In the world of business, few movements are as exciting — and as revolutionary — as automation. This post will take a look at the fundamentals of automation, how to automate push notifications, and some tips on ways to optimize your automation efforts.
The Basics of Automation
If you watched the Jetsons, you probably remember Rosie the Robot and probably wonder why you don’t have a robot that does your laundry. And yet, if you think about it, you do have one: Your washing machine. This dichotomy defines automation across the board, including browser-based push notifications. Automation makes hard tasks a lot easier, but it requires a human mind to get the most out of it.
Do What I Say
We use automation all the time in our lives. Whenever you set a calendar appointment on your phone, order something off the internet, or tell a computer to batch-process a bunch of data, you’re automating what used to be a painful, laborious process. So painful and laborious, in fact, that a computer literally used to be a person with an abacus.
But, at the same time, we’ve experienced the downside of automation, which is that computers and robots do, literally, what we tell them to do. This is a problem for humans, who do not communicate literally; do you ask a friend if they’d like to pour liquids into their mouth with you at 10 am? Or do you ask them if they want to grab a coffee before lunch? The robot understands the former but will be completely baffled by the latter.
The good news, in marketing automation, is that the robots aren’t that complicated. Mostly you will be telling them to send this message at this specific time to this set group of people. But that doesn’t mean you can work on autopilot, either.
Check Your Work
The first step in marketing automation is to work out exactly what you want to happen. Say you want to send out a notification at noon local time for your customers. With marketing automation, you have to specifically tell your robot buddy “12:00 pm local time for my customer,” or it will push it out 12 pm local time wherever you are. If you see a notification arrive promoting dinner while you’re eating breakfast or a “Dear #NAME” message, you’ve just met a very confused robot.
Like any tool, you should look it over, kick the tires, and test it before you use it. Ideally, you can test it with your office computer to see it from a customer’s viewpoint. But don’t forget you can use automation behind-the-scenes, too. Robots can track conversion rates, look across all your marketing channels to gather data, and even link marketing channels. If there’s a task that’s boring and time-consuming, there’s a robot you can have taken care of it for you.
In other words, robots are powerful, unique tools that can save you a lot of time, and you should use them. Often coordinating between your accounts alone can take a lot of energy, so examine your marketing strategy to determine what tools and APIs can help coordinate it. Just always remember that robots can’t do everything: They just free you up to do the really important work of reaching your customers.
Push Notification Automation Timing
When should you automate your notifications? Many campaigns benefit from the convenience of automation, because you can just “set it and forget it.” However, concerns about frequency and timing often trip up even the best campaign designers. Too frequent, and you will alienate users. The wrong timing, and your notification will never be seen. So how can automation help, and when is it most effectively used?
Automation and Notifications
There are two questions you need to ask yourself if you’re considering automating a notification. One, is your user best served by this notification being automated? Two, is the notification you are automating something that your audience expects to be automated? Before you answer either of these, remember that push notifications are urgent bursts of single points of data or ideas and have to be considered in that context.
The second question is the easier to answer, especially if you let users set their own notification preferences. For example, a brokerage might use notifications to let subscribers set an alert for the price of specific assets once they reach a certain price, or a user might configure a site with a podcast to let them know when a new episode is posted.
This leads to the answer to the first question, which is entirely about whether you need to inform your users, or whether you need them to do something that they are not expecting. Passive alerts are consistently the best candidates for automation because subscribers only need to receive information, not act on it. Product shipping, custom price alerts, appointment confirmations, sudden closings, weather alerts, and payments received or sent are all items that customers want to know about but do not need to act on. It is a good idea to configure a click-through in the notification, but it is not necessary.
Passive Vs. Active
Consider active alerts in this context. Active alerts are instances where your goal is for a customer to buy a product, consider a sale, book a service, and so on. These are the campaigns that require focused time and energy to create, that also have to be carefully scheduled to optimize audience engagement. You can use automation in these campaigns, of course, and should, particularly when scheduling notification send times according to time zone. Though some automation is involved, much of the planning and structure will be handled by humans.
Keep in mind that audiences are forgiving for passive alerts and alerts they set themselves, so properly automated alerts are not going to conflict with this campaign if an active message arrives right after or right before a passive one. Users are not going to be annoyed you prompted them to buy something and then an alert comes in telling them you have received the order. That is just polite! They will also be more forgiving of impersonal “form” messages, like “Your package containing your product has shipped.”
By separating active uses, like campaigns, from passive uses, you will be able to better serve your users not just with messages, but with the data they need.
Optimizing Your Automated Push Notifications
Automation is wonderful and steadily changing marketing: How we crunch the numbers, organize the lists, and deliver notifications. But any robot left to run will eventually drift, and that’s what makes an automation audit so important.
What Is An Automation Audit?
At its most basic, an automation audit is looking at what you’ve automated to make sure that it’s still functioning properly. Automation audits can happen annually or semi-annually; you can opt for audits on a running basis; or you can run audits on a one-off basis as complaints pop up. As to why it’s necessary, it’s important to understand that automation is a set of rules your computer follows to the letter. These rules can be almost absurdly complex, much like the programs running your computer themselves. However, as anybody who has played a badly designed board game can tell you, the rules only work until they don’t. Similarly, there’s the problem of GIGO, short for “garbage in/garbage out.” If you start with bad data, or problems creep into your data over time, then things will go off the rails quickly.
The good news is that automation is already well done, and constantly improving. You’re unlikely to come across something going completely haywire. However, the audit is more likely to uncover places where you can polish your campaign in a multitude of ways.
Automation Audit Best Practices
- Have a road map of your system in place. What’s automated, what isn’t, and why? What automation needs a human to respond to it, and what fulfills itself automatically? Finding this will often unveil places where you could be more effective, either on a human or an automated scale. This will also be useful going forward if you decide to add more automation or tweak your infrastructure.
- Follow the marketing rule of eating what you serve; that is, you should be getting your own push notifications, at least insofar as it makes sense. There’s no better way to spot and stop a problem than being on the receiving end of it, after all.
- On a regular basis (weekly or monthly) pull a random selection of your push notifications that have been automated for a quality check. For personalized results, especially, ask yourself if this is the best option or if you can tighten the rules up.
- Don’t hesitate to request customer feedback, especially with informational pushes like package shipping notices. Customers with a high volume of orders usually need the information but might appreciate a different approach, such as a summary of orders or custom order pushes.
- Finally, keep on top of the technology. Automation is changing quickly, with new tools and features added to the tools you already use every day. It’s likely if there isn’t already a way to automate something, there likely will be one worth considering soon.
Can You Over-Automate?
Some tasks should be automated by browser-based push notifications just by default. When an invoice clears, when an order ships, when a subscription needs to be renewed — you can automate any situation where your customer just needs to know a little bit of data. But let’s look at an edge case here, such as when a customer files a ticket with your help desk.
It’s good to have a help desk, and it’s good to let customers know that you’re dealing with the situation they’ve brought to you. And to some degree, this process should be automated; at the very least, when a customer files a ticket, they should immediately get a push stating the ticket has gone through. This limits duplicate tickets. But we’ve all had that sensation of being over-informed. The help desk has accepted your ticket. The help desk has seen your ticket. The help desk has transferred your ticket. This is a relic from the days when everyone believed helplines could be automated, and we all got stranded in a maze of confused robots trying to find an operator.
The problem is that at no point here does your customer believe a human being is actually looking at their ticket. After all, a human being isn’t talking to them. This is an example of something being over-automated when the human touch is important. So how do you counteract this?
The Human Touch
First, think of any heavily automated push system like a sub-campaign, and lay out a proper flow chart. There are clear points here that should be automated: When a ticket is filed and when a ticket is cleared, for example. But follow the flow of this “campaign” through, and put yourself in your customer’s shoes. It might make sense, in this scenario, to eat your own meal. Submit a ticket, get the notifications, and see how it tastes.
Sometimes this might involve more than one channel. In our help desk scenario, you might set a rule where once a ticket is logged, no other notification can go out until somebody at the desk has given the customer a call or otherwise personally communicated with them. This may not be necessary for all tickets, of course; it’ll depend on your business. But set the expectation with your team.
And before you automate, ask yourself how the customer will view it. People don’t mind automation when the value is clear to them, but what may be valuable to you may not be as valued by your customer. Automation is a time-saver, but the personal touch can be a business-saver, so balance the two accordingly.
The Secret to Push Notification Automation
Many messaging platforms claim to be “smart,” but few can match the ML-powered automation of Pushnami. Our automated push notifications boost performance by 30% versus manual scheduling and allow you to deliver a more unique and relevant customer experience. If you’re wondering how to automate push notifications, our Push Success Team would love to talk about implementing the perfect push platform for your business.
To find out the power of a truly automated push notification experience, try a demo of Pushnami!