Don’t Bury Your Customers in Notifications

Todd Grennan By Todd Grennan Dec 22, 2015

Think about all the work you put into your outreach. Writing the copy. Figuring out the design, choosing images. Deciding which channels to use. Running multivariate tests to hone your message. Sending it out, assessing the results you get, then starting the process all over again, with new data-driven insights into how to make things even better.

In recent years, marketing automation has made that process easier and more effective, allowing you to reach customers all over the world with automated, personalized, targeted messages that can encourage consistent engagement and sustainable long-term customer/brand relationships. But that’s only if you use automated messaging campaigns right. Used haphazardly, they can alienate customers by hitting them with too many messages in too short a time. That can have a major negative effect not just on the success of your outreach, but on the long-term success of your marketing efforts as a whole.

Over-messaging can lead to frustrated customers

Even if a message is perfectly crafted, well-timed, and carefully personalized to make it as appealing as possible to the recipient, if it’s the 25th time they’ve heard from you this week, they’re probably not going to engage with it. When customers feel overwhelmed with a flood of messages, they’re more likely to start ignoring your outreach or even to uninstall your app.

Every customer has their limit when it comes to how many messages they receive, especially if those messages are push notifications. While some messaging types, like in-app messages, tend to have a look and feel that makes them less intrusive to recipients, other channels, like push notifications, are best for urgent outreach and are very easy to overuse. The consequences of overdoing it can be big—78% of consumers will turn off push notifications or uninstall if they’re unhappy with the messages they receive.

How to avoid over-messaging your customers

Use uninstalls and push opt-outs to figure out how much is too much

What constitutes too many messages in too short a time is going to be different for each customer, messaging channel, and brand. And while in some situations it will be clear at a glance that you’re over-messaging a given customer or audience segment, you shouldn’t count on that when you’re fine-tuning your messaging levels.

While uninstalls and push notification opt-outs aren’t usually good news for your brand, they ARE a good way to gauge whether your outreach is hitting an off-note. If you find these negative KPIs spiking as the number of campaigns you send increases, that’s a sign that limiting the number of messages that customers receive could lead to better results.

Plus, putting together customer outreach isn’t easy. If you’re going to put in the time and effort it takes to add to the number of campaigns you send, that work should advance your marketing efforts. If even well-crafted new messages are seeing diminishing returns when it comes to driving more conversions, clicks, or other metrics relevant to your brand, or if they’re actively leading to negative results in the form of push opt-outs or uninstalls, you need to reassess the number of messages you send.

Take advantage of frequency capping to put limits on your outreach

Frequency capping is best known in the digital advertising world, where brands use it to place limits on how often customers are exposed to a particular ad over a given period of time. But it’s also possible to use frequency capping in your customer messaging to keep people from being overwhelmed with outreach. There are three main ways to use frequency capping:

1) To limit messages across all outreach channels

Imagine that you’re looking to establish limits on your app’s messages to customers. You’ve found that uninstalls rise when customers receive more than four messages from you in a week, so you decide to set a frequency cap in your mobile marketing automation platform that stops messages from being delivered if the recipient has already received four messages in the last seven days. This cap will apply to every kind of message you send: email, push, or in-app message, and is a great reason to centralize your cross-channel messaging on one platform.

2) To limit messages in a single channel

Sometimes the number of messages that customers are willing to receive over a given period will be higher for some channels than others. Maybe sending a large number of in-app messages doesn’t negatively impact their effectiveness, but hitting your customers with more than two push notifications per week raises the number of uninstalls your app sees. Frequency capping can also be applied by channel, allowing you to set a cap on push, for instance, without affecting how many in-app messages are sent.

3) To limit messages in a single channel AND across all channels simultaneously

Because some channels are particularly likely to lead to messaging fatigue, you may find it works best for your brand to set a general frequency cap on messages (for instance, no more than five messages per week) as well as channel-specific cap (like no more than one push notification per day).

Imagine that you’ve already sent a push notification to a customer today and three other messages to them in the last seven days. Under this kind of frequency cap, a scheduled email or in-app message would reach them that day, but a push wouldn’t.

When overriding frequency caps makes sense

But what if something comes up? Maybe you need to let all of your customers know about a major problem with your app or a once-in-a-lifetime deal, but you’re using frequency capping and some audience members have already hit their limit for the day. In that case, it makes sense to override the frequency cap for that particular message, allowing it to go out to all the customers who should see it.

Be careful, though: if you find yourself using the override option on a regular basis, that’s probably a sign that your frequency cap is too low or that you’re sending a lot of last-minute campaigns. You’ll see better results planning further ahead and setting a frequency cap that’s true to how you actually message, instead of just adjusting over and over on an ad hoc basis.

The gist

Customer messaging is great. Used well, the messaging channels at your disposal can allow you to build and maintain rich, sustainable relationships with your customers that pay positive dividends for your business over the long haul. But if you over-message, your brand may well pay the price with more push opt-outs and uninstalls. To avoid that, keep a close eye on negative KPIs and use frequency capping to keep the number of messages that your customers receive at the level that works best for your brand.

Todd Grennan

Todd Grennan

Todd Grennan is a New York-based writer and editor. When he's not writing about mobile marketing, customer retention and emerging technologies for Braze, you can find him trying to read his way through every Wikipedia article related to World War II.

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