We’ve talked a lot about smartphone apps on this blog, and rightly so, seeing as apps have quickly become a significant way for brands to engage with consumers. But even if a company crams loads of content into an app, it won’t matter unless the consumer actively opens that app from time to time after downloading it. So maybe that Starbucks holiday app was fun the first time you scanned a cup, but now it’s lost its novelty. How does Starbucks, then, convince you to keep using the app so that you see promotions and want to visit the store?
A new technology developed for apps called Sonic Notify hopes to mitigate this problem. The program uses audio code to trigger notifications on a user’s smartphone, without the user having to actively open an app. (You do need to have a Sonic Notify-powered app downloaded to your phone already, of course.)
So, say you’ve downloaded an app for a grocery store. You’re walking down the cereal aisle, phone in your pocket, when you unknowingly pass a Sonic Notify beacon hidden on the shelf somewhere. The beacon emits sounds at frequencies you can’t hear but that your smartphone picks up, which then triggers that app to send you a promotional code for the Cheerios you just strolled by. You hear the notification on your phone, so you pull it out of your pocket and see the promo code. Voila! The store has encouraged you to use its app without relying on you to launch it first. And now you’re getting those Cheerios on sale, to boot.
The technology can also be embedded into existing audio—television shows and commercials, for instance. Additionally, the company behind Sonic Notify, Densebrain, is in talks with music festivals and sporting events, and the tech has been employed already at the CMJ music event in New York, where fans who downloaded the Sonic Notify-powered app received promos and band content triggered by the music.
The possibilities for businesses are numerous, and appealing to consumers in many ways, too. I wouldn’t mind downloading apps for some of my favorite TV shows, for instance, so that I could receive extra content while I’m watching.
But the downside here is what Adweek refers to as “notification fatigue.” Already, whether we own smartphones or not, we are constantly bombarded with text messages, emails, all manner of advertising, and plenty of other notifications we have learned to ignore or just suffer through. How many people who download a Sonic Notify-powered app will quickly turn off the notification feature? And when they do, how does that app become different from any other app?
And for users who don’t turn off the notifications, apps are suddenly a lot more invasive than before. Sure, other apps use audio signals, but the smartphone consumer has to launch those apps first — whereas a Sonic Notify-powered app just launches itself when it wants your attention.
On the one hand, there’s plenty of room for creative and clever marketing with a technology like this. But on the other hand, if this technology becomes popular, Sonic Notify-powered apps might just turn into the smartphone equivalent of pop-up ads.
So what do you think? Would you use an app that’s powered by Sonic Notify? If this technology catches on, how do you think it will affect mobile advertising? Tell us in the comments below!