Sometimes it is not necessary to inform someone that you’ve done something useful. Say, for instance, your housemate has invited their new partner over, and they’re quietly bingeing on the latest blockbuster series in their bedroom - you’d hardly open the door to let them know you’ve taken the trash out...would you? No, you wouldn’t; it would be weird. It would also be really annoying. It’s much better to take out the trash in the background, get the job done, and leave the lovers to their murder mystery. And then, when they emerge from their cave, they’ll be treated to a trash-free house.
Something similar can be said for push notifications. For businesses, it’s never a good idea to be an annoyance to your customer. Unfortunately this is the only purpose an unnecessary push notification serves. Let’s go back to the bedroom for a second and consider this scenario: the season is coming to it’s crescendo, and at the moment the killer turns out to be … the phone vibrates with a push notification saying that an app has been updated. Can. Feel. My. Blood. Begin. To. Boil.
Why Keep Silent?
It doesn’t have to be like this though; thanks to (the often forgotten) silent push. For those of you that are unfamiliar with this feature: a silent push is used to deliver data to an app without an accompanying alert. Instead, the app will be woken up in the background and whatever instructions it receives will be carried out discreetly, without any disturbance.
The importance of updating silently in the background goes beyond avoiding user disturbance, however. Another massive benefit is that, by downloading information through silent push, the latest version of your service is ready for users when they open the app, meaning they are getting the RIGHT experience from the start of their session, and not an outdated one. This is particularly useful for apps that have constantly changing content, like news apps. As the news changes all day, and new articles are published all the time, you want your users to always have the most up-to-date version. This bypasses any lag/load time or connectivity issues (from being on a plane or underground train for instance).
By downloading information through silent push, the latest version of your service is ready for users when they open the app.
Furthermore, habitual users of other media and entertainment apps, do not need to be reminded every Thursday that the latest episode or podcast is now available for them to enjoy. It’s much better for it to be downloaded in the background, and be ready for when a user chooses to interact with it. However, if a week passes by and they haven’t caught up yet, it is a good idea to send a friendly reminder via a push notification.
The Sound Of Silence
Another, less obvious, use case for silent push is to update the badge count on the app icon once it has been updated. This simple feature on a phone’s home screen flags to users that something has happened, and the naturally curious (or OCD) will be inclined to open the app, increasing engagement. This is silent push’s way of disrupting a user, but in an oh-so-subtle way that they hardly notice.
If a silent push involves something that you feel is not important enough to warrant a regular push notification, but you still want your users to know about, it makes sense to serve an in-app message the next time they open the app, notifying them of what has changed. This provides the best of both worlds: users are educated on the new update at a time that suits them.
So there we have it, a simple solution to delivering often vital content to your app, reducing friction, and increasing engagement without damaging relationships or raising blood pressure. It’s a win-win feature.