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With their differing methodologies, strengths, and weaknesses, “push” and “pull” messaging might seem to be incompatible art forms. Research indicates, however, that they can play a complementary role in boosting customer engagement. What’s more, mastering the interplay between them can be key to true messaging mastery.

In 2018, Apple incorporated Screen Time into its mobile iOS platform. This feature allowed each individual user to track how much time they were spending on their iPhones, and how it ebbed and flowed from week to week. If there’s a better demonstration of how connected consumers have become than a mobile phone manufacturer launching an app that tells users that mayyyybe they’re paying a bit too much attention to their devices, it’s yet to be made. What’s more, the playing field when it comes to mobile connection has expanded over the past decade, with increasingly complex apps and increasingly rich messaging being delivered on increasingly diverse platforms like wearables.

Simply put, with an audience like this—and its ever-expanding online footprint—we find ourselves in a world where there are more ways than ever for brands to connect. When it comes to marketing and messaging, this creates both new opportunities and new challenges. Tried-and-true channels like email have been joined by the likes of rich push and in-app messaging, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Mastering modern messaging means not only knowing how to wield each well on its own, but also understanding how these channels can work effectively in concert.

"Push" and "Pull" Are Two Great Tastes That Taste Great Together

When discussing cross-channel marketing, it’s important to make a distinction between so-called “push” and “pull” messaging types. The difference boils down to whether or not consumers are actively engaged with a brand’s online presence at the time the message is received: A “push” message (such as a push notification, an email, or an SMS) is one that can be sent to a user outside of your brand’s app or web experience, while a “pull” message (such as an in-app message or a Content Card) allows you to communicate with individuals within those digital platforms.

Email and other messages in the “push” category are important for marketers, because they can be served up at any time and don’t require active engagement for someone to see them. They can be powerful tools for upping customer engagement, with Braze research indicating that, for example, users receiving email have engagement rates that are 45% higher than users who receive no messaging at all.

That, however, is only part of the story. “Pull” messaging comes into play when consumers are currently engaged with a brand’s digital platforms. Highly customizable, versatile, and capable of delivering a deeply personalized experience to customers who are already motivated to interact on a certain level, “pull” channels like in-app messages can serve a variety of functions while targeting an audience that’s already primed to hear from you.

For Best Results, Stay Out of Silos

When used on their own, both “push” and “pull” channels are effective, with Braze research finding that single-channel outreach can create engagement levels 179% higher than no messaging at all. That sounds—and is!—great, but things get even more interesting once we start to look at mixing and matching message types. That 45% engagement boost with email that I mentioned earlier jumps up to a mighty 186% when email is paired with IAM. And when you toss web and mobile push into the mix, and you’re looking at another 54% jump in engagement.

Those are big numbers, but they deliver an even bigger signal: Brands that restrict their messaging to a single channel do so at their own peril. Finding ways to pair the complementary strengths of “push” and “pull” messaging is rocket fuel for customer engagement, with “push” doing the heavy lifting outside of a brand’s online presence in terms of triggering interaction, while “pull” provides the context and guidance that creates deeper loyalty once that interaction is initiated.

Final Thoughts

It’s a teeming marketing landscape, and while there are more ways than ever to reach potential customers, standing out from the crowd can be a challenge. The best way to meet that challenge is a cross-channel strategy that makes savvy use of multiple types of messaging.

Want to dig deeper into the impact that messaging channels can have on engagement? Take a look at the Braze Cross-Channel Difference Report.

Adam Swiderski

Adam Swiderski is a writer, editor, musician, surfer, and recovering professional nerd from Queens, New York. He's interested in the meeting of technology and humanity, and disinterested in zombie apocalypse.