How to Use Push Notifications Effectively on Your Small Business App

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Push Notifications, those little red circles with numbers in the corners of your smartphone apps, are one of the more polite forms of business-customer interaction invented. Push technology simply means that the notification originates with the server of the publisher—in this case, the publisher is your business. These notifications are self-contained within the app, so no inboxes get cluttered with notifications.

Everyone knows what it’s like to open their e-mail account and find at least three messages a day from each business they’ve given their e-mail address to. It’s impossible to see any of the actual mail you were looking for—perhaps from a colleague or family member—and you know you’ll be spending a good portion of your morning cleaning out your inbox by reading it all—or delete it all and worry you missed vital information about changing privacy policies or a sale.

We give these businesses our e-mail addresses because we want to get this kind of information from them. Who doesn’t love coupons and sales? But everyone can relate to the problem of simply having too much information.

No doubt you’re a savvy business owner with an app of your own—every small business needs its own app to be successful these days. But once you’ve consulted with a company that makes small business mobile apps, you may be wondering how best to use Push notifications as part of interacting with your customers who have downloaded the app.

Here are the best things to notify your customers of with Push notifications and the rewards you’ll reap from doing so.

 

Use: Temporary Change in/New Hours

 

Reward: Customers aren’t disgruntled when you’re “suddenly” closed, or you can start serving them earlier

 

You wouldn’t think customers could get too upset at you for not announcing when you have to close unexpectedly or change your hours, but here are a few real-life examples of that very thing:

A group of women, former college roommates, had gone to a major academic conference at a large university and decided to have a reunion night out over sushi. The sushi house had been their favorite celebration spot in the dorm days, so they knew the hours and address. But when they arrived, they found that the sushi house had to close for an inspection of the inner electrical wiring. The women still talk about how disappointed and upset they were 5 years later.

Disgruntled Person Here

Or, a man thinks to surprise his wife with flowers, just because he appreciates her (it happens). He goes to the local floral shop to find they’ve closed early that day for a state and local holiday. Even if he can find somewhere else that will sell him two dozen roses in a mock-Waterford crystal vase, he’ll have some negative feelings toward the regular shop.

And the classic case of a holiday party assignment: you’re asked to bring enough rolls to the party for everyone, place your order, and find out later you could have picked them up fresh the night of the party. Oh, well. Maybe nobody at the party notices, but you know it just the same.

We’ve all been in a situation like this one way or another. And in this day and age, there’s really no excuse.

If your business has to change hours, or close for even an hour during normal business time, use the Push notifications feature on your smartphone to notify your customers beforehand so their plans aren’t ruined (and so you don’t incur any negative feelings from them).

Luckily, a change in hours doesn’t always have to be a negative. If you open early, it’s an opportunity for you to serve the busier or early-rising customers among your clientele.

This is also a personalized, paper-free way to let customers in on your holiday hours—answering that age old question “well, will they be open on Christmas Eve so I can pick this up fresh?”

 

Use: Confirmation of appointments/reservations

 

Reward: Customers feel connected and cared for

 

Push notifications can be used as an effective way of notifying your customers that their appointment has been confirmed, that they have that seat or table at the time they need.

Sending your customers long e-mails to their personal accounts, as we mentioned, can be a bit obtrusive, but you of course want to let them know that they absolutely have that 4:30 appointment, or that the table they want by the window is 100% theirs.

Many customers get anxious if they aren’t certain their reservation/appointment is confirmed; many times they’ll try to re-book it or call your office (if it’s open), worrying until they get a definite confirmation. This can all be avoided if they get a little red circle revealing a confirmation. Keeping them in the loop that way will make customers feel they’re being personally served and looked after.

And it’s not some big, long message that will annoy them or take up space in their inbox. All they’ll see is a little red circle in the corner of their app.

 

Use: Bill Pay and Receipts

 

Reward: Customers can make transactions on the go

 

Why waste inbox space or paper sending the bill for your services to a physical or online mailbox? You can send them the bill for your services or a receipt direct to their phone via Push notifications on your app. Then your customers can either make an e-payment direct to you from their phone or go to their bank/ATM and make arrangements.

This will make the payment phase a snap for both you and your customers—and the more things you can make easy for your customers, the more they’ll love you.

 

Use: Notifying your customers when it’s the day your big sale starts or ends

 

Reward: Your customers don’t miss out on sales; you don’t miss out on revenue

 

As a customer, it’s a horrible feeling when you realize it’s the end of the day—and it’s the end of that sale you really wanted to go to. And as a business, you’d probably feel even worse when you realize how much revenue you’re missing out on from people who forget (or never know) about your big seasonal sale or other promotions. Think of all the money you’d save if your best customers knew about every sale.

But, if you send your customers notifications on the start and end days (messages such as “Sale starts today” and “Last Chance for savings! Sale ends today”), you remind your customers that they can save money—and you don’t lose money to absentmindedness.

 

Use: Coupons and Code Words make Cents

 

Reward: Customers save more; you get the sales that come from a couponing high

 

Everyone loves using a coupon. We love finding them in the mail, in magazines, with recipes attached. Your customers will love you if you send them a Push notification with a coupon just for them or with a code word they can tell the cashier for savings on a particular item or their whole purchase.

Even offering free stuff is a great way to get people into your store! If they go in for the free item they get if they whisper “sonic” to the cashier, or show their phone to your employees, they’re likely to buy something else while they’re in your store.

Nobody does this better than Sprinkles—if you follow them on Twitter, you know just how often they offer a limited-time code word for free cupcakes. Look how much they’ve grown; Sprinkles has spread all over the country!

People get a natural happy feeling when they’re saving money, so capitalize on that happy feeling to keep customers and make money!

 

A Final Note

 

It’s important to note that there are times when sending an actual e-mail to your customers may be more appropriate than a casual Push notification on the app. For example, if you have a company newsletter that customers have signed up to receive, that would be best and most easily sent to an e-mail address and read in a full e-mail message or browser. Or, if you’ve hired a new and major player in the business, it would be best to let your customers know that there is a new chef/cosmetologist/plumber/specialist in town.

Also important is that everything be done in moderation and good taste. Only send Push notifications to the apps installed in customers’ smartphones when necessary; there is no need to badger them during every day of a sale or in the week leading up to their reservation. A simple reminder on the start and end days will more than suffice to show your customers that you care.

Now you know how you and your business can most effectively and efficiently use Push notifications to serve your customers—and you’ll reap the rewards of all that customer satisfaction!

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About the Author: Edson Senna is a business student. He enjoys applying what he has learned by writing about investing, finance, entrepreneurship, and other business-related topics.

- Image http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevensnodgrass/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/72213316@N00/

Edson Senna

Edson Senna is a business student. He enjoys applying what he has learned by writing about investing, finance, entrepreneurship, and other business-related topics. Edson receives writing insights from companies like Ardon Vinyl Graphic & Signage.
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