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Email Marketing vs. Push Notifications

Email Marketing vs. Push Notifications

by Khirol HazwanJune 9, 2017

It has long been said that email marketing is the most cost-efficient method of digital marketing. This is because the costs associated with email marketing lie almost completely in three points: list acquisition, cost of email hosting and tools, and composition costs. After you get past the first point, scaling an email marketing campaign comes at virtually zero marginal cost: it costs just as much to market to a list of 100 contacts as it does to market to a list of 10,000 contacts.

However, there is now another marketing method that has the potential to be even more cost-effective than email, and that is push notifications.

Push notifications are messages that a mobile app can send to the main message center of people’s mobile phones even when they are not using the app. Anyone who has ever used the Starbucks mobile app knows what this looks like.

Benefits Over Email

There are at least five things about push notifications that make them even more powerful than emails as a marketing channel:

Interruption Value

One of the most important things that any marketing campaign needs to do is interrupt the viewer’s daily routine and thought processes. You are asking people to make a decision that departs from the plan of their lives. You are asking them to, essentially, take a risk on you. It is a risk because they do not absolutely know that the value you deliver will truly be worth what they will pay you.

Push notifications interrupt more effectively than emails because they go directly to the main message center of the user’s mobile device. The notification is usually accompanied by a sound of some sort, and it is highly visible and prominent whenever the user goes to do anything on his or her phone. It remains there until it is actively tapped or dismissed.

Compare this to emails, which may go to the junk folder or, in the case of Gmail, the “Promotions” tab. And even when they do show up in the main inbox folder, they are often accompanied by various other emails from other sources and are therefore easy to ignore.

A Mobile Focus

Everything is going mobile now. Google has adopted a mobile-first mentality. Mobile searches are exceeding desktop searches. People live on their phones. They also spend the majority of their time on phones using mobile apps rather than web browsers. A marketing strategy that does not take mobile outreach into account is an outdated strategy.

Facilitation of E-Commerce

Marketers who use custom mobile apps to send out push notifications can tie those push notifications to an online ordering platform within the app that can have the user’s pre-saved information there already. Tapping the push notification can take the app user directly to a screen that is already populated with both the specifics of the given offer and the user’s payment information. Making purchasing easy in this way significantly increases the conversion rate of marketing messages.


Email marketers can set their emails to go out at a specific time in the future. This can be done with push notifications as well. In addition to that, though, marketers can set push notifications to go out only to app users within a specific geographical area. This can be done either by defining a specific point and putting a radius around that point or by defining multiple points on a map to create a polygon.

Geofencing is beneficial for a few reasons. First, it allows you to make offers specific to certain areas or regions. This is particularly useful if you are doing marketing for a business with multiple locations and you want to be able to make different offers by location. Second, it allows you to encourage impulse purchases. For example, you can set an offer to go out between the hours of 11:00 and 1:00 on Monday through Wednesday within a short radius of a restaurant. This push notification can say something like: Come in for lunch today and get a free dessert! People may see it while driving by the location, and since they are already right there, they will have a high tendency of reacting to it and coming in.


Community Building

Unlike an email list or a website, an app that uses push notifications has a high capability of helping to build a sense of community among customers. Combined with other app features such as an event list and message boards, push notifications can help to build massive network effects, turning coffeehouses into artist colonies and average nightclubs into bustling nightclubs. Rather than simply receiving messages, app users are being engaged in multiple interlocking ways – and permitted to reach out and engage with others through the same app.

As an example, if you have a live musical performance occurring at your place of business, you can set push notifications to go out to app users who are in the vicinity. People who frequently respond to similar event notifications will begin to build strong relationships with each other, and this will lead to more business as network effects bring them back to the location again and again.

The Catch?

There is a catch to push notifications, though. Just as the catch with email marketing is that you need to build a strong and legitimate mailing list, the catch with an app is that you need to get subscribers to download and install the app. As with email marketing, though, you can do this by driving traffic to landing pages where people can download your app. The methods of doing this are basically the same methods that apply to email marketing: PPC ads, Facebook posts, and the main button on your Facebook page. You can even send a blast out to your existing email list, as downloading your app will help your contacts to ascend to a higher level of engagement.

Another catch is the question of cost. It is a relatively simple and cheap thing to set up an email marketing campaign through MailChimp or the like, but a custom mobile app can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars to develop. Once this hurdle has been crossed, however, the marketing potential that a custom-branded app brings to a business is incredible.


Ronald Kimmons is the founder of Wingfire Social and Veritas Mobile Solutions. On a limited basis, he is now offering custom-built apps – a $15,000 value – to select business owners FOR FREE. To see if you qualify, click here and schedule a free strategy session

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