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What are Push Notifications?

Today, at the rate that technology is developing, it seems kind of weird if we see someone without a smartphone (or some other kind of digital widgets). So, if you are reading this, you are probably one happy owner of a smartphone and you might have seen messages showing on your device many many times. We are going to tell you what those messages are: Push notifications.

Push notifications

Push notifications are (usually small) messages that can reach people anywhere and at any time. A push notification is a message that pops up on a mobile device (Do not confuse them with pop-ups though; pop-ups appear only when audiences are using the product, while push messages are independent of websites and apps.) As we mentioned, app publishers can send them at any time, meaning users don’t have to be in the app or using their devices to receive them. They can do a lot of things; for example, they can show the latest sports scores, get a user to take an action, such as downloading a coupon, or let a user know about an event, such as a sale. They also help your app to stay on top of the minds of users in the pool of dozens of apps they have installed on their mobiles. Push notifications look like SMS text messages and mobile alerts, but they only reach users who have installed a specific app.

Push notifications are the most important communications channel used between apps and their users. It is safe to say that almost every app uses push notifications to engage its users or notify them of some events. The technology has evolved (and is still developing) from a simple message delivery system to a rich and interactive medium. It is now possible to send rich-media messages through push notifications to catch their attention even more than ever.

With great power comes great responsibility as well. Push notifications are a great way to get in touch with our users and prompt them to take actions at any time we want, but we have to be careful and use this opportunity right. It is also good to mention that each mobile platform has support for push notifications — iOS, Android, Fire OS, Windows and BlackBerry all have their own services.

Benefits of push notifications

Why should a business invest in push notifications?

  • They are real-time. Push notifications are fast and interactive, and they engage people as they walk by the business.
  • It can prevent churn and increase engagement within the apps. By sending notifications to users with specific behavior (for example, users who visited the app twice and never opened it again), it is possible to regain their interest in using the app.
  • It helps with automating mobile marketing. Segmenting based on various parts of the life cycle, age, or interest, and personalizing the messages are the benefits of using push notifications.
  • It is possible to leverage location when sending push notifications to be contextual. This can also increase the open rate of notifications.
  • A/B testing is available through push notifications. Testing different versions of a message on a controlled group and sending the winner version to the majority of audience is what makes this marketing and communications channel so effective.

What are the different kinds of push notification?

Default:

Default style push notification only includes texts. It includes information, promotions, or updates, and it is not interactive. Users can tap on this kind of notification and go to a specific part of your app, and that is it.

default push notification

Interactive:

The name explains itself: an interactive style push notification is a message users can interact with. It allows the users to respond directly from the interface of the push notification without having to open the app. This kind of push notification is good for asking users yes/no questions or things like that.

Push notifications may provide convenience and value to app users like:

  • Sports scores and news right on their lock screen
  • Utility messages like traffic, weather, and ski snow reports
  • Flight check-in, change, and connection information

They can also be used to drive actions, such as:

  • Promoting products or offers to increase sales
  • Improving customer experience
  • Converting unknown app users to known customers
  • Sending transactional receipts right away
  • Driving users to other marketing channels, such as social networks
Interactive push notification audio push message
Interactive push notification video push message

What to do? What not to do?

Make it your primary focus to use push notifications to communicate with your users. We mentioned that this feature brings us so much power, and we are responsible for it. It is a common practice to use (actually, “abuse”) push notifications for promotional or advertising purposes. App owners or developers need to be very careful with this, because if it is not used in the right way and at the right time it will lead to users churning from your product and uninstalling your app. The way to understand what messages people like and what they don’t is to monitor the number of uninstalls after each push notification is sent. If the number is high, it means that people are annoyed and you should probably consider not sending similar messages in the future campaigns. To conclude, try to use push notifications more for utilities and updates, and less for promotions.

How do push notifications work?

There are some actors that send push notifications:

Operating system push notification service (OSPNS): Each mobile operating system (OS), including iOS, Android, Fire OS, Windows, and BlackBerry, has its own service.

App publisher: The app publisher enables their app with an OSPNS. Then, the publisher uploads the app to the app store.

Client app: This is an OS-specific app, installed on a user’s device. It receives incoming notifications.

To have push notifications available for an app, the app publisher registers with the OS push notification service. The OS service provides an application programming interface (API) to the app publisher. The API is a way for the app to communicate with the service. The app publisher then adds the SDK to the app (SDK is a code library specific to the push notification service).

When a user visits an app store, installs and opens the app, unique identifiers (IDs) for both the app and the device are registered with the push notification service. The unique identifiers are passed back to the app from the push notification service. They are also sent to the app publisher.

The app publisher creates a message through a message composer user interface, or sets up an automated message to be sent via the API. Then, they define the audience to whom the push notification will be sent, and whether the message should be sent immediately or scheduled. Push notifications can be targeted to segments of the app’s user base, and even personalized for specific app users. This is a major advantage when compared to SMS text messaging. However, push notifications also require the management of user identification data. They also need some kind of interface for writing messages, targeting, and sending. Publishers can build this infrastructure themselves, or they can hire a vendor to provide it.

iOS apps require a user to grant permission for an app to send them push notifications, while Android and Fire OS do not. Convincing users to opt-in receiving push notifications is an important step for the success of apps on iOS. IOS apps usually show a standard alert when the app is opened for the first time. An alternative approach is to show users the value of receiving notifications and let them opt-in later.

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