In AWS you have multiple options to send native push notifications to your mobile applications - Amazon SNS or Amazon Pinpoint. But which one should you use? In this article, I will describe why I prefer to use Amazon Pinpoint to solve common marketing and engagement challenges and how this service compares to Amazon SNS.
One of the key capabilities of (mobile) sports applications is, to inform fans about what is happening during the game. This includes for example notifications about important events like kick-offs, goals or cards. The majority of mobile sports applications use push notifications as the primary channel to keep their fans up to date. Depending on the application platforms, notifications are sent directly to the devices with either the Apple Push notification service (APNS) or the Google Cloud Messaging (GCM) service.
👀 Fan engagement has multiple perspectives
When we talk about fan engagement and all the engagement-related challenges of marketers these days, we quickly come to the point that solving these challenges goes beyond just sending a notification or message.
Companies that are able to segment their audience put themselves in the position to create and communicate specific targeted marketing messages that align with the interests and emotions of specific customer groups. According to the "Next in Personalization 2021" report, 72% of consumers expect brands to demonstrate they know them on a personal level. Trust defines customer engagement. Personalization is not just a recommendation engine. Personalization is relevant for a variety of domains. It is a commitment to streamlining your activities according to many customer demands.
And the future of fan engagement is omnichannel. Targeting the right fans, at the right time using the right - often - multiple channels. This requires as always the right people, the right processes and the right technology.
Investments in omnichannel are improving, but still have a long way to go. [...]
Only 35% of companies feel, they are sucessfully achieving omnichannel personalization, up from 24% in 2021.
Leveraging notification channels for sports applications can be seen from two perspectives. Those perspectives each come with different technical, functional and non-functional requirements. They also put different kinds of KPIs in the focus of decision-making and success evaluation.
⚽️ The first perspective: the matchday
Sports in general and football matches in particular can write awesome stories. And it is not surprising that the things that happen on the pitch are usually the main driver of engagement. There is not much to add if your favorite club strikes a leading goal in your local derby match. Or if your favorite player gets substituted in and takes your club to finish a match with a draw or even a win after being behind the whole match. In this case, you might not necessarily look at the opening rates of our match-event-focused push notifications. Those notifications can be seen as an additional layer of engagement. Encouraging fans to open those notifications depends on so many factors. Opening notifications gets unlikely if fans watch a match live. It is getting more likely if they don't have access to watch a match live for any reason. In both cases, you gain a lot of additional opportunities depending on your fan behavior.
1. 📺 𝗙𝗼𝗿 𝗳𝗮𝗻𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝘄𝗮𝘁𝗰𝗵 𝗮 𝗺𝗮𝘁𝗰𝗵 𝗹𝗶𝘃𝗲, those notifications can provide and engage with additional or "unseen" information. If a fan watches a match live, the information that a goal happened is already transported via the big screen. Storytelling can be extended to further increase engagement by further mixing our real-time sports data with such marketing channels.
2. 📲 𝗙𝗼𝗿 𝗳𝗮𝗻𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗮𝗿𝗲 𝗡𝗢𝗧 𝗮𝗯𝗹𝗲 𝘁𝗼 𝘄𝗮𝘁𝗰𝗵 𝗮 𝗺𝗮𝘁𝗰𝗵 𝗹𝗶𝘃𝗲, latency can be an important USP of your product. We want our fans to cheer first. To be the king or queen in a group of people. Imagine you get the notification first, that your favorite team won the championship. This will be the ultimate hugging guarantee from the Bundesliga. Try it out!
This means: match-related notifications are highly contextual. Combined with the fact that sending out notifications about sports events can produce a lot of notifications in the timeframe of a match, you have to think about strategies to prevent fan churn. Think about segmentation and what kind of fans you want to target and provide value. Otherwise, keep in mind that your fans might simply ignore your notifications (and the effort you spent in sending them out) or leave your platform and deinstall your application for several reasons.
Segmentation increases the likelihood that customers will engage with the brand, and reduces the potential for communications fatigue — that is, the disengagement of customers who feel like they’re receiving too many messages that don’t apply to them.
😴 The second perspective: between the matchdays
Or how I call it: the fan wakeup-call. Extending the matchday experience between matches can be a very important task to keep your level of engagement and retention stable. It is a typical pattern to have high engagement on matchdays, followed by a drop of your engagement-related KPIs once a matchday is over. Several marketing strategies and campaigns help you to extend the so-called matchday experience. Either post-match by sending out notifications about highlight clips, interviews or match reports. Or pre-match by engaging our fans with potential line-ups, injured players or relevant background information about the upcoming matches. In this case, more classic metrics like open rates or session metrics are very valuable KPIs to measure engagement and success.
🏟️ From pitch to push notification
What happens behind the scenes when a goal was shot and you want to use this as a trigger to send a push notification? Let us zoom out a bit and let us take a closer look at a real-life example from the professional football league in Germany: the Bundesliga.
The DFL subsidiary company - Sportec Solutions AG - is the official data provider for all data around Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 football matches. From here we get all the events like goals, substitutions, cards, and fouls in real-time. This enables the Bundesliga, to build those great digital products like the official Bundesliga App.
When a player shoots a goal, this information is pushed to a match data processing service. The main responsibility of this service is to receive and process all events that occur during a match and decide how to act on those events.
One example of how to act on events like goals, cards or kickoffs is to send out a push notification using Amazon Pinpoint. This engages especially those fans who are not actively using the Bundesliga Apps. Those events are not simply broadcasted to all fans. The relevant target segments are selected based on the type of the event, the associated match and the interest of fans receiving specific events. This will result in more specific targeting and sending out notifications to fans that have an explicitly defined interest in receiving this notification. Everything is fully automated.
Defining the right level of segmentation is an important success factor in your engagement and marketing story. This can result in building several layers of segments that allow you to target our fans using very specific characteristics like
⚽️ a match,
🗓 a matchday,
🐐 a club or
🏟 individual events.
Amazon Pinpoint gives you the capabilities to create and the flexibility to adapt your segmentations at any given time.
If you want to know more about the official Bundesliga match data, I can highly recommend the following video which explains the whole process in detail.
🔔 Why you should use Amazon Pinpoint?
Generally speaking, you can achieve to send push notifications in two recommended ways - either using Amazon SNS or Amazon Pinpoint. Although both services have similar capabilities - like sending push notifications, E-Mails or SMS - they have different intentions. Yes, we can say they are united in the cloud but divided by purpose.
📢 You will find Amazon SNS - the Simple Notification Service - in the category of “Application Integration”. From my perspective, the main purpose is more related to pure technical use cases. Often used when you need to implement messaging scenarios, event-driven-architectures or want to decouple components and systems. In a nutshell, Amazon SNS is the implementation of a Publish-Subscribe pattern and gives you not a rich feature set for solving marketing-related challenges. In any case, please be aware of the limits and quotas. Amazon SNS has several hard limits you have to keep in mind that influence your integration and architecture. Especially when it comes to Topic subscriptions and unsubscriptions.
🎯 Amazon Pinpoint on the other side is named a “Multichannel Marketing Communication Service” and is located in the “Business Applications” category. It is NOT just about sending messages over a given channel. It is about building business use cases for marketing and engagement over multiple channels. Hence Amazon Pinpoint provides a lot more features and capabilities than Amazon SNS. It is hard to describe the central implemented pattern. Viewed from the outside, the centerpiece of Amazon Pinpoint is the implementation of a Recipient List combined with a Process Manager. Looking more detailed, it is a composition of integration patterns to engage with your audience and solve a broad range of marketing business problems.
You can achieve the same, but you have to take a look from different perspectives to find the right service for the right job.
Both services - Amazon SNS and Amazon Pinpoint - are capable of sending push notifications. But they have different intentions, tradeoffs and strengths. You can start with Amazon SNS if you just want to send out a (transactional) message. As soon as you move into more advanced marketing and engagement scenarios and have the requirement of segmentation and personalized messages, you will hit limitations using Amazon SNS. How do you measure the impact of your notifications? How do you know that your messages targeted the right fans? Keep in mind that using Amazon SNS will force you to build a lot of custom stuff around the pure notification part.
With Amazon Pinpoint you will make the shift from a pure message-focused approach to a real marketing and engagement-focused approach. Amazon Pinpoint enables you to build omnichannel customer experiences that go beyond just pure messaging. The services give you features to define your audience, create dynamic segments, and target your audience while giving you options to measure the impact of your marketing efforts. This enables you to put your fans at the center of the engagement and not just the raw message. It also enables marketers options to create segments based on recent trends.
And what about measuring your KPIs? Amazon Pinpoint comes with a whole analytics integration and provides features out of the box to analyze your campaign performance and important engagement-related KPIs. Have you ever tried this with Amazon SNS? I can tell you: it won't scale and you won't close the omnichannel gap!
You are interested to know more about how we at Bundesliga are able to send out a goal notification to a hundred thousand fans in real time during a match? Reach out to me and I am happy to present you bits, bytes and insights about our journey leveraging Amazon Pinpoint for fan engagement.