How to Implement Web Push Notifications for eCommerce Marketing
By Ehren Maedge Updated: 22 May 2019
It’s Friday afternoon, and Bill is frantically writing a rebuttal on a trending political thread on Facebook, smashing his keyboard violently. Around 3 pm, a message appears on the upper right-hand corner of his computer screen updating him of the final score of the Giants vs. Phillies game. “Giants lost! What?”
At 4:30 pm, another notification comes in telling him the pet food he was browsing online earlier in the week is available at his local pet store, and he can grab it on the drive home. “Gizmo’s going to be happy tonight. JUMBONE for Gizmo!”
Bill hasn’t opened his email or a mobile app. He’s experiencing the power of high-value web push notifications.
Pro-tip: Web push isn’t new, but it’s rapidly growing in popularity because it’s filling a gap between retargeting and emails.
We all work tirelessly to keep people engaged on our sites, but when they leave, you’ve got a few options to bring them back. Retargeting and email are methods to reach that audience and get them back.
Retargeting requires no effort on the part of the user. Email requires the user to be more invested and ready to hand over their valuable email address.
Web Push Notifications
Asking users to click a button is easier (especially on the mobile web) than tapping out their email address. Web push is for the audience that is on your site but not interested enough in an email, or it’s for the loyalists who want everything you serve up for them and can’t get enough.
Sending out a web push alert is pretty straightforward, but how can you convert web push into a winning channel? Here are the steps.
Driving Maximum Opt-ins
Similar to building any list, your first goal is to convert as many site visitors to subscribers as possible. To leverage web push, you have to get users to opt-in, and that means they have to click something that permits you to send them notifications. There is no way around this.
Desktop and Android users are your targets. Apple iOS does not support web push, so iPhone and iPad users won’t be able to opt-in or receive these notifications.
There are a few requirements to consider with gathering opt-ins. First, Safari, Chrome, Firefox, and other browsers require users opt-in on an HTTPS domain. Second, users must see and interact with a grey, generic, browser-generated dialog box with non-customizable language that prompts the user to answer “Yes, you may send me notifications” or “No, you may not.” I call this dialog box “The Hard Ask.”
The Hard Ask
Displaying a hard ask on an HTTPS site is the simplest of approaches and typically has the highest opt-in rates. Visitors see the hard ask pop-up asking them a yes or no question. They click yes, no or close it. Done. You’ve either got a subscriber, you’ve got a unsubscribe, or you’ve got a chance to prompt them again in the future.
Hard ask on HTTP is possible but requires the user to follow additional steps. On August 30, Google is no longer supporting this approach, but it’s still valid. Showing the same grey dialog box on HTTP is possible. If users click “allow” or “yes” they are shown a pop-up window. Interacting with that window opens an HTTPS window where the user is ultimately subscribed for. That HTTPS window usually disappears automatically. With this approach, there is an additional click required which does lower the opt-in rate.
Many news and publishing sites employ this approach given much of the industry is still on HTTP. I typically see 7-10% on hard asks in the world of media and publishing given the “breaking news” nature of these sites. Any other sites where timely alerts and notifications are part of the value the site provides also have similar rates.
E-commerce sites experience lower (5-7%) opt-in rates. End users aren’t programmed to get alerts from the online store they’re shopping on, so they hesitate. They worry about a barrage of promos and special offers and other mass marketing approaches.
The timing of the hard ask should also be considered. When do you want to request your end user get more engaged with your site? Right away? Second visit in 30 days? What about after a video is viewed or some other trigger action. I see gains of 7-10% when our customers do purposeful growth experiments in this area. Remember, once end users say “no” to notifications at the point they are prompted with the hard ask, getting them to opt back in is a Herculean effort given the number of clicks required.
The Soft Ask
The concept of a soft ask is messaging users before the hard ask with a bit more information on what value or benefit they’ll be receiving if they answer affirmatively on the following hard ask dialog.
Anuj with GrowthHackers has a philosophy around soft asks:
“If a user clicks Block, you’ve lost the opportunity to engage them via web push. With a soft ask, you may get a no, but you can message them in the future with another opportunity to say yes.”
The challenge with soft asks is that it introduces extra clicks and the possibility of user drop-off. I see 2-4% users drop-off with that extra click. What’s unclear is how many of those would be unsubscribing after their first couple notifications. The options for soft asks take a variety of forms. The benefit is they are customizable in shape, size, messaging. They can darken the entire screen, or they can be subtle. Here are a couple of examples.
When creating a soft ask, first consider the visual presentation. Second, decide when the “ask” is made and in what context.
You can ask the user after so many seconds on the site, or you can wait to ask until after a specific action has occurred. If someone makes a purchase, prompt them to get ship alerts. If they browse an item for sale for longer than 5 seconds, nudge them to sign up for price change alerts. If they’re a Drake fan, prompt them to get more Drake updates and make sure the soft ask messaging reflects that. After they view a video, inspire them with “Like this video? We’ll automatically notify you when new ones come out.” Sign up for notifications.
More Relevancy = More Opt-ins
For our customers using these advanced opt-in techniques, early indicators are very promising. Data shows that personalization of this type typically doubles opt-in rates. Add that to high performing opt-in rates of 10%, and you’re converting 20 out of every 100 people getting prompted.
If you’re about to implement web push notifications on your website, take a look at these best practices that can help you boost e-commerce conversions.
The Web Push Subscriber List Isn’t Like Email
As you implement web push on your site, pay close attention to the domain that the subscribers are opting for. Unlike email addresses, which can be easily moved around, when someone opts into a domain, they will be associated with that domain. If you want to engage them on another domain, they will have to grant permission on that as well. Currently, it is possible to switch vendors or do this internally with the same domain but not if you choose to change domains or are working with multiple domains and want to move users around.
Implement Web Push Notifications for Your Website
The channel of web push is rapidly evolving. There are great gains to be had in taking advantage of this channel as another tool in your arsenal for audience engagement. If you jump in, add just a few extra pieces to your strategy and execution and you’ll experience high performing web push notifications which many times just sit and run themselves.
Talk to our experts to understand how you can get started engaging your website visitors using web push.