’ messaging campaigns. Their solution provides equal focus on a brand’s acquisition, retention, and growth of their customer base. They also offer their push notification solution across multiple channels, including mobile apps, SMS, email, web notifications, mobile wallet, and open-channel API.
Probably their strongest feature is that they offer a Mobile Wallet as a channel for Apple Wallet and Google Pay passes. Supporting mobile wallet passes not only offers another channel for brands to connect with device users, but it offers a functional purpose as well, by replacing physical tickets or pieces of paper.
They also offer the ability to test up to 27 variants of a message or notification, using A/B/n experiments to maximize the performance of your campaign based on what messages get sent to whom, at what time, over which channels, etc.
While offering all of the standard features of a mobile engagement SDK, given their broad approach to customer engagement, they sacrifice depth in other areas they could focus on. For example, their SDK, including dashboard and machine learning data metrics, doesn’t offer as much variations as more push-focused competitors.
Ultimately, with their brand’s focus on personal connection and using inspiring messages to engage the user, Airship gives the impression that it divides its attention between its tech and PR. And, like OneSignal, they take user data and store it for marketing and research purposes.
Braze (formerly known as AppBoy) is a mobile marketing company that takes a different approach from its competitors. In addition to their mobile engagement, they also offer analytics and email capabilities.
They are also a heavy hitter in the customer engagement industry, sending out 2 billion messages per month to over 420 million users. They have the strength of recognizable brands on their side, with apps such as Tinder and Dominoes among their clients.
Like others, Braze offers backend machine learning and AI across multiple channels. It claims to perform in real-time at their backend, and offers a data-streaming export tool, Currents.
Founded in 2011, Braze have built a considerable ecosystem. They’ve had ample funding and their website offers customers an array of online resources to ease new customers through the process of mobile engagement. They provide webinars, step-by-step guides, a glossary, and even a monthly themed magazine for those who really want to do a deep-dive into how to use the Braze SDK to fuel their notifications campaign.
They also offer Canvas, an internal platform to help customers orchestrate their marketing campaign through graphs, tables, and visualizations of their strategy.
Like the previous two entries, Braze may collect general personal data and contact details, such as name, email address, location, etc., and processes that data for its customers.
Braze as a company are highly secure and compliant with GDPR and other data protection laws. However, while they offer some helpful tips to customers to do the same, they ultimately don’t take responsibility for what individual apps do with their customers’ data using Braze technology.
OpenBack is a startup launched in 2016, aiming to take notifications beyond what is possible with email. As they’re relatively new to the mobile notification field, OpenBack has a lot of ground to cover in a short amount of time. Underhyped and so far flying mostly below the industry radar, they employ the newest generation of edge computing and machine learning tech. Of all the competition, OpenBack is one of only 3 platforms that offer a proprietary delivery gateway as well as one-to-one personalization based on metrics from device-side data.
And the world of mobile apps is starting to take notice. OpenBack have hit the ground running, and they already boast globally recognizable clients such as DreamWorks and Ultimate Rugby. They just recently announced a partnership with Microsoft, and are part of the Microsoft Azure Marketplace and AppSource platforms.
OpenBack’s greatest strengths are its cutting-edge, patent-pending technology, coupled with its core innovation, real-time device-side decisions. The OpenBack SDK is easy to integrate and use, facilitating feature-rich push notifications with deep links and multimedia content.
Notifications can be personalized for each app user, a segment of 1. This means not just in terms of content, but also in terms of real-time segmentation of the audience and personalizing the moment of delivery for each user, according to an underlying complex array of 200+ metrics. You can explore these as you plan your notification campaign on the OpenBack Dashboard.
Where OpenBack truly stands out from the crowd is in the fact that at no time does user data need to leave their device, and everything happens in true real-time on the device, regardless of scale. This is an advantage in multiple ways: first, OpenBack’s unique SDK lets you calibrate the moment of delivery of your push notifications on a user-to-user basis – this might be based on local time, a user’s work or sleep schedule, etc. – rather than a third-party cloud server pushing out a blast of notifications that may or may not reach their destination.
Second, since user data can remain safely in their individual devices, your application will never be liable for third-party data hacks or other security breaches. In a similar vein, since data never leaves the users’ possession, OpenBack can be fully compliant with all data protection laws out of the box – GDPR, COPPA, and HIPAA. By extension, OpenBack customers can be regulation-compliant by default.
As a newer company, OpenBack has not yet built up the archives of resources, webinars, and FAQs that Airship and Braze have over many years. Their website, documentation, and community are still very much at growth stages, despite having a fully functional, award-winning SDK already installed on 10s of millions of phones across the globe.
However, OpenBack already has a few strong partnerships under their belt, including Microsoft, Backbase, Datastacks, and more. They were also recently featured in Tech Ireland’s publication Innovation Nation as a Headline SaaS Company for 2019.
What’s more, the OpenBack team are actively forging new partnerships in the US and EU tech communities as they look to expand adoption of their approach, which provides the potential for greatly increased customer experience for notifications. Team members recently made an appearance at the App Promotion Summit in London where the CEO lead the engagement panel, and are exhibiting at MAU 2019 in Las Vegas in May.