Push isn’t a Channel

Over the past few months co-founder Matt and I have had many conversations with digital marketers and mobile product owners from brands across nearly every industry.

There’s resounding consensus that mobile apps are the future — and Marketers everywhere are trying like hell to figure out how to leverage apps to drive lift in their business. Some are succeeding in the process, some are finding out that their apps don’t matter.

But one thing continues to bother me…

It appears that we as marketers have been taught that in order to activate mobile apps as this holy channel, all we need is Push..

But sending a push message is like sending an email with only a subject line.


Push messages are ephemeral, briefly shown then gone almost instantly. Some users click and open the app, but there’s rarely content associated to the initial push message. An opportunity to engage with them has been lost. It’s like opening a completely blank email because you thought the subject line was cool.

Sending push is a good idea so long as you fulfill the promise of the interruption. The resulting experience that the user is taken to should match the call-to-action of the initial push message. Never should they be dropped at the home screen of the app. That’s spammy and short-sighted — tricking the user to open your app for vanity metrics.

A push message should act as a tap on the shoulder — saying “hey customer, want to interact with us?”. It should be accompanied by an in-app message that fills in the details and begins a conversation with that customer.


We’ve built Waysay to power this interaction flow.

The Long Game

Push isn’t the channel, your app is, and the best long-term mobile strategy is to activate your app as your most valuable customer channel.

Customers can use mobile/desktop web to transact with you. Sure, e-commerce may be core to your business, and enabling transactions through your app could drive real revenue, but that’s not why Customers download it.

Customers can use Google to find your location, they can fill out contact forms on your web site. Having these functions in your app could be helpful, but that’s not why Customers download it.

They download your app because they want to get closer to you. These are your market mavens, and they are loyal.

Once downloaded you have the opportunity to interact with each of your customers directly. No more Gmails, Facebooks and Twitters standing between you and your customers — limiting how or when you can interact with them or selling them back to you. Never before have you had such an opportunity to build a truly direct relationship with each individual customer.

Engagement is no longer about opens, clicks and transactions. It’s about embedding your brand into the lives of your customers and creating real relationships. Push messages were a good start, but in-app messages will evolve the mobile into the channel it is promised to be.

Bob Ullery was a Principal Sales Engineer @ExactTarget and @Salesforce and is currently co-founder and CTO of Waysay, a company focused on helping brands create more personalized mobile apps. Follow Waysay and Bob on Twitter.

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