Best Thing Since Sliced Bread: Push Notifications?


By Dave Carter

If you’re the user of a smartphone, you’re likely already experienced in the usefulness of Push Notifications – Or are you? You may see push notifications as intrusive status updates from friends in the Facebook realm. Perhaps you see them as bothersome updates from Twitter or your calendaring program. While these feelings and situations may hold some basis in truth and reality, you may not realize the full potential of notices via the push tools from smartphones.

As a developer of smartphone applications, I’ve been accustomed to building applications for customers with their specific needs in mind. This means I build the interfaces, the look and feel, and the behavior of the app to be just as the customer requests for their needs. This typically is the best approach – give the customer what they want. However, what they want may not take in mind what they can do.

With push notifications you can send messages directly to the people who have installed your app, even when the app is closed on a device. What does this do for you? If you’re the customer, you get notifications of sales, services, events and more. If you’re the merchant or provider, you get the ability to share with the users of the app in ways far superior to email or other media alone. With notifications, you create customer engagement by delivering directly information that can be immediately applied to their needs (the customer needs). This can be sports scores, breaking news, game updates, social media posts, stock price quotes and so much more. Each can be tailored to your audience.

There are tools that your developer can employ such as Urban Airship’s Push API, which allow you to send messages to your entire audience, to break your total audience into specific subgroups or to actually use push notifications to the individual level (stock prices, account updates, etc.). These tools allow you to specifically address your customers’ needs while keeping your interactivity level high. The more you’re interacting with your customers, the more you’re able to assure that they are consuming your information and services.

Without getting into the wealth of technical aspects required to make this work, let’s consider some of the applications of the push notifications. Some of these have already been mentioned such as the social media posts and sports stores. You may receive badge updates from Facebook games, notices from friends and similar. But from a commercial perspective, there are plenty of uses beyond this. Consider the following:

  • Inform Customers of Sales and specials
  • Announce Special Events
  • Post job openings (I’ve seen this with a coffee shop!)
  • Coordinate activities (A local Bowling Alley uses this to get tournaments set)
  • Build activist involvement (Political groups find this to be invaluable)

I helped a local beer and concert pub that needed a band (rather unexpectedly) to replace another band that cancelled at the last minute. A Push Notification sent out to the app users for their pub received almost an immediate response from a local band (of rather amusing technologists from a large networking company). The concert pub not only got a replacement band for their Friday night crowd, the ‘Johnny on the spot’ band got exposure (and more bookings).

I’ve seen push notifications in place with sporting groups and similar. A local Bowling alley uses push notifications to fill empty bowling lanes by creating instant App specials (“For two hours only: 10 can bowl for the price of 1!”). These push specials are most often immediately read and people make spur of the moment decisions based on this immediacy of data. A local subscription based gym and athletic club uses their app with push notifications to not only announce new classes (Zumba class is the big new announcement), but they inform the app users when the pool closures occur due to maintenance and inclement weather.

I helped a Midwestern auction house create an app which uses push notifications to not only inform users of upcoming auctions, they allow their users to subscribe to auction notices which allow for lot notices to be pushed to users so they can bid via phone easier. They don’t have to worry about the lots they want – they get notified when those lots are approaching bid and they can make the call to the auction house. Not only does the auction house interact constantly with their customers, they give them a value added service that greatly improves the customer relationship that drives far more sales than before. Push notifications allow you to build your customer touch points and your revenues. (Have you considered the constant opportunity to ‘brand’ yourself with your app? The push notifications underscore the branding.)

If you’re considering the push notices you’ve received, then you can relate back to the practical uses for the push notifications and they become less of an intrusion into your life and more of a benefit. If you’re a marketer (a merchant with an app), then you must consider using push notifications with your apps.

Wow, I just got a push notification: “Don’t cook tonight, come by for gourmet take out!” from a local deli!

David Pratt is a creative consultant with iDesign Mobile Apps, a smartphone application development company located in Nevada and North Carolina. Smartphone users can take advantage of technology by using smartphone apps which help them improve their lives. Mobile apps and mobile web solutions can be discussed with the experts at

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