Push Notifications
10 min

All You Need to Know About Effectively Implementing Push Notifications


Whether on desktop computers or mobile devices, push notifications can reach up to 80% of Internet users. About 60% of subscriptions to web push notifications occur through mobile phones. The remaining 40% is divided among desktops and tablets, with 30 and 10% respectively.

Among the many people who have realized the value of push notifications is Andrew Phelps, product director of messaging and push at the New York Times. He once said: “There’s a growing number of users who only engage with us when we send a push.”

For many marketers, using push notifications as a part of an overall strategy has paid dividends. Up to 20% of app opens are influenced by push notifications. It’s a great way to drive user engagement and conversions. Web push notifications, too, are an economical and effective complement to emails.

This guide explains the basics of how to implement push notifications. Both on the web and through iOS and Android mobile apps. In each of the three months of Q2 2020, for example, Andriod users around the world spent a collective average of 200 billion hours using mobile apps. This represents a 40% increase year on year.

For your convenience, we’ve divided this guide into seven sections:

  • Getting an Opt-in
  • Understanding Push Deliveries
  • The Nuts and Bolts
  • What to Look Out for After Implementing Notifications
  • Push Notification Services
  • Differences between Web and App Push Notifications
  • Why Automation is Essential in Push Notifications

Properly implemented, push notifications can boost pageviews, enhance app usage, power up promotions, and move consumers up the marketing funnel. Virtually every category can benefit: be it e-commerce, publishing, finance, retail, software, or more.

1. Getting an Opt-In

The process begins with the consumer opting in to receive your push notifications. Without this, you cannot start engaging them. The first push notification, then, has to be a request to the consumer asking for permission to send more notifications.

The request is critical and should be carefully expressed. There are some best practices to do this.

  • Make the value proposition clear – You should emphasize the benefit the consumer will get from opting in for the notifications. Could it be early access to deals? Could it be other forms of incentives such as free e-books? Could it be valuable and relevant information? This will make the consumer tempted to say “yes”.
    getting an opt in for push notifications


  • Give reassurances about the frequency – At times, consumers do not opt-in because they feel that there will be too many notifications. Whenever possible, you should explain the frequency. For example, you could state that you will only send once a day. Or only when there’s an urgent piece of news.
  • Make management easy – In the opt-in message, you could also state how simple it is to opt-out, should the consumer need to. You can also have a system in which the consumer is given the option of what types of notifications to receive and how many.
  • Choose the right time – On a website, you don’t need to send an opt-in notification the moment the user lands on the home page. If metrics show the best-performing page, this could be the one to choose. Online retailers could select the shopping cart as the place from which to send notifications about deliveries.
  • Use an omnichannel approach – Typically, push notifications are part of an overall plan. You can leverage other elements to get consumers to opt-in. For example, you could send segmented emails that explain the benefits of your push notifications. These could be to thank people who have signed up, as well as to re-engage those who have not.
  • Win back those who opt out – There always will be a percentage of users who choose to opt-out after a while. You can try winning them back by using email (as explained above) and also through other channels such as text messages. Re-incentivization could be a good technique to try here. For those who are not too tech-savvy, there could also be a guide on how to opt back in.

As a benchmark, recent studies show that businesses increased web notifications by 36% and saw a 119% jump in direct open rates in March from the prior month in 2020. They increased app push notifications by 16% and saw direct open rates that were 22% higher for the comparable period.

2. Understanding Push Deliveries

Typically, push notifications consist of a title, a message, an image, and a URL. A call to action, or CTA, is also an important component in getting users to carry out desired actions.

What is the process by which push notifications are successfully delivered? Different push notification platforms have different techniques for doing this.

Broadly speaking, when a marketer creates and executes a campaign, the platform identifies the users who fulfill the segmentation criteria. At least one active device should be linked to an active push token.

A push token is a unique identifier assigned by Apple or Google to create a connection between an app and an iOS, Android, or web device. It makes use of messaging platforms such as APNS and FCM, helping marketers to communicate with the end-users.

After this, the eligible users are identified by means of a process called frequency capping. This curtails the number of push notifications sent to a particular user within a specified period. The devices that will receive the message are identified. Cloud messaging platforms such as GCM, FCM, and APNS take over by receiving the message and then sending it to the end device.

After this, the number of impressions is counted on the server. In this way, the who, what, and when of push notifications are mapped out and analyzed.

3. The Nuts and Bolts

The above was a general example of the mode of delivery of push notifications. On the Web, such notifications are sent to the end user’s browser. In 2020, push notification subscribers consist of roughly 80% of mobile users and about 20% of desktop users.

These are the most popular browsers among web push subscribers:

  • 93% Chrome
  • 3% Opera
  • 1% Firefox
  • 2% Yandex
  • 1 % Safari

Clearly, Chrome is dominant and cannot be ignored. Developers are able to use the Push API and Notification API of Chrome’s new versions.

Chrome’s Push API is dependent on different technology components, such as Web App Manifests and Service Workers. When the user interacts with the notification, by clicking or closing it, the service worker handles this. The Push API is an interface to subscribe to a push service and receive push messages from the service worker. This is a script that the browser runs in the background. The Notification API, on the other hand, is an interface to configure and display user notifications.

The Notification API handles the components of the notification that are visible to the end-user. These are the title, content, and images. Chrome allows for what is known as “rich notifications”. These can contain photos, videos, gifs, and even audio, as well as clickable buttons for external content. Some studies show that such notifications can boost open rates by as much as 56%.

Chrome apart, almost all major browsers support push notifications. However, they do not work in incognito or private browser modes. Also, web push notifications are not supported by in-app browsers such as those present on Facebook and Instagram.

Since 2014, Google has begun to use FCM, Firebase Cloud Messaging, which has many functionalities. There is improved reporting, an intuitive console interface, and other integrations that allow for A/B testing, for example.

To implement FCM, an environment such as Cloud Functions for Firebase or an app server is needed to create, target, and forward messages. For mobile apps, an iOS or Android client application for accepting messages is required.

The two main mobile operating systems have different default systems for notifications. Android automatically opts in all users to receive push notifications when they install an app. iOS users have to decide at the start whether to permit or deny notifications.

Mobile apps need to be registered with the FCM server. This ensures the synchronization of actions. For Android, you need a dedicated channel for messages, which behave differently depending on the foreground/background state of the receiving app.

For iOS, you can determine your own actions, change the content of pushes before displaying them, and use a custom interface. These are enabled by the Apple Push Notification Service (APNS).

4. What to Look Out for After Implementing Notifications

It’s essential to track push notifications after implementing them. That way, you know how effective they are and how to improve your strategy.

Here are some metrics that you can keep an eye on.

  • Opt-in rate – A push notification strategy can only be successful if enough people subscribe to it. By tweaking and testing notifications, you can try to increase the opt-in rate.
  • Delivery and click rate – You should analyze the performance of your latest notification by tracking the delivery rate and click rate. This shows how many subscribers opened the notification from the number of successfully delivered campaigns. Targeting specific user segments can boost this.
  • Conversion rate – This is the percentage of visitors who engaged with your website and carried out the call to action – be it landing on your site, reading a post, or making a purchase. This is a transparent means of showing push notification efficacy.

5. Types of Push Notification Services

We’ve already mentioned some types of push notification services and the way they work. They’re not the only ones. You need to choose carefully, based on your special requirements and the capability of the service itself.

Selecting the right push notification service makes your engagement strategy easier because it’s simpler to set up and send notifications to your users.

Google Firebase is widespread, and we have already touched upon how it operates. You get to send targeted and contextual messages based on Google’s powerful analytics.

MoEngage’s push notification platform has powerful functionalities, allowing you to trigger notifications based on purchase history, behavior, and location.

An AI-powered engine and push amplification are other efficient features. See this case study, for example, about Big Basket. It is India’s largest online food and grocery store with over four million downloads. Using Push Amplification, it was able to increase the push notification delivery rate, positively impacting its business.

BigBasket Case Study

Other services include Pushbot, which relies on automation, Airship, for enterprise clients focusing on mobile, PushAlert, with a dedicated WordPress plugin to send both desktop and mobile notifications, and One Signal, for web and mobile push notifications through mobile apps.

Broadly speaking, there are some important things to look out for when choosing a service to implement your push notifications:

  • Languages: Increasingly, websites are available in local and regional languages. Many e-commerce websites, for example, are multilingual. Sending notifications in a language that the user is comfortable with, always leads to better engagement.
  • Support: You need a provider who is on hand 24/7. This is more important if you are in a different time zone. Further, at times such as seasonal festivals, you need to be able to communicate changing needs and expect responses without delay.
  • Case studies: Check with your service provider about what work they have done in the past and whether they can provide case studies for the same. You can also visit review websites such as G2Crowd and Capterra to check on what other clients are saying.
  • Feature support: To take advantage of all the benefits of push notifications, the service should be able to support a variety of uses. Some of these are the ability to add images, auto-mode delivery of abandoned cart notifications, triggering notifications based on user actions, and targeted notifications according to segmentation.
    cart abandonment notifications

6. Differences Between Web and App Push Notifications

You may be asking yourself whether to focus on implementing notifications from your site or mobile push notifications from iOS and Android apps.

Statistics show that web push notifications can reach over 80% of all internet users. The subscription rate depends on the category but ranges from 0.5-15%. Keep in mind that, in the first quarter of 2021, mobile devices generated 54.8 percent of global website traffic, consistently hovering around the 50 percent mark since the beginning of 2017.

App push notifications, however, are an excellent way to get mobile users to engage with your app more often. They are also more aligned with user experience, as the person has already downloaded your app. You are also not dependent on browser policies with your own app.

There’s no doubt that apps have some qualities that can draw in users. They can be better designed and more interactive. But not every company needs to go ahead and design one. It’s best to consider the category and the business, and whether setting up a mobile site might be better suited for you.

With both types, there are a variety of uses, such as abandoned cart notifications, timely notifications such as breaking alerts and transactions, and sales and feedback requests.

Many businesses also use Progressive Web Apps (PWAs), through which push notifications can also be sent. These behave like mobile applications and leverage Google technology to deliver an engaging mobile experience.

Progressive Web Apps (PWAs)

7. Why Automation is Essential in Implementation

Implementing push notifications without the help of automation is a sub-optimal technique. To begin with, you need to harvest data to properly segment users. This enables you to send relevant and personalized messages to different segments.

Then comes the question of time. You can set up automated slots based on time zones for users in different parts of the world. Even for those in the same time zone, automation helps you send notifications at times when users are most receptive.

Poorly timed messages are one reason for a low engagement rate. To get more clicks, automated deliveries at the right times are a must. For example, if a restaurant sends out a notification about a special dinner menu in the afternoon, it will get fewer responses than one sent out after the day’s work is over.

Automation has other advantages, too. When you schedule your notifications in advance, you can rest assured that this part of your marketing plan will be carried out to perfection. Meanwhile, you can go about conducting other important work. You don’t have to set constant reminders for yourself and your team.

It’s important to have a strategy that effectively incorporates push notifications, and it’s equally important to implement them well. There are many ways to do this, across many platforms. The right choice, the right segmentation, and the right analytics can take your campaign from average to pathbreaking.

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