Push notifications – the messages that pop up on our mobile devices from brands and applications – can often feel like they’re consuming our lives. In fact, more than 50% of app users today find push notifications annoying, according to a recent Localytics survey.

Push notifications are useful in some cases but overall, people have become less receptive to brands and companies ‘reaching out’ to them when they feel like it, whether that be via calls, texts, email or otherwise. Interestingly, we’ve become so resistant to the one-way communication blast that in North America, push notification response rates are as low as 3.75%.

As consumers, we want control over our environments and interactions – both digital and physical. We want to determine who we speak to, and when.

So I think it’s time we did away with ‘push’ notifications and instead started discussing the idea of ‘pull’ notifications. This change from ‘push’ to ‘pull’ is about providing an intuitive means for people to extract the information and content they need from brands or businesses as easily as possible.

Here’s why we need to move away from ‘push’ to ‘pull’:

1. We now live in an on-demand economy

Think about the last time someone other than a friend or family member actually called you.

Did it fit in with your schedule when they asked for 15 minutes of your time?

Or was it jarring when they continued talking without asking if you had the time to talk?

This is a big reason why mobile messaging and texting has become so popular. These forms of communication are ‘on-demand’, in the sense that we use them to check if someone is available before we call, or simply respond when we’re ready.

Essentially, we’ve become an on-demand society where we ‘pull’ the information and content we find relevant or entertaining, while discarding the rest as noise. We want things on our terms, and why shouldn’t we? We have all the tools and technology at our fingertips to enable us, so why settle for anything less than what we want?

Powerhouse brands have thrived in the new on-demand economy. Household brand names like Uber, Netflix, and Seamless are filling every aspect of our lives with on-demand, customer-centric services.


Caption: On-demand startup companies like Uber have dominated VC funding due to rapid growth and user adoption. The result of an increasingly on-demand economy.

Source: CB Insights: On-Demand Report

2. We expect more relevant communication from brands

Not only has the power shifted into the hands of consumers, the mindset has changed as well. Interruptive marketing is no longer acceptable. In fact, with the rise in subscription services such as Netflix, Spotify, and Hulu, it’s become evident that we’re happy to pay to NOT be interrupted.

The idea of being hit with push notifications and alerts doesn’t seem to mesh with our ideal communication experience. We want personalized communication, and experiences with brands that can be customized to suit our lifestyle. Often the best way to do that is to get it ourselves.

The pull notification respects our time and personal preferences, because we’re the ones dictating what we receive, when and how we receive it.

3. We expect actual conversations with brands

Today’s on-demand economy requires brands to rethink how they communicate with their customers. Interacting with a brand shouldn’t require customers to search online, wait on hold with a call center or receive a barrage of irrelevant push notifications from an app.

The conversational web means we now have the capability to message brands and businesses as we do our friends – bypassing the traditional pitfalls of customer service. Automated chat bots have emerged as new, highly-efficient channels that can support this level of support. And businesses are beginning to explore how bots can be of benefit to them.

Yes, bots can be used to push content and communication onto customers in much the same way apps have been used up until now. However, the real opportunity bots represent is providing a responsive, always-on resource that allows us to engage with a brand anytime, anywhere – again, pulling the necessary information when we need it.

As this conversational web develops, we’ll see chatbots become more intuitive, elevating the experience and allowing for potentially easier access to information than search engines. Who knows – maybe one day we’ll see conversational, AI-powered products (i.e. Siri) and similar applications completely take the place of search in how we find information.

It’s certainly possible.

What does this all mean for businesses?

As brands become more conversational, they have an opportunity to leverage pull notifications to provide more intuitive responses to customers that leverage context, location and preferences learned over time. This means letting go of interruptive push communications to drive stronger customer engagement by providing an ‘always-on,’ open and conversational presence across the various communication channels customers use today.

We’re beyond talking about the impact of mobile and the shift in how people communicate and consume content – mobile is the reality now. Yet, despite this, brands are slow to move and they end up getting left behind. Why stick to outdated communication methods when consumers are going elsewhere?

Stop pushing. Start pulling.