Push notifications may be one of the latest and greatest communication methods in the marketing scene, but that doesn’t mean you can say goodbye to email marketing.
Both are great for staying in touch with customers and sending timely updates, promos, and information.
But which is better? Well, that depends. In this article, we’ll dive into the pro’s and con’s of each – and how to determine which is best for you.
What You’ll Learn:
- Email Marketing:
- Push Notifications:
- Best practices for email and push notifications
- Email vs. push notifications: which is best for your brand?
Email and push notifications are two common ways for marketers to get in touch with an audience. At a glance, you might assume that email and push aren’t so different. After all, the two channels both fall under the outbound communication umbrella and function as a way to draw subscribers back to your website to complete a purchase or some other desired outcome.
That said, it’s important to understand that these two channels come with a vastly different set of customer expectations.
Both serve as a way to let your audience know about updates or recommendations. And, both are a great way to ensure your brand stays top of mind even when people are away from your website.
Still, both methods come with a unique set of pros and cons. Emails can land in the spam folder, and often, recipients ignore them. Send an ill-timed push notification and see your subscriber list vanish in a heartbeat.
Below, we’ll look at some of the pros, cons, and best practices associated with push notifications and email. And spoiler alert– it’s not a versus situation.
Email vs. Push Notifications: Email Marketing
Email marketing is a mainstay in digital marketing across every industry.
It’s been around for some time and has undergone many evolutions, from blanket spamming to today’s hyper-targeted approach.
Because email has been around for so long, there’s long been talk about other channels like push or chat coming for its crown.
Some say it’s not an especially effective way to cut through the noise of an overstuffed inbox. Or, that it’s not an efficient way to communicate. However, email marketing still has its place in 2019–and likely, for the foreseeable future.
For eCommerce brands, email allows users to preview the brand’s latest offerings at their leisure, choosing to click through if they like what they see.
Another example of where email shines is if you need to give someone information they can reference at a later date. A push notification is an in the moment type of communication–an ephemeral message you’re unlikely to hang on to.
Email, by contrast, is better for things like ticket confirmations, invoices, shipping details, and so on. It may even help you lower your marketing costs.
Email Marketing Pros
Email marketing allows brands to keep in contact with their audience on a consistent basis.
According to research from McKinsey, email is nearly 40x more effective than Facebook and Twitter combined, and Marketing Sherpa has found that over 90% of adults actually want to receive promotional emails from companies they shop or do business with.
Ideal for Promotional Content
According to Experian, transactional emails receive roughly 8x as many opens and clicks than other types of email, and generate around 6x as much revenue to boot.
While sure, I’m aware that we’re comparing email vs. push notifications, not email to email, this stat is interesting in that it highlights email’s ability to function as a blatant sales tool.
They’re Better for Long or Sensitive Information
In addition to being the ideal place for promotional pushes, email beats push when it comes to sending out official communications or those containing sensitive information.
For example, things like receipts, booking confirmations, billing details, or log-in credentials are best delivered to the inbox, rather than push notifications.
Longer content such as an e-book download or onboarding tutorials also work better when delivered by email. Because today’s user has accounts spread across the web, email functions as a home base of sorts. As such, any content someone might want to access at a later time should be sent to the inbox.
Emails are Customizable
With email, you can design campaigns any way you see fit. You can use plain text, images, HTML, and CSS to spruce up your messages and appeal to your audience on the visual level.
That said, in recent years, there’s been something of a debate as to whether or not emails benefit from all of those bells and whistles. Some marketing experts recommend sticking with plain text, as it comes across as coming from a real person, not an automation.
The data here is a bit conflicting. An article from Litmus, for example, mentions that HTML emails are better at staying out of spam filters, easier to read, and preferred by many email users.
However, if you’re in e-commerce and you sell clothing, an HTML email isn’t going to provide users with much value. In B2B sales, plain text helps you level with potential buyers, whereas in e-commerce, you’re better off showing off the latest wares in the inbox – photos, custom headers, and all.
Targeting Has Gotten Really Good
There are countless tools from accessible options like Drip and Mailchimp to enterprise solutions like Marketo and DIY platforms like ConvertKit; anyone can divide their audience into segments.
Send emails based on demographic information like age, gender, income, or location. Run a separate campaign for new customers and nurture long-term brand loyalists.
Drawbacks of Using Email Marketing to Get in Touch
Most of the drawbacks associated with using email marketing have to do with user errors more than the medium itself.
Examples include things like failing to segment your audience into different groups or using subject lines containing so-called “spam words.”
Email marketing often results in lower click-through rates than other channels such as push notifications, messenger updates, or SMS. See, users are competing for eyeballs in inboxes that often contain thousands of messages.
Additionally, email isn’t an instant way to communicate with an audience. Sure, just about everyone has email apps on their phones and checks in on their computer, but an email from a brand likely won’t register as relevant, timely information for most people.
On the flipside, despite low click-through rates, email can provide more ROI than other methods of communication.
Here are some high ROI templates that can help you make the most out of your email marketing efforts.
Email vs. Push Notifications: Push Notifications
Unlike emails, a push notification doesn’t require the user to open a separate app before seeing a message. Instead, that message is delivered directly to a personal device—their computer screen or mobile device—and instantly seen by the recipient.
While that is a distinct advantage over email, push notifications require a more strategic approach. You’ll need to nail the timing, your segments, and frequency to reap the full range of benefits associated with using this messaging method.
Email vs. Push: The Pro’s of Using Push Notifications
Push is an Information Source
Push notifications are an “in-the-moment” communication channel.
They’re not really designed as a means of promoting blog content, rather, they’re best used to send reminders about an order shipping, a time-sensitive offer, and so on. The aim is to deliver information that users will likely find helpful.
Make sure you approach push as a way to be helpful first–promotional second.
What really sets push notifications apart from other messaging channels is that subscribers can receive notifications no matter where they are.
While email and Facebook Messenger depend on the subscriber opening up an application, push notifications appear in full, without the user having to take any further action to read the message.
This unique quality gives brands the ability to connect with their audience in a way that demands attention—and doesn’t require optimizing for mobile or desktop separately.
High Click-Through Rates
Push notifications receive higher click-through rates than emails due to their visibility and timeliness. Emails, by contrast, need to work a bit harder to capture the audience’s attention, much less earn a response.
Subscribe in One Click
While you need to get explicit consent from your subscribers, the opt-in process is super simple with push notifications.
When a visitor arrives on your website or opens your app for the first time, all they need to do is click “Allow” when they see the prompt—and just like that, they’re on the list.
For subscribers, this means they can easily stay updated on the latest content without confirming an email address or making sure that emails stay out of the spam folder.
When Not to Use Push Notifications
Push notifications are disruptive by nature. Which, in this case, is both a blessing and a curse.
Push notifications interrupt the user during normal activities such as working, eating, and socializing. So they understandably have the potential to irritate and annoy customers if you’re not careful.
To help you avoid losing subscribers, here are a few push mistakes to watch out for:
- General Updates: Unless an announcement is newsworthy or time-sensitive, skip it.
- Aggressive Sales Tactics: Look, you’re probably using push (and email) to sell. However, constantly sending your subscribers promotional content isn’t a great way to build trust. Any “sales” notifications you send should be personalized and based on interests and past behavior—I.e. there’s a discount on an item left in a shopping cart or a 24-hour flash sale.
- Blog Posts: While we’re all about using social media, email, and other marketing methods to get people to read blog content, push notifications aren’t the place—blog posts aren’t usually breaking news or something that requires a timely response. When in doubt, ask yourself what benefit does sending this message via push offer the user? If you’re not sure, then promote it elsewhere.
Best Practices for Using Push Notifications
Personalization is a Big Deal in Push
Okay, personalization definitely matters regardless of channel.
We live in the golden age of data, and as such, marketers from every industry—at companies large and small—have access to tools that allow them to segment their audience into groups based on their behavior, demographics, and past purchases.
When customers feel as though they’re receiving the same message as everyone else, it results in low engagement. Customers want to feel that they are understood and valued—so, marketers must respond by delivering the most relevant content at the right time.
- By Time: One best practice we see quite a bit is timing your push notifications based on location. The same is true for social posts and email—as these channels are crowded with content and your posts will get buried if you publish at the wrong time. Push notifications benefit from arriving at that perfect moment. That said, according to a study from LeanPlum, pushing out your notifications based on time zone isn’t the most effective way to get results. Instead, they recommend segmenting by what they call optimal time—you might send a notification to one customer in the morning based on past behavior that suggests they check their phone before heading to work. Another customer might be more responsive during the time that they eat lunch.
- By Behavior: The better you can tailor your push notifications to your users, the more effective they’ll become. And while location and demographics are great ways to get in front of an audience, nothing lets your customers know you understand them like behavior-based notifications.
- By Preferences: Another effective way to segment your audience is by their personal preferences. Look at past actions, purchases, or the types of content this user tends to click on. Take into account whether the user typically engages with the messages you send them or if they go ignored. This should inform your approach–whether that means decreasing the frequency of your messages or changing your offers and alerts based on how users respond to your content.
Offer Value Without Applying Too Much Pressure
One of the biggest challenges marketers face with push notifications is getting their audience to opt-in. People don’t want to be interrupted by notifications and when you make the ask, the visitor will try to scan for clues for whether or not opting in is worth the risk.
To combat this, you’ll need to clearly demonstrate your value proposition, highlighting the benefits that users will receive by subscribing.
If users understand what you’ll be sending, how often, and know that there’s a way to get out of this relationship, they’ll be more inclined to give you a chance.
Get Your Opt-Ins Right
Before you can start using push notifications to get in touch with your audience, they need to opt-in to receive those notifications. Unfortunately, this may well be the most difficult part for companies, as they need to entice their visitors with a reason to subscribe.
- Ask softly–Push notifications aren’t the best place for a hard-sell approach. Present the CTA as a straightforward question, “would you like to receive push notifications?” Then, deliver the official permission request.
- If a visitor replies, “no,” don’t ask them again for a while. Give them some time to decide if they could benefit from receiving updates.
- Don’t ask for opt-in right when someone opens an app–let users look around first and get a sense of the value that your brand can provide.
- Make it easy to opt out. Knowing that there’s a way out of this relationship puts users at ease, making them more likely to give push notifications a chance.
Do You Need an App to Run Push Campaigns?
Nope! Push notifications may be associated with apps like Lyft or Facebook, but you don’t need to have an app yourself to benefit from the power of push.
Today, marketers can choose to use in-app notifications, as well as web-based push notifications. The latter option, provided by services such as PushCrew, CleverTap, and Taplytics, allows brands to communicate with their audience by sending notifications to users when they are connected to the internet, regardless of what website they’re on or what apps are running.
Writing Emails vs. Push Notifications: Either Way, Focus on Quality
Emails can be as long as you need them to be. Push notifications, limit characters to the bare minimum, you know, kind of like a Google text ad.
Here are a few things to think about ahead of any campaign effort–whether it’s push, email, or something else.
Always Send Great Content
Email marketing and push notifications both depend on one thing to be successful: quality, relevant content.
Once you’ve made the case for signing up for your list, you need to continue to meet expectations time and time again.
We’ve mentioned this quite a bit lately, but there’s something of a shift taking place when it comes to internet content. Google is making a concerted effort to prioritize high-quality content that provides users with exactly what they’re looking for.
While push and email are definitely not ranking factors, they do have an impact on brand perception and reputation. As such, it’s important that all content–from tiny text ads to blog posts, push notifications, and emails, serve a purpose and meet user expectations.
Map Out Your Campaigns
One of the critical things to think about here is when it makes more sense to use push notifications versus email. The channels you choose will depend on the type of business you do and what you’re hoping to accomplish with your content.
Whether you’re creating an email or a push campaign, you’ll want to define a set of goals that correspond with your messaging. To do this, make a map of the desired actions you want your subscribers to perform.
Refer back to your personas and behaviors to figure out how you can best guide your audience to those desired outcomes. Keep in mind that this process will look different based on your goals and who you’re talking to. A guided series of onboarding emails will have a different tone and structure than a push campaign aimed at promoting a flash sale on a summer dresses.
Knowing the desired actions and the journey you’d like your audience to take will help you decide whether email or push is a better way to get your message across.
Know When it’s Appropriate to Promote a Product
With all this talk about creating useful and interesting content, it can be difficult to figure out when it makes sense to create promotional content designed to sell.
If you’re moving your subscribers through an onboarding series, or simply spreading more awareness, you’ll likely need a medium that allows you the time (and text) to do so. For that, email marketing’s your friend.
On the other hand, if you’re offering a quick tip, pointing someone to content that might interest them or spreading the word on an end-of-season sale, you can likely accomplish that in a concise push notification.
Bottom Line: Which is Best For Your Brand?
Remember, it’s not a matter of email marketing vs. push notifications.
Though they serve similar purposes, each lends itself better to different situations, and often, a sophisticated marketing mix will include both. There are, however, certain scenarios that call for one or the other.
B2B’s likely don’t need to be sending many push notifications, unless it’s a reminder of an upcoming event or product launch. B2C’s, on the other hand, can use push notifications to take advantage of discounts, flash sales, and personalized promotions.
Push notifications are best suited for updates, news items, and timely information. Email is best used when you want to send something people can reference later on, or for offers that don’t demand a rapid response.
Push notifications come with a whole host of benefits like instant engagement, app-less access, and short, targeted communications. The downside is, it’s easy to tick off your audience if you send a message that misses the mark.
Email marketing allows you some room to introduce a point or message, and build up enough curiosity that your readers will want to click through.
Push notifications aren’t so forgiving and require creative messaging more on point with a social media post or paid media ad. Your message needs to be quick, compelling, and desirable. If your product requires more explanation or introduction, it may be best to accomplish that through an email series.
Have you experimented with email? Push notifications? Let us know in the comments!