To make the most of their benefits outside of open enrollment, your employees need a more natural way to turn information into action. Yet your traditional delivery methods—benefits booklets, posters, email campaigns—aren’t cutting it. Instead, consider adding mobile notifications to your toolkit.

Whether you choose push notifications or an SMS strategy, we’ll clue you in on a secret: mobile notifications are the best benefits engagement tool you’re not using.

Notifications are the new communication standard

To understand why notifications are useful, you only have to look at a crowd of commuters, grocery shoppers, or coffee shop patrons. Nearly all Americans now own cellphones, according to the Pew Research Center. Of that number, 81% own smartphones.

We’re used to being pinged, prodded, and notified by our devices. We use them as alarm clocks and egg timers. They remind us to download our favorite podcast and let us know when it’s time to leave for work. In other words, they’re part of our lives in a way print materials never were.

Unlike paper communications, mobile notifications prompt users to take direct action. Sure, emails can serve the same purpose. They’re also easily lost in our inboxes. Notifications cut through the noise.

A Localytics study found that app users who receive push notifications had 53% more sessions than app users who didn’t get notifications. SMS notifications equally compel users. A study in the UK found that 98% of mobile users will read a branded or business-based text communication—90% within the first 3 minutes. Those statistics blow even the most optimistic email open rates out of the water.

Since it’s a good bet that every single one of your US employees has a mobile phone, notifications as a benefits engagement tool are pretty darn valuable.

Notifications prompt action

Here’s the thing: to make the most of the benefits package you put together, your employees have to remember to use it.

Sure, if your open enrollment education campaign went well, they should know they can save money by switching to a preferred pharmacy or completing their wellness exam. Actually calling the pharmacy or scheduling that exam may be a different story.

We already know that notifications can remind us to make better choices. It’s something wellness apps have used to great success. For instance, when you enable push notifications for the Fitbit app on your smartphone, you’ll get messages throughout the day, reminding you to move more.

Calm, a meditation app, enables a daily push notification reminding users to take a break and meditate. Apps like AloeBud are almost entirely built around custom push notifications reminding you to drink water, take your medication, or get up and stretch. Even iPhone’s bedtime feature makes use of push notifications to help us make good on “get more sleep” resolution.

These apps rely on the idea that push notifications drive action merely by reminding us they exist. We can apply the same concepts to benefits delivery apps. When push notifications drive users back to a centralized benefits experience platform, they can also save users the work of tracking down phone numbers, plan details, and other necessary minutia.

If your benefits exist outside an app, you can still take advantage of the power of notifications by using SMS messages as a benefits engagement tool. Though more straightforward than a push notification, SMS messages can contain much of the same information. When they include a web link, they’re just as equipped to drive action back to a site. Your employees may even be more likely to opt in to SMS notifications than to allow them from an app.

That may be one reason that, even as smartphones and app technology advances, marketers are returning to SMS messages to promote deals, offer discounts, and drive traffic directly to their sites.

Notifications drive benefits engagement

We’ve found the combination of push notifications and a centralized, app-based benefits experience is a one-two punch for year-round benefits engagement.

Let’s say a user hasn’t engaged in the HealthJoy app for 30 days. They get a push notification with a short message: “Are you maintaining your vision?” Perhaps they’ve been putting off their annual eye exam, all while ending the day with headaches and eye strain. They click through to the HealthJoy app, where our virtual assistant, JOY, guides them through a journey to schedule an eye exam using their employee benefits.

Over the course of a few minutes, they’ve learned why eye exams are critical to health, their plan’s specific coverages, and maybe even booked an appointment. This process takes only a few minutes of our members’ time, but it significantly improves our engagement rates and our clients’ employee satisfaction.

If you aren’t yet using a benefits experience platform, you should still take advantage of the power of mobile notifications. Your email marketing client or intranet provider might already offer SMS messaging, or you can employ a third-party service. Send an SMS message reminding your employees when it’s time to schedule a biometric screening, ping users who haven’t yet elected benefits during open enrollment, or include information about flu shots. Off the OE cycle, you might use SMS to promote a mid-year wellness initiative or remind employees to make HSA contributions.

The bottom line: mobile notifications are the best benefits engagement tool you’re not using yet. Whether you use push notifications to drive users to a benefits experience app or employ an SMS strategy, notifications are a surefire way to make your employees sit up and take notice. Thanks to their flexibility, affordability, and relatively high open rates, they deserve a place in your year-round benefits education strategy.

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