Is a big flip really happening?

The digital experience industry is undergoing a sea change due to the increase in mobile device usage and the Internet of Things. But while these new approaches are creating a market for push-based content, not everything is moving in that direction. While some may say there's a “big flip” taking place from pull to push, both still have relevance in today’s digital experiences.

Sometimes it’s a Push Internet

There is an evolution towards push experiences driven by mobile, social and wearables like the Apple Watch, fitness devices, etc. The term push simply means the content is sent to the user. In a pull scenario, the user browses for content. If you get weather alerts on your smart watch, it's a push. If you go to on your browser, it's a pull.

Mobile is primarily a push-based channel. Mobile phone apps send notifications, for example location-aware applications leveraging beacons to send push messages via SMS to alert users they are close to stores, restaurants, etc. Users can also sign up for text message notifications of sales, discounts, banking notifications and so on. 

In reality, we’ve always had “push” channels. Email, direct marketing and others have been push-based since day one. Today, there are simply more “push” channels to deal with.

While the idea for push-based content has been around for a long time, push content never really took off in the traditional sense. You can argue that social media is largely push-based, website personalization has push elements, and of course email is a push platform. But the importance of push-based channels does not discount traditional web browsing experiences. The web browser, where we consume most of our content, is still predominately a pull-based content experience.   

And Sometimes it’s a Pull Internet

Email is still the primary channel used for inbound marketing, but the website is the primary home of the brand, where almost every other message across every channel encourages people to visit. 

The website provides product and service information, company information, as well as resources like blogs, whitepapers, e-books, webinars and more. It’s where users go to learn more about a brand, or find answers to questions.

Inbound is at its core, pull marketing. It’s designed to bring customers and prospects to you, to your website to learn more about you. It’s why SEO and SEM are still key marketing tactics (and pull-based tactics). 

When people want solutions to their problems, they search the web — they don’t wait for industry experts or vendors to reach out to them. You can say the same for social media. People sign up to the social media accounts they want to follow, they search social media for people who have the same challenges they have in the hopes that they might have the information needed to make better decisions. This is why search aids strongly in the pull model.

The web isn’t going to a push model anytime soon. As a result, content strategy isn’t going to change that much. 

But some things are changing.

It’s Not a Flip: It’s a Lever 

We shouldn't think of push and pull content as being at odds. It is not a flip, it’s more like a lever. 

Learning Opportunities

Push and pull work together. There is a symbiosis between the different approaches to marketing where both are required and need to work cooperatively together to support the best marketing strategy.


Which strategy you use depends a lot on where you are in the marketing funnel. Pull is typically top of the funnel, where most of your demand comes from. Push approaches are bottom of the funnel, where your customers are highly engaged and want personalized, contextual experiences from you.

We Need Push and Pull Marketing Strategies

We need both push and pull marketing and content strategies. And we need content platforms that enable marketers to do both easily. 

Traditional web experience platforms don't support a multi-channel push/pull world. A decoupled architecture that separates the management of content from its delivery can support a range of push and pull channels and experiences.  

Marketers must create experiences that cross channels because you can’t limit a person to only using a single channel. Customers jump from channel to channel and device to device when interacting with brands. 

A person might start a shopping experience on their desktop over their lunch hour, do more research on the bus ride home on their smartphone and then decide to buy while using their tablet or laptop at home. Marketers can take advantage of this multi-channel approach to the purchase journey using a combination of push and pull marketing. 

For example, if the person is known to the brand and is doing some shopping on their website, the brand can track that. Later, taking advantage of beacons, the brand can send the person a push notification on their mobile device that they are close to the store if they want to look at a product in person. If the person abandons a shopping cart on the desktop, they can receive an email notifying them they didn’t finish their purchase and maybe offer a discount to sweeten the deal. 

The possibilities of using push and pull together are only limited by a marketer’s creativity (and possibly a few laws).

Title image "Front Flip" (CC BY 2.0) by  halseike 

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