No longer considered a luxury item, smartphones are getting more affordable and more in-demand all the time, meaning that the audience for on-the-go, in-the-moment push notifications is bigger than ever.

Think back, if you can, to those early first weeks and months after the first iPhone was released in 2007. It was a shiny new toy that belonged only to a lucky few, the subject of envy in the office or on your commute home.

Even in the years afterwards, when the device’s successors and competitors had long replaced the original, that original iPhone still felt about accessible to most people as a caviar dinner.

Today, the reach of these devices is wider than ever. They’ve made huge advances in both their adoption and in their technology, meaning that more people are talking on their smartphones — and those phones are talking back.

Rising smartphone penetration has introduced brands to a wider audience of customers who can be reached directly by push notifications from native apps, making for more precise, more effective outreach.

Why Push Works

Push notifications are sent by an app that the user has downloaded and can serve any number of purposes, from scheduled reminders, to alerts of new activity, to information about new items, offers, or sales.

These notifications can utilize the smartphone’s native capabilities to reach customers at exactly the moments they would be most useful, building a positive brand experience based on the user’s location, activity within the application, time of day, or other applications the user has downloaded.

The biggest hurdle to giving customers this kind of experience is getting them to opt-in to receive these notifications once they’ve downloaded your app — the second biggest hurdle is being wise enough about sending them so that they don’t opt out.

Luckily, though, new research is showing that consumers are ready to receive useful information from their applications. Whether it’s sports scores from ESPN, summer sales from Nordstrom’s, or sudden showers from Weather Underground, customers gravitate to notifications that are relevant to their lives right now and help them make decisions on what to do next

Knowing When to Push

That being said, the fact that your customers are willing to receive mobile push notifications doesn’t mean they’re willing to receive them every other minute of the day — you should only be giving them relevant information at the relevant time. In other words, context is key, and the smartphone’s handy tools should give you more than enough context to deliver relevant notifications.

That context can be something simple, like notifying people in a retail store of items within that location that are on sale. On the other hand, it can also be a bit more ingenious — by using data to analyze customer behavior, you can anticipate customer needs with more than simply their given location.

FourSquare, for instance, analyzes the frequency, location, and category of your past check-ins to recommend places you might like to try when you’re exploring a new neighborhood, personalizing their recommendations for even more context than what a smartphone provides.

And with innovations like the Apple Watch, these notifications are getting more handy than ever. When notifications appear on the customer’s wrist as opposed to deep in her pocket or purse, they integrate more seamlessly into her daily life — WIRED recently illustrated just how big an impact that difference can make.

As mobile technology evolves and new devices and channels create new opportunities to interact with customers, the most successful companies will be those who understand their users.

The more sophisticated you are at using data to personalize each mobile experience, the more proactive you can be about helping customers make decisions, decisions that will only improve your bottom line.