The Best Notification I’ve Ever Received

There are bad notifications, there are good notifications, and there are, occasionally, great notifications. Bad notifications are easy to spot: they compare directly with the most egregious email marketing. Good notifications are, luckily, increasingly common: they’re the ones that provide relevant updates and information that you care about. Great notifications are still pretty rare. They’re the ones that really fulfill the promise of mobile, launching you into an end-to-end experience that improves your day. This is a story of a great notification.

Several months ago, I went out for a long walk. I crossed a bridge, went up a hill, got a haircut, did some shopping, and went back home. Nothing exciting about that. However, when I was on my way back over the bridge, I checked my phone to see my step count for the day (I was in a fierce competition with my wife and some friends). On the screen, there was a Starbucks notification telling me about an offer. This offer wasn’t really time-sensitive, it hadn’t come in with a sound — it was merely there, waiting to be seen at a convenient time. It’s also important to note that I had explicitly opted in to receive offers in the app, in addition to opting in to push notifications.

I read the offer, a discount on their lemonade tea combos, and decided to order one. It had been a long walk, after all. That’s when it started to get interesting.

Portland, at the time, was part of Starbucks’ mobile ordering beta. I was able to go from reading the offer to placing an order for that item at the closest store with just a few taps. I continued walking across the bridge, down the hill, and into a Starbucks. I walked up to the counter where they deliver the drinks. A barista looked at me, confirmed my name, and handed me the drink right then and there, and I was on my way. It was perfectly seamless, with zero frustration and zero wait. It was amazing, and it was all triggered by a great notification that was on my screen at (coincidentally) exactly the right moment.

These experiences are very powerful. They’re often not something that can be done in an app alone. They require rethinking about your entire business from the perspective of, “The person I want to serve has an incredibly powerful, always-connected computer in their pocket.” With that computer, you can communicate with them, and take old flows and mental models and completely redo them. Often, it’s more about enabling the employees of a business to be mobile than it is about giving end users fancy app features that don’t really change the relationship between the user and the business. Soon, this mobile-born approach to creating customer experiences will be the norm.

Ultimately, a great notification is something that is the trigger to a great experience. It might not involve an in-app experience at all, but increasingly, great experiences are powered by apps on devices — even if it’s not the consumer that’s using them. This is a massive shift and one that’s steadily progressing, driven and fueled by the expectations of end users. I, for one, am looking forward to a lot more great notifications.

With Urban Airship Engage, we can help your brand achieve those great notifications. To learn more, visit our Push Notifications Explained page.