Wednesday, 3 September 2014

A case for push(y) notifications

Push notifications have long been maligned as "intrusive" and overwhelming. I am going to go out on a tangent and make a case of them. 

Push notifications should be viewed as a modern day avatar for "text messages". We are used to receiving a constant stream of text messages throughout the day. Push notifications just add to that stream and hence they are no more "intrusive" than text messages. 

The problem however stems from the fact that a lot of these messages are not informational messages like text messages, but are a a "call-to-action" and ask you to play a game, open a message or complete a transaction. 

So if you really want your users to take an "action" you have be aware whether your users are in the right context and "in the moment". For e.g. if I get a push notification to play a game when I am in a business meeting I am surely going to feel annoyed, and dismiss it. However, if that same message came when I was waiting at the subway station for the train to arrive, I will feel that this is the right time and right place for the message to have shown up. What a difference, the context of a user makes to the same push notification! 

Ideally, a new model of push notification should be there that should take the context into account like below: 

This could be the basis of a new push notification system that can have many other properties

For example the sender could define three types of notifications

(1) High Priority: These notifications have to be delivered immediately. For e.g. change of password or PIN. They may use non-data channels like SMS to deliver them as well just in case the user doesn't have a data connection or its switched off.

(2) Normal Priority: These are equivalent to current notifications and will use data channel only and will deliver notifications and can link to an app or website for further call to action.

(3) Contextual Notifications: These are notifications that will deliver the "best engagement" results and are delivered via a context layer that builds a predictive  model to deliver the notification at the right time and right place 
              to the right user! 

           Till then, keep swiping 'em away! 


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