The Notification Economy

Engineering the Next Generation of Digital Customer Engagement with Apple Watch

Wearables are already beginning to have a significant role in the consumer and enterprise world, and it could make an even bigger impact than you think. The Apple Watch is a long-term megatrend that I believe will transform user engagement via notifications and alerts.

Its small screen size enables a fundamentally new user interface and user experience. There are new inputs (force as well as touch), subtle vibration, digital “crown” control, new inter-device communication modes, and new data points that phones have never before been able to collect (e.g. heartbeat).

Unlike the tablet, phone or desktop, the Apple Watch is built for quick interactions, notifications and alerts. Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers (KPCB) annual Internet Trends report found the average user checks their phone over 150 times per day. On average, 23 times a day for messaging, 22 times for voice calls, 18 times to check the time, and multiple times to read social media updates. The expectation now is that many of these tasks are naturally going to migrate to the Apple Watch.

As with any game-changing innovation, the questions facing managers of large companies are, “how will this change our customer engagement?” and “what mobile apps do we start to prototype, experiment or pilot that will add value to our customer (and employee) base?

In my opinion, the question is not “if” but “when” will wearables become mainstream. And I believe that the core strategic question that every firm should be addressing is: “What Consumer and Enterprise use cases are relevant and potential game-changers?

Typical Notification Use Cases for Apple Watch

One important effect of the Apple Watch that I foresee will be forcing its owners to scrutinize and make changes to their prior notification habits.

Effective and useful notifications challenge developers to build on top of the existing consumer user cases that are taking hold in the marketplace. Common consumer use cases include:

  1. Continually monitoring your physical activity in the background to meet your pre-set exercise goals
  2. Commerce – paying for something without taking out your phone (or wallet)
  3. Notifications – feel a tap on your wrist when you have a Facebook message or email. Glance down, decide you don’t need to answer, keep on moving. Or quickly answer with one touch
  4. View turn-by-turn directions on your wrist while touring a new city. Or keep your wrist at your side and let the vibration tell you when to turn left or right
  5. See which of your friends is nearby as you walk around (without handling your phone), and send them a tweet to meet
  6. Games that are time fillers
  7. Open locks: such as a garage or hotel door
  8. Social use cases…send your loved ones a tap to show them that you care

Apple Watch comes with a powerful SDK that includes building blocks like Accelerometer, Heart Rate Monitor, Conversation Button, Gyroscope, Bluetooth, Digital Crown and Force Touch. It also includes new UI Elements, Simple Navigation, Glances and Notifications.

How any App developers leverage these in the context of an interesting use case is the multi-billion dollar question.


Enterprise Notification – Use Cases

Small screens, short interactions, custom notifications all have significant impact on enterprise applications that involve engaging employees like Sales teams.

Salesforce is actively designing several apps for the wrist to offer users access to glance-able information and the ability to be notified when a major event occurs.

Enterprises apps must be able to access the most relevant, timely data in seconds and use “swipes” or “glances” to easily enable the dashboards. When designing the app, the enterprise must consider “notification fatigue” and information overload.

The challenge for enterprise developers is identifying which app notifications are timely and useful, or a nuisance and distracting. For busy users, notifications that appear on the wrist, are either very helpful, or very annoying… depending on the design.



Notifications have become a bigger and bigger part of the app ecosystem. But notifications have a bad rap – they can be perceived as cluttering up the device, and are frequently misused causing many users to turn off notifications by default.

But notifications (message pushed to the Watch) can be leveraged more effectively by apply User Experience and Design Thinking. I strongly believe that the Apple Watch will become a user-manager of notifications, so you always know what you are doing, where you are going and with whom you are connecting.

Considering the time to design, architecture and prototype, firms have to develop innovation prototypes NOW.

Additional References

  1. Watch is a device that operates seamlessly with the iPhone and Apple Cloud Services such as iTunes, iCloud, Messages etc. Four “guided tours” on Apple’s website, demonstrating the functions of Apple Watch.
  2. More Than a Timepiece – the Apple Watch – LiquidHub Whitepaper that explains the internals of the Apple Watch written by Rajul Rana, LiquidHub CTO.
  3. LiquidLabs Agile Innovation Process

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