iOS 12 Isn’t Enough To Combat Tech Addiction. It’s Time for Notification Redemption.

Your phone buzzes. Perhaps it’s a text message or a friend uploading a new Instagram post. Most likely, it’s nothing at all. Yet the pull is irresistible, and you find yourself giving into the urge to pick up your device time and time again.

Source: Giphy

Tech addiction is a hot-button topic, and for good reason. The general public is concerned about the impact of smartphone usage on productivity, attention, and even IQ scores. Parents worry about the effects of excessive smartphone usage on children. Even the tech elite ponder the ethical obligation of tech companies to design less addicting products.

So, what can be done about it?

The media has been buzzing about the highly anticipated iOS 12 platform and its potential to combat bad consumer tech habits. However, other parties — like app developers and mobile teams — also have a responsibility to tackle another aspect of the problem — the way they communicate with users via notifications.

It’s Time for Notification Redemption

Somewhere along the way in the marketing industry’s race for our attention, we became hooked on a constant influx of new content, new posts, new updates — and notifications designed for nothing else but fueling those addictions.

Apple is responding to these charges by putting control back in the hands of users. In the iOS 12 platform, users can disable push notifications or access an app’s notification settings directly from their lock screen. A Deliver Quietly option removes non-priority notifications from the lock screen completely. A Do Not Disturb function and Bedtime Mode halt notifications, calls, and texts for a specified period of time.

The hope is that tiered notifications and easy access to notification blocking will subdue the urge to constantly pick up the phone. And the changes put pressure on apps to do better or be silenced forever.

Though iOS 12 is a good first step, mobile teams must do their part and inject integrity back into messaging. Mobile users need to stop being interrupted for the sake of being interrupted. We want smartphones to do what they were supposed to do in the first place — make our lives easier and more convenient.

High-Value Notifications Make a Comeback

To join the fight against tech addiction, mobile teams must put batch-and-blast messaging behind them in favor of personalized outreach — that is, high-value notifications that actually enhance the lives of mobile users.

What exactly is a high-value notification? Here are three things they have in common:

1. They Are Tailored to the Interests & Needs of Individual Users

Throughout the app experience, users share details like location and preferences, and reveal patterns of in-app behavior. When this information is properly leveraged, mobile teams can tailor notifications to meet the individual needs of users, and deliver them at just the right time.

Recently, I received a notification from a music app that my favorite artist released a new album and had an upcoming concert at a venue near me. This notification demonstrated that the app took note of my taste preferences and location to deliver information that it knew would be personally relevant to me. I ended up purchasing the concert tickets and enjoyed an unforgettable experience.

2. They Are Triggered Alerts, Not Random Blasts

Great notifications start with some type of trigger — something changed that the user would be interested in — and are delivered at the moment when they can make the most impact. 

Let’s look at an example that mobile growth expert Andy Carvell recently shared about his experience with N26, a German mobile-first banking app that sends notifications when you spend money. There was an incident where Carvell was mistakenly charged a deposit fee upon checking out of a hotel. N26 notified him right away, and he was able to deal with the issue in real-time rather than when his bank statement arrived at the end of the month.

Notifications like these differ starkly from hollow messages that do nothing but hook us back on our phones, and make our lives much more convenient.

3. They Provide Valuable Information Users Might Otherwise Miss Out On

Prior to a business trip I took a few months ago, a travel app sent me a notification alerting me that my flight was delayed. This little message ended up saving me hours I would have wasted at the airport. 

Notifications such as these make users feel grateful to receive information they otherwise would have missed — a telling sign of a strong, valuable message. In the wake of iOS 12, if a notification does not meet this criteria, then apps must simply scratch it and move on or risk being blocked forever.

Apps can even go a step further to solicit individual user feedback on each notification. Think of a “was this message useful” inquiry immediately following a notification send. The idea is for mobile teams to consistently fine-tune their outreach strategies while simultaneously reminding users that the quality of their experience is important.

Surprisingly, while iOS 12 forces apps to rethink how they communicate with users, it also introduces features that encourage better notifications. For example, apps can now send rich notifications that users can interact with directly from the lock screen. And apps can take advantage of Provisional Push Notifications to send trial notifications that bypass the system-level permissions request, giving apps a chance to prove themselves before being dismissed.

It is now in the hands of mobile teams to seize the opportunity.

A Future Where Apps Can Do Better

With the upcoming release of iOS 12, stakes are high for apps hell-bent on maintaining the traditional outreach model of — let’s call it like it is — spam. The new constraints deliver an ultimatum: provide notifications that are actually useful, or be silenced forever.

Let’s hope that app marketers take note and provide real, relevant value that improves the user experience — not just endless buzzes.

Leanplum is a mobile engagement platform that helps forward-looking brands like Grab, Tinder, and Tesco meet the real-time needs of their customers. Schedule your personalized demo here.