Notifications For Better Engagement

One thing I’ve learned repeatedly over the years is that good notification systems create great engagement and encourage habitual users.

The biggest problem with any product/service is getting people to come back. “Drive by” users aren’t terribly difficult. Google will bring you those with a little work. However your business comes from users coming back repeatedly. Those are you’re true “users”. They are the ones who will bring others.

Today, I think Facebook and Twitter are the perfect example of companies who understand and utilize this strategy in a way that amazes me. Lets look at this:

Facebook

They are the biggest, so I’ll go through it first. The first method of notification is the obvious alerts when logged into the site. You can keep it open and use it as a client, it works great. Facebook also has one of the best email notification systems on the net. You can reply to a comment or message by simply replying to the email. No “app” to install. Even an old Blackberry can participate. Even people where Facebook is restricted but email works can participate (stereotypical corporate office). Email is the worlds greatest API. They take full advantage of it.

On top of that Facebook apps have push notification for smart phone users. Facebook also supports SMS notifications. They additionally support XMPP (Jabber) so you can use a desktop client with their messaging service.

One thing I never understood is why they don’t officially support and continue their desktop notification service. With a trivial amount of work it would be an even better retention method. However the API’s are clearly there for client support (several use it).

Facebook doesn’t exploit this system for marketing or PR. It’s just a useful way to interact with their system. It’s an interface. It’s an API.

Twitter

Twitter is another company that gets notifications. The most obvious again is their website. Secondly their apps support push notifications. Twitter is also pretty good about email notifications however they don’t accept replies over email. They also support SMS (i.e. “Text follow raccettura to 40404”).

Twitter lastly has an open API and even supports desktop apps like Twitter for Mac and TweetDeck. They encourage their users to stay on constantly and keep up. It’s part of what keeps users addicted to the service.

Again, they don’t market. They just keep users interacting.

Google+, Quora, etc.

I won’t judge Google+ just yet, they are pretty new still. Quora does a pretty good job with notifications however the balance between annoying and useful hasn’t quite been met, at least in my opinion.

It’s easy to overlook this “detail”, but for many users, this is the interface, realize it or not.
I won’t

How To Build A Good Order/Shipment Notification Email

I buy a decent amount of stuff online, both physical goods and services from various vendors. It amazes me how few get the order confirmation and shipment notification emails right. Most companies do a downright awful job.

Order Confirmation

Order confirmations should be sent shortly after an order has been sent and the credit card has been accepted. It should contain the following information:

  • Order # – This should be in the subject as well as the body. Obvious.
  • Sanitized payment information – The last 4 digits of your credit card should be included, or other billing information.
  • Itemized order list – Each item, description, quantity, stock status (or est. date) should be listed in a table.
  • Shipping Address – Where is my stuff going?
  • Shipping Method – USPS? UPS? FedEx? Overnight? Ground?
  • Estimated ship date – If different things have a different shipping date, it should be per item, otherwise one date specified.
  • Contact Information – Email address, link to contact form, phone number to get in touch with store

Shipment Notification

A shipment notification should be sent for each day something ships. All shipments from all warehouses should appear in 1 email. For example if I order 3 things and it ships from 3 warehouses on 1 day, I expect 1 email. If I order 3 things and it ships over 2 days from any number of warehouses I expect 2 emails, one each day. If there is more than one package, I expect each to be listed in the email.

The email should contain the following:

  • Order # – Again, obvious
  • For each package it should tell me:
    • Delivery Address – Where is this package going?
    • Shipment Method – How the item is being mail (USPS, UPS, FedEx, overnight, ground etc.).
    • Estimated Arrival – When is this package expected to arrive?
    • Tracking Number – Tracking number to track package, there should be a direct link to shipper to track package NOT a page that requires you to login first. Most stores mess this up. I shouldn’t need to login. I just want the number. (Pro Tip: search Google with your tracking number for an quick direct link to the tracking status page).
    • Inventory – What is in this package? Should be an itemized list with quantity.
  • Contact Information – Email address, link to contact form, phone number to get in touch with store

It makes things so much easier the closer companies get to following this. Most companies get about 80% of the list, only a select few get this done correctly 100% of the time. The closest I’ve seen to date is ThinkGeek who has been pretty close to perfect every time I order.