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App marketers have a number of mediums through which they can communicate with their users, and often SMS and push notifications garner the highest rate of attention. However, while they get your message front and center, it’s important to understand there’s a delicate balance to maintain. Too many notifications and you’re annoying; too few and you’re forgotten. Even more nuanced, is when to use short message service (SMS) or when to use push-based messages. In this post, we will discuss how each medium requires consideration of the content being delivered, timing, and other factors.

Sending out an SMS

SMS notifications are a great way to reach your audience and only requiring knowing a user’s phone number. The method is best for sending messages with strong incentives in return for the user’s attention. Certain types of SMS notifications, such as marketing messages, require opt-in from users, including those in the US and carry hefty fines for violating. Transactional messages, however, such as appointment reminders, do not require users to opt-in. Use this method with caution though as too many urgent messages can turn users away.

There are several verticals where SMS lends itself to the immediacy of the content:

  • Travel: Send messages regarding the user’s trip; give updates on flight information, weather, etc.
  • Quick-service restaurants: Keep users posted on their order, when it’s ready, and how much it will cost.
  • Gaming: Notify users of a challenge where the time to complete it is limited.
  • Retail: Remind users of a limited time offer or of products waiting in a cart; include in-store promotions.

Be considerate of your audience’s location, as users in certain countries may be subject to data fees. Keep time zones in mind as well, so as not to ping users during off hours. Simply be aware of when users will most likely see the message, and, as with everything in marketing, test to find the best times to deliver.

Keep it classy with push notifications

As with SMS, marketers should choose their push messaging carefully and not bombard users who have opted in. Push is ideal for ongoing engagement and also re-activation of dormant users, but overuse could induce churn. Instead, provide users with valuable information, news, reminders, or guidance in relation to an in-app action they performed:

  • News outlet: Provide headline news for the day, based on users’ preferences.
  • Education: Welcome users to the app; prompt to finish tutorial.
  • Gaming: Notify users of friends playing online and invite them to join.
  • E-commerce: Inform users of products and services related to a previous user search.

Marketers should do their homework first in Analytics, segment their audience, and craft their messaging specifically for each segment. Employ A/B/n testing to identify the best messaging and then automate the winning message. Use customer location data to determine when and where notifications are most successful, and analyze customer behavior data to note a user’s lifetime value when marketing certain products and services.

Use push notifications to control a brand’s voice

Every brand has its own culture, and the style and voice of customer messaging should reflect that. In an era where everything electronic vies for a user’s attention, a push message could make or break a brand’s identity. Push messages can quell user dissatisfaction by pre-emptively acknowledging an issue has occurred and providing the solution for it. Or, re-ignite a user’s interest in an app with a deal for a product or service.

With such a powerful marketing tool comes great responsibility. Push notifications should be used judiciously so that when they grab a user’s attention, it is time well spent.