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How to Use Push Notifications

How many times do you look at your phone each day? And how many of those are in reaction to that familiar ‘buzz’ letting you know that someone has a new profile picture on Facebook, or that your delivery is on its way?

If you’re like me, you disable the annoying ones because you don’t really need to know every time your auntie posts a new picture of her handbag-sized poodle. But for those other, active, vibrations you probably pull out your phone to check with a tiny bit of excitement and wonder. It may be very tiny, because we’re so accustomed to it now, but admit it…it’s still there right?

That’s because notifications work directly on our brains by activating the reward cycle. I won’t get into the technical side of things, but it makes sense that app makers (perhaps like yourselves) might want to get in on this right? This is why push notifications is one of the main reasons people decide to create a native app. So let’s dive in and see what they’re all about!

What is a push notification?

In the most basic terms, a mobile app push notification is a pop-up message, or alert, that an app publisher sends to your mobile device. Of course you’ll need to have their app installed, and also given permission for them to be able to send you these. Another type are mobile web notifications, which don't require a mobile app to receive it. In this article we'll focus on mobile app notifications.

There are three types of push notifications

Web Push Notifications, Desktop Push Notifications, and Mobile App Push Notifications. Let us now look at each of these in detail:

1. Web Push Notification:

With web push notifications, you can send alerts on mobile as well as desktops even when users are not on your website. With zero installations required, users simply need to give their consent in a single click to receive notifications. Web push notifications can be sent to users without the need to build an app as they are sent directly to their browsers.

These notifications are mainly used by marketers to increase website engagement and encourage visitors to keep coming back to their website, thereby increasing conversions. It’s fairly easy to build web push notifications for your website, and this can be done even by those with little or no technical background. This is what makes web push notifications such a handy tool for marketers.

2. Desktop Push Notifications:

Unlike web push notifications, desktop push notifications appear only on your users’ desktops. These notifications are driven mainly by the products that you have installed on your desktop, with the aim of driving customer engagement. Desktop push notifications are fairly difficult to build when compared to web push notifications and require developer help.

3. Mobile App Push Notifications:

Similar to desktop push notifications that are triggered by a product you have installed, mobile app push notifications are triggered by existing/downloaded applications on your device. When the user opens the app, unique identifiers are registered for both the app and the device with the OS push notification service. These IDs are also shared with the app publishers, who then manually craft and send these messages with the aim of increasing customer engagement.

Push notification alerts can be displayed in three locations on your phone—lock screen, banner, and notification center when the app user opts-in for messages. While Android has a default setting of opt-in and manual opt-out users, iOS does not allow apps to send notifications to users until they agree to receive messages. Mobile app push notifications, like desktop push notifications, are fairly difficult to create when compared to web push notifications and require developer help to be built.

Types of Push Notifications Campaigns You Can Run

Everyone loves hand-crafted notes made especially for them. Push notifications are the closest any tech can come to that. Customers are more likely to click on messages that pique their interest and emotions. This means that there are certain kinds of push notifications that customers like receiving. These notifications keep your users interested, entertained, or even feel loved:

1. Rich Push Notifications

Use rich push notifications and add images, emojis and up to 2 CTAs in your notification:

  • You can only write so much in your push notification message. Images and videos help you provide added context to your users as well as increase the visual appeal of your notifications.

  • Rich push notifications are different from standard push notifications because unlike the latter, they enable you to add up to 3 clickable links on your notification – the notification itself and 2 CTAs. If you have more than one landing page where you want to send your subscribers, multiple CTAs can help you achieve that. And, it also helps you understand what kind of CTA copy users find most interesting and click on.

  • Words sometimes fail to convey the intended emotions, especially when you have to adhere to the character limitations set by Google Cloud Manager (GCM). This is where emojis come into play – they have their own charm and influence. With an array of emojis available to be used today, your push notification can convey its theme and message with just one glance. Emojis also help you ensure that your users receive notifications in the exact emotional tone you want them to. They also eliminate the use of too much text, thus conveying the exact message even to users who may not read the entire text. Plus, seeing positive emojis in push notifications urges them to click on your notification.

2. Abandoned Cart Push Notification

At times, a customer adds something to their cart and leaves it there for varied reasons like unexpected shipping fees, long delivery time, or payment failures. Retarget lost customers that failed to complete their purchases through cart abandonment notifications through the following ways:

  • Funnel to recover abandonment cart: Schedule a series of automated notifications to be sent at the optimal interval until they complete their purchase. Set up an entry trigger for each campaign, with a set of predefined logic and conditions.

  • Build unlimited campaigns: As retailers, you would prefer the flexibility and ease to set your campaigns based on different parameters that work best for you. Build as many campaigns you desire and add your prospects in the different lists you wish to target.

  • Send notifications to the right target audience: Create a dynamic list of customers who added a product to their cart but did not complete the checkout process. Each campaign can have custom audiences, based on different subscriber properties, that you choose. Categorize based on their location, platform, devices, and much more.

  • Track your success with engagement metrics: Don’t just get your visitors back to their abandoned cart, but also keep a track on how many completed their purchase and converted to customers by tracking total notifications delivered, number of clicks and the click rate for each campaign.

Want to nudge users to purchase product/s they left in their cart? Try sending them something like, “You have 1 item in your cart. Buy before the stocks run out!” Action-based push notifications give users an extra push and urgency to complete the desired action.

3. For-Your-Information (FYI) Notifications

Want to let your users know about trending news on travel? Then send them this travel news alert! Similarly, you can send messages on the latest weather report, stock update, brand level changes, updates about their field of interest, and much more. If this type fits your business goals, start pushing!

4. Triggered Push Notifications

Enhance your buyer’s journey through triggered push notification campaigns. With triggered campaigns, you can use push notifications as a proactive medium to follow your buyer’s journey. It enables you to push a series of automated messages based on predefined rules and real-time data collected after subscribers enter the campaign funnel.

Create different types of campaigns based on your push notification marketing strategy – open-ended campaigns or closed campaigns. An open-ended campaign enables you to send a series of notifications without an exit trigger. Once the subscriber receives all the notifications in the series you’ve planned, the campaign ends. A closed campaign is where you lay out a predefined goal, and once your subscriber completes the action, they exit the campaign. They no longer receive the remaining notifications in the series.

  • Personalize your automated communication: Add a human touch to your scheduled push notifications. Create different custom attributes and interact with your subscribers personally.

  • Determine your target audience: Create custom target groups of subscribers if you have a specific set of audience in mind.

  • Define entry trigger conditions and set goals to convert subscribers based on the page visited: This is the entry point for anyone becoming a part of your funnel. Based on the pages visited by the user, determine who is qualified to receive your series of notifications. Also, set predefined goals that act as exit points for your closed campaigns. This means subscribers convert and drop out of the campaign as soon as they hit a goal. Choose the desired final action or destination page where you want your buyer’s journey to end.

  • Define entry trigger conditions and set goals to convert subscribers based on element clicked: This is the entry point for your subscribers clicking on any particular CSS element – which includes any link or button on a specific page or throughout the website. Define the entry trigger and customize it further, based on your business goals. The goal set can be defined as a click on a specific CSS element. This is the point where subscribers convert and drop out of the campaign, as they performed the desired action. You can set a payment gateway or checkout from the cart, as one of the exit triggers. This completes the campaign for a buyer journey.

  • Queue the notifications: Craft a seamless buyer’s journey by queuing a series of notifications with the message you wish to convey – schedule to send them after a specified time delay once the subscribers enter the campaign. You can also assign the intervals of time between each notification to be sent.

  • Track each campaign with in-depth reporting: Keep a tab on the number of subscribers converted and the conversion rate. Deep-dive into each notification delivered, clicks they received, and their click rate.

5. Reminder Notifications

Is a user profile incomplete on your job hunt portal? Did a user add products to your store’s cart and leave your site without purchasing? Send them a reminder so that you as well as they do not miss out on exciting opportunities. This delights users, and they would want to remain loyal. This type of push notification is perfect for fitness enthusiasts, job portals, educational portals, nutrition sites, eCommerce stores, and many more!

6. Interest-Based Geo-location Notifications

These types of notifications are great for date match alerts, stores nearby, and lots more! For example, if you want to send your users deals on fine dining restaurants in their current location, then send them updates based on their preferences in their vicinity. Another good example where interest-based geological notifications play a critical role is dating apps like Tinder and Bumble.

7. Mobile-Friendly Push Notifications

Are your users mostly engaged on their mobile phones? Then send them mobile-friendly push notifications. Mobile-friendly push notifications allow you to send push messages right to the users’ mobile browsers without having to invest in building an app!

8. Time-Bound Notifications

Send time-bound push notifications to create a sense of urgency among users. Want to send your users a limited-time offer? You can send them notifications about a limited-period offer, a soon approaching expiry date, limited-period flash sales, and so on. Your users will be eager to grab the opportunity and utilize the offer. For time-bound notifications, you have to set a notification expiry once the offer period lapses so that users who come online after it’s expiry do not click through to find an expired deal.

Why Should You Use Push Notifications?

Conservative estimates have pegged the click rate from push notifications at 4-8X times that of email. It is a strictly permission-based medium. Subscribers will receive notifications if and only if they have opted-in. These characteristics make push notifications an extremely powerful communication channel for marketing:

Offering opt-in choice:

With push notifications, you can increase your brand’s visibility among its audience by adding subscribers with a single click to ‘allow’. Give users the choice to access or deny the permission for your website to send them notifications and ensure the opt-in message conveys what type of messages they should expect. If users click on the message without knowing its end purpose, most of them will opt-out without adding much value to your entire push notification exercise.

Capturing increased and good quality leads:

Many businesses suffer from low lead count as well as low lead quality because visitors are often reluctant to provide personal information or one or some of the form fields make them think twice before filling the lead generation form. With push notifications, you don’t have to rely on capturing lead information as you can add subscribers with single-click permission and engage them without asking for any personal data.

Additionally, push notifications require opt-in permission, which means whenever a message is delivered, it is guaranteed to reach a real subscriber’s active browser. And since browsers like Chrome, Safari, and Firefox are used by a majority of internet users, rest assured that you will reach a wide base of interested audiences as well.

Increasing return traffic:

You’ve managed to get customers to your website for the first time, but how do you retain them? Compelling messages can grab your audience’s interest and engage them right away. Send proactive clickable messages directing them back to your website from anywhere on their browsers. This helps you increase return visitors through targeted notifications and personalized messages. You can keep them hooked with different promotional offers, articles, and much more to increase visitor interaction with your website. Push notification gets delivered right on the users’ browser, and enjoys a 4x CTR than emails.


If you’re a marketer, you realize the time and effort it takes to craft a newsletter or an email. It isn’t easy to write compelling copy, articles, offers, and illustrations on the go, but this isn’t the case with push messages as these are concise and less time-consuming to compose. Mind you; they still need to be on point with a title that acts as a hook, and a resonating message.

Connecting at the right time:

With push notifications, you can materialize on existing opportunities by connecting with your users at the right time. Send real-time push notifications when you are looking for instant responses – automate notifications for campaigns, set up expiry dates for time-bound messages, set up notifications based on different geographies, and time-zones your target audience follow.

Improving outreach:

Push notifications are likely to perform better than SMS and email. People don’t have to read their SMS, and emails can end up in spam. However, this isn’t the case with push notifications since they are sent directly on your users’ desktops or mobile browsers, demanding attention.

Eliminating dependence on mobile apps:

Stay connected to your mobile audience without investing in building a mobile app. They receive notifications, just like in-app, right on their Android device. They just need to have a mobile device that supports either Chrome, Firefox, or Opera browser.

How to Calculate Web Push ROI?

As a web marketer, you should know where to invest your resources while designing your communication strategy. Web push notifications can save you money as compared to mobile app push notifications, where designing is an expensive process. Therefore, it’s imperative to know the measure of your ROI from different channels to invest wisely.

Web push ROI is the measure of performance of an investment made in web push notifications to retarget site visitors. You can calculate the ROI of your Web Push Notification investment based on the below-mentioned metrics:

  • Unique visitors: This is the count of average monthly unique visitors.

  • Opt-in rate: This is the percentage of subscribers who opt-in for push notification.

  • Delivery rate: This can be calculated as the ratio of impressions and successfully delivered messages to total number of messages sent, assuming subscribers are online to receive a message.

  • CTR: Click-through rate is the percentage of the measure of clicks per delivered messages, assuming all clicks result in a session.

  • Number of notifications: This is the number of notifications you want to push each month.

  • Average order value (eCommerce): It measures the average total of every order placed over a defined period of time.

  • Average monthly sessions (publishers): It’s the average amount of time a visitor spends on your website in a month.

  • Conversion rate: This is the industry average. Generally ranges from 2-3%.

Why are they useful?

There are three main areas where push notifications come in useful for app publishers:

  • Marketing – This is basically letting your users know about any sales, discounts, loyalty offers, or special deals you have for your app, or business. You can also use it to remind your users to rate your app.

  • Reminders – These include things such as appointment reminders, or perhaps to let you know you have messages waiting to be read. You can even remind users to update your app for all the new features.

  • Engagement – In a way, the above areas will feed into user engagement, but you can also increase this by sending out targeted notifications about new content that’s of interest to your user, such as a new blog post on their favorite artist.

Ok, so these all sound like good ways to use push notifications, but you’re probably wondering ‘Where’s the proof?

The most recent proof comes from a study done by Localytics at the end of 2015. Their findings revealed that the opt-in rate for push notifications is around 50% and, overall, push notifications do help increase user retention (so basically, they’ll keep using your app). This occurs only after they’ve spent some time with your app already though.

Another important thing to keep in mind is if you bombard users with push notifications (more than once a week it seems) then you’ll lose them for good. On top of that, these once a week notifications also need to be relevant to the user, which you can do via targeting and groups, which we talk more about below.

Types of push notifications

Now let’s take a look at the different types of push notifications you can send, specifically with app makers in mind.

Manual Notifications

  • Immediate/Scheduled – These are your standard push notifications, when you simply type out a message and either send it straight away, or schedule it for a later date. All types of app makers have this option available as a bare minimum.

  • Geolocation -This an immediate, or scheduled, notification that is segmented for location. So when you choose to send out a message, you can often choose users within a specific area to target. This could be as big as a country, or as small as a store, but only users within that area when you send out the notification will receive it.

Automatic Notifications

  • Automated – These types of push notifications are often linked to a feed of some sort, such as a blog or a podcast, and whenever new posts are published on that feed users will get notified automatically. That is, as long as they’ve subscribed to get these particular feed notifications.

  • Geofencencing – The second ‘geo’, this one is a little more interesting. The is a type of automatic notification, because it only gets activated once a user enters a defined area. So you define an area, similar to geolocation, but it stays active over time (a period that you can determine). GoodBarber also have the added bonus of sending a notification once someone leaves the area, or after they have been within it for a specified time. These type of messages can be useful for notifications about sales, or events, near to your users. It’s worth noting that users do need to have the app running, or in background mode, for these types of notifications to reach them.

What kinds of targeting are possible?

  • Operating system – With some app makers it’s possible to target users by which type of operating system they use, so usually either Android or iOS. This could be useful if you want to send an app store review reminder, with separate store links to each OS.

  • Location-based – This is basically geotargeted notifications, mentioned above.

  • User characteristics and groups – Some app makers allow you to target down to things such as how many times an app has been opened, or even a user’s language. The app publisher can also define user groups based upon these categories to make sending out future targeted messages even easier.

  • Subscriptions – This is what automated push messages, mentioned above, are based upon. You first define your subscription groups, such as ‘Sports’ or ‘Music’ for example, then users add themselves to the ones they’re most interested in and will receive notifications every time a new article is posted.

As you can see, no two app makers are the same and it really depends on what kind of notifications you need for your app. In terms of options, GoodBarber and Bizness Apps seem to be ahead of the pack, with Shoutem and AppMachine just behind them. They also boast extra features such as GoodBarber’s automatic rating popup, or Bizness Apps rich notifications, which allow you send images along with message content.

But notifications alone do not make an app maker, and so I suggest you try out the ones that interest you first to see how you like the experience as a whole. You can find an overview of all our reviews here, as well as links to their free trials.

Remember, push notifications are not entirely useful in, and of, themselves. You need to tailor your messages so that your users get the best, most relevant, experience…or you’ll end up in that dark corner of the universe where all my auntie’s ‘dog dressed as santa’ notifications go.

What kind of experiences have you had with push notifications? Let us know in the comments below. Also feel free to ask us any questions you might have!


If you are short on time, not technically savvy and want to hire an app developer who is able to start working on your app idea immediately you can contact us for a free consultation & quote.

Disclaimer: This article is not used for monetary purposes and is only here to provide self-help guidance and information. This information was provided by Website Tool Tester, Bizness Apps, & VWO Blog.

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