Blog/Beyond Texting

What Are Push Notifications?

Push notifications are one of the fastest ways to get your customers’ attention. We’ll cover what they are and how to use them in this article.

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If you’ve ever downloaded and used a mobile app, chances are you’ve seen a pop-up on your phone screen with a new promotion, an update, or an invitation to log back in.

These are push notifications: simple pop-ups that appear on your mobile device or desktop. They come from an app publisher, go through a push notification service, and then show up on a user’s screen.

You can enable them on your phone, laptop, or even through your browserーor turn them off if you don’t want to see them.

We’ll break down how push notifications work, the different types, why you should be sending them, and common push notification mistakes to avoid.

How Do Push Notifications Work?

Push notifications go through a few important steps before you see them on your device. Here’s a breakdown of the process:

  1. The app publisher registers with an OS push notification service, which gives the publisher an application programming interface (API). The API helps the app and the service communicate.
  1. The app publisher adds an SDK (a code library unique to the OS service) to the app and then uploads it to the app store.
  1. When a user opens the app, unique identifiers (IDs) for the device and the app get registered with the OS service.
  1. These IDs go back to the app from the OS service and are sent to the app publisher.
  1. The app publisher writes the push notification and decides who the notification will go to and when it will go out.

That’s the technical side, but how do push notifications work for your customers?

Most of us have gotten one too many push notifications from an app. Luckily, you can enable or disable them from your phone’s Settings menu or from inside an app’s settings. 

Source: Flickr

This is important to remember, because too many notifications will cause your customers to switch them off for goodーbut we’ll get to that later.

What Can Be Included in a Push Notification?

What you include in your push notifications depends on what you want your customers to know or do. You can include:

  • Special offers or sale announcements
  • Discount codes
  • Emergency reminders for things like site maintenance
  • Messages for a customer’s birthday or a holiday
  • Order confirmations or delivery updates
  • Itineraries for travel or event reminders

It’s up to you what you send. The only rule is to make sure you only send customers notifications about things they really want or need.

Types of Push Notifications

We’ve gone over what “push notification” means. Before we break down the details of push notifications, we need to talk about the three different types of push notifications:

  • App Push Notifications

As we touched on earlier, app push notifications go from an app server to a Push Notification Service Provider to the app on your customer’s device. When enabled, they can show up even if the device isn’t being used. 

These notifications only go to users who have a certain app.

  • Web Push Notifications

Web push notifications don’t require an app, just a website. The website owner needs to include code from a web push service to enable them. They then lead customers to a website or remind them to download an app.

  • Web Notifications

Web notifications open on a specific webpage and can only be seen on the tab where the page is open (users won’t see them while on a different tab).

Mobile Push Notifications

Mobile push notifications are similar across devices. Still, they have some differences depending on the operating system you use.

All mobile push notifications can show up in a few ways. You can see them on your lock screen, in a banner at the top of your screen, and in the notification center when you swipe your screen down.

iPhone Push Notifications

The biggest thing to remember about your iPhone or iPad push notifications is that you’ll need to manually subscribe to receive them. 

You can also choose when to see push notifications––always, when unlocked, or never––in your Settings page under Notifications.


Android Push Notifications

Android push notifications work a little differently. When you install and open an app, you’ll be informed that the app wants to send you notifications. However, you’ll need to manually go through the steps to opt out of these notifications if you don’t want them.

Just like on an iPhone, you can control your notification preferences from your Settings menu.

Computer Push Notifications

Desktop push notifications are a little different from web push notifications. They only show up on users’ desktops. These notifications mostly come from products you have installed on your desktop, and they’re designed to boost user engagement. 

Desktop push notifications are also more difficult to build than web push notifications, and you’ll likely need a developer’s help to do so.

Web Push Notifications

Web push notifications differ from desktop push notifications in that they’re sent by websites you’ve visited on your computer, not programs that you’ve installed. Web push notifications are similar to app push notifications in that they show up on your computer whether you’re on the website or not. You’ll be given the option to opt in to these, too. 

Source: Flickr

Benefits of Push Notifications

Push notifications can be one of the best ways to help your users interact more with your site or mobile app. These are some of their biggest benefits:

  • Notifications grab your audience’s attention. 
  • They can increase customer retention and re-engage inactive users. That’s because push notifications show up on the devices your customers constantly use.
  • Targeted, eye-catching notifications to your users’ mobile devices keep your products and offers front-and-center. 
  • They come with high click-through rates and improve customer retention. 
  • Easy-to-follow notifications make the journey from first contact to checkout smooth, fast, and simple.

Now that you know how powerful really good push notifications can be, let’s get into the things you need to steer clear of.

Push Notification Mistakes to Avoid

As effective as push notifications are, you still need to approach them the right way. That means knowing what to avoid as you create and send your notifications.

Here are some common push notification mistakes to avoid:

1. Sending too many push notifications 

This is the number-one mistake people make. A recent survey found that 32% of respondents will stop using an app if they get between 6 and 10 messages in a week.

Only send notifications when you have something you know your users want. The best push notification examples feature an exciting announcement about a new product or special offer. You don’t want to follow up with five similar alerts for the same sale.

2. Picking the wrong time

If you want your users to take action when you send out a push notification, make sure you send it when they’re looking at their devices. 

There are lots of recommendations out there for the perfect time to send messages or notifications, but there’s no need to overthink it. Just don’t send notifications in the middle of the night or the early hours of the morning and you’ll be fine.

3. Including too many steps

This mistake has to do with what happens after your user clicks on your notification. You don’t want to send them to your website, then to a separate landing page, then to an email opt-in, then to a box where they enter a coupon code. 

Make the steps after a user clicks the notification easy and clear, and don’t include too many of them. 

4. Not knowing your audience

Generic messages are one of the fastest ways to lose your users. Take the time to segment your audience and send them more personalized notifications. 

You can separate them out by past purchases, location, activity on your app, or any other useful category you choose.

5. Bad copy in notifications

Check for spelling and grammar mistakes in your notifications before you send them. Typos and bad grammar can hurt your credibility and immediately turn your audience off.

6. Not tracking your results

Push notifications are a constant work in progress––just like any other marketing and sales tool. You’ll want to know what to tweak to make each one more successful than the last.

Watch how your notifications perform. Keep track of how many people clicked on them, which ones were most popular, and where the clicks come from. This will help you fine-tune your future notifications and messaging.

Push Notifications vs. SMS Notifications

SMS notifications and push notifications often get mixed up. Let’s highlight some differences.

Push notifications go from an app or site to a server before landing on a mobile device. SMS notifications are sent through text without the need for an app download.

That’s one of the big benefits of SMS notifications. Although push notifications may be more familiar, 75% of people say they like receiving offers over text.

There’s one other main difference between the two types of notifications. SMS notifications allow customers to send a reply, while push notifications do not. 

The Final Word on Push Notifications

They’re fast, they’re versatile, and they come with plenty of benefits for your business. Creating exciting push notifications that catch your customers’ attention (and sending them at the right times) can keep your audience on the edge of their seat waiting for the next special offer or announcement.

SimpleTexting can help you set up your own push notifications. Ready to give it a try? Sign up for a  14-day trial of SimpleTexting, totally free.

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