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While apps continue to dominate the mobile market, many business owners looking to build one are thrown for a loop by endless trends and terminology. There’s a lot to learn, but if you have to settle on one thing, make it the push notification. More complex and robust than the text message, push represents the modern wave of communication that puts more power in the business owner’s hands, and it’s arguably the best ROI feature of all.

Like texts, push notifications deliver straight to users’ phones when they’ve installed an app. Unlike texts, they have a wide range of customization options that can increase user engagement. So as a business owner, you’re probably asking yourself a few questions:

  • What are the main benefits?
  • How do they work?
  • What best practices should I follow?
  • We’ve got you.

ALSO READ: What is a Push Notification?

Why do people use push notifications?
The power of the push depends on your perspective. To users, the push notification represents instant access to information with little to no energy on their part. Want to know if someone scored on your Fantasy Football team? Worried about traffic? Looking for the latest deals? Push notifications deliver key info without costing users time or money.

For businesses, push notifications offer a wealth of benefits:

Share deals and promotions instantly
Improve customer communication without impacting your schedule
Automate internal processes
Up visibility just by establishing a mobile presence
How do I send them?
Your app developer will typically provide an interface for crafting and sending push notifications. A well developed interface provides a slew of marketing benefits, including user segmentation and engagement stats. You can target the right person with the right messaging rather than bombard everyone with the same tired, generalized campaigns. Users are more likely to appreciate what you push when they recognize personalization.

How do my customers opt in?
iOS and Android handle push notification opt-ins differently. iOS users are prompted to enable push notifications when they launch an app for the first time, while Android users are opted in automatically (and disabling them takes a little elbow grease). There are benefits to both approaches. The reaction rate—or number of users who actually interact with push notifications—is obviously higher for Android users, who don’t have a choice in the matter. But they’re also more likely to feel spammed without consent, leading some of the industry’s biggest tech journalists to join the app annoyance discussion.

Apple’s approach is a little more calculated; iOS users say yes or no from the start, putting them in control of whatever follows. When an iOS user gets alerts, they’re generally conscious of the fact that they agreed to them at some point. In any case, the most important factor to consider is the value of the message you’re sending.

What makes a push notification valuable?
Regardless of how users opt in, it’s key that they’re rewarded with messages that are worth their time. A push notification is an extremely beneficial tool—a direct line to your customers’ primary communication tool. As the saying goes, “With great power comes great responsibility.” If you get too “pushy,” you may get booted from the list. On the other hand, if you’re underutilizing push notifications, both you and your customers are losing out on value.

So what is “value”? Your push notifications should encourage user action that benefits them and informs you. While they redeem offers or learn something new, you reap the ROI rewards and analyze engagement data to iterate on your marketing strategy. It removes the guesswork, giving you direct insight into what’s working and what’s falling short so you can continue to modify and monetize.

How do push notifications appear?
Both operating systems have banner notifications that pop up at the top of the screen when the device is in use, as well as a notification center that users can access by swiping downward. iOS users enjoy a bit more control—they can customize individual app notifications, from sounds and vibrations to notification type (banner, alert, badge app icon). Some users enable sound alerts while others keep it silent, opting for vibrations or nothing at all. Overall, it makes for a highly personalized experience.

What are location services?
Both Android and iOS prompt users to enable location services. When a user opts in, the device periodically sends location info to the app. This is a fantastic feature for both businesses and users because it facilitates targeted, relevant messaging. Taco Bell has mastered marketing via location services with its “Happier Hour” campaign. The app sends deals and coupons to users when they’re nearby a location. Similarly, Groupon notifies you when you’re close to a business you’ve purchased a coupon from, increasing redemption rates.

Location services ultimately help you give your customers the special treatment they want, popping up on their screens at the moment they’re most likely to engage. It’s a simple way to say, “Hey, I know you’re in the area, and we have a great deal for you.”

How can I effectively use push notifications?
Determining how often and what to push takes some thought. First and foremost, make sure you’re considering the value a message holds to the end user. Don’t overdo it and spam the heck out of their devices, but don’t underdo it and waste your money on an app that’s not meeting its full potential. If you know your customers personally, you already have enough insight to avoid the most common mistakes. Bottom line, analyze the trends, and then use them to your advantage.