After many years on the throne, email marketing has had its ups and downs. More than a dozen statistics show it's alive and well today. However, consumer apathy, spam filters, Gmail changes, and social media competition have plagued its reign. It's about to hit a new low (again) by the arrival of a top-performing channel that has been around for less than a year. Web push notifications are here to help marketers usher in a new era of content distribution.
"Web push" is a new species of push notification for websites. Until recently, push notifications were not available for the web; push was limited to mobile apps. But now brands can use them with their websites.
Visitors to your site are invited to receive push notifications. If they accept, they can opt-in and out easily, controlling the flow of information. When a push notification of interest pops up on their screen, a simple click will bring them to the landing page of your promoted content.
Push notifications have been a high-performing engagement tool of mobile apps, and the early performance indicators suggest web push is delivering that same power to websites.
"Fifteen percent of people who are asked to 'Allow' push notifications opt-in to the channel. In this sense, web push allows you to identify those members of your audience who have the highest affinity for your brand. But more interestingly, we've also found that those who opt-in to receive push notifications are nine times more likely to share social content than those who do not," says Tim Varner, co-founder of Roost, a platform that allows brands to integrate push into their websites in a matter of minutes.
In talking with Varner, it's clear Roost prides itself on ease of integration, but you can do a lot of other neat stuff with Roost's APIs, such as geo-targeting, data correlation, and audience segmentation, which seems to position the platform as a developer tool.
But at its most basic level, Roost, and, more generally, web push, is some combination of audience builder, content distribution tool, and social catalyst. A recent Hubspot article shares a thorough explanation of how they work. Here's a telling excerpt from it:
"Users are willing to sign up for the notifications because they're so subtle, easy to turn off, and helpful. Not to mention the fact that you don't have to deal with pesky unsubscribe pages if you decide you're over the notifications.... The opt-in rate compared to social media also allows you to build an audience at a much faster rate than Twitter or Facebook."
Check out how one of Roost's European publishers compared their audience numbers using Roost after four months (6,577 push subscribers) versus Twitter (7,929 followers) after four years. This along with only 6 percent organic reach on Facebook, shows social media probably isn't email's successor. If you're thinking mobile app push notifications are the predecessor, good guess.
According to Responsys research, 68 percent of those who download a brand's mobile app opt-in to receiving push notifications from that app. Still, the opportunity for push notifications doesn't begin and end with mobile apps.
Although the majority of push notifications today are distributed on mobile phones and tablets, they are rapidly spreading to other Internet-connected devices, like desktops, e-readers, entertainment systems, and even vehicles. Web push first came to the desktop browser with the release of Apple OS X Mavericks.
"Web push is non-intrusive," Varner says. "If you hit 'Don't Allow,' there's no re-prompt. If you hit 'Allow,' but don't click the push notification when it pops up, it's saved in the tray for later, but the notification won't continually re-prompt you. It's all very light touch."
Roost is also working with brands to allow its audience the ability to personalize their push subscription. Subscribers can declare which types of content they'd like to receive via push notifications and thereby filter out notifications that don't suit their interests.
Roost also offers automated A/B testing, scheduled notifications, campaign codes for Google Analytics, RSS automation, and in-depth analytics, all of which can be viewed on their YouTube channel.
Roost currently supports Safari but plans to support Chrome and Firefox in the fall and early winter, respectively. In the meantime, add Roost to your content distribution strategy, and hang on to email and social media. They're all an integral part of growing your ideal audience and authentically engaging with them where they are connected.
"Now is a great time to adopt web push," says Varner. "Safari provides publishers an opportunity to get a handle on the channel ahead of the imminent arrival of Chrome and Firefox, which will not only push the channel's browser market share above 50 percent, but it will lead the way for mobile web push-clearly the future of this channel."