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Push notifications are the little messages that pop up on your smartphone’s screen. From alerts about phone calls, emails and texts to communications about restored game lives and special sales offers, push notifications are a major aspect of smartphone communication abilities.

There are some distinct marketing possibilities lying in wait in the realm of push notifications. It’s important to note that these communications can be interpreted as intrusive, and smartphones give users the option to disable this feature. Only about 50 percent of smartphone users have push notifications enabled, and it’s important for marketers to avoid alienating this audience. That means smart strategy is essential for the short-term results and long-term success of push notifications marketing.

How to Use Push Notifications

Before we dive into strategy, you should be aware that you can’t send push notifications to just anyone. Push notifications aren’t text messages—they’re notifications from mobile apps. If your brand doesn’t yet offer an app for customers to use, you can’t send push notifications.

If you do have an app, you’ll want to make sure your approach to push notifications is as judicious as possible. You should have a clear reason for sending push notifications to those who allow them, and that reason should be focused on benefit to the customer.

There are two basic ways to use push notifications: relationship marketing and sales. Push notifications can be encouraging, fun or useful. For example, airlines like JetBlue have started using push notifications to alert customers when they can start checking in for flights. This adds benefit for the customer and strengthens their perception of JetBlue as an easy, helpful airline to fly.

Push notifications can also help customers get more use out of an app. A fitness app, for example, may provide a gentle reminder to a user who hasn’t logged gym hours in a week or so. It’s essential to make sure any language used in these reminders is friendly and encouraging. People who feel harassed or bullied by push notifications are likely to just turn them off and may even delete your app.

Using push notifications to drive sales is a bit trickier, because these notifications can feel more like advertisements. This is when it’s especially important to carefully craft the language you use in the notification to make it clear you’re trying to help rather than push the customer.

Location-based push notifications can be useful in these circumstances. A retail store that has an app may create push notifications to alert customers about special deals in store when they get within a quarter-mile radius of the physical location.

Clothing stores like La Redoute use push notifications for another helpful purpose—to remind customers about items they’ve left in their shopping carts without completing the sale. This is a great way to address shopping cart abandonment and to gently nudge a customer toward a purchase. Again, though, it’s important to use good judgement. Don’t spam the customer with a ton of notifications—one is probably enough.

The ultimate goal of push notifications marketing is to keep an important line of communication open and functional. That means being careful with your strategy and avoiding anything, whether language, frequency or messaging, that seems too aggressive. No one wants to see unpleasant notifications on their phone screen, so make sure you’re always telling your app users something they want to hear.