The Power and Pitfalls of Using Browser Push Notifications

With the advent of browser push notifications, marketers and publishers now have a new channel to directly connect with their audience. Odds are, you’ve encountered browser push opt-in requests many times: browser-generated dialogs asking whether you want to “allow” or “block” notifications from the site you’ve just entered.

With the advent of browser push notifications, marketers and publishers now have a new channel to directly connect with their audience. Odds are, you’ve encountered browser push opt-in requests many times: browser-generated dialogs asking whether you want to “allow” or “block” notifications from the site you’ve just entered.

The ability to reach users immediately, no matter where they are, makes browser push a high potential channel for delivering breaking news or the day’s top articles. By using push to connect users directly with their best content a couple times each day, marketers and publishers can build valuable direct relationships with a broader audience.

That’s not to say browser push success is automatic. In fact, the wrong push approach can cut these relationships short before the first notification is sent. To implement browser push effectively, it’s important to recognize both its power and potential pitfalls so you can craft a strategy that doesn’t push people away.

The Power of Push

Apps for phones and tablets have been around for years, and many publishers use app push notifications to reach their audience and buzz their pockets to drive engagement, all without the algorithm interference of social or the deliverability challenges of email. However, the biggest obstacle here is usually the app itself — getting people to download your app can be tough, assuming you have the resources to build an app in the first place. Less than half of digital publishers have an app, and for those that do, audience penetration averages less than 5%.

With browser push, publishers get the same instantaneous reach of app push without the hurdles. Not everyone will download an app, but everyone uses a browser and browser push notifications are functionally identical to app notifications. They appear on your desktop or phone home screen, even if you are not browsing the web. And with all modern web browsers now supporting push on mobile and desktop, your potential audience is significant.

Even better, you have a good chance of converting this potential audience. Browser push tends to earn higher opt-in rates than other channels because of its low-hurdle opt in.

While some visitors may hesitate to hand over their email address, especially on mobile, you may succeed in asking them to complete a lower-effort action. Opting into push requires nothing more than clicking the mouse, giving publishers access to a sector of their audience that might be wary of giving up personal information.

The Pitfalls of Push

These benefits have led more marketers and publishers to incorporate browser push into their strategy, especially as increased browser support makes it more attractive and companies like OneSignal give them the ability to send unlimited push notifications for free.

Of course, wider use of push doesn’t mean that marketers and publishers are using it the right way. Those push subscribers who refuse to hand over their email address probably wouldn’t be happy to learn that free browser push services make a business of selling their user data. Making a serious push with browser notifications may require publishers to rethink the use of free push services. They’ll also have to rethink their push approach.

Many browser push strategies go awry at the attempt to obtain the opt-in. Often, marketers and publishers rely solely on the browser’s default permissioning request, that dialog box generated natively through the browser as soon as the page loads. While the default dialog does offer a low hurdle for your audience, it creates a high-stakes situation for you. Before visitors even get a chance to view your content, default dialogs hit them with an ultimatum: agree to receive push notifications from this site or block them outright. It’s hardly a way to welcome new visitors.

Without prior knowledge of your content, your invitation will most likely be rejected. And since very few people will dig deep into their browser settings to reverse their decision, your push notifications are essentially blocked forever, robbing you of a chance to connect in the future.

Growing Your Push Audience

The key to growing your browser push audience lies with a more strategic opt-in request. In order to maximize your audience and prevent an immediate block, it’s best to make sure the browser dialog is displayed only at the point when your audience is likely to convert.

To do so, you can present an initial message that lets visitors trigger this allow/block prompt themselves, making it likely that users only see the dialog box when they’re ready to opt in. That way, if they haven’t reached that point yet, you still have a chance to convert them at a later time, after they’ve seen enough of your content to know they’d like to receive alerts about it.

Deploying your own opt-in request also gives you the ability to customize your message, which can make all the difference when it comes to earning an opt-in. Like email newsletter capture forms, you can compel more people to opt in by first telling people what they’re opting into. By clearly communicating the value of receiving your push content, you can earn something more valuable in return: a direct audience relationship.

Migrate Facebook Followers Now to Opt-in Email Lists

If you use Facebook in your marketing mix, there are new concerns about user engagement, suggesting you need to be more proactive than before about migrating your “followers” to your opt-in email list. During the past couple of years, my observation, now backed up with research, reveals that fewer people …

facebook email logoIf you use Facebook in your marketing mix, there are new concerns about user engagement, suggesting you need to be more proactive than before about migrating your Facebook “followers” to your opt-in email list. During the past couple of years, my observation, now backed up with research, reveals that fewer people are posting updates about their lives and instead have moved on to sharing news (often “faux news” with spammy clickbait headlines), videos and stuff having little to do with themselves.

The drop is significant: 21 percent fewer posts with users’ own words and images from 2014 to 2015, and a 5.5 percent drop in sharing, according to a report in Inc. and The Information.

Why Facebook Followers Are Risky

Why is this bad news? Because sharing life events is the magnetic allure of Facebook that keeps users coming back. But if users aren’t sharing updates about themselves as much, and instead are posting faux news and cute animal videos, it stands to reason that Facebook users will engage less frequently or move on to other platforms where sharing is still predominant.

As to why people aren’t sharing as much, I posed that question on my own Facebook page, and a friend wrote this:

“I love connecting with friends and family who live far from me. But, as you have observed, fewer of these folks are posting personal photos/content. I have heard comments about:

• Fear of predators who see photos of children and then stalk them;

• Fear of current or future employers using your posts of party activities (toasting with an adult beverage) or concerts against you;

• General lack of privacy even when you think you’ve tightened your settings;

• Dislike for the targeted advertising — I post something about back pain and then I get ads and junk emails for related products;

• The systematic way Facebook decided what/who you prefer to see, even when you have marked the pages and people you want to follow first.”

5 Ways to Encourage Facebook-to-Email Opt-Ins

As a marketer, if you have followers on Facebook or any other social media, remember that you are merely “renting” the privilege of communicating with them. You don’t “own” the name as you would with your postal or email list. Here are some actions you can take to migrate Facebook followers to opt-in to email:

  1. Aggressively encourage your followers to opt-in to your email list. In the apps section on your Facebook business or organization page, you can embed a link within Facebook to opt-in to your email list, integrating with an email marketing system, such as Mailchimp or others.
  2. Encourage followers to click on posts that lead to your website, and when they do, encourage them to opt-in to your email list. While most of us as consumers may not like pop-ups on websites, they work for building an opt-in list.
  3. You need strong headlines to earn clicks. With so many spammy clickbait headlines and faux news stories, be mindful about how you entice followers to click on your posts. Build trust with credible content.
  4. Your posts are going to sink down the news feed quickly. You have a couple of options: Post multiple times daily (some have found that four times per day is optimal, but change out the content each time), or pay to play with sponsored posts where you set the audience, amount you’ll spend and length of time the post will be boosted.
  5. Consider creating a custom audience using Facebook remarketing ads. After adding a pixel to your website, you can serve ads to people who visited within the past 180 days. This is one more tool to bring people back to your website to opt-in (or better, make a purchase).

The gold standard for generating conversions and higher ROI is email and postal mail. If you think you can completely replace these channels by posting to your followers on Facebook, your marketing performance will surely disappoint as Facebook risks becoming less about people sharing their lives.

My advice for a back-up plan: Don’t abandon Facebook. I’m certainly not jumping off the Facebook wagon for any of my clients, but work harder to grow your “earned” email list now, so you own the name.

(Want more tips and advice about how to align your messaging with how the primitive mind thinks so you can attract more customers? I’ve put together a seven-step guide to help you titled “When You Need More Customers, This Is What You Do.” Or get all the details in my new book, “Crack the Customer Mind Code” available at the DirectMarketingIQ bookstore.)

Unsubscribing Should Mean Never Having to Say You’re Sorry

It strikes me that many companies seem to be out of compliance with the CAN-SPAM laws and don’t make it easy to even find the unsubscribe link. And, when I finally locate it and click on it, I’m often presented with a survey — and one that you can’t ignore.

If you’re working at the speed of light (and who isn’t, these days?), chances are you’ve opted in to a company’s email list (either on purpose or automatically when you made an online purchase).

I honestly don’t recall opting-in to many of the company emails I receive, but since I usually just smack the “delete” button, I don’t give it much thought — until I try to opt out.

It strikes me that many companies seem to be out of compliance with the CAN-SPAM laws and don’t make it easy to even find the unsubscribe link. And, when I finally locate it and click on it, I’m often presented with a survey — and one that you can’t ignore. Because I just want to be done with it, I often fill out the “why are you leaving?” field with garbage keystrokes (do you think they find that helpful feedback?).

The companies that annoy me the most are those that appear to have multiple email opt-in streams — and for some reason, somebody decided I should be opted into to all of them:

  • Daily emails with info that’s hot off the press
  • Weekly recap of the daily emails so I can peruse what I may have missed
  • Monthly emails that highlight key opportunities
  • Quarterly emails that feature the most popular content/sale items

Are you kidding me?

Recently, the landing page made me add my email address and “submit” to each one of these options in order to be unsubscribed. And yet I keep getting their emails two weeks later!

Building and keeping relationships with your customers and prospects is a vital part of the nurturing process. But when someone wants to leave your opt-in list, the last think you should do is lock the door and refuse to let them out unless they meet all of your demands.

Instead of leaving with a warm and fuzzy “It’s okay … I may still come back and peruse your products and buy something when I’m ready” feeling, I’m leaving with the snarly “I wouldn’t buy anything else from you if you were the last vendor on earth!” attitude.

Whether you’re forced to provide an unsubscribe link because of compliance, or whether you do it because you understand the real value in database marketing, I’m begging you to let your customers and prospects leave on good terms. After all, you should be hoping that it’s a temporary break up — and not that bitter, “you’ll never see your kids again!” divorce.