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Urban Airship exec offers tips on leveraging push notifications for holiday marketing

October 30, 2013

A Rip Curl push notification

LITCHFIELD PARK, AZ – An Urban Airship executive at the Mobile Shopping Fall Summit said that brands should leverage the home screen of mobile devices to engage consumers via relevant push notifications.

During the “Preparing for the mobile majority” session, the executive laid out best practices for push notifications and advised retailers to skip pushing sales and instead offer relevant information that heightens consumers’ loyalty to the brand and lead to long-term sales lifts. She also emphasized the importance of being timely with immediate, relevant updates.

“Brands are invited to occupy the most valuable real estate on the planet which is the homescreen of the smartphone,” said Coleen Carey, vice president of product at Urban Airship, Portland, OR

“If they download your app, they’ve indicated that they have interest, they may have said yes to push notifications, so they have given you permission to interact with them, they may have even given you information about their location,” she said. “It’s a privilege to be there, and it’s important to honor the privilege.

“It’s your brand in their hand. It’s the opportunity to be with your consumer in their day-to-day lives. It’s an always addressable audience, the key difference is timeliness. Mobile creates an immediacy. You’re with your consumer in an intimate way, in their hand or pocket, they’re always addressable, so you have to honor that. “

Honor the consumer
According to Ms. Carey, 80 percent of time spent on mobile is in applications and only 20 percent is spent within the mobile Web.

The challenge, however, is to convince consumers to spend that time in your app, engaging with your brand. Brands need to figure out how to earn a place on a consumer’s device and how to keep that place.

Brands need to maintain a strong relationship with consumers to build trust. This in turn will most likely make consumers offer information about their preferences and location, allowing brands to provide more personalized experiences.

Ms. Carey pointed to two examples of brands leveraging push notifications to strengthen consumer loyalty and trust.

Burton Snowboards will notify consumers of snow levels on their favorite mountains with a “Powder alert.” Consumers can indicate which mountains they are interested in, how much snow they are interested in hearing about and when they want to hear from Burton.

By providing their consumers will information that they want, as opposed to simply notifying them about a sale on snowboards, Burton Snowboards creates a dialogue with the consumers that hooks them and makes them more likely to choose Burton when they do want to make a purchase.

The Mobile Shopping session

Create utility
When using push notifications, brands should create real utility for the consumer to provide them with experiences that matter to them.

Like Burton Snowboards, Rip Curl figured out what information its consumers valued to provide meaningful push notifications.

The Australian-based surfboard brand leverages an inbox to let consumers follow their favorite surfers and get updates about weather and surfing competitions. Since surfing competitions are very weather dependent, consumers can get a message in the morning that says whether or not the competition is still on.

Not only does Rip Curl provide valuable information, but they provide personalized information based on a consumer’s individual preferences.

Rue La La takes a similarly personalized approach with its flash sales. It lets consumers choose how far in advance they want to hear about flash sales.

Instead of bothering a consumer by sharing too much information and forcing unwanted notifications, brands should ask the consumer what he or she wants.

If brands serve the customer first, the sales will follow.

“Because of the nature of mobile you have the ability to do segmentation like never before,” Ms. Carey said. “User preferences, mobile behaviors, location profiles (not just where an individual device is in a point of time but where it’s been in weeks, months and so on), taking that data and integrating it with your backend systems so you can have a complete mobile story.”

“It’s about building a relationship, and if you do that the sales will follow because they will get excited about your brand.”

Final Take
Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

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Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer. Reach her at

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