Apple Watch what you’re doing: why push notification strategy has changed and what you can do about it

June 1, 2015

Laura Perez


A good push notification strategy has been an essential element of mobile marketing for a number of years now. The importance of providing timely and useful notifications to users on their tablets or smartphones has, in some cases, driven app launches up 278%: a key step towards improving retention and monetization.

However, the line between what is a useful push notification and what is an annoying one is often incredibly thin. Pocket Gamer and TechCrunch covered this in the past and discussed how irritating they can be, something that demonstrates how much they can wind up users.

And with the arrival of the Apple Watch and other wearables, that conflict between smart watch app developers and user happiness is likely to be put into greater focus.

But why is that the case? Here are four reasons why push notification strategy is about to change for mobile user with the arrival of the Apple Watch and some key steps you can take to prepare for it.

1) Watches and phones have different uses…

At the most basic level, the difference between how you use a watch and how you use a smartphone or tablet is of fundamental importance to any developer.

Smartphones and tablets are all about getting into content. While the use of a smaller screened smartphone will differ from a phablet or a tablet, we use those devices as a screen to watch video, send messages, play games and much more. Basically, we spend a lot of time actually looking at and interacting with those screens.

Watches, on the other hand, have historically been used to gather important information with no more than a glance. It takes only a couple of seconds to look at your wrist and know what time it is.

Therefore, that affects what sort of notification works better on each. A tablet or a smartphone notification may be something you can read and digest, but a watch notification needs to be highly relevant to suit the glance approach.

2) …but notifications can end up on either 

The biggest issue for developers is that watches and smart devices don’t sit as separate entities from a development perspective – they’re connected devices. So when it comes to watch apps, they are extensions of smartphone apps. 

And that applies to how push notifications work. In the case of the Apple Watch, a push notification will be sent to the device that is considered most relevant at the time. So if you’re looking at your phone, the notification will go there. But if it is in your pocket, it’ll go to the watch.

Convenient though it is from a technical perspective, that poses a clear problem for marketers and developers. If watches and phones suit different notifications, you need to think about how you’re going to create a strategy for both.

3) Glances are the perfect way to share essential information

It’s important to identify what really is the critical information in the life cycle of your app. Of course, everything will probably seem essential to you, but picking one particular metric is vital for taking advantage of what are called “glances”.

As an Apple Watch exclusive feature, it allows you to inform your user of a key app metric without forcing interaction with watch app or phone. That way, they can keep up to date with what is going on in a mobile game in the same way they stay on top of the time – with a short, focused glance. 

If you can use this to show how long it is until troops are finished training in a game, an energy meter is refilled or when new features are available, this could conceivably save users time and draw them back to the app without the help of a nagging notification. And such a voluntary action must be considered valuable.

4) Reduce notification numbers but increase their quality

Finally, once you’ve got the glance sorted, you’ll have to think about notifications. And the honest truth is that you’ll probably need to reduce the number you’re putting out for watch users.

Just think for a second about a couple of use cases where the regular drumbeat of notifications designed for phones can get annoying. Twitter received early flak for the number of notifications sent to Apple Watch users.

Therefore, you need to think about reducing notification numbers in your app to make them work better for watch users. You need to get to the crux of what really matters. New content, seasonal launches, sales and updates are all definitely worth updating about. But nagging messages begging users to engage? Those are probably the thing of the past.

Ultimately, the arrival of the Apple Watch and its potential adoption will change push notification strategy by forcing game developers and marketers to use them effectively. If wearables take off, then it is likely app developers will be forced to be more critical of their push strategy.

But, if married properly to the features of wearable devices, a successful Apple Watch push notification strategy could easily pave way for richer engagement with the key features of a game or app. And that’s worth paying attention to.

Photo credit: Luke-M / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

In: Marketing, Industry News

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