By Stephan Schirrecker, VP of Marketing of cloud communications platform provider, Nexmo

Recently the likes of Instagram, Google Chrome and Facebook have all introduced notifications as a new way of engaging with their customer base. This is introducing the concept of notifications as a platform, which can be used as an important marketing tool.

Push-pull strategy

Since the World Wide Web was first launched, search engines have been the first port of call for seeking information online thanks to the ease of typing in generic terms and being rewarded with an extensive list of possible websites. But, how can a website ensure that it catches the user’s attention? Without quality SEO work raising your result to the first page of search results, how can a brand stand out?

For wealthier brands, they can pay for a sponsored result which sits at the top of the list. But is this enough in a saturated market? And what options does this leave smaller brands who cannot afford it? Now the rise of the Smartphone as the preferred way of accessing the web and the basis of application markets has brought notifications to the fore. For brands, this is a key opportunity to engage directly with their customers.

The dissemination of information is moving away from the user extracted search, or ‘pull’, to an approach where push notifications are more prominent. Over time, the role of push notifications has matured allowing for different pushes for different scenarios. For example, you don’t want endless texts informing you each time someone likes a Facebook post when an in-app notification will suffice. If a smart dishwasher overflows, an email notification will probably get your attention when it is too late. An instant text would be more appropriate. If your bank identifies suspicious credit card activity, the customer will want a phone call rather than a message to the banking app that is rarely checked.

It is important to base a notification on the specific situation it is for. This provides customers with confidence that communications will arrive when and where they need it. For brands, this is an essential basis for successful customer engagement.

Notifications? There’s a chat app for that.

Although the possibilities for notifications is huge, in reality users don’t want to be receiving notifications for every aspect of their lives. Even though users can be sent notifications at the right place and at the right time, they also don't want to be bombarded with irrelevant content via notifications. Users should be able to manage and personalise what content they receive and how they receive it.

Over time there has been a shift in preferred communication methods as hardware has evolved. The written letter became the email, which became the text message which is beginning to be taken over by chat apps. As chat apps grow in popularity amongst consumers, they can naturally be the infrastructure by which notifications are delivered.

However without one single chat app dominating the global population, this all becomes superfluous if the customer uses WhatsApp and a brand sends notifications via LINE. This calls for the use of notifications which should be sent via the user’s preferred app otherwise the notification ceases to fulfil its purpose.

Brands shouldn't be restricted to using one specific app service. The chat app space is complex as different countries use different applications. For example, people in the UK tend to use WhatsApp and Skype, and in Korea they use KakaoTalk and LINE. The ability for brands to deliver across all chat platforms regardless of device or platform is essential to maximising customer service.

Chat apps represent a contemporary method for brands to communicate with their target audience through push notifications, with appropriate content, in real time. The ability to reach all of your customers via a service that they carry in their pocket is a powerful communication technique. This power is then amplified if the communication is delivered to the customer as a notification which by its very nature, notifies the audience. As audiences are increasingly bombarded with advertisement, information and content, sending a personalised, wanted notification straight to the end user that they can consume in their own time is the perfect platform for customer engagement.