Here’s how Atlantic staff writer Amanda Mull categorized push notifications last week:
“Push notifications may indeed be the smartphone’s defining feature. They are, if nothing else, a perfect avatar of how frustrating it can be to own one.”
Behind many of those push notifications are brands — promoting, sending updates, and trying to drive engagement of some sort or another. Some of these notifications are genuinely useful, but are often buried behind the ones that aren’t.
The healthcare industry coined the term “Alert Fatigue” to describe the phenomenon of being overwhelmed by the sheer number of safety alerts that the important ones get lost in the clutter.
In one cautionary tale, a patient was accidentally given a 3800% order of his medication, and the hospital’s built-in alert system sent preemptive alerts to a doctor and a pharmacist. But both the doctor and pharmacist ignored the system’s alert because the same system generates alerts for 50% of the hundreds of prescriptions they handle each day.
Marketers have to be wary of alert fatigue too. The default rule of thumb seems to be: why send one push notification when ten will do? The useful can easily get lost in the clutter. When so many alerts are forgettable, consumers learn to ignore them.
Push notifications often reflect the marketing myopia that drive a lot of customer experience. Marketers often inflate the role that their brands actually play in people’s lives.
Sometimes the best customer experience is less customer experience.
Here are a few related cartoons I’ve drawn over the years: