Digital Growth: The Shift to In-the-Moment Communication

by Erin Hintz Chief Marketing Officer, Urban Airship

Every day, approximately 150 times, we’re reminded of how attached we’ve become to our mobile devices. Forrester Research calls these micro moments, or triggers that require only a glance to consume or act on immediately. No matter where we are —on a trip, in a store, on our couch or somewhere in between — we’re constantly jumping from one mobile interaction to the next.

In addition, interactions that were once anchored to desktop computers — like opening email, visiting websites, or posting social updates — are now much more likely to take place on a mobile device. Ten years into apps, we see mobile-driven experiences spreading to the browser, the car, the home and all the “things” around us.

Mobile never really was a channel, as it blurs the distinction between physical and digital worlds. And now, nearly every digital experience is becoming mobile.

But this shift has far less to do with technologies and devices and channels than it does with recognizing that consumers’ expectations to be served in their exact moment of need have never been higher.

Consumer Behavior is Changing Rapidly

From an evolutionary standpoint, it wasn’t that long ago that email introduced the world to digital communications. As we’ve acclimated to using email, we’ve also became increasingly savvy about triaging it with technology (spam filters, promotion/social tabs) and with behavioral strategies.

For example, more often than not, we first scan our inbox to see what we can delete, looking at subject lines, senders, and maybe a snippet from the email. (This amount of information, by the way, is very similar to the amount of information you see in a notification).

Layer on platform-specific chatbots and different group messaging apps, and it’s abundantly clear, perhaps dizzyingly so, that digital communication channels are proliferating at an accelerated rate.

At the same time, consumer attention is at a premium. Brands looking to get on their customers’ radar face an increasingly challenging — and expensive proposition. On the web, eMarketer estimates that 32% of all Internet users in the US will use an ad blocker on at least one device in 2017, with year-over-year usage of ad blocking software growing 30.1% on desktops and more than twice as fast on smartphones. And many popular app-based subscription services have made ad removal a part of their pricing structure, offering to eliminate ads for a fee.

Further complicating the landscape, the number of consumers that say they respond to advertising has seen more than a 100% drop in the last two years, according to a Deloitte report, The New Digital Divide. Forrester found “Eighty-eight percent of consumers say advertising has little to no influence on them when making purchase decisions. … [noting (coincidentally) that] Eighty-three percent of all marketing investment goes toward buying online and offline ads, even though the better approach is to create contextually relevant interactions across the customer life cycle” (Forrester Research, Inc., “Thriving In A Post-Digital World,” April 26, 2016).

With information at their fingertips, advice or reviews a tap away, and intelligent personal assistants at their beck and call, consumers are increasingly more knowledgeable than even your sales staff. In fact, Deloitte found that the percentage of consumers who prefer self-directed shopping journeys has grown from 30% to two-thirds in the last two years.

Communications Need to be More Effortless, Actionable & Connected

We’ve seen notifications spread from apps to websites and mobile wallets, and they are core to newer experiences enabled by chatbots, intelligent personal assistants and IoT. They‘re coming to your cars, your home and your TVs. From a consumption standpoint, there arguably isn’t a clearer expression of a call-to-action, while adding rich media and interactive buttons offers additional inspiration and effortless paths to respond. More importantly, notifications are easy to consume. It just takes a glance and I can determine if I have what I need, need to dig deeper, or ignore.

As much as people like to complain about push notifications — and we’ve all seen bad examples — their effectiveness is growing. Our fourth annual study of retail apps during the holidays found notification volume, average notification opt-in rates and engagement rates have increased every year for the past three years. Our most recent study on app user retention rates, found new users who received frequent, in-the-moment notifications were retained at rates 3–10X higher than those who didn’t.

The Message Transcends the Medium

With more and more consumers preferring self-directed journeys and shunning advertising and broad promotions, it becomes critically important to engage them on their terms and in the moments that matter. Each of your customers will have preferences for how they want to be contacted, so it really doesn’t matter how the information arrives, just that it’s relevant and important to them at the time they receive it.

Urban Airship’s new Digital Growth Platform makes this easy by bringing the utility of a notification to any channel with a commitment to open data that allows any solution to take advantage of the mobile and non-mobile data we collect.

When data is open and flowing freely between systems, marketers can attain new levels of precision. Instead of sending a one-size-fits-all weekly email, offers can be tailored to what they just viewed on the website or added to their wish lists.

More importantly, marketers can rethink how to drive customer growth, recognizing that customer experience trumps promotion. They can prioritize impact over impressions and customer utility over message frequency. For example, marketers can:

  • Follow a notification opt-in on their app or website with a welcome e-mail highlighting favorite features or upcoming specials.
  • Remind users on their preferred channel of items left in shopping carts and wish lists, or coupons that are about to expire.
  • Use point of sale data from physical stores to send receipts, warranty information and accessory upsells to customers’ preferred channels.
  • Send a follow-up e-mail or SMS if the customer doesn’t respond to a push notification within five minutes.
  • Use the latest mobile behaviors or in-store interactions to provide precise promotions or high-touch service.
  • Tie in with proprietary back-end systems for precise order status updates to customers on any channel, platform or device.
  • Trigger chatbot confirmation notifications from online, in-app or in-store orders with an offer to track shipments.
  • Email new mobile wallet loyalty members with program details and special offers.

The future of marketing is about meeting customers on their terms, wherever they may be, championing an approach that emphasizes service over sales. This is marketing with a big “M,” which strives to make people’s lives easier, anticipate what’s next, add value and even be a bit magical, and we hope you will join us on this journey.

Want to see the Digital Growth Platform in action? Schedule a demo any time.

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