Annoying notifications: Are they still relevant?

Are you tired of SPAM? We all get hundreds of spam emails per day. Add too many spam SMSes as well. With so many mobile apps on phone, do you feel you are being bombarded with unnecessary notifications on your smartphones?

I have about 50 apps on my Android phone. Some of the most used applications are:

  • Gmail
  • WhatsApp
  • Telegram
  • Outlook
  • Facebook

These 5 apps generate close to 100 notifications on an average in a day. My phone tings and vibrates that many times in 24 hours. Although notifications from a single app are grouped (thank you), there are at least 20 notification items in my notification drawer at any given point in time.

About 10% of the notification is relevant to me and I would like to read them. But, filtering out the important ones takes a lot of effort especially during the day when I am busy. So, most of the times I dismiss all the notifications. Of course, I could go into the notification settings of the individual apps and turn off specific notifications types.

Some apps might not provide fine-grained notification settings, for which I sometimes tend to stop all the notifications from those apps, permanently.

The majority of the apps on my phone are used only rarely. Maybe once in a week, like Amazon, Flipkart etc. These apps send me at least 2 notifications a day. I don’t even read them and swipe them out right away most of the times. 

When I see 20 notifications in the notification drawer, I start filtering them out by briefly looking at it. I sometimes swipe away the important ones by mistake and can’t get them back unless the app has a feature to save all the previous unread notifications. 

I am quite sure many people would be doing the same. So, my question is:

Are notifications still relevant? Are you experiencing notification fatigue already?

Most of the notifications are similar; an image with some text, carousels, notifications with in-app actions etc. The developer of an app might think that he has designed a superb notification which cannot miss the eye of the user. However, in most cases, I think they go un-noticed. 

The last thing an app developer would want is an irritated user who turns off the notifications from the app permanently, due to this “Notification Fatigue”. Users could even be tempted to uninstall the app. That would be a disaster.

When your phone gets flooded with such notifications, it’s quite obvious that the “Notification View Rates” (NVR) or “Click Through Rates” (CTR) of your campaigns suffer. Once you dismiss a notification, you do not get it back unless the apps preserve them and present them when you want.

Can you make your notifications stand out then, to increase your NVRs and CTRs?

Mobile Marketing Automation tools like OneSignalWebEngage, CleverTap, and MixPanel help you deliver your notifications to devices. They also provide AI and ML to improve the above KPIs of your campaigns. The algorithms can help in deciding whom and when to show the notifications so that a user is most likely to interact with it.

Most of the apps use these services anyway to create well-crafted and targeted campaigns for users. From a single app’s perspective, they might be doing all the right things like choosing the right target, timing the notifications and designing awesome looking campaigns, but from a user’s perspective, it’s really annoying to get so many notifications in a day, no matter how beautiful they look.

Push notifications, in the early days of smartphones, had more utility when there were only a few of them. But now, I feel, they are just too much to anyone’s liking. If users have already started ignoring them, they are already missing out the important updates from the apps.

Thus, the sole objective of notifications to alert users about important information is not working. They are either ignored or blocked. They have actually become counter-productive in most cases.

What can you do about it?

Notification Channels – Android Oreo

I guess we don’t yet have an answer. Android’s approach of “Notification Channels” is one step towards the right direction. It doesn’t still solve the problem completely.

iOS 12 – Grouped notifications

Starting iOS 12, Apple launched “Grouped Notifications“. This feature had been a much awaited one and users are a lot happier now. Multiple notifications from a single app are grouped and appear as a single stack in the notification drawer. That drastically reduces the number of notifications that a user needs to scroll through. Grouped notifications has been on Android since Android 7.0 (Nougat) since 2016.

To improve the notification experience, it needs a combined effort from the mobile developers, designers, business guys and the mobile platforms as well. Some of these are probably far-fetched solutions though.

  • Developers should think about this problem and try and reduce the number of notifications pushed to users. They should think of it as a precious resource, which should be used judiciously.
  • Grouping or merging notifications is a great way not only to reduce the number of notifications but also to provide a better user experience.
  • Android and iOS should put restrictions on the amount and frequency of the notifications per app.
  • Google and Apple should review and reject apps which abuse the notification system.
  • Android and iOS should have a “Dismissed notifications” sections where you can see all you recently unread and dismissed notifications. This should handle the problem when you remove the important notifications by mistake.

Are you annoyed of the notifications on your phones? Let us know.

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