what are push notifications

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We are undoubtedly in an era of rapid evolutions in the ways marketers and consumers behave. Especially with a massive transition towards digital media, internet marketing has become a primary communication channel for the brands today.

In an Adobe digital survey, 76% of the people admitted that marketing trends have changed more rapidly over the past few years as compared to the previous fifty years. It’s a no surprise considering modern commerce is all about cutting-edge conducts to meet consumer demands and master Omni-channel marketing practices.

One such practice, which is also quite persistent these days is a push marketing strategy. In this article, we are going to talk in detail about the same. Starting from “what are push notifications, we will cover the aspects like how push notification works,  some push notification best practices, best push notification services in the market, and many more

Online consumers today have more control than before. The rise of mobile devices, deeper internet penetration, and abundance of online resources have enabled a seamless user experience for the modern consumers and unified medium for the brands to interact with the customers.

This makes both the parties well informed about each other. Consequently, brands today have huge data points over every prospect, and customers have immense research resources prior to making a purchase decision. Not only are they typically aware of the marketing tactics, but also have higher expectations when it comes to brand interaction.

Push marketing strategy: A Dream Tool for Marketers

One powerful tool that can help marketers fulfill their consumer’s ever-changing demands is to push messaging. Before seeing into what are push messages and how push notification works, let’s have a look at how push messaging strategy has helped marketers curb some of the major challenges today.

Client Retention:

This is one of the most haunting nightmares that every marketer faces today. Due to the increasing competitions in every industry vertical, the consumers today have a variety of choices to select from. Marketers must clearly understand their prospects’ interests and craft a sophisticated marketing strategy accordingly. Marketers have found that segmented targeting using a push message (we will discuss this clearly later in the article) can boost client retention by up to 93%.

Message Personalization:

Tracking down the online consumer’s mind, understanding their preferences and delivering personalized content accordingly is every marketer’s dream. A targeted push marketing strategy can help to segment the audience based on their interests and send relevant information. Notably, 70% of consumers find them to be useful, and 52% look for relevant information and personalized offers in the push alerts they receive from the brands.

Availability of Real-time Information:

When consumers show interest in a particular product or a service, they expect the brands to respond as quickly as possible. Unlike other modes of marketing like Email and SMS, Push messages aren’t hidden up in your system apps but are instantly displayed on the screen through Android text notification or any kind of alert as per the device’s mechanism.

Increased click and audience engagement rate:

The Average push opening rate is 90%, which is 50% more than the most common marketing mode, Emails. Also, the click rate for Google Chrome notifications alone is 7 times higher than that of Email marketing.

During the audiences towards your brand:

Despite engaging content, marketers find it difficult to reach and continuously engage their audience through conventional platforms. Online consumers are looking for a better model that is new and unique, to provide a personalized way to interact with the brands. 70% of the audience finds these alerts more useful, and 55-60% willingly opt-in for it.

What are push notifications?

These are clickable pop-up messages that appear on the subscriber’s screen. Both mobile apps and websites today can send push messages. The best part is, users need not be on the website or browsing the app actively to receive these messages.

A mobile app or a website can communicate with its push subscribers in real-time, where subscribers just need to keep their devices connected to the internet. The only exception is Mozilla’s Firefox web push notification, which a user can only receive when the browser is open. Otherwise, both mobile app alerts and Chrome web alerts are delivered even when the browser or app is not open.

Push Notifications Supported browser

How does push notification work?

Well, there are two more things to learn about what are push messages before we can roll into their working. Call it a caution, because I was really confused at first when I started about them.

  • Push Notifications and Push Messages are two different concepts: Generally, we use these terms interchangeably in push notifications definition, but they are different. Push Messages are the ‘Content’ or the message that we write, while Push Notifications are alerts that a device triggers whenever a ‘Push Message’ is received.  For example,
  • Push Notifications and Push Messages are of two major types: It all started with mobile apps. The applications were programmed with certain triggers to display different messages to users based on certain behaviors. They are basically, in-app alerts. Then came web push alerts, where applications also started triggering exterior alerts, rather than just the programmed ones. Such messages are pushed by the web servers, also called the push notifications for the pushed messages. For example, email push notifications triggered for new email received.

So, when you ask, what does push notifications mean to you as a receiver– it is an alert triggered on your device to inform you in real-time that a new message, which was pushed by a web server on your device has been received.

The whole concept of push messaging and alerts work in two parts:

  • A Push API: That takes care of the delivery of the message (Payload) on a targeted device.
  • A Notification API: That triggers the alert about the new message being received.

Now, different devices and operating systems use their own set of push and notifications APIs. For example, Android or Google Chrome browsers use Google Firebase Cloud Messaging (FCM), Firefox uses Mozilla Mozilla’s Web Push service for browser alerts and FCM for web push alerts on Android. Similarly, Apple devices use Apple Push Notification (APNs).


Android application users are automatically subscribed to the app’s notifications once they install the app. The users can however, turn off push notifications from the app settings anytime. Android users can receive the alerts both from mobile applications and web browsers (which are also a kind of mobile applications)

Browser push notifications

Any website with feature must first ask the users to subscribe through an opt-in box. Once allowed the particular user gets subscribed to the push notifications from the particular website.


Users with iOS devices need to manually allow or turn on push notifications from a mobile app. Unlike Android, they don’t get automatically subscribed while installing an application.

What are push notifications used for?

On the main push notification best practices is the convenience it offers to the consumers. Real-time news, live scores, traffic and weather reports, order delivery tracking are some of the categories most consumers use it for.

Brands can take advantage of this for promoting their products, to increase customer experience, and provide better support for their consumers. Here are some crucial business elements and how to set up the service and make it easy for marketers in managing their brands.


Consumers today are not comfortable in disclosing their personal information. It helps you to add your subscribers with single-click permission and engage with your brand without asking your users to reveal their personal data. The consumers can also turn on push notifications and turn off push notifications as per their convenience.

Keep a Track on Your Visitors with Updates:

When a visitor shows interest in your website, you need not wait for them to come back and perform the desired action. Sending a push message can easily help to re-engage with them. Remember, when you are trying to re-engage with your returning visitors, make sure you provide them with exclusive content or a limited time offer that will interest them.

No Need for a Mobile App:

Web push notification service can help you to directly reach your audience on their smartphones and computers even if you don’t have a dedicated mobile application.

Instant Delivery:

Usually, it sent to your consumers will be instantly delivered to their devices. According to reports, 40% of the consumers read and respond to the popup messages within one hour of receiving them.

Eye-Catchy and Easily Understandable:

As they have a limited word count and reach the consumers without them taking any external action, they are simple and easy to understand. Also, using push notification best practices to send rich content (with media attachment like images and GIFs) will give your consumers a more interactive feel.


In this digital world filled with competition, remarketing is crucial for products of all segments. As per the consumer’s purchase history, you can notify them on relevant offers and recommendations, helping them take instant purchase decisions even if they hadn’t planned on it. For instance, if a consumer frequently orders food of a particular cuisine from your food delivery app, you can send across a reminder when a new dish of the same cuisine is added or on any exclusive discounts.


Compared to all other modes of segmented marketing like Social Media, push messages to receive a much higher engagement rate. When users are targeted based on their demographics and interests, sending a personalized push message will precisely fulfil their expectations from a brand, enabling them to instantly engage with your brand. As we had seen earlier, the average client retention rate for segmented push notifications is around 93%.

Read More Info: What are the Benefits Of Web Push Notifications

Difference Between Push Notifications, Text Messages and Email Marketing: 

For the ROI to be high enough to justify your marketing budget, should you stick to the traditional SMS and Email modes, or try to push message service. The table below can help you in making the right choice.

Length (A short, clear and to-the-point messages will not take up much of the audience’s time & hence will be the most effective)Around 50 characters150-160 charactersVary in length
Delivery (High click-through rates are possible when they directly reach the consumer, irrespective of devices and apps)Instantly appear on the user’s screen of the device they are active inInstantly delivered, but access is limited to mobile devicesInstantly delivered in the Email app. May end up in spam folders or one among the multiple unopened messages
Opt-in process (This should be simple, making it instant for the consumer to opt-in. Some find it uncomfortable in entering their personal details)Single click opt-inOpt-in with the user’s mobile numberOpt-in with the user’s email address
Easy A/B testing (It means to have a lesser content to work with – to precisely know what works well, and keen targeting based on the user’s location and demographics)Less content to work with, and high level of segmentation based on the audience interests and geography, clear CTALess content to work with, and a mediocre level of segmentation based on geography. No direct CTAMore content to work with, clear CTA and below-average segmentation options
Audience Engagement (The richness of content – visual, mode of delivery and the accessibility)High – Rich push notifications offer image/GIF based content, delivered directly in the user’s screen, very easily accessibleMedium – (mostly for local businesses) Only text-based content, delivered to the user’s inbox, easily accessibleMedium – (with links) Rich content offering, delivered to the user’s inbox, accessibility is average
Spam rate (Higher the rate is, the lesser is the visibility for your audience)LowHigh (close to 70%)High (close to 70%)
Susceptibility to malwareLowLowHigh
Average opt-rate40%60%50%


Read More Info: Push Notifications vs Email Marketing

A Brief History

Blackberry was the first to introduce push notifications in its email service, also called as Blackberry email push notifications.

Later, in 2009, Apple introduced APNs (Apple Push Notification service) that enabled app developers to transmit information to iOS, macOS, watchOS and tv OS devices. In 2010, Google launched C2DM (Google Cloud to Device Messaging), its version of push notification services for Android devices.

Rich notifications and call-to-action buttons were introduced by Google in 2013, allowing the developers and best push notification services providers to integrate enhanced features for Android push notifications.

Industries that use push notifications

They are the most preferred marketing automation channel, mainly used for promotions, re-engagement and client retentions across diverse industries.

E-Commerce Coupon Affiliates

These typically include coupon portal, price comparison or review websites. Working in a highly competitive environment where an average consumer visits around 5 websites before completing a transaction, they definitely need a powerful tool like Push alerts to withstand such a competition.

These affiliates mainly use them for retargeting, driving their affiliate brand’s exclusive offers, the category offers and flashes sales.

 what does push notifications mean

E-Commerce Websites

Having the highest number of online consumers among other industries, an E-commerce business can use the potential of this tool to its fullest. They drive marketing by using them for

  1. Customizing communication with consumers.
  2. Seasonal and occasion-based sales.
  3. Push alerts on new collections.
  4. Flash sales like discount offers and cashback offers.
  5. Announcements
  6. Pre-sale reminders.
  7. Re-targeting.

Read More Info: How to Increase your eCommerce Sales using Web Push Notifications

Online Food Chains

Push Notifications usages in online food chain businesses

With over $210 billion market value, online food delivery is an extremely competitive space. Website push notifications are the best solution for them to leverage geographical targeting and real-time communication with their consumers. They are swift, and drive repeated visits, encouraging the audience to explore cuisine and make new purchases. Some of their uses include sending notifications on exclusive discounts offered by specific restaurants, special offers like the weekend and daily discounts, recommend new restaurants and dishes with segmented push, order tracking & delivery.

Healthcare Tech Businesses

Push Notifications Usages in Healthcare Tech Businesses

Healthcare tech is an emerging industry in digital media that employs google push notification services for driving their user acquisition, reminders and alerts (on medicines that are back in stock, order status, timely purchase alerts, consultation and appointment reminders for doctors and patients), driving user engagement and re-targeting.


Push Notifications Usages in Banking Industry

Web push notifications give the thriving BFSI sector a refreshing method of engaging with both desktop and mobile users. Some of the cases explored by this sector are in Content marketing, Announcements of offers and alerts, cross-selling and upselling and Transactional communication.

Travel and Hospitality

Push Notifications Usages in Travel Industry

Another industry where push notifications are integral is Travel and hospitality. They use it for segmenting users and retargeting based on demographics and locations (price slash alerts, upsell, cross-sells), content marketing-driven lead campaigns, announcements, building curiosity, information on new packages (like weekend packages, occasion-based packages, gifting and customizing), reminders and alerts, reward program for members, feedback and confirmation alerts.

Ed-tech Businesses

Push Notifications Usages in Educational Tech Businesses

With education probably facing the fastest transformation towards digital media, a push marketing strategy can be their ideal tool for retargeting, content marketing, cross-selling, upselling, offers and course updates.

Online Retail Industries

Push Notifications Usages in Online Retail Industry

With segmentation being the main pain-point for online retail stores, push notifications are benefitting them on various instances like hyperlocal updates (geographical and interest-based segmentation), retargeting, user engagement and customer feedback.

SaaS Businesses

With online SaaS businesses growing 5X more than the traditional software sector, the power of this tools here are limitless and can be used in numerous ways such as retargeting, content marketing, product & new version updates, customer feedback, events & announcements.

News and Media

Push Notifications Usages in News & Media Industry

News and media industry has seen an abnormal increase in the number of businesses for the past few years. Having just started to explore on the sophisticated marketing solutions that effectively drive user acquisition and engagement, push notification services can help them give real-time news updates, regular news updates, personalized content delivery & Native advertising.

Content Publishing

 what is push notification how it works

Online content consumption is increasing at a tremendous rate (with popular media like YouTube showing a 100% growth every year). With mobile devices just getting popular in this niche, the benefits that can be reaped through push notifications are countless and can be used for real-time updates (flash and event-based updates), genre-wise content, native advertising, retargeting, reminders & announcements.

How do FCM notifications work?

FCM makes it possible for both web and mobile applications to send notifications to subscribers. The three key steps to implementing push messages are as follows:

  • Adding the client-side logic with your app’s JavaScript and UI that registers a user to Popup messages.

The first step in the process is to “subscribe” a user to push messaging. It involves two things; receiving permission from the user to send push messages, and getting a “Push Subscription” (that contains all the information of the user’s device) from the browser.

This is all done in JavaScript using the Push API, which gives web applications the ability to receive messages pushed from the server whether or not the web app is currently loaded.

Then, the user can be subscribed by generating a set of “application server keys” that allow push service to know the subscribed user’s application server, helping you to trigger the push messages to that respective user.

Once you have subscribed the user, you will need to send the “Push Subscription” details to your server, so that it can save this subscription to the database and use it to send the push message to the user.

  • Sending a push message to the user’s device via an API call to your application’s back-end.

An API call is to be made to the push service, which would include what data to send, whom to send and how to send the message. Usually, the API call is made from your server’s end.

 how does push notification work

What does push message service do?

Upon receiving a network request, a push service validates the push message and sends it to the respective browser. Each browser can use any push service they want, as every push service expects the same API call.

  • When push arrives on the device, an event-driven JavaScript worker file will receive a “push event”, enabling you to show the notification.

Once you have sent a push message, the push service will keep your message on its server until:

-The device comes online and the message is delivered by the push service.

-If the message expires, the push service removes it from the queue and will be no longer valid.

Once a push service delivers the message, the browser receives it, decrypts and dispatches a push event in your service worker (a special JavaScript file that helps to execute JavaScript even if the browser is closed. They also have APIs like push, that isn’t available in the webpage). Inside the service worker’s push event, you can perform any background tasks like making analytics calls, cache pages offline and shows notifications.

The anatomy

A typical push structure consists of a header, a message, an image & a URL. You can choose a relevant image, use emoji’s along with the text, and keep your message as crisp as possible.

 how does push notification work

As an added advantage to marketers, push notifications now come with the capability of adding two calls-to-action as well. Marketers can now guide their subscribers to three different landing pages with a single notification – one by clicking the notification itself and two other CTAs.

One of the important push notification best practices is writing a crisp copy and title, as the recommended character limit is just around 40. Hence using emoji’s and buzzwords might help. Once you have provided relevant URLs and CTAs, your first successful push message is on its way to your subscribers!

How push notifications helped these brands to boost their consumer engagement?

La Redoute is one of the world’s largest eCommerce apparel retailers in the world, boasting a turnover of more than $1 billion. La Redoute faced the most common problem like every other eCommerce stores, high cart abandonment rate (adding an item to their cart, and leaving the store before finalizing the purchase). In order to retrieve its lost customers, they planned a mobile push notification campaign to contact the users if they had left an item in the cart.


Each notification was highly personalized with their interests in mind and links the user to their cart where they can complete the purchase. To its surprise, the click-through rates were 2-3 times more than what was expected, making their push strategy a great success.

Nestle is the largest food and beverage company in the world, with more than 2000 brands and a revenue of over $100 billion. As a part of its strategy to increase brand loyalty among its consumers, they created the “Croquons la Vie de Nestle” program, offering various push notification campaigns like the welcome program, Loyalty program, and more. Among them was the “Lapsed users’ reactivation program” where the mobile app users who have been inactive for 20/25 days are automatically reminded to come back to the app.


With push notifications expressing the app’s key benefits like editorial nutritional advice and discounts, interestingly, the campaign saw a reactivation rate of more than 10%, which is very high for a firm with an extremely large user base like Nestle.

Over to you

Have you been using them for your business? If not, it’s about time you catch up with your competitors, because they are already gaining fortunes with them. I hope this article could answer the critical questions such as ‘what are push notifications’, ‘what are push messages’, how do they differ, and how you can adopt from the best push notification services in the market.

Feel free to comment about any silly to rocket science doubt you would like me to clarify for you. I would love to help.

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