Push notifications are part of the standard arsenal of developer tools for smartphone apps these days, and a key way to drive users back to apps and services. Urban Airship, one of the leading providers of push notifications (among other things!) recently teamed up with SimpleGeo to offer location-based pushed notifications. The company's VP of Growth, Dylan Boyd, stopped by to share more on the topic with us.
WIP: Hi, please introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about what you do at Urban Airship.
DB: Hey! I’m Dylan Boyd and leading all the business development activities for The Ship. Which means I interact with developers, brand marketers, the big ISPs, etc. Also, we are based in Portland, which has a tech scene that is really starting to take off, and we’re hiring! Talk to us!
WIP: You had a big announcement last week in which you're working with SimpleGeo to enable location-based push notifications. We're familiar with push notifications, we're familiar with location-based services... how do they combine to make 1+1 > 2?
DB: The notion of “geo-fencing” although early and not generally welcomed by the majority of consumers, was akin to the old approach of just throwing stuff at you when you were in reach- the tired “Starbucks coupon when you walk past a store” example that has never taken off. So, by partnering with Simple Geo to integrate our technologies, we are fixing that and making a real offering that developers will actually use in their apps.
WIP: It sounds like what's really exciting here is the ability to start adding in a lot of different contextual data beyond just location.
DB: We want to allow people to use geo location in real-time, with context and purpose in a way that provides value. So we turned to our friends at SimpleGeo to integrate our technologies so developers can use advanced data points to give consumers deeper, more desirable alerts and better support the goals of the brand.
WIP: Beyond the ubiquitous Starbucks example, what are some potential uses you could see for this technology?
DB: Sure! Personally, I am looking forward to the my next Foodspotting alert that drives me into not just the locally raised, ergonomically fed, hand-washed, organic chicken taco cart… but the one that I am most likely to be walking towards, that my friends have rated that you know I will like. Or the happy hour alert I get based on weather data, offering me a cooling Penicillin at Teardrop Lounge or a buttery Basil Hayden (neat) when the weather cools.
WIP: What are some tips for developers to start thinking about how they could bring this into their apps?
DB: First of all I don't see every developer using location. The use case and the value for the app user must be there. If it is, then it is a win. I have often seen brands forcing ideas on consumers for campaigns that benefit the brand only. Apps have a personal relationship on a very personal and intent-driven device that has to be respected first. Now, things are changing, devices are getting more sophisticated, companies like SimpleGeo really digging into useful data points. So eventually, every app will incorporate some sort of contextual-awareness.
In the meantime, there are so many cases in which location drives our day, purchases, friends and even commute patterns. I saw a Forrester report talking about urban planning decisions drawn from mobile location data. I see a whole host of ways where location could work in the 20K+ apps we work with now.
Some easy ways to start would involve a few steps.
Step One is to start to listen. Look at the profile data you can use to start to better understand your users. With access to a simple API, the easiest way to obtain meaningful information such as real-time weather, population density, and geographic features from a latitude/longitude in a single call. Not only can we use your location, but also the context will you have around that location. This will help you craft your messages and add to the relevancy to each app user.
Step Two is to message. Simple messaging using segmentation rules in our push engine can allow you to use tags to sent to small groups of users and measure the impact. Start small. Global campaigns off the bat are never a best approach.
Step Three is to start tying it to CRM or app user data. Does your user commute on the Tube? If so what are the points when they might be most apt to engage with your app? Are they a bridge and tunnel commuter? Each pattern married to this rich data helps to provide opportunities to connect.
It helps to have things in real life to use location for, or some type of alignment when using location. Stores, weather, life patterns, etc. help with writing the story.
Start simple, learn, test and grow.
WIP: What are some best practices for implementing these notifications, particularly in the areas of privacy, intrusiveness and general creepiness?
Best practices are still shaping. Rule number one is do what you would like done to you. It’s the golden rule of everything, really, not just marketing. With so many technologies tied together if you are to approach it under the idea of "Hey you are here now..." it will scare people. Instead using context like "The Daily Mail just released the evening edition for your commute home - no more elbow awkwardness in the tube."
We see opt-in requests from apps as they release new versions. Some do a good job in the update descriptions telling you the “what and why” you should opt-in to push. Others do a good job asking you to opt in to push the user opens the app next. I would say if you add either push notifications or location to your app, communicate the value. Do it in the app, on your site, on Twitter, on your Facebook page, in your email campaigns and every communication channel. Don't just leave it up to your app users to find out. One of my favorite apps, Pulse News, knocks this out of the park with overlays in the app and a really deep approach to over-communicating in simple ways that make me excited about what they have done.
Privacy should always be addressed upfront and all data should be hashed. We recommend apps using our aliasing ability to use opaque identifiers at all times. Keep privacy at the top and make it clear. Our system cannot identify individuals connected to our platform. All identifying info is hashed out. We talk about this all the time because we want mobile citizens to feel more comfortable with push.
In all cases make it easy to opt down or out of systems. I love the opt down or preference center approach - give them control in the app to make the changes and make getting there easily found.