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May 13, 2015

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The Notification Economy – New Contextual Experiences for Mobile Engagement

by Ravi Kalakota

Mobile is rapidly expanding opportunities to engage customers and increase stickiness. There is incredible amount of innovation taking place around Mobile Engagement, Messaging and Notification platforms. Messaging + Notifications = New mobile engagement toolsets.  New capabilities are emerging to: power push notifications, sophisticated audience targeting, message centers, digital wallet programs, and location analytics.

Notifications are growing rapidly and becoming increasingly interactive.  This is driving new touchpoints with messaging platforms and other apps.

NotificationEconomy1

Source: Mary Meeker, Internet Trends 2015

Wearables are increasingly become a central part of mobile engagement enabled by push notification strategies. Many retailers, CPG firms are experimenting with new micro-targeted contextual experiences  leveraging proximity beacons, push messaging to integrate coupons, recommendations and next best offers into the watch apps to monetize push and in-app messaging.

The Apple Watch, for instance, is a long-term megatrend that we believe will transform user engagement via notifications and alerts.  Unlike the tablet, phone or desktop, wearables, like Apple Watch, are built for quick interactions e.g., notifications and alerts.

PushNotificationEvolution

A study by Kleiner Perkins found the average user checks their phone over 150+ times per day (Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp etc.).In its 2014 annual Internet Trends report, KPCB  found that people check their phones, on average, 23 times a day for messaging, 22 times for voice calls, multiple times to see if there are Facebook updates and 18 times to get the time.  We expect many of these 150+ “interrupts” are naturally going to migrate to the Apple Watch.

The Apple Watch’s small screen size enables a fundamentally new user interface (UI) and user experience (UX). There are new inputs (force as well as touch), subtle vibration, digital “crown” control, new inter-device communication modes, and new data points that phones have never been able to collect (e.g. heartbeat).

As with any game-changing innovation, the question facing managers of large companies is:

  • How will this change the mobile customer engagement?
  • What mobile apps do you start to prototype, pilot or experiment with that will add value to your customer (and employee) base.

In our opinion, the question is not “if” but “when” will wearables become mainstream.   But the core strategic and value question that every firm needs to address: What Consumer and Enterprise use cases are relevant and potential game-changers?

Typical Notification Use Cases for Apple Watch

One important effect the Apple Watch will have will be in forcing its owners to scrutinize and make changes to their prior notification habits.

Apple Watch is making the wrist the next user interface. This enabled by haptics, and while it’s been around for years, most notably in game controllers. Haptic technology—haptics—uses force upon the skin to deliver real-time tactile feedback. These physical sensations are created by tiny motors called actuators. Haptics can mimic the feeling of a pin prick by a wearable that tracks your blood sugar, simulate the plucking of virtual guitar strings on a tablet screen, or re-create the physical recoil of a phaser from your favorite game controller.

Effective and useful notification challenges developers to build on top of the existing consumer user cases that are already starting to take hold in the marketplace. The common consumer use cases include:

  1. Continually monitor your physical activity in the background so that you can meet pre-set exercise goals.
  2. Commerce… Pay for something without taking out your phone (or wallet).
  3. Feel a tap on your wrist when you have a Facebook message or email.  Glance down, decide you don’t need to answer, keep on moving.
  4. View turn-by-turn directions on your wrist while visiting a tourist city.  Or leave your wrist down and let the vibration tell you when to turn left or right.
  5. See which of your friends is nearby as you walk around (without handling your phone), and tweet them to meet some place.
  6. Games that are time fillers
  7. Open garage or hotel door.
  8. Social use cases…send your loved ones a tap to show them that you care.

WatchSDK

Apple Watch comes with a powerful SDK that includes building blocks like Accelerometer, Heart Rate Monitor, Conversation Button, Gyroscope, Bluetooth, Digital Crown and Force Touch.

It also includes new UI Elements, Simple Navigation, Glances and Notifications.

How any App developers leverages these in the context of an interesting use case is the multi-billion dollar question. Figure below illustrates two forms of push notifications – Alerts and Communications

AlertsCommunicationsPush

Enterprise Notification Use Cases – Salesforce.com Use Cases

Small screens, short interactions, custom notifications all have significant impact on enterprise applications that involve engaging employees (like Sales teams) and customers. Customers interact with companies across a wide range of channels — Web, mobile, email, call center, and more. Personalizing journeys and conversations is key to building valuable relationships.  Effortless employee and customer engagement with non-intrusive technology (e.g., wearables + haptics ) is the next generation user interface.

Salesforce is actively designing several of its apps for the wrist to offer users access to glanceable information and the ability to be notified when a major event occurs.

The objective for an enterprise use case… Access the most relevant, timely data in seconds. Swipe to see dashboards.   By using the Watch as a simple and immediate way to respond to all kinds of messages, enterprise “notification fatigue” and information overload will ease.

The challenge for enterprise developers is identifying which apps’ notifications were timely and useful, or a nuisance and distracting.  For busy users, notifications that appear on the wrist, are either very helpful, or very annoying… depending on the design.

SalesDashboardonWatch

Source: Salesforce.com  (http://www.salesforce.com/applewatch/)

Summary

Bill Gates said it best, “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.”

Push and Opt-in Notifications will become a bigger and bigger part of the app ecosystem.   But notifications have a bad rap – they can be perceived as cluttering up the device, and are frequently used badly and this has caused many users to turn off notifications by default.

But notifications (message pushed to the Watch) can be leveraged more effectively by apply User Experience and Design Thinking.  We strongly believe that the Apple Watch will become a user-manager of notifications, so you always know what you are doing, where you are going and who you are connecting to.

But firms have to develop innovation prototypes NOW. It will take 12-18 months of design, architecture and rapid prototyping to become proficient at developing for different use cases.

Additional References

  1. Watch is a device that operates seamlessly with the iPhone and Apple Cloud Services such as iTunes, iCloud, Messages etc. Four “guided tours” on Apple’s website, demonstrating the functions of Apple Watch.
  1. More Than a Timepiece – the Apple Watch – LiquidHub Whitepaper that explains the internals of the Apple Watch written by Rajul Rana, LiquidHub CTO.
  1. LiquidLabs Agile Innovation Process

Agile Prototyping

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