What are Push Notifications? An In-depth Guide For 2023 and Beyond [Updated]

  • UPDATED: 27 July 2023
  • 16 min read
Reading Time: 16 minutes


What are push notifications? And how do these small pop-up messages help in boosting your business?

The right push notification campaign will help complement your other marketing activities and help capture your customer’s attention.

 👉  Download Whitepaper – How to Boost User Engagement By Maximizing Push Notification Delivery Rates

👉  Watch On-Demand Webinar – Push Notification Benchmark Workshop

👉  Watch Video Tutorial – Boost push notification performance for your Media & Entertainment app

Recently, Google listed push campaigns as an important marketing trend that marketers cannot ignore anymore. In the age of GDPR, where customers do not appreciate being intruded on with unwanted messages or emails, push notifications work as a perfect alternative as it works on the principle of permission-based marketing. As more and more brands adopt push notification campaigns, we have put together a 15-chapter step-by-step guide that will help you create winning campaigns and drive sales. Also, check out the following:

  • Best practices to optimize mobile push campaigns after analyzing 45 BILLION notifications across 50+ countries.
  • Use cases from different industries that can serve as an inspiration for your campaigns.


What are Push Notifications?

Various definitions get thrown around; some call them actionable messages, others refer to them as rich messages, and others use personalized messages. But which of these is the fitting description? All of them. Here’s how we can break it down:

  • Sent by an app or website to the customer’s mobile device or desktop.
  • Used to send alerts and messages to the customer in real time.
  • Can contain rich media content such as images, GIFs, or videos.
  • Content within the notification can be personalized to drive the desired action from the customer.

Push notifications are short messages on the customer’s mobile or desktop, nudging them to take action. Your customers are busy individuals who will likely forget about the great offers you announced a few days ago via email or the cart they have abandoned after adding many items to it.

If you want them to stay updated with the latest offers that you are offering or remind them of the impending items in their cart, a notification message can be a perfect way to communicate. With email open rates declining rapidly, notifications can be an excellent way for businesses to engage with customers and reduce churn.

The benefit of a push notification is that you can time the message and customize it depending on the situation. For example, a customer who has abandoned the cart will receive a reminder notification on the mobile device. In contrast, a customer who has not used the app for shopping for a long time can receive offers that are relevant to them.

Push service is also a powerful marketing tool. According to Invespcro, push notification campaigns can boost app engagement by 88%, leading to 48% of mobile customers making in-store purchases. However, a push notification can intrude if not done correctly. Read ahead to know how to use them judiciously and the best practices to follow to make the most of it.


Push Notifications on Mobile and Desktop
(Push Notifications on Mobile and Desktop)

How do Push Notifications Work?

Now that you know how powerful push notifications can be to your marketing campaign, let’s dig deeper to understand how these notifications work.

We have used MoEngage’s way of push notification delivery to help you understand the working better. Using MoEngage, marketers can identify the customers who fulfill the segmentation criteria and has at least one active device linked to an active push token (a unique identifier assigned by cloud messaging platforms such as APNS and FCM that helps marketers to communicate with the app customers).

Once MoEngage identifies the eligible customers with the help of frequency capping, it determines the active devices that will receive the message. Cloud messaging platforms such as GCM, FCM, and APNS receive the message and take over the delivery process. The cloud messaging platform then relays the message to the end customer’s device. Once the customer receives the notification, MoEngage’s Software Developer’s Kit (SDK) informs the server about it. This is called an Impression. You can read more about how it works in this article.

understanding push notification delivery

Types of Push Notifications

There are two notification categories – web push notifications and mobile push notifications. Push notifications can be sent from a website. You get them on your desktop or a mobile device even when the website is not open. It is compatible with Safari and Chrome and is ideal for companies that have not created an app yet. Mobile push notification is sent from mobile apps. The customer needs to install the mobile app for the marketer to send notifications on a mobile device.

What are Push Notifications used for?

Brands can use push notifications for various purposes, such as:

  • Engaging with your customers: An average mobile customer uses at least nine apps per day. Most apps are not as frequently opened as cab-hailing or OTT apps. To ensure that your customer does not forget about your app or uninstall it, you must keep them engaged. That’s where notifications come to play. With personalized offers, reminders, and relevant messages, you can capture your customer’s attention and engage them on your platform.
  • Leading the customer to make an in-store purchase: The mechanism can help you to bridge the gap between online and offline channels and create a seamless omnichannel experience for your customers. According to Google, 82% of smartphone customers use their mobile devices to make in-store purchases. You can leverage this opportunity to send short personalized messages to drive in-store sales.
  • Retaining customers: Retaining customers is a more significant challenge than acquiring ones. Push notifications, however, can fix that problem. It also helps in retaining new customers. Reports suggest that sending an onboarding notification to a newly acquired customer within the first week can lead to a 71% increase in app customer retention rates.
  • Provide real-time updates: Whether it is to inform the customer about the weather conditions or enable the customer to track a package, you can send real-time updates using notifications.

Difference between Web Push Notifications and App Push Notifications

The difference between web push notifications and app push notifications is outreach. Web push notifications notifications notifications have a wider reach than mobile app notifications. You don’t require a mobile application to send notifications to the customer. You can send them notifications on computers, laptops, and mobile browsers. The customer must install the app to receive messages for mobile push notifications.

Read – Killer Strategies for Mobile App Re-Engagement

Push Notification Opt-In Process

It is a process that enables customers to manage their short push messages by allowing or stopping the mobile apps from sending them. A mobile application must make an opt-in request during installation to ensure that the app customer has permitted them to send push messages.

Since push notifications are permission-based, the opt-in process typically involves a strategy wherein you either hard-ask or soft-ask for opt-ins. Hard-ask is when you directly ask the customer a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question, i.e., whether they want to allow or block the notifications. The customer chooses their desired option, and the process gets closed.

Hard-ask is straightforward and has the highest number of opt-in rates. However, they work better with HTTPS sites. Soft-ask, on the other hand, involves providing additional information about what value or benefit the customer will receive on answering affirmatively. It comes before the hard ask. There are chances that the customer may drop off if there are too many steps involved. So, keep the soft ask visually presentable and ensure you ask at the right moment. No matter your chosen approach, ensure that your opt-in message is relevant and personalized. This could double the opt-in rates.

Technical Requirements for Implementing Web Push Notifications

It is ideal for audiences who do not want to subscribe to email but want to receive the latest updates from your websites. To ensure maximum opt-ins and engagement, you must make your web push notifications a winning channel. Here are the technical requirements you must fulfill when sending push notifications.

  • FCM details: MoEngage uses FCM Project Number and corresponding API Server Key to send a push notification. To get those, use MoEngage’s Shared FCM credentials and select Custom to enter the details of your projects.
  • Push icon: Upload your logo in push notifications to show your brand’s icon.
  • HTTP or HTTPS integration: While web pushes are supported only for the HTTPS domain, MoEngage enables marketers to allow subscriptions for HTTP sites too. MoEngage creates an HTTPS sub-domain. Once that is done, you can select the HTTP domain type while setting up the push and initialize the SDK on your page with MoEngage’s App ID. If your website is an HTTPS, select HTTPS as the domain type while setting up Web Push. You need to host two files in the root directory of your web server – manifest.json and serviceworker.js. Click on Save and download these two files. Use your existing manifest and service worker files to support the short messages, add a link to manifest in HTML, and integrate the SDK on your page.

Browsers and Devices That Support Push Notifications

Currently, MoEngage’s web push notifications notification service works on Chrome (version 42+ on macOS, Windows, Linux, and Android), Firefox (version 44+ on macOS, Windows, Linux, and Android), and Opera (version 37+ on macOS, Windows, Linux, and Android). It works on all computers and laptops, regardless of operating system type.

Types of Push Notifications That Brands Can Send in Their Campaigns

Push notifications can be customized based on what stage of the customer lifecycle the customer belongs to and your campaign’s objectives. Here are a few notification categories that you can send to your customers:

  • Transactional: Transactional push messages are sent to customers when you want to inform them of the status of their transaction. For example, when you make a bill payment using a payment app, you would receive a transactional notification informing you that the payment has been made.
  • Educational: You can use educational push messages to send information such as new course additions or reminders to take an exam.
  • Promotional: You can use promotional notifications to inform customers about new deals, exclusive offers, and flash sales. The objective is to prompt the app customers to purchase in your app.
  • Lifecycle: Personalization is the secret sauce to keep your customers engaged at every stage of the customer lifecycle. You can send your customers personalized push messages depending upon the stage of their lifecycle. For example, you can send a warm onboarding notification to a newly acquired customer to prompt them to open the app. In contrast, you can send special promotional offers to re-engage with customers who have not purchased from your app for a long time.
  • Rating or customer feedback: Want your customers to review your product or service on the app store? You can send push notifications requesting them to leave feedback and a rating on your app.

Click-through Rate of Push Notifications

The push click-through rates can go up to 45%, revealing a study by MoEngage on push notification campaigns across 35+ countries. Compared to other channels such as emails and SMSes, the push notification click-through rates are 7x more than emails, while the opening rate is 50% more.

Push notification services work better than other channels because they pop up on the customer’s screen, unlike emails that remain unopened for a long time. Concise messaging also makes it a more effective communication medium, and the fact that the customer enables push notifications makes it a reliable channel compared to the others.

Difference between Push and Text Messages

Text messages or SMSes might seem like an old approach to reaching customers. However, it can be an effective medium to reach out to customers, especially those who do not have a smartphone to install the app. You can also automate SMS campaigns using automation tools.

The drawback is that you cannot add rich media content such as GIFs, animations, and emojis to make the text visually appealing. Push notifications let you do that. There are legal limitations, such as certain countries having a cap on the number of text messages you can send daily. Push notifications have no such limits.

Another significant difference is it’s easy to opt out of push messages than messages. While this might seem like good news to marketers, your customers may find your text messages intrusive and spam and may even choose not to engage with you anymore. This can have a significant impact on customer loyalty.

What are Chrome Push Notifications?

Do you know Chrome Push Notifications can increase conversions on your website by up to 9x? It is more beneficial than other channels like email and app push as the opt-in rates are higher than the email opt-in rates, and the opt-out rates are significantly less than that of mobile app push. Chrome push notification helps marketers analyze anonymous website visitors, understand them, and engage them with relevant content via notifications. This guide will tell you how chrome push notification works and how it can strengthen your marketing efforts.

In this chapter, you will learn the following:

  • How do chrome notifications work?
  • How can it help in solving web marketing problems?
  • How can it help in bringing customers back to the website
  • And deliver seamless cross-channel engagement

Getting App Push Notifications on Mobile Devices

These are undoubtedly the best way to communicate with customers and increase conversions. However, an irrelevant or spam push notification can harm your brand’s reputation and create mistrust in the minds of your customers. 85% of Android customers do not know how to disable android notifications. This might spell happiness for the marketers, but not for too long.

How to get your push notifications right

The above image illustrates easy tips for getting your push notifications right.

We have packed the chapter with best practices that will teach you to use push notifications correctly. You will learn the following:

  • How are push notifications helping marketers to communicate with customers?
  • Why is customer segmentation essential?
  • The art of being helpful, courteous, and swift
  • How do segmentation, personalization, and deep links help create a robust mobile marketing tool?

Why App Push Notifications Do Not Get Delivered

Don’t worry if your notifications are not delivered despite following the best practices (refer to chapter 3) of notifications and setting the campaign correctly. There can be multiple reasons they do not get delivered to the end-users despite successfully sending it to the GCM.

  • The customer could block notifications at the Operating System level
  • The customer is not connected to the GCM
  • Expiry of time to live before notification delivery
  • The customer’s device does not enable push notifications

In this chapter, we’ll dig deep into the probable reasons that could affect the deliverability of the messages.

Bonus: We’ve discussed overcoming this marketing challenge in the chapter.


For a detailed analysis of factors influencing push notification delivery rate, download this Push Notifications Delivery Report.

Push notifications delivery report 

Factors Influencing Push Notifications Delivery on Android

14 primary factors impact Push Notification delivery rates on Android devices. We’ve built a framework for mobile marketers that highlights the importance of each of these factors, letting you pick the best ones to optimize for.

👉 You can get the framework here.

The chapter below discusses each of these factors in detail and how you can fix poor delivery rates with a simple solution. In this chapter, you will learn the following:

  • How is the push notification delivery rate measured?
  • How can nine factors, such as customer behavior, device manufacturer, device network, OS versions, etc., influence the delivery of a push notification on Android Devices?
  • How you can improve your push delivery rate by 20% in a simple way.


Boosting Push Delivery with Push AmplificationTM Plus

Despite Push Notification being an essential way of reaching customers, as high as 40%-70% of your notifications may not be delivered to end-users.

One of the reasons for low delivery rates can be attributed to OEM-related challenges. For example, Xiaomi devices can shut down apps in the background or when the screen is off to optimize battery usage. For Vivo devices, an “Auto-Start Manager” prevents applications from being woken up to process notifications.

Challenges like these make it imperative to fill the gaps plaguing the current mobile ecosystem. Push Amplification help marketers combat push delivery challenges and engage their mobile customers more effectively. This capability allows marketers to reach more potential customer devices cut off from FCM. Brands could improve their push delivery rates by up to 20% and drive higher conversions.


Watch this webinar to understand the push notification delivery funnel and delve into the discrepancies in the push delivery rate.

Webinar - Amplifying your push notification delivery

How to Boost Push Notifications Delivery on Android?

Do you know up to 15% of E-commerce conversions are driven by a push notification? From notifications on the abandoned cart to transactional alerts, marketers can send customized messages to customers at a lesser cost than SMS. In this chapter, Raviteja Dodda, the CEO of MoEngage, and Nalin Goel, the VP of Product Management, take you behind the scenes of how push notifications are delivered on Android phones. Some of the points that are discussed in this chapter include:

  • How do push notifications impact business?
  • The 3 W’s of campaign creation
  • How are notifications delivered to the end customer?

Bonus: There’s a link to the entire on-demand webinar in this chapter. Don’t miss it!


Why Personalize App Push Notifications?

In the age of 1:1 communication, brands have to move away from the traditional approach of reaching out to customers. If you still use the “batch and blast” approach for push notifications, it’s time to shift to personalization. Personalized push notifications can increase conversions by 4x. This chapter will quickly run you through the benefits of using customized push notifications. You will learn why personalized push notifications are more powerful batch and blast push notifications and how 1:1 personalization can strengthen your marketing efforts.

Bonus: You will find a solution that will help you to personalize your push notifications and drive conversions by 4x. 


How to Personalize App Push Notifications

This chapter will walk you through setting up your app to send push notifications. You will learn the following:

  • How to create an APNS certificate for your app in .pem format and upload it to iOS?
  • How to implement push notification changes in your app?
  • How to make changes to actionable notifications?
  • How to use inbox, customize its appearance, and disable it?
  • How to enable geofence and test it on the simulator and device?

Benefits of using push notifications

The benefits of using push notifications include the following:

  • Higher conversion rate: Since notifications are short, concise, and media-rich and reach the customer directly, the conversion rate is higher than other channels, such as e-mails and SMSes. Personalized notifications can improve the conversion rate by 3x compared to broadcast messages.

How to Drive Conversions Using App Push Notifications

An average smartphone customer has around 26 apps, of which only 3.3% of Android apps and 3.2% of iOS apps have active customers by the end of 30 days. As a marketer, these numbers could worry you. You will have to find a way to grab the customer’s attention and engage them to drive conversions. This chapter covers how you can increase conversions with notifications. You will learn the following:

  • How to identify customer micro-moments?
  • How to reach customers during micro-moments using notifications?
  • Why is action-oriented communication important?


3 Ways to Use Web Push Notifications and Drive Online Conversions

Web push notifications notifications are one of the most effective ways to bring customers back to your website after they drop off. Whether you’ve got a great offer or have discounts running for the next couple of hours, web push notifications can be leveraged to spread the word among your subscribers and bring them to your website. Be prepared for a surge in site traffic after you’ve sent web notifications to all your subscribers.

There are three ways you can use web push notifications and drive conversions for your online business:

  • Broadcast messages to all subscribers
  • Targeted broadcasts to segmented customers
  • Auto-triggered notifications at a customer level

Dive deep into these strategies and see which works best for your business.

READ MORE on How to Generate and Measure ROI from Web Push Notifications

Push notifications best practices

There are certain push notification best practices that you need to adhere to to ensure that your customers do not opt out of receiving them.

  • Use Emojis: Emojis make the push messages warmer and visually rich. However, using too many of them or using the wrong one could lead your customer to opt out of push messages. Use contextually and culturally correct emojis, and ensure they are used as needed.
  • Here are the Best Practices for Emojis in Push Notifications: Marketers use emojis in several ways, including email subject lines, notifications, social media marketing, and even customer service chats. Although emojis aren’t for everyone and every brand, marketers are using emojis because they are getting results:
    1. Hubspot says Tweets with emojis get 25.4% more engagement, and Facebook posts with emojis get 57% more likes and 33% more shares.
    2. Using emojis in email subject lines can lead to a 56% higher open rate.
    3. One study found notifications with emojis saw an 85% increase in open rates and a 9% increase in conversions. This chapter provides an overview of ways to use emojis in notifications and the do’s and don’ts for using emojis to grow engagement.
  • Use Concise Content: You have limited characters to lead your customer to take action. Ensure that your content is concise yet impactful and gives a clear idea of what you expect the customer to do.
  • Leverage the Right Context: Context is as important as content. A message with the proper context can improve the push notification click-through rate. Sending a push notification without the appropriate context can be as meaningless as sending Valentine’s day wishes on New Year’s Eve. So, consider the demography, location, and situation before crafting your push notification.
  • Timing: You don’t want to disturb your customer in the middle of the night or early morning with a push notification. Understand what time would work best for your customer and set the timings for sending the notification accordingly.
  • Frequency: While your customer may have permitted you to communicate with them, you must use this opportunity judiciously. Too many notifications can annoy the customer and even lead them to uninstall your app. Send notifications sparingly only when it is necessary.

5 ways to Improve Push Notifications Performance in 2023

Push notifications have become more intelligent and efficient. They help you to personalize your messages through better segmentation, reduce the cost of customer acquisition by deploying better omnichannel lifecycle campaigns, and reconnect with your customers using dynamic push notifications. This chapter covers the top 5 trends that can help you improve your push notifications strategy in 2023. You will learn the following:

  • How to improve push notification delivery?
  • How can Artificial Intelligence benefit your mobile marketing strategy?
  • How can a focused and improved marketing workflow have 50% more revenue?
  • How to leverage data and segmentation to hyper-personalize experiences for your customers?
  • How can dynamic notifications open new revenue streams for your customers?

Learn more on five of the latest developments in push notifications, how some brands are using them, and seven push notification best practices to maximize push performance here.

Bonus Content

Push Notification Use Cases across Industries

These use cases from different industries will show you how to use notifications to reach your customers.

  • E-commerce: Whether it is to notify customers about new arrivals and deals or to remind them of an abandoned cart, you can use push notifications to drive sales for your E-commerce business.
  • Entertainment: Personalized push notifications can boost subscriptions for entertainment apps to a great extent. From sending intelligent recommendations based on previous viewing history or genre of music heard to address each customer individually, you can increase engagement and upgrade the customer to a premium plan.
  • BFSI and Fintech: From sending transactional notifications on payments received or completed to sending exclusive deals for customers with membership or using it as an educational medium to address customer problems, push notifications can be a great help in engaging with new and existing customers on a personal level.
  • Travel: Travel companies can leverage notifications to inform customers about the weather condition in the place they are visiting or to remind them of their upcoming travel plans. You can also add a touch of personalization by offering recommendations on places they can see when they are traveling to a place or recommend hotels offering great deals to cross-sell and upsell products to the customer.

Using Geofencing and Personalization in Push Messages

Geo-fencing is creating a virtual fence around a particular geographic area (mainly around the area you operate), so you can send highly targeted and hyper-personalized push messages to consumers close to your vicinity. Imagine you have landed at the airport after a long flight, hungry and tired. Suddenly, you get a notification on your mobile phone directing you to some of the best restaurants in the vicinity. Wouldn’t you be relieved? Or imagine going to a mall with a plan of meeting a friend. When suddenly Starbucks sends you a notification informing you about the great deals available at their cafe, wouldn’t you and your friend head there? These micro-moments can go a long way in building customer experiences, and you can create them using geo-fencing.

According to Market Research Future, the global geo-fencing market is expected to grow to $2.2 billion by 2023. According to Search Engine Land, geo-fencing advertising increases the click-through rate by double compared to digital advertising. It is said to provide 20 times more ROI than traditional banner ads. Adding geo-fencing to your campaign is very simple, especially when you have a marketing automation tool like MoEngage that enables you to create such hyper-personalized campaigns.

Success Stories

Read the success stories of brands that have deployed MoEngage for their Omnichannel marketing.

Want to Implement Push Notifications for Your App or Website, But Don’t Know Where to Start?

Try MoEngage’s push notifications for FREE. Sign up now and engage up to 10,000 MAUs at zero cost.


Frequently Asked Questions about Push Notifications

What is a push notification vs notification?

A push notification is a message delivered to your device, usually by an outside source, that you have to open. The message can be from someone you trust or a company that contacts you for some reason. A notification is the same thing but not as urgent and may be sent by your phone to remind you of something that’s already on your calendar or in your inbox.

How do I turn on push notifications?

You can turn on push notifications by going to your device’s Settings and then selecting “Notifications”. From there, you’ll be able to enable or disable push notifications for the app you are using.