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October 29, 2015updated 30 Aug 2016 11:30am

Will push notifications be too pushy for consumers?

C-level briefing: Openmind Networks CEO Alex Duncan explains why push could be a $10.9 billion market opportunity.

By Alexander Sword

Push notifications, which allow mobile applications to send you an alert or message without you having to take any action, could be the marketing channel of the future – but will consumers be able to put up with them?

The idea of brands sending messages directly to your device is nothing new; we all receive SMSs with marketing in them. But to have the normal course of your use of the device actively interrupted by a push notification might strike users as more intrusive than a text message.

Openmind Networks CEO Alex Duncan argues that push notifications are the natural extension of modern SMS marketing, and will actually provide an opportunity for brands to further engagement.

"Today [mobile operators] have a direct link to subscribers across the globe. They send them SMS, they connect content providers and they offer some level of policy-checking. For example, can this subscriber receive this kind of message from this kind of third party?

"I’m not necessarily saying that operators go out and run at the brands that they’re not doing today.

"We’re saying, and the research has borne this out, that subscribers will react better to push messaging than they do to SMS."

Openmind just published research, conducted by Mobilesquared, suggesting that push notifications could be a $10.9 billion market opportunity.

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55 percent of the 3000 smartphone users surveyed said that they respond to Push notifications in some way, ahead of response rates of other marketing channels. SMS saw figures of 10 to 20 percent, while email saw 3.2 percent.

In addition, 23 percent ranked Push notifications as their preferred mode of mobile communication for brands and organisations.

For the push notifications not to be intrusive, their relevancy is crucial.

"It clearly has to be relevant, and that’s the job of the operator and the content provider. That doesn’t change with push," says Duncan.

Preventing disengagement from the push requires "all the same good marketing ploys they do today to avoid people saying stop SMS to a particular channel. If you’re getting content you don’t like you can send a STOP notification or call your operator.

"All the same marketing strategies remain: you have to have relevant content, know your subscribers and pick your segment of the market.

"You have to ensure that this is a segment of the market that is interested in receiving your content and that it is delivering value.

"We’re not suggesting that mobile operators spam subscribers in any way."

Duncan also argues that consumers will not lose any control from the move to push.

"There’s no intention to remove control from the consumer. One of the things we do with operators is give them a push inbox, where they can send push to a separate inbox to the SMS inbox and subscribers can configure to have push in an inbox.

"Subscribers can tone it up and tone it down based on preferences. Today, you can turn off push, for example. You may want to tailor that and say you only want push from certain providers. There are a range of policies.

Duncan explains the type of organisation that will use such a service:

"When it comes to very big companies they are more likely to have push infrastructure in place. Coca-Cola, Heineken, Budweiser, O2 events will have an app. They have to pay for those apps, for the push messaging and the market. It’s a major cost for large corporations.

There’s a broad range of organisations that will never build a mobile app and that will never market or maintain one. They can go to the operator and say ‘I like push, I like the engagement; I can’t build a mobile app and get push because I’m not that kind of enterprise. What can you provide?’"

"The operator can turn the SMS into a push, get them further engagement and charge them more for it."

"The mobile operator generally always has an app on the device. They can offer that as a channel to get push notifications out to consumers."

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