Ping: A notification pops up on your phone.
Only it’s not a text message or a reply to that witty tweet you sent out a couple of minutes ago. It’s a message from your bank. By checking your GPS location and your spending details, it can tell you are at the airport and that you are just about to head abroad. It also knows that you have forgotten to exchange any currency nor informed your credit card provider that you are heading overseas.
The bank is offering to do both for you, and all it's after is your permission.
Welcome to the next frontier of advertising. This isn’t a futuristic hypothetical, services like this already exist.
Unlike the US, Australia has so far been left relatively untouched by this new wave of personalised mobile notification ads. But as mobile ad spending continues to climb in Australia, it’s inevitable that more and more marketers will turn to notification advertising as a means to connect with consumers and build brand loyalty.
It’s nothing to be afraid of. In an uncanny way, this kind of marketing could be a win for consumers.
Much like the old loyalty card, notification marketing is all about rewarding consumers for repeat behaviour and ongoing patronage. At its best, notification advertising could use data to pre-empt your needs and then meet them with little effort.
Notification or SPAM?
But fears have emerged that this trend could be ruined even before it takes off. Aside from the privacy concerns that come along with any form of targeted marketing, there are worries that push notifications could turn into the latest form the world’s most dreaded advertising techniques: spam email.
“It’s like any form of marketing” explains the head of Association for Data Driven Marketing and Advertising, Jodie Sangster.
“If it [push notifications] starts to be used as a mainstream way of getting the message across, then the challenge is going to be volume.”
“If we have a high volume, and it’s not of high value to consumers, then we have a problem,” Sangster says.
The biggest problem with this, according to Sangster, is that unlike other forms of advertising consumers can easily switch off ad-based push notifications. The most common way of receiving a push notification is through a company’s app, and they can easily be deactivated either though the app itself or through the phone’s notification settings.
Sangster worries about a scenario where the average mobile user is so fed up with notifications that they opt to turn them off before the service has had a chance to prove its worth. As a result, she’s urging all marketers to ensure that all notifications “have a purpose” and are not just a “quick sell”.
That's how global travel booking company Expedia’s is looking at its use of push notifications. Expedia uses its app to push forward flight changes and delays to traveller’s phones. It also uses them to offer to book alternative flights, where necessary.
Expedia’s global chief product officer John Kim says the company’s policy is to be “front and centre” with all notification and their associated data gathering activities. As a means of deterring consumer concerns, he says that the company’s app allows consumers to easily delete all user data and turn off notifications at any time.
But while some early adopters are pushing best practice for the technology; there is no code or enforceable charter for push notifications. There’s nothing other than the advice of marketing executives to stop the trend from going rogue.
If this does happen, it wouldn’t be a surprise. Other marketing technologies (display advertising, email marketing) have seen a similar race to the bottom that has ultimately ended up tainting the channel’s effectiveness.
The other concern is technology. Indeed, it’s risky to invest too heavily in a push notification strategy as it is beholden to the whims of the world’s major device makers. Though, with even Apple dabbling in push notification ads, it’s unlikely that the channel will disappear anytime soon.
Its future however is precarious, and relies on an entire industry's ability to evolve from simply finding ways to sell to instead focus on finding ways to help.
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