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Last update: April 2019

3 mins to read

What Exactly Is a Notification Fail?

Push notifications. For anyone with a smart device, they’re pretty much a part of the wallpaper by now. We receive them, we engage (sometimes), and then we forget about them.

When they’re done well, they can give us helpful information about a particular app or website we’ve engaged with in the past.

When done badly, they’re an invasive nuisance.

And then, well… there are notification fails.

Notification fail leads to notification rage!

What Is a Notification Fail?

Simply put, it’s when an app’s push notification is so misguided, either in terms of timing, location, quantity, or context, that it goes beyond pesky. It goes beyond irritating.

When a notification bombs so much that the user feels misunderstood or downright harassed, to the point where it actually disrupts their day, that’s a notification fail.

For instance, if you receive a push notification every ten minutes from a retail website reminding you that you have you have items in the shopping cart ready to go to checkout, that’s a push notification fail.

If you receive a push notification reminding you to check in for a flight that left the departure gate three hours ago, that’s a push notification fail.

And so on.

Occasionally they can be so absurd they’re entertaining, as with the BBC mobile app’s adorable notification fail below.

But mostly they are provoking to customers, and embarrassing for the apps themselves.

How Do They Reflect on The Apps That Send Them?

Taking into account how iOS users are asked to opt in to receive notifications while Android users receive them by default, the fact that iPhone users receive far less push notifications than their Samsung counterparts is telling. Even when done well, push notifications walk a fine line between being viewed as helpful communications versus being viewed as spam.

For example, notifications for the Duolingo app are infamous for their guilt-tripping and even aggressive tactics to remind users to put in their daily quota of language practice. This has become so extreme that their mascot, Duo the Owl, has actually become a meme as a violent stalker, even inspiring a parody Twitter account:

Luckily for Duolingo, they were able to roll with it and turn their notoriety into an April Fools prank-cum-marketing ploy:

Of course, Duolingo is the exception and not the rule. Too many badly timed and impersonal notification fails are the sign of an incompetent ad campaign. In fact, an app does itself a disservice by pushing out too many low-quality notifications. The less meaningful your customer views your communications, the less attention they’ll pay when you send out something important.

What Can You Do To Avoid Notification Fails?

First and foremost, you have to know your customer. Take into consideration when they will be in the right situation or mood to engage with your notifications, and what moment the content of your messages will be most useful to them.

Most challenges to push notifications all go back to either timing or personalization fails. It’s crucial to make sure that your notification campaign is tailored as well as possible to fit the needs of the customers it’s targeting: this means accounting for their age, location, interests, and many other unique characteristics.

All of this can be overwhelming, and there’s no guarantee you’ll completely avoid notification fails completely. This is where OpenBack can step in to provide you the tools you need to put your best face forward.

Our solution offers smart notifications driven by machine learning and device-side personal data. This means you can fully customize what sort of notification a certain demographic of customer receives, so that they only receive ads that are relevant to their interests and at the moment they’re ready for viewing.

You make the most of your notification campaign. Your customers don’t get spammed by aggressive and poorly targeted ads. Everybody wins!

Do you have any notification fails to share with us? We’d love to hear from you! Tweet them to us @openbacklibrary