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How does push compare to email?

Adam Marchick

Adam Marchick is CEO of Kahuna

By Adam Marchick

State-of-the-art digital marketing is constantly evolving. Just as the Internet allowed savvy marketers to go from sending direct mail to email, the rise of the mobile economy is permitting marketers to engage with consumers directly on their phones in a much more personal way using push notifications. 

It is time to recognize push notifications as a sophisticated evolution of marketing, rather than a simple tack-on solution to existing marketing frameworks. 

By driving traffic directly to native apps and improving the user experience, push notifications are changing the way that consumers are interacting with brands. 

Same stuff, different screen, right?
At first, push notifications might seem a lot like email: it is just another channel to reach your customers in the ever-advancing technological world. 

Mobile phones are just an extra screen with which to access the same things, right? Wrong. 

These are two completely different communication channels, and each plays a vastly different role in consumers’ lives. 

If you are using the same approach to connecting with your customers through email and push, you run the risk of spamming your users and losing their brand loyalty. 

Here are some important distinctions between email and push to ensure that you are providing the most useful, relevant content to them across both channels. 

Email expectations
Consumers expect completely different things from email and push. 

Not surprisingly, consumers have become jaded about email from years of tactless marketers and spambots filling up their inboxes with irrelevant messages aimed solely on selling and scamming. 

Because of this, many consumers just skim over the title of promotional emails and delete them without giving it a second thought. The average email click-through rate is only 3 percent, per MailChimp. 

Modern consumers do not expect emails to be personally relevant, and thus rarely engage with them. 

Push forward
Push is experienced in a fundamentally different way than email, and receives an average engagement rate of 21 percent as a result, based on our findings. 

Push notifications are immediately accessible on the front screen of your phone, which gives them the potential to be much more useful, as well as much more annoying if executed incorrectly. 

Bad email can sit unread in an email inbox forever. Push notifications must be acknowledged, regardless of their quality. 

Push notifications need to be relevant to the user in the moment for them to be well received. Reading an email can be saved for when the time is right. 

The best consumers are open to push notifications, especially if you convey the value of the notifications before you ask permission to send them. 

Our data shows that applications have a 60 percent average enablement rate across industries. That means that 60 percent of consumers are ready and willing to receive push notifications. 

Consumers who receive push notifications are the heaviest users of mobile apps and, in turn, are some of your most loyal, valuable customers. 

Internet Retailer reports that consumers who opt in to push notifications engage with mobile apps an average of 26 percent more often each month than those users who do not receive such messages.

Optimized push marketing can take advantage of the same personalization that makes good email marketing so effective. 

But push can go beyond email marketing by interacting with the customer on the right device, at the exact moment that they are most likely to engage with the app. 

Consumers have their phones with them 24 hours a day, so an optimized push message can engage a consumer anytime, anywhere. That is not the case with computers. 

The location data generated by mobile phones can allow the message to be relevant to the physical location of the individual as well. 

Timing is everything
The always-on aspect of push notifications is a double-edged sword. 

While consumers have their phones with them all the time, it does not mean that they are always open to receiving push notifications. 

Marketers can send a blast email at 7 a.m. and expect people to read it when they are sitting at a computer and ready to interact. 

However, push happens immediately, and a poorly timed push can interrupt someone from her sleep and cause a seriously negative reaction. 

However, sending a push at the time a user is most likely to be using the app increases engagement uplift by 75 percent and purchase uplift by 384 percent, per our data.

Medium is the message
The format of push necessitates a radical shift in the kinds of information that can be conveyed. 

On a very fundamental level, the message in a push notification simply matters more because you only have 160 characters worth of real estate to communicate to your users, as opposed to email’s long-form potential. 

Therefore, consumers are much more focused on what you say in push versus email. 

Push happens in real-time, and when the message itself matches this kind of urgency, engagement goes through the roof.

Think about the push notification copy as the email headline – it is the content that hooks a user in and makes her want to learn more. It then follows that the “body” of your push message is actually the location within the app to which you link. 

Your product has to speak for itself at this point in the engagement journey. 

In a few short steps, you have directed your user to the desired point in your app, perfectly setting them up to complete virtuous actions within your product. 

Push notifications streamline the path to purchase, moving the user along in a very specific way. 

Emails do not have a clear next step. The person could click through a link or simply navigate away and do something different. 

Emails are not well suited to drive traffic to an app, and can take 30-60 seconds to visit the app if there is genuine interest. 

However, clicking through with push opens the given app in only 3-4 seconds. 

If the message conveyed in the push notification inspires consumers to make a purchase, there are only a few steps involved in going from discovery to purchase, and the chance of conversion is greatly increased.

PUSH AND EMAIL are fundamentally different communication channels and should be treated as such. 

It is not sufficient to tack on a push notification strategy to your existing email strategy. If you do, you can run the risk of alienating your customers with irrelevant content and ruining brand relationships. 

When well executed, push notifications can be an incredibly intimate, well-received marketing channel. 

In an increasingly mobile driven world, where consumers spend more time using phone apps than surfing the Web, and younger consumers rarely interact with email, push notifications are a critical component to any interactive marketing strategy. 

It is time to get thinking about how push notifications can help your business drive revenue on mobile.

Adam Marchick is CEO of Kahuna, Palo Alto, CA. Reach him at .

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Related content: Columns, Adam Marchick, Kahuna, push notifications, email, mobile commerce, mobile advertising, mobile marketing, mobile, luxury marketing, luxury retail, luxury

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