Consider these statistics.\r\n\r\nThis year, Gurgaon-based tech startup Horntell\u2019s early partners integrated their service with its Actionable Cards to run a campaign where they would send a Card that contained the details of the abandoned cart and an action to pay for the items in the cart in the notification itself. Result- of all the notifications for abandoned carts that were sent by them, about 41% converted through Horntell\u2019s Actionable Cards.\r\n\r\nSimilarly, when Delhi-based enterprise marketing automation suite, Wigzo ran a retargeting campaign for a client where they populated products which were last seen by the person through push notifications, it led to an additional click through of 25% and additional sales of 11.5 %.\r\n\r\nAnother campaign was run by NotifyVisitors - a multi-channel customer engagement software for an ecommerce client. Customers who had purchased a laptop in the last seven days were pushed notifications on computer accessories. This resulted in a 30% higher click rate on the same notification compared to when it was sent out earlier, prior to their purchases.\r\n\r\nAll of this points to one thing - push notifications are now becoming the new weapon in the arsenal of marketers and brands in website and app visitor engagement and conversion. Being easy to set up - a five to ten-minute process - businesses are finding them a handy tool to engage visitors regularly, re-engage them, target them based on different segments, or simply communicate with them.\r\n\r\nThus many startups such as Wingify, Wigzo, Betaout, Horntell, Notify Visitors, Pushengage, MoEngage,\u00a0Webengage, LetReach, and Vizury among others are successfully using push notifications to help their clients and brands keep their customers engaged.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nParas Chopra, founder at Wingify which makes product Pushcrew states, \u201cThey are the newest addition to the digital marketer's arsenal, and will soon become indispensable. The best thing about push notifications is that the subscriber does not need to be on the business' website for him\/her to see the notification. The only thing that the notification needs in order to be seen, is for the subscriber to be online. Even if they are not, they'll see it when they come online. Many businesses and websites have increased their traffic and customers exponentially using this new tool.\u201d\r\n\r\nSimilarly, Umair Mohammed, co-founder of Wigzo, concurs, \u201cThey are immensely important. From an update to new marketing offers, or generally broadcasting information, it\u2019s a great tool for communication. Also because it\u2019s very personal, and lands directly on the person\u2019s phone.\u201d\r\n\r\nMohit Mamoria, CEO of Horntell however also cautions against marketers abusing them to irritate consumers by spamming them.He says,\r\nLike all marketing tools, push notifications are only as helpful as someone uses it. We've seen marketers spamming through push notifications and also making amazing impressions of 'care' through them.\r\nReaching A Critical Mass Of Users\r\n\r\nPush notifications help marketers reach a critical mass of users. The key metric here is the number of subscribers. So if businesses can do push well, they can easily amass a large number of subscribers, thus adding huge value in terms of visitor and customer engagement. Says Paras of Wingify,\r\nAkin to having an email list, this is like having a much more instant, immediately accessible subscriber base.\r\nWingify claims to have received an enthusiastic response, especially from businesses that depend on a lot of repeat visitors to their website. Paras cites the instance of Hindustan Times, a PushCrew customer. \u201cThey are seeing great numbers, and there\u2019s a visible change in the way readers interact with the news they put out. Just this one customer has given us so many new use cases for the technology that we are incredibly excited about. Though ecommerce and publications are the ones who have been early in identifying the potential of the technology, we are seeing interest from several other domains, including travel, fashion, and web apps for which engagement is an important priority.\u201d\r\n\r\nHorntell claims to send notifications to 2 Mn people every month. The startup which offers Actionable Cards instead of push notifications states that \u201con an average, of the 2 million people, about 61% take actions on the cards (including making payments). In comparison, the same set of people acts upon only 12-25% of the push notifications, mostly because they aren't actionable and just links to open the app\/website.\u201d\r\n\r\nWigzo meanwhile states that click-throughs via push notifications can range anywhere between 10-30% depending on the content and its personalisation.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nPushEngage which is live with over 2,500+ sites claims to push several million notifications each day. The team states that Browser Push Notifications are an emerging marketing channel in 2016, and there is a strong adoption in the market. \u201cWe see far superior metrics in terms of repeat users increased by 20% to 30%, and higher click rates, 2x to 10x over email\u201d, says Ravi Trivedi, founder and CEO of PushEngage.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nSiddharth Gupta of Notify Visitors also seconds that the general response has been very good across industries including media sites or ecommerce. He adds, \u201cNo other channel gives 20% click rates. Besides, new features are getting added regularly like multiple calls to actions etc. This might shift the focus back to the web from mobile apps as websites now have the same capabilities as the mobile application.\u201d Talking about the critical mass reached, he says,\r\nThere is an opt-in rate of 30% for browser push notifications. \u00a0Compared to email marketing, the visibility and click rate for browser push notifications is 20 times.\r\nBetaout claims to send over 50-70 Mn push notifications every month and states that it is witnessing a steady growth month-on-month and 2X-3X more conversions compared to any other marketing channel. Says Nandini, \u201c Push notifications can increase your app engagement by 200-300%.\u00a0 In fact, in many cases, the open rate on push notifications is higher than the open rates of emails.\u201d\r\n\r\nMoEngage, which is a user analytics and engagement platform for mobile apps, sends about 3 Bn+ pushes per month across apps. As per Yashwant Reddy, VP sales, "End users are more receptive to push notifications if they are contextually relevant and are based on their app usage behavior." The startup claims that its effective blast campaigns have seen CTRs up-to 5% while Segmented Notifications get CTRs up to 18%. Additionally, it has posted highest CTRs of up-to 45% for its Smart Triggers.\r\n\r\nSimilarly, Website re-engagement tool LetReach pushes over 1 Mn+ notifications a day.\r\nEngagement Metrics\r\nThe surest measure of the effectiveness of a push notification is gauged by the following metrics-\r\n\r\n \tIncrease in the number of website visitors, which means more engagement.\r\n \tIncrease in Click Through Rates (CTR) which is equal to Click\/View.\r\n \tIncrease in opt-in rates or how many users subscribes for a push.\r\n \tIncrease in the Click Rate which is equal to Clicks\/Send.\r\n \tIncrease in the delivery rates which is Total impressions \/ Total active subscribers.\r\n \tIncrease in Total Impressions.\r\n\r\nWhile these are the easiest metrics to measure to engagement, Paras believes that as the technology gets adopted more, and as subscribers get more and more aware, the quality of the notifications themselves will become important.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nThe same point is stressed upon by Mohit, He adds, \u201cPush notifications are mostly spam these days. Only a handful of companies are using it really well. We've seen that at the companies where the decision maker behind notification strategy is a product-guy, the notifications are very useful, but when they are managed by a marketer alone, they tend to get spammy.\u201d\r\n\r\nAs per him, the brands which spend an extra minute to think the following two things, see their push notifications being loved-\r\na) What do I want to inform the user? Is it really valuable for him?\r\n\r\nb) What do I want the user to do after knowing the information?\r\nHe believes that the answers to these two questions must be figured out before pushing out a campaign. Otherwise, it would just give one nasty number.\r\n\r\nUmair\u2019s thoughts are on similar lines, who believes that ideally, one should track everything, sent, delivered, clicked, even purchases to measure engagement, when it comes to transactional business.\r\nMaking Push Notifications Smarter And Less intrusive\r\nPush notifications maybe a marketer\u2019s new dream channel but there\u2019s only a thin line dividing them from turning into irritating spam. If overused, they can cause total disengagement and frustration on the consumer\u2019s end. Hence, the challenge for marketers is that despite being in a digital landscape that is exceedingly intrusive and mass mailer-like, push notifications need to be smarter, relevant, and as unobtrusive as possible. Consequently, all the marketing engagement softwares are relying on different means to effectively harness this tool.\r\n\r\nFor instance, Wingify\u2019s Paras suggests using these notifications only to target a segmented part of the audience with targetted information in the most unobtrusive manner possible. Similarly, Notify Visitors also creates customer segments based on visitor behaviour and onsite actions in order to deliver the right push notification message to the right customer at the right time.\r\n\r\nSame way, Horntell is enabling brands to push notifications in the\u00a0form of Actionable Cards, which basically means the Card always contains an embedded action. Not just 'Call to Action'. What this means is that the intended action will be completed within the Card itself. Be it asking the user to click some button, or providing you additional input through a Reply box or making payments - everything happens through the Card.\r\n\r\nAdds Mohit, \u201cUnlike notifications, Cards allow you to embed richer content than just a simple sentence. You can embed quotes, lists, photos and videos in the Cards itself. The hypothesis behind Cards is that anything that has to happen, must happen from the Card itself. Also, Cards are sorted by a proprietary algorithm that ranks the cards in the feed in a manner such that the cards that are most likely to be acted upon are shown on the top. It takes several factors like the content of Cards, past behaviour of the user on a similar Card and date\/time of the Card.\u201d\r\n\r\nFor instance take the Payment Card which allows you to make a sale from the notification itself.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nUmair believes that content and time is a crucial aspect of push notification. He says, \u201cBecause if it\u2019s spammy and generic, the sentiment can quickly become negative. From blocking notification to deleting the app, we have seen all kinds of responses. Hence, what to send and what time do you send it is extremely crucial to this. Also instead of a generic push every day, just like email you have to time it right.\u201d\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nMeanwhile, Ravi states that the startup recommends marketers who use its platform to use it for important and urgent alerts and create targetted alerts so that users don\u2019t unsubscribe from notifications. Hence, it employs Targetted Notifications to interested users only based on custom segments, Frequency Capping or limiting the number of old notifications a user gets after logging out for a few days and then logging back in, and has a Notification Expiry for short-lived events such as flash sales so that a user who logs in into his browser after the sale is not shown an old notification.\r\n\r\nBetaout meanwhile relies on powering all its marketing tools by the single customer view that it provides to its clients for each and every user they have. Says Nandini, \u201cIf your marketing is driven by a 360-degree view of your customer based on their behaviour, purchase history and activities, it is way more relevant and personalised.\u201d \u00a0The startup also believes in \u201csending messages at the best time.\u201d\r\n\r\nNandini adds that one of the biggest reasons people uninstalled an app was annoying notifications, so, putting a frequency cap isn\u2019t enough. She says, \u201cYou need to ensure that you\u2019re not disturbing your users.\u00a0 Sending the right message to the right user at the right time is the key.\u201d\r\n\r\nMoEngage relies on Smart Triggers that identify key 'events' (app opens, category views etc) and automatically sends relevant push notifications on the basis of user action\/inaction at the optimum time. They too have capping rules in place which take care that users are not being spammed with multiple pushes during the day.\r\nQuick Statistics\r\nFrom offering push notifications as a free service as a part of marketing channels to offering it as a cloud-based SaaS product, the aforementioned players have clients ranging from 12+ to 2500+ clients. Offering it alone as a solo cloud product has its own benefits as well, as discovered by PushEngage which offers it as a cloud service.\r\n\r\nSo the focus on this channel alone makes the metrics like - the opt-in rate of subscription, or deliverability of notifications, on its platform far superior to others. \u00a0Consequently, many websites evaluate it against competitors and have remained with PushEngage due to this reason, claims Ravi.\r\n\r\nMeanwhile, monetisation methods range from subscription basis to commission. So while Betaout offers them free as part of its marketing toolkit, PushCrew and NotifyVisitors monetise through subscriptions while Horntell charges a commission on every payment transaction that happens through Actionable Cards.\r\n\r\n\r\nPushing Into An App-less Future?\r\nThere\u2019s no doubt that with time, push notifications are expected to get smarter, intelligent, hyper-relevant, more AI-dependent, and more actionable themselves. So much so that Horntell\u2019s Mohit believes that they will \u201cprovide the whole app experience from the notification itself".\u00a0 According to him,\r\nThere would be no need to install apps. As a user, I can complete whatever I want from the notification itself. That's the future that we are striving to build at Horntell for the world. It'd be an incredible time to live in - where apps aren't needed to be installed. A notification alone can do the job.\r\nParas adds that as notifications get smarter, maybe all marketers have to do is fill up a push notifications queue, and the system will figure out when to send it, and to whom, in order to get maximum engagement!\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nSimilary, Umair, says, \u201cThe next step is definitely interactive notification, and the platforms are evolving massively when it comes to pushing notification. Hence brands would have to bring more and more intelligence in notifications, and be hyper relevant to the consumer. It\u2019s not a race, it\u2019s more about the intricate relation of a subscriber to a brand. Also, I see machine intelligence being a major part of notifications going forward. 1:1 economy is the way forward, be it a notification, or any other form of communication by the brand.\u201d\r\n\r\nPushEngage also concurs that notifications will improve the experience of a user. \u00a0Ravi \u00a0adds, \u201cThe notifications will come to the user,be it payment reminder, buying a limited time offer, renewing your policy. Further, the actions like payment and other activities will be likely possible inside the notification and thus, you will be able to do important actions in the notifications itself.\u201d\r\n\r\nNotify Visitors believes that browser push technology will evolve to support more browsers and features like rich media push notifications. Betaout expects them to be more targeted using geo-fencing technology. Says Nandini, \u201cLocation-based alerts, if done wisely, can take personalisation and engagement to the next level.\u201d\r\n\r\nMoEngage seconds that in the next 3-4 years, most of the people will not even need to open the app to do an app related action. Says Yashwanth,\r\nWe have recently launched Notification Actions through which people can directly complete specific tasks without even opening the mobile app.\r\nAlso, marketers will be able to send notifications with GIFs & videos. Thus the effectiveness of copy and rich content is expected to increase with personalisation.\r\n\r\nSo while push notifications are poised to be an indispensable tool for increasing user engagement, reducing burn and churn, and to pull in more business, they can easily also become an annoyance for users, leading them to delete one\u2019s app and totally cut off the engagement with the brand.\r\n\r\nIt\u2019s a fine line which marketers need to tread when using push notifications lest they turn into annoying distractions for the users. The recent Myntra fiasco - when a glitch in the app sent millions of notifications to users about purchases which were never made, thus spamming their phones - is an example of how notifications can easily become an annoyance.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nOn the other side are countless examples of push notifications that delight. For instance, CouponDunia\u2019s successful push notification for Amazon\u2019s 48-hour sale that was sent on July 7, 2016, at 4:30 pm titled \u201cAll you have are 48 Hours!\u201d The push had an open rate of 2.41% as compared to the average open rate of 1.56% for its other push notifications.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nInterestingly the notification saw a conversion rate of 43% compared to the average conversion rate of 29.80% for CouponDunia\u2019s other pushes.\r\n\r\nHence the challenge - to pull in more business but at the same time not push away customers who are interested in listening to what brands want to say. But can brands, in turn, pay attention to what they want to say and when they want to say without pushing their luck? It remains to be seen.