Historically, neither the Android not iOS apps have had sounds played with push notifications. In June 2017, the iOS app tested a doorbell sound. The results of the test showed that having a sound play, increased the push open rate by 9%. Soon after, the same doorbell sound was added to the Android app for Daily Sales notifications.

Unfortunately, a large number of customers really hate the doorbell sound. Each week, we receive at least one negative rating that mentions 'notification', and one that mentions 'sound'; and these are only the people who hate it enough to go to the play store and leave us a review. Google Play analytics estimates that reviews that contain the word 'sound', have an average rating of 3.01, while reviews containing 'notification' averages 2.00, and reviews containing 'ads' averages 2.07 (all reviews are out of 5). The reviews range from the frustrated and vague:

"Defaulting to ads and pestering notifications? Screw you."

To the actually helpful:

"Allow turning off of advertising push notifications without having to turn push off altogether"

"Get the ads out of my face and just let me get push notifications concerning my orders"

To the downright funny:

"Doorbell from hell So for the past two weeks. At the same time every night 8:05 a doorbell rings in my house. I told my husband about it and he says he doesn't hear anything, but once it rings my dogs are at attention. Yesterday it rang again! & My husband heard it this time and got up and looked out the door. And no one. My husband opens the door. Rings our doorbell and the sound does NOT match ours. Fast forward today. While on my phone scrolling through Facebook, in bed. The doorbell rings again. And it's this freaking app. All this time it's been my phone. I thought it was some ghost cause I seriously was about to charge it rent. Thanks Wayfair for spooking me out for two weeks. Lol"

So, along with the sound, the apps added the ability to (a) disable push notifications completely or (b) turn off the sound for all push notifications. There were still two problems. Both of these options are all-or-nothing solutions, which isn't in our best interest, since most users only want to disable/silence certain types of notifications. Also, many customers were unable to find this setting in the My Account section, and were therefore still left with a negative experience.

Our Solution

A Notification Settings or Alert Settings page gives the customer the ability to select which notifications she wants to see, and what sound she wants played when they are received. This would allow users to continue receiving back In-stock alerts, or order status notifications without getting bombarded by push notifications every evening. This solution is also in line with Android's core principle of customizability and choice in the hands of the user.

To address the issue of users being unable to find the setting, the new Notification Center can be showcased using the What's New Modal, which every user on that version of the app will see when they first open it.

The Process

We first identified the various types of notifications that are sent to the Android app[1]. We then grouped these notifications into five broad categories:

  1. Limited time deals
  2. Product updates (eg - Back in stock messages)
  3. Custom recommendations
  4. Customer service messages
  5. Your account and orders

For each category, we wanted to give the user the ability to turn notifications on or off, and to select a sound for that type. The list of sound types would include a 'No sound' option. Having made these decisions, we worked on the mocks (attached), and started working on the code.

Future Work

We identified a couple of potential problems while thinking through this solution.

We currently allow the server to specify which sound to use in order to be able to play seasonal notification sounds (like sleigh bells in December). This solution will prevent us from doing that in the future. One option is to add a "Seasonal sound" option in the list of sounds. Additionally, if we were to add a new type of notification, it would involve another release of the app, and users specifying settings for the newly added notification type.

Neither of these are show-stopping problems (in my opinion), and the value addition for customers will more than make up for them.

[1] Thanks to Ben Violette and Rose Filipp

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