Last update: December 2021

3 mins to read - 2021/12/17

What Is Reachability in Mobile Engagement?

A new buzzword that’s beginning to make waves in the multichannel mobile engagement industry is “reachability.” We are hearing this word used in tandem, and even synonymously, with terms that are more familiar to the mobile marketer’s ears: reliability and deliverability. But they are not quite the same thing. In the world of push notifications and mobile engagement, what exactly is reachability? And how can developers correctly analyze it to make the most out of their push campaigns?

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reachability two hands

What Is Reachability?

The concept of reachability is originally associated with email marketing, with the mobile engagement industry only recently starting to take it into account. Whether a user or customer is reachable or not essentially means whether or not that user can be contacted by the particular platform in question.

When a user is “unreachable” via email marketing, this may be because there is a typo in the email on record for them. Other possibilities for their being unreachable may be that your marketing emails are being filtered into a spam folder. Or that the user has unsubscribed from your mailing list.

What Does It Mean for a User to Be Reachable Via Push Notification?

Reachability is more complicated when it comes to push notifications, for various reasons. First and foremost, for iPhone users, app users need to opt-in before you can send them push notifications. If they don’t opt-in – or if Android users go into their device settings to opt-out of receiving notifications – then that user is unreachable via push. (For iOS devices, it’s possible to improve users’ likelihood of choosing to be reachable by push by sending them a pre-permission notification explaining the benefits of opt-in.)

For traditional push notification platforms that send notifications via APNS or Firebase cloud servers, the next factor that makes a device reachable is that it must have a push token.

There are further stumbling blocks for reachability down the length of the push notification funnel. Although there is no spam folder for push notifications, app users can be periodically unreachable depending on factors outside your control, such as:

  • Device is switched off/in silent mode
  • Poor Wi-Fi signal or outside data network
  • Time lag or failed delivery resulting from from cloud server end

Innovations on the device side can also result in pain points for user reachability. Apple in particular has been steering the mobile device industry towards greater user control and privacy, with new features such as their Focus Mode and message summaries. Unfortuantely for your app, these attempts to declutter mobile device UX can also render users unreachable.

With OpenBack’s 45+ custom data signals you can use device-side contextual insights to pinpoint your moments of reachability and scheduling notifications to send then. For example, OpenBack is the only platform of its kind to offer a signal to send notifications depending on device battery level, or volume level, or how strong Wi-Fi signal is, etc.

push notification funnel

How Does Reachability Intertwine With Reliability?

Reachability is a condition on the user/device side. Reliability depends on the app backend/cloud server side.

A notification may reliably deliver. But if it’s at a moment that the user is unreachable – for example, if they’re sleeping, or have their device in airplane mode, etc. – that is a wasted notification. Because once they do switch their device/Wi-Fi/data back on, the user will receive a wave of notifications and alerts, and they will likely just swipe them all away at once. This is why, when applying adaptive scheduling to your push campaign to determine the best moment to reach out to your user, it’s key to take reachability into account.

OpenBack lets you track users’ reachability and optimize your methods of communicating with them via push notification, in-app notification and app inbox. Alternative methods of mobile engagement, such as Apple’s provisional notifications or app inbox, are ideal for reaching out to users who are unreachable. For example, if a user has opted-out of receiving push notifications, app inbox is the ideal tool for “soft delivering” content and important information that your user can access in their own time.

App inbox is an excellent archive for storing evergreen content that users can return to multiple times, or to periodically deliver silent notifications reminding them that they can always opt back in to receive push notifications.

For more tips on using OpenBack’s app inbox feature, read our blog post: Tips and Tricks for Using OpenBack’s Mobile App Inbox Newsfeed

Reachability and UX

Whether a user is unreachable due to opting out of notifications or because they have activated iOS focus mode, it’s important to impress on users the relationship between reachability and app UX. It’s key to be able to have user engagement that goes both ways. Not only do you want to be able to reach out to them with exciting new features or opportunities for them to explore in your app. But it’s also important for app developers to be receptive to user feedback.

Indeed, many mobile apps’ utility is reliant on their users accepting push notifications in real-time. (For example, there’s no point to installing WhatsApp, or Pokemon GO, or an app that provides users real-time updates, without push notifications.) Many users understand this. However, it’s crucial for the app not to abuse that reachability. With push notifications, less is more; quality over quantity.

Be sure to always personalize and segment your notifications, so you’re only messaging users with information that benefits and interests them. What’s more, be considerate and only schedule notifications to deliver at times when the user isn’t busy with more important things. OpenBack’s reliable delivery hybrid platform is the only mobile engagement SDK in the industry that uses device-side data. This means OpenBack avoids the time lag that comes with sending notifications through APNS/Firebase. With OpenBack, you can send reliable, highly personalized notifications that deliver to the device at the exact moment they’re meant to.

To learn more about our hybrid mobile engagement platform, and how you can use it to optimize your push campaign, get in touch with one of our experts.

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