Notifications and the Red Dot Phenomenon

In general, notifications are handled differently across mobile platforms. But that doesn’t change the way we—as users—interact with them. It’s tough to resist the urge to tap or read a notification, whether it be the push variety or a little red dot in the corner of an app icon.

We are compelled to interact, either by acknowledging or dismissing notifications as they come in. It’s almost as if they cannot be avoided, as if we have an addiction to checking our phone every so often. Americans check their phones 80 times per day, according to one study.

Want to experiment and see if this applies to you? Leave your phone alone for as long as possible when notifications arrive. You can still use the phone for other tasks, mind you, but try to ignore those notifications and alerts. Chances are, you won’t be able to do it for long.

There is something to be said about the phenomenon behind notifications. After all, why do we care so much? It may be nothing more than a screen or icon update, and yet, push notifications have been shown to boost app engagement by as much as 88%.

Push notifications aren’t the only kind. There are also text-based notifications, OS and system notifications, and in-app notifications.

Push vs Text vs In-app, Oh my

Push notifications are the most common, and show up in the notification tray for the mobile in question. On both Android and iOS, notifications can be configured to show message content on the lock screen too. These are often used to deliver a system-wide notification, such as information about a current deal or event going on where the user might want to return to your app. 65% of users will return to an app within 30 days when push notifications are enabled.

Text notifications are pretty straightforward; they arrive in the form of a text message and often include an opt-in or opt-out code. If the user agrees to receive these messages regularly, they arrive on a schedule right to their message inbox.

In-app notifications remain within an app. You only ever see them or are reminded of them when you open the app in question. These can be good for clueing users in about news and updates, and various in-app activities. In-app messages—one form of notification—boost engagement ratings by as much as three times.

Choosing between the different types is no small task, but usually, the reason behind delivering a notification will help you out with that. For instance, if you’re trying to boost engagement within your app and bring people back, sending a push notification is the way to go. If you published a new blog or news feed item, sending in-app alerts is the best option.

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Why Notifications Matter

App stickiness, retention, and loyalty are all crucial elements of mobile engagement. It’s not enough to get users to install your app, you want them to open it regularly and continue to use it. Nearly 1 in 4 people abandon a mobile app after only a single use. You don’t want to be a part of that statistic, rotting away on a sub-screen of your audience’s smartphone.

Better yet, you want them to recommend the app or service to friends, family and colleagues. You want them to become brand advocates, if you will.

Notifications are the real-time alerts that can drive such engagement. You can use them in many ways:

  • Real-time updates

  • Sourcing information via quick polls or surveys

  • Reminders and post-meeting follow-ups

  • Bringing attention to specific content or action items

  • Informing about an event, deal, or promotion

  • Sending exclusive customer loyalty rewards

Push notifications, especially, can be used to capture the attention of your audience. But it’s also important to remember, you’re delivering this content directly to their mobile devices. You don’t want to do it so often that you become a nuisance. All modern devices now have the option to disable or turn off notifications for specific apps, so keep that in mind. If you get too greedy with your alerts, users can and will mute you.

Increase Customer Loyalty and Engagement

Through notifications, you can increase both customer loyalty and perpetual engagement by enticing your audience to return to your app. Presumably, you’d achieve such a thing through ongoing updates and alerts related to in-app events and activities and fresh content.

You see, notifications provide in-the-moment, real-time updates for various information which consumers often love to hear about it. Having a huge promotion or sale? Send a push alert and your audience will be more than happy to revisit your app and take advantage. This is just one example of how notifications can boost retention and customer loyalty. Think of all the awesome things you could do with the feature?

Sending even more valuable push notifications can help increase your app retention rates by three to ten times. By three to ten times. Wow.

In the end, it’s all about that little red dot—the notification—which drives engagement. There’s a psychological reason behind why we’re so keen on checking our phones. Every time we receive a notification or alert. It’s a feeling that causes us to continually check our phones, and in turn, continue to chase after those real-time notifications and alerts. It’s a mixture of being conditioned, wanting to keep the queue clear, and staying informed; all things you take advantage of with the little red dot.