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Why the risk of reaching ‘mobile overload’ with your customers isn’t worth it

Corporate networks are increasingly crowded with apps and that support a variety of digital interactions, but it’s all about striking the right balance


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Smartphone users are increasingly overloaded with information and notifications, resulting in widespread frustration that has the potential to damage the reputation of brands and apps.

According to a recent smartphone survey by Delvv, a mobile intelligence app developer, 78% of users indicated that a majority of push notifications they receive aren’t relevant.

“There are almost certainly negative consequences if you are pushing (users) into this range where they feel bothered or overwhelmed by information too frequently,” said Raefer Gabriel, the cofounder and CEO of Delvv. “Those feelings will drift over and attach to specific apps and specific brands.”

While the survey found that people are reliant on their smartphones, with 84% considering them an integral part of their life and 35% checking their smartphone more than 50 times per day, almost half of respondents manually customize push notifications to avoid overload.

Permissible Interruptions 

Not all notifications are created equal, and while many users are frustrated by certain interruptions, others are accepted and even appreciated. For example, direct messages like email, instant messaging and text messages are more valued than social media updates, sports updates and news items.

“I think the high level takeaway is that it should be something that you might really want to take action on immediately,” said Mr. Gabriel. “In many cases that’s direct communication with another user. It could be something else, but it needs to be compelling and personalized if it is something else.”

The Ability to Opt-Out Isn’t Enough 

Though applications typically allow users to pick and choose the type and frequency of notification they want to receive, putting the burden on users can also result in negative brand association.

“That always leaves a bad taste in my mouth, personally, and the data from this survey backs up the idea that at least significant numbers of users of certain age groups feel the same way,” said Mr. Gabriel. “The argument would be more towards opting-in to higher frequency communications as opposed to opting-out of them.”

When In Doubt, Default to Low Frequency 

Recognizing that all users interact with their smartphones differently, developers and administrators should build applications that allow users the ability to opt-in to higher frequency communications, but default to low frequency or even no notifications, explains Mr. Gabriel. Doing so will prevent users from becoming frustrated with the brand or deleting the application, while allowing highly engaged users the ability to interact more frequently.

“It’s really recognizing that there are totally different cohorts of users, different populations of people who have different perceptions about how frequently they want to be updated,” he said.

Know Your Audience

The Delvv survey also found that smartphone habits and attitudes towards notifications vary between demographics. For example, more than half of millennials indicated that they do not feel comfortable going more than three hours without checking their smartphone, and 90 per cent manually organize information and notifications on their smartphones to protect against information overload.

“There are clear differences in how different user age groups perceive this information overload effect,” said Mr. Gabriel. “Millennial users tend to use more apps, get more push notifications, and while they still seem to consider it sometimes annoying that they are interrupted so much, they seem, as a group, less overwhelmed by these interruptions; presumably because they’ve grown up in an era of interruptive communications.”

Mr. Gabriel advises developers to research their target market’s usage patterns and attitudes towards notification before releasing an application.

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