Push and Pull

David Murphy

DM: So tell us about Urban Airship if you would please Brent.

BH: Sure. We are a b2b push notification play. There are currently 65,000 in-app notifications powered by us, including service updates, breaking news, financial news etc. The notifications can be set to go to all users or just certain ones, or even a one-to-one notification, so someone like ESPN can personalise down to which sports or even which teams to send you notifications on. We work direct with organisations and agencies, systems integrators, whoever is building the app. We have an SDK that puts our system in the app. There’s a little bit of configuration, but it’s up and running in a couple of hours.

DM: What value do push notifications add to an app?

BH: Apps are so pervasive; consumers download so many of them that it’s hard to keep them engaged, so the notification serves as a tap on the shoulder. It adds value and drives engagement, and that drives monetisation.
The average lifespan for an app is one month, so push could become a saviour. With some apps, we have seen a 540 per cent increase in daily app opens when push notifications are added to the app. They also deliver a 3x faster response time than email, 30 per cent increase in social sharing, and 20 per cent increase in total mobile orders.
Some of the cleverer app developers are also looking at push notifications as a way to extend the functionality, beyond the walls of the app. And our notifications can be delivered whether the app is open or not, so it adds some functionality to the user’s home screen, and users see that as part of the experience and benefit of having the app.  And a few months back, we bought a company called SimpleGeo so that the app owner can use the app user’s location as an enhanced set of targeting criteria. We’ll be adding that functionality a little later this year. 

DM: So give us an example of a good use of in-app push notifications.

BH: Burtons, who sell snowboards and winter gear. They created a powder alert, where the user could choose their region and ski resort and then the app delivers an alert based on how much fresh snow there is there. So you might get an alert you want, just had half metre fall on your favourite mountain. Days you might not be thinking about out.

DM: OK, and what’s your pricing model?

BH: We have two pricing tiers, Pro Plan and Premium, priced by the size of the audience, not by the number of messages. Pro is for under 100,000 users, Premium is above that. We look at the size of the audience and negotiate a rate. We ask how many people they want to notify, and do that as much as makes sense for the app. For apps involving sports scores, it can be as many as 100 notifications per month, but for other types of app, the numbers are much lower. And the larger the audience size goes, the lower the price per individual user.

DM: And where are your customers?

BH: All over the globe. We are based in Portland, and we have an office in San Francisco, but our customers are all over the world.

DM: What advice would you give to a brand looking to use in-app push notifications?

BH: The good news is that we are hitting people on the home screen so you can get tremendous uptake. But it’s important thing that brands don’t abuse this. Pushing out more messages does not equate to delivering more engagement. This is why re recently launched our 'Good Push' initiative, to get across the message that push notifications have phenomenal marketing potential, but that you should not abuse it. You should ask yourself, what does the consumer want to hear, rather than, what do you want to say. We believe this is probably the most effective form of direct marketing communications ever; it’s vital that brands don’t abuse it.

Brent Hieggelke is CMO at Urban Airship