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Push Notifications Explained

As mobile app usage increases, more and more brands are using push notifications to inform and engage their customer base.

Push notifications are messages sent out from the apps installed on user’s device. Though these notifications look similar to text messages, they are only delivered to users of your mobile app, and these users do not need to be actively using the application to receive the notification.

Each mobile platform (iOS, Android, Windows, etc.) has its own operating system push notification service (OSPNS) that the app publisher uses to send out notifications.

After the user has downloaded and installed your app, they can begin to receive these notifications. It’s also important to note that some apps require users to opt-in before receiving these alerts.

Push notifications are more cost effective for businesses and do not result in a charge to the user in the same way that SMS messages might.

Users also have more control over which apps they receive notifications from and what types of notifications they receive, making their attitude toward this kind of marketing more positive.

This guide to push notifications will dive a little deeper into how your brand can use different types of notifications to keep your customers engaged.

It will also cover some best practices for getting the most out of push notifications for your business.

How Push Notifications Can Impact Your Brand

Push notifications are effective for engaging users who are already interacting with your app or website as well as re-engaging those who may not have interacted with your brand recently.

One example of a company that has found success with engagement through push notifications is The Weather Channel.

According to a Google case study, the company sent important weather updates to mobile users through app notifications but struggled to reach the rest of their audience, who visited their site on web browsers.

To solve this issue, the brand implemented push notifications for mobile and desktop web users to ensure that everyone was getting the updates. In just three months, the company had almost one million users opt-in for web notifications, significantly expanding their reach.

When it comes to re-engagement, many brands use push notifications to decrease cart abandonment rates and encourage consumers to follow through with their purchase.

Another Google case study focuses on how Carnival Cruise uses push notifications to improve conversion rates. The company implemented push notifications as a way of offering real-time updates on customers’ courtesy holds.

These notifications have been a critical part of getting customers to return to the site to complete payment for their vacation package. The push notifications had a 42 percent click-through-rate, offering the brand another effective channel for re-engaging consumers.

Different Types of Push Notifications and Their Uses

Getting to know the different types of push notifications can help you better understand which types of alerts will work best for your brand. Here is a brief explanation of each type of notification and how it can be used:

Push Notifications for Mobile Apps

Considering Americans spend  5 hours on their phones every day, mobile push notifications can be a very effective marketing tool.

Mobile push notifications are messages that are delivered straight to a user’s mobile device from the app.

The user receives the message in the form of an alert displayed on the home or lock screen of the user’s mobile device.

The message appears next to the app’s icon. The mobile user does not have to be actively using the app to receive these notifications.

Mobile push notifications are widely used by all types of apps to deliver important information and reminders in a timely manner, including eCommerce, shopping, travel, gaming, content, service, news, and social media.

These notifications can be sent to all users or just a certain segment. For instance, you can send out a notification about an upcoming sale to all users who opt-in to sale notifications, but you can also use mobile push notifications to deliver detailed information to one customer, such as a shipping notification.


When a new TED Talk is released, the app updates its users by delivering a push notification with some details about the latest presentation.

There are many reasons why brands might deliver mobile push notifications. They can help spread timely information like promotions, sales, coupons, or special pricing that is only available for a limited time.

Mobile push notifications can also be used to personalize the app experience by providing individual product suggestions or delivering transaction information such as shipping updates.

These notifications can also be a great tool for engaging with members of your customer loyalty program as well as re-engaging with those who have not visited your app in a while.

Web Push Notifications for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari

Push notifications are not just for mobile devices. They can also be delivered through the user’s web browser.

Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Apple Safari all offer the ability for brands to deliver this type of messaging.

Like mobile app notifications, web push notifications allow you to deliver clickable messages to your audience.

However, unlike its mobile counterpart, the web push notification works on websites instead of apps, and it can be accessed across all devices, not just mobile.

Users do not need to be visiting or logged into your website to receive these push notifications.

Web push notifications are a great option for any brand that does not have an app or is still working to develop an app.

For example, bloggers can use push notifications to let readers know that they’ve published new content on their website.


After opting in for push notifications, Chrome users will receive Facebook updates even when they do not have the social media site open on their computer.

Web push notifications can be used in many of the same ways that you might use a mobile app message, such as shipping notifications, sales updates, and coupon reminders.

Web push notifications allow you to drive traffic back to your website even if the user has already left, which also makes them ideal for reducing cart abandonment rates and helping you stay on top of your customers’ minds.

For instance, if a customer leaves without completing their purchase, you might deliver a push notification that offers a friendly reminder that the items are still in the cart waiting for them.

You could also deliver a coupon as added incentive.

Rich Media Push Notifications

Modern consumers respond well to visuals in marketing. In fact, eye-tracking studies performed by Nielsen Norman Group showed that internet readers pay close attention to information that contains images. Your brand can take advantage of the power of imagery by including rich media in your push notifications.

Rich media push notifications allow you to include media embedded within your Android and iOS mobile notifications. This media can include images, video clips, audio, or even animated gifs. These types of notifications help you grab the attention of busy modern consumers and get them to engage with your messaging.


These are just a few examples of how media in push notifications can be used to capture the attention of your audience.

Again, there are many reasons why a brand might use rich media push notifications to get information out to consumers. If you have relevant images, video, or audio that you think might engage your users, consider how you might be able to include this content in your push notification messaging. Rich media works particularly well for new product releases as it allows you to give consumers a preview of the product before they click to view.

Best Practices for Using Push Notifications

When it comes to providing notifications to your customers, there tends to be a fine line between helpful and engaging messages and those that are just plain annoying.

The key to developing a successful push notification strategy is focusing on the industry best practices that help ensure your messaging is useful. Use the following tactics to get the best results with your brand’s push notifications:

Use the following tactics to get the best results with your brand’s push notifications:

Personalize your messaging

As with many other marketing tactics, personalization in your push notifications can go a long way. In fact, one study found that personalizing push notification content could improve open rates by up to 4x.

While the average open rate of generic notifications was about 1.5%, those notifications that included personalized messaging showed an average open rate of 5.9%.

There are many ways that you can add personalization to your push notification content. One way would be to include the customer’s name in the message.

By addressing the customer directly, you help increase the chances that they will take notice of your content. You might also provide notifications based on an action that the user took.

If they visited a specific site page or recently made a purchase, your brand could provide personalized recommendations on other content or items they might enjoy.

Personalization can also be based on geographic location. For example, if you are an eCommerce brand, you can deliver personalized push notification content based on weather patterns or local happenings.

Event brands can also use personalized push notifications to let users know when a certain event will be in their area. Use segmenting to help you deliver more targeted and personalized content to your users.

Work on your timing

With push notifications, timing is everything. You don’t want to deliver a message during a time that might be interruptive to the user, which makes it vital that you pay attention to user time zones.

Avoid sending messages during times of the day when users are likely to be sleeping or hard at work. You can segment your audiences to ensure that any scheduled messages are delivered at optimal times.

At the same time, you also want to make sure that you are sending relevant promotions out at the best time to maximize conversions.

This makes it important for brands to customize messaging to reflect the time of the year.

For instance, restaurants might use push notifications to tell customers about a special Valentine’s Day deal a few days before the holiday, or clothing stores could notify users about a winter sale once the weather starts to cool down in the area.

Brands can also use notifications to provide a sense of urgency for deals or promotions that are about to expire. Sending out a push notification may be the final push a customer needs to make a purchase.

For example, a shoe store might send out a notification that says, “Only 24 hours left in our summer sandal sale!” This entices customers to act before the promotion is no longer available.

Limit the frequency.

As a rule, you should only send out push notifications when you have an important message to convey.

Though it may be tempting to send out push notifications on a regular basis, you should avoid sending messages that don’t provide any value to the user.

Sending too many notifications may frustrate your customers and cause them to ignore or opt-out of your notifications and even delete your app.

The optimal frequency will depend on your brand and what it is you have to offer. Bloggers or media organizations should send out push notifications when they have created new content in order to stay connected with their fans.

While a blogger might send out a notification once a week when they post a new blog, news sites that publish content more often might only send out a notification when they have breaking news or a story that is relevant to the user.

Retailers, restaurants, and othereCommercee brands should limit their notifications to the messages that are most relevant to the user.

For instance, when the holiday season arrives, a restaurant might use push notifications to notify customers about special deals on gift certificates or get the word out about last minute promotions.

Similarly, retailers might use push notifications to let customers know about sales in their area or new products that they may like based on their previous purchase.

Final Takeaways

Whether you are sending out shipping notifications through your mobile app or letting web users know when you’ve posted a new blog, push notifications can be a valuable part of your marketing strategy.

The key to making sure that your push notifications are successful is developing a strategy that aligns with your business goals and focuses on promoting engaging and useful information.

This is a guest post by Andy Beohar

Andy Beohar is the Chief Inbound Marketing Strategist at SevenAtoms Inc, a San Francisco inbound marketing and AdWords management AgencyAt SevenAtoms, he manages and develops inbound marketing and Google AdWords strategies for companies with the goal to substantially increase their online visibility, grow their brand and bring in more leads and conversions.