Striking the balance between push notifications and in-app notifications in enterprise apps

I won’t lie - the thrill of receiving one of Facebook’s coveted little red circle notifications brings me more excitement than it really should. When those Facebook notifications pile up, I cannot wait to dive in and see who commented on my weekend’s wine tasting activities or tagged me in an unfortunately-now-public photo. There is something to be said for the effectiveness at which Facebook notifications spur me into the action of spending time on the platform. However, many apps encounter the exact opposite result after sending someone one-too-many notifications.

While most apps will never replicate the same level of engagement that Facebook garners, there are several ways enterprise app developers can create platforms that warrant a healthy stream of user interaction while avoiding the fatal delete button. The key is understanding the application’s users. For example, a sales rep, a marketing exec, and the CEO of a company all have different requirements around the types notifications they need, so it’s important for enterprise app developers to cater to their audience.

How do you find the right balance between push notifications and in-app notifications in a world where everyone has different needs and is already overloaded with information? Push notifications are useful in some situations, but can quickly become overkill and frustrate users. On the opposite end of the spectrum, sending too few notifications – or saving notifications for when users are already in your app – can cause an application to suffer from a lack of engagement. To tackle this, enterprise developers must first understand the level of urgency that their audience will have for each update and pair that with the right notification.

When determining the right mix of push and in-app notifications, enterprise developers should consider the below points to tread the fine line of being too pushy and failing to stay relevant.

Push notifications

Push notifications are messages sent from a mobile application – and more recently from many desktop and web apps – to a device, to surface relevant or timely information to users. The notifications appear automatically and are visually similar to an alert on a mobile device’s home screen or notification center. Users simply need to enable push notifications in their settings, in order to allow apps to send alerts, even when the app isn’t open. Ultimately, push notifications are meant to draw existing users back into the app.

Push notifications deliver high engagement, with click-through rates as high as 40 percent. This is compared to email click-through rates that typically fall within the 1-4 percent range – if you are lucky. Push notifications should be used for relevant, time-sensitive, and valuable information. When this criteria is missing from push notifications, people turn them off.

The primary guideline for enterprise app developers with push notifications is this: if information is time-sensitive, personalised, relevant and valuable, business users want to know immediately

App developers can also leverage AI-based mechanisms to provide tailored notifications that apply specifically to individuals. Waze, Google’s navigation app, sends drivers notifications when they should leave in order to arrive at their intended destination on time. Amazon’s Alexa will use voice notifications for things like song titles and Uber arrivals.

This level of personalisation drives smarter decision-making and increases the likelihood that an app’s users will stick around for the long haul. The trick now is figuring out how to bring innovative notifications to employees to promote smarter workflows and increased productivity.

Some examples of when enterprise applications should use push notifications include:

  • A timely task is due, such as a PO approval that must be completed the same day to receive a discount.
  • A new sales lead comes into the website and is assigned to an individual. When lead response time is 48 hours or more, the conversion rate is a mere 33 percent, compared to 82 percent when a response is issued within 30 minutes.
  • An anomaly in data that could be a problem. An example could be a 1,000 percent spike in website traffic in the past hour, which could indicate some sort of cybersecurity attack.

The primary guideline enterprise app developers should use to determine if push notifications are needed is this: if information is time sensitive, personalised, relevant, and valuable, business users want to know immediately.

In-app notifications

In-app notifications deliver messages to users that are already in the app, directly through the app itself. Oftentimes, in-app notifications will appear as a pop-up-window that includes images, text, or a call to action with a link that brings users to another place within the app. Compared to push notifications that intend to bring users into an app, in-app notifications are meant to drive further engagement with an app they are already using.

While there are times when in-app notifications work great, there are also instances where they should be avoided, such as when an employee is trying to complete a task. In order to avoid annoying users, here are some ideal scenarios for developers to consider in-app notifications:

  • When an application is first installed on a device, in-app notifications will guide employees through the app so they learn about the features, making them productive quickly
  • A record has changed for a customer, partner, or project in an application. If a user is accessing those records, it would be useful for them to know the record was changed
  • Providing app users with service updates on their account or offering in-app messaging with customer service representatives is a great way to earn top customer service marks from users

The most effective enterprise in-app notifications should inform users about contextual updates and drive them deeper into an app’s capabilities, surfacing actionable tasks or additional information that can impact decision making.

There is no denying that push and in-app notifications are a great way for app developers to keep users engaged and effective – which is needed in today’s workplace – but there’s a time and a place for both approaches. The key for enterprise developers is to match the most appropriate notification to the users in various scenarios – if successful, a more engaged, productive workforce will emerge.

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