Outlook on Notifcations

Comparing Notification Infrastructure & Marketing Automation Tools: A Guide to Choose the Right Platform for Your Product

Nikita Navral
April 1, 2024
Discover the insights into why notification infrastructure platforms are gaining traction among product managers and engineering teams
TABLE OF CONTENTS

In the fast evolving landscape of product-to-customer notifications, businesses are challenged to select the most suitable platform to deliver personalized and relevant notifications. At SuprSend, we often come across questions about the distinctions between the traditional Marketing Automation Tools (MATs) and the emerging Notification Infrastructure Platforms. In this comprehensive guide, we aim to explain the differences between the two and provide insights into why notification infrastructure platforms are gaining traction among product managers and engineering teams.

The Evolution of Customer Engagement

For a decade, Marketing automation tools (MATs) such as Braze, Customer.io, Iterable, and Clevertap have dominated the market, offering robust solutions for sending targeted marketing campaigns. These campaigns, often promotional in nature, help in customer retention and engagement - important to any business.

At the same time, businesses are also required to send out their product notifications related to transactional alerts and updates in customers’ accounts. Often, these notifications are mission critical for businesses. For example, sending payment reminders, approval alerts or notifying a customer when an update / comment is posted so the user can take appropriate action. 

While MATs are proficient in addressing promotional use cases and engaging with customers on a marketing level, they fall short when it comes to handling complex product notifications crucial for product success.

There is a new wave of platforms excelling in this domain, called notification infrastructure, which is redefining how product and engineering teams build and maintain product notifications, without having to build notification services internally.

As businesses navigate this notification evolution, understanding where MATs fall short and how notification infrastructures work better become very important to help you choose the right solution for your needs.

Understanding the Basics

At the core, notification infrastructure platforms and marketing automation tools (MATs) share a common goal—connecting businesses with their audience. While they may share some common goals, their functionalities and usecases differ significantly.

Marketing Automation Platforms - A Brief Overview

Marketing Automation Platforms (MATs) have proven instrumental in orchestrating targeted and effective marketing campaigns. Here's a snapshot of what MATs are adept at:

  1. User Segmentation: MATs excel at storing and segmenting users based on diverse criteria, enabling businesses to tailor their messages for maximum impact.
  2. One-Time Campaigns: They facilitate the creation and execution of one-time campaigns, driving specific actions such as new product launch or cart additions. These are primarily sent to mobile push and emails, followed by SMS and whatsapp.
  3. Automated Notifications for Cohort Changes: MATs automate notifications triggered by user entry or exit from a cohort, and sending them timely and relevant communication.
  4. Quick Experiments and A/B Testing: MATs empower marketers to conduct rapid experiments and A/B tests to optimize funnels and boost conversions.
  5. Multi-Step Campaign Journeys: With a visual workflow builder, MATs allow the creation of multi-step campaigns, offering power of context based engagement.
  6. Email based User Preferences: They enable collecting user preferences on externally hosted pages, particularly for promotional use cases, enhancing easy unsubscription management.

As it is evident, MATs provide a good solution for personalized promotional messages at scale to a cohort of users based on their properties or activity / inactivity on the product - building a good argument on why Marketers should use them instead of building one in-house. To some extent, MATs can be used where the product notifications are handful and simple.

However, if you still end up building a notification system in-house to accommodate complex usecases, or you are using your current marketing automation tool as a delivery node after handling complex logics at your end, it is advisable to consider adopting a specialized product notification platform.

Notification Infrastructure Platforms - A Brief Overview

Born from our pain and experience of building notification services in-house in our previous companies, we understand the need and complexities involved. Many companies invest countless hours re-inventing the wheel to get notifications right and sometimes have a dedicated team handling their in-house notifications, even though they're not notification companies. 

To give an example, you may have read about what goes behind Slack’s simple yet highly effective notifications alerts. Notifications navigate across browsers, devices, channels, statuses, customer preferences, and many other conditions before that sweet Slack chime reaches your ear.

Slack Notifications Flowchart

This is where SuprSend comes in – we fill the gaps left by MATs and internally built services, and provide a sophisticated infrastructure that allows you to build Slack like notifications without custom development at your end, and help you to deliver the right customer experience.

Let’s look at some areas where Notifications Infrastructure Platforms differ from Marketing Automation Tools.

Fundamental differences between MATs and NIPs

1. Extended Channels and Integrations Capabilities

  • MATs Limitation: Traditional MATs focus on sending notifications to conventional channels such as push, email and social channels, but lag in adopting newer communication channels.
  • NIPs Solution: NIPs are designed to be integrations first, integrating seamlessly with existing as well as emerging communication channels like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or in-app notification centers. For instance, they allow businesses to send notifications directly to team collaboration tools like Slack in addition to email, ensuring a more comprehensive and up-to-date communication strategy. Not just this, NIPs provide native integration with various data sources (like Segment, Mixpanel, Data warehouses), notification data destinations (like AWS S3, Segment). This flexibility empowers you to effortlessly manage data across platforms of your choice.

2. Real-Time In-App Notification Feed

  • MATs Limitation: MATs typically excel in scheduled or triggered campaigns but lack infrastructure of real-time in-app notification feeds. If they provide, it is a solution that does not look native to your website. This could hinder user engagement within the application.
  • NIPs Solution: NIPs recognize the importance of alerts within app and offer features like real-time in-app notification feed along with out-of-app channels. This ensures delivering a seamless experience, such as if the user is active in the application, they receive alerts within the application, and if offline, will get alerts on out-of-app channels like email or Slack. Besides, NIPs provide pre-built components as well as headless APIs, making it possible to deliver a native looking experience for in-app feed.

Try SuprSend Inbox Playground

 3. Multi-Tenancy in Notifications

  • MATs Limitation: Marketing Automation Tools (MATs) typically lack robust multi-tenant architecture, making them unsuitable for organizations with enterprise customers. Without multi-tenancy support, MATs do not provide notification customizations (on branding, preferences, vendors etc) tailored to individual tenants' needs. This limitation means engineering teams have to build their own multi-tenant architecture.
  • NIPs Solution: Notification Infrastructure Platforms (NIPs) address this limitation by providing a robust multi-tenant system out of the box. This feature gives flexibility to tailor communication strategies at per-tenant level. You can read more about multi-tenant notifications in our whitepaper.

4. Designing Complex Workflows

  • MATs Limitation: Marketing Automation Tools (MATs) focus on sending campaigns and that’s why they lack support to build intricate workflows with complex logic. The absence of support for multi-stakeholder collaboration, batching, throttling, and webhooks can burden engineering teams with the responsibility of building workflows in the code.
  • NIPs Solution: Notification Infrastructure Platforms (NIPs) excel in handling complex workflows, involving multi-tenant and multiple stakeholders. Besides, NIPs provide intuitive nodes for batching, throttling, delays, channel routing, reminders, webhooks, and much more. With an advanced workflow engine, NIPs engineering & product teams create quality notifications that are delivered at the right time, frequency, and manner, and are sure to delight customers.

5. Advanced Preference Center

  • MATs Approach: Marketing Automation Tools (MATs) typically offer email based unsubscription hosted outside of the product. While this allows users to opt out of specific email communications, it lacks sophistication in managing preferences across multiple channels and categories.
  • NIPs Advantage: Notification Infrastructure Platforms (NIPs) redefine notification preferences with a highly nuanced preference engine where users can set their preferred channel, category or frequency (eg. instant alerts, hourly or daily digest). You can seamlessly integrate a native looking preference center within your product. The NIPs preference center provides a pre-built components as well as APIs with extensive customization options - eg. for tenants, admin, and departments. This granular control ensures that notifications are delivered in alignment with preferences for users and organizations, enhancing overall engagement and satisfaction.

6. Observability and Analytics

  • MATs Limitation: Designed primarily from a campaign perspective, MATs do not provide observability into each and every notification processed. This oversight can pose challenges in debugging and monitoring, particular for mission critical product notifications.
  • NIPs Solution: In contrast, NIPs place a strong emphasis on observability, providing granular logs into each and every notification - at each workflow step executed, failure errors, latencies, and more. They offer integration with monitoring tools like Datadog and NewRelic, enabling real-time alerts in the event of failures. Additionally, companies often require syncing this notification information back to their data stores for further analytics or showing information to their customers, and NIPs provide mechanisms like webhooks, syncing data to S3 bucket, data destinations like Segment to facilitate these requirements.

7. Reliability

  • MATs Limitation: While MATs are capable of handling large volumes necessary for promotional campaigns, they may not offer the same level of reliability needed for critical transactional communications.
  • NIPs Solution: Reliability is a cornerstone for product communications, where delivery of each and every notification becomes important. NIPs incorporate features such as vendor fallback mechanisms, automated retries, and multiple swimlanes to prioritize delivering time sensitive alerts over bulk notifications, ensuring consistent and dependable delivery of notifications in events of failures.

8. Developer-First Approach

  • MATs Limitation: Typically built for marketers, MATs do not give a developer-first approach, limiting the ability to automate the notification development and providing controls that developers would like to have.
  • NIPs Solution: NIPs recognize the importance of automation in building business notifications similar to any other product features. They provide comprehensive APIs & SDKs that empower developers to automate template creation, workflows, preferences, and seamlessly integrate notification processes into their CI/CD pipelines, aligning more closely with modern software development practices.

9. Separate Workspaces

  • MATs Limitation: MATs may lack the capability to provide distinct workspaces for staging and production environments. Works well for marketers to run, test and optimize campaigns in a high-touch process, but not ideal for notifications related to product features.
  • NIPs Solution: NIPs address this limitation by offering separate workspaces for staging and production environments. This ensures a controlled and secure deployment process, allowing businesses to test and refine their notification strategies in a staging environment before rolling them out to the production environment. This allows a more reliable and risk-mitigated deployment process, crucial for organizations with good development practices.

10. Streamlining Notifications in a large organization

  • MATs Limitation: Marketing Automation Tools (MATs) are typically utilized by Marketing and Growth teams, to build and oversee campaign effectiveness. On the contrary, product notifications often originate from multiple product teams within an organization, each responsible for specific features and respective notifications. This decentralized structure can pose challenges in streamlining processes, especially in organizations with multiple teams across different product lines.
  • NIPs Solution: Notification Infrastructure Platforms (NIPs) offer a centralized solution for organizing notifications across various product teams and lines. With tools for managing multiple projects, environments, Role-Based Access Controls (RBACs), permissions, audit trails, and cost centers, NIPs are ideal for managing notifications in complex organizations. This centralized approach ensures efficient coordination and alignment of notification strategies, enhancing overall communication effectiveness and productivity.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the emergence of notification infrastructure platforms like SuprSend offer a fresh perspective on notification solutions, particularly for modern products. While marketing automation tools can be used to some degree for product notifications, exploring specialized platforms can provide greater control and flexibility for your notification strategies, and you won’t run into rewriting the service after every few years.

As you weigh your options, consider your specific needs, such as delivering product-triggered notifications reliably at scale or getting pre-built components for delivering native experiences, or requiring out-of-the-box capabilities to build sophisticated workflows. By doing so, you can choose the platform that is adaptable to your development cycle and empowers your team to deliver exceptional notification experiences.

If you're intrigued at this point, we would love to have you explore SuprSend and discover how it can elevate your notification strategy.

Watch out this space to learn about how we are uniquely solving engagement notifications.

Written by:
Nikita Navral
Co-Founder, SuprSend
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

Implement a powerful stack for your notifications

By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.