Push Messages 101: Everything You Need to Know About Using Push Messages to Grow Your Small Business

  • By Tim Fitzpatrick
  • 16 Feb, 2017
Push Messages 101: Everything You Need to Know About Using Push Messages to Grow Your Small Business
Since this is about Push Messaging 101 I'm going to start with a simple definition.  

Push Message or Push Notification:  is any notification from a mobile application that displays while that app is not actively in use.  They typically appear as pop-up dialogs, banners or small badges on the app's icon.

Now that we've got that out of the way, here is what I am going to discuss in this article:

  • Text Messaging vs. Push Messaging
  • Benefits of Push Messaging
  • Sending Push Messages
  • Opt In Information
  • How Do They Appear On a Phone?
  • Location Services
  • How to Make Push Messages Effective

By the time you're done reading this you should have a firm foundation of what push messages are and how to use them in your business.

Text Messaging vs Push Messaging

Text and push messaging are very similar and sometimes people get the two mixed up or lump them into the same category.  They both arrive on a user's mobile device, typically fit within tight character limits and have open rates over 90%.

There are a couple distinct advantages with text messaging:

  • They can be received by users with older cellphones that lack the capability of downloading apps.  Having said that, the last time I checked smartphone penetration in the US was almost 80%.  

  • Text is a two way communication platform.  Not only can you send messages out, but the user can respond.  This is not the case with push messages.

  • Text works very well with one to one communication for appointment reminders.  Getting a text message reminding me about my dentist appointment tomorrow with a rescheduling link can be very helpful.

Here's where I think push messaging comes out on top compared to text:

  • Cost: Typically text message marketing plans are priced on a per message basis, so the larger your list the higher the cost.  With most app providers (like Rialto Mobile ) push messaging is included with the app at no additional cost.  You can typically send as many push messages as you want without incurring more fees.

  • Regulation: Text message marketing is highly regulated and falls under federal regulation.  It is critical to ensure your text message marketing is in compliance.  For more detailed information you might want to check out this GUIDE .  These same requirements do not pertain to push messaging, making it a much easier communication channel to manage.

  • Location Based Messaging: With push messaging you can take advantage of location based messaging (if the user enables it).  What does this mean?  You can have push messages triggered/sent based on a users location.  For example, a user drives by your bar and gets a reminder about the happy hour specials you are running today.

  • Additional Functionality:  In order to utilize push messaging you've got to have a mobile app, but push messaging is only a small part of the benefits you can realize by creating your own app.  You will have a complete set of customer service, customer loyalty and engagement tools in a mobile app that are simply not available with text message marketing.

What Are The Benefits of Push Messaging?

The power of push messages is vast and only limited by your creativity.  Here's what I would consider to be the top benefits of push messaging:

  • Increased customer engagement:  Push messaging gives you a way to reach customers quickly and easily, allowing them to take action and engage with your business.

  • Drive app usage:  Consistent push messaging will help drive activity within your app and keep users engaged in your app experience.

  • Relevant messaging:  The right push messaging platform will allow you to segment your customers so you can send the right message at the right time to users who are interested.  Relevant messaging leads to increased loyalty, engagement and action.

  • Super simple for you and your customers:  Push messages are easy for you to create and send.  They're also easy for users to consume and take action on.

  • Share events, deals and promotions instantly:  I think this one kind of speaks for itself...

  • Instant deliverability with no junk folders:  Email is great and still has a place in your marketing, but there is no better way to get out quick, important information than push messages.  They are delivered and opened quickly allowing customers to take action if desired.
Related: Mobile Marketing and the Magic of Push Notifications (Infographic)

How Do I Send Push Notifications?

Your app developer/provider will typically provide an interface or a content management system for you to create and send push notifications.  Some push message systems can get pretty advanced allowing you to do things like schedule messages, target specific users and create/send messages from your phone.  The bottom line...creating and sending push messages isn't all that much different than posting to social media or sending out an email blast.

How Do Customers Opt-In To Push Messages?

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.  Do you remember seeing a message like "would you like to enable notifications for this app?".   Android, on the other hand, automatically opts users in to push messages.  As an Android user you must disable push messages if you don't want them and it takes a little more effort to turn them off. 

There are benefits to both approaches.  With Android you obviously get higher opt in rates, but users are more likely to turn push messages off down the road if you aren't careful with the types of messages you send.  With Apple you will get lower opt in rates, but the users tend to be more engaged in your messages because they signed up for them ahead of time. 

How Do Push Messages Appear on the Users Phone?

Both iOS and Android have banner notifications that pop up at the top of the screen when the device is in use.  You can also use the notification center on your phone by swiping downward.  iOS users enjoy more control regarding how push messages appear.  They can customize individual app notifications to adjust from sounds and vibrations to notification type (banner, alert, badge app icon).  

What Are Location Services?

Both Android and iOS prompt users to enable location services.  If a user chooses to enable location services for an app the device periodically sends location info to the app.  With location services enabled you have a whole new world of possibility to reach your customers.  

Would you like your customers to see relevant specials and deals when they are nearby your location? Who wouldn't?  With location services enabled for your app you can reach your customers with relevant messaging when they are likely to engage.  Super powerful!

How to Make Push Messages Effective

I hope you are starting to see how valuable push messaging can be for your business, but you've got to follow some general guidelines to make sure you don't over utilize them or piss off your customers.  Follow these guidelines and you should be in good shape.

  • Value, Value, Value: Make sure the messages you send will be valuable to your customers.  If I get notifications that are helpful I appreciate it.  If I get junk that distracts me from my day I don't.  Always think "value" when crafting your push messages.

  • Make them relevant: By segmenting your audience you can ensure the messages you send are relevant to each customer.  For example, a customer has raised their hand and said I'd like to know about upcoming events so that's exactly what you send them.  By only notifying the customers who want the specific information you are sending, you can keep your messaging relevant and build loyalty amongst your customer base.

  • Timing is everything: Since people read and take action on push messages quickly, you want to make sure you send them at a time they are most likely to take action.  For example, don't send a "happy hour" push message Sunday morning.  Send the message an hour before the event when the customer might be thinking about where they are going to go.

  • Consistency is important: Have you ever signed up for an email list and then heard nothing until they want to sell something?  It's not very effective is it?  Sending value added push messages to your customers consistently will keep them engaged.

  • Present clear calls to action: With push messaging you've got a limited amount of space to communicate your message.  If you want the customer to take action, make it very clear.  A simple "click here" in the message and linking the push message to a landing page with additional information is a good example of directing the user on how to take additional action.

  • Maintain continuity: Remember that the user is on their mobile device.  If you link a push message to a landing page that provides additional info and it's not mobile friendly you just dropped the ball.  If a push message leads to multiple steps you must ensure it is easy for the user to complete each action.

  • Avoid to much of a good thing: You're sending messages right to a person's phone which is very personal.  In a sense, the user is opening their world to you.  Don't spam them and hit them with irrelevant, valueless messages.  You know your audience better than anyone so keep them informed via push messages in a way they appreciate.

  • Keep them short & sweet:  No one wants to read a novel via push messaging.  Mobile users are short on time and attention.  Making your messages short, clear and to the point will increase their effectiveness.

That's Push Messaging 101.  I hope you enjoyed it and got at least a few takeaways for your business.

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About The Author

Tim Fitzpatrick   is the President & Founder of Rialto Mobile.  At Rialto Mobile, we specialize in mobile apps for small businesses and K-12 schools.  If you'd like to learn more about what we do CLICK HERE .


PS.  Any business looking to improve communication with their audience and drive customer loyalty can benefit from a mobile app.  Small business owners in the salon & spa, bar & club, restaurant, retail, hospitality and nonprofit industries are seeing success with mobile apps.  Is a mobile app right for your business? CLICK HERE to find out.

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