Quick summary ↬
What are the benefits of using push notifications and what can you use them for? In this article, Lee Munroe explains how to implement them and which practices are best to follow.
I’ve spent the past several years building messaging tools — for more than three years now I’ve been leading the design team at OneSignal, a customer engagement platform that enables developers and marketers to send transactional and promotional messages via push, in-app, email and SMS. I’ve learned a lot about how messaging works including the pros and cons of using push to communicate with your audience. In this post, I’ll brain dump all of my knowledge on the topic.
Introduction To Push
Push notifications are clickable messages that pop up on your phone or desktop with some content. Typical types of push notifications include:
Promotional New blog post, new release, a Black Friday sale, etc.
Transactional New message received, a friend liked your comment, your driver is on their way, appointment reminders, etc.
Push notifications were originally introduced in 2009 by Apple with APNs (Apple Push Notification service). Google quickly followed for Android (which later became FCM) and in 2013 web push was introduced for Chrome.
Push is still a relatively new communication technology compared to its siblings. The first email was sent in 1971 (50 years ago!) and the first SMS was sent in 1992 (30 years ago!). Marketers and developers are still discovering where push fits into their communication stack, so while most companies have an email strategy for customer engagement, most don’t have a push strategy yet.
Push is very similar to these other communication channels like email. You use them to engage with your customers. You can send promotional or transactional content. You need a way for people to opt-in and opt-out. You need to segment your audiences. You need to personalize your messages. You need to compose your message, send your message, view reporting for your message, and so on.
Why Use Push Notifications?
There are several benefits of push over other messaging channels:
Push doesn’t require users to hand over any personal information like an email address or phone number;
Push is cheap to send (unlike SMS which is upwards of 2c per message);
Push is quick to send;
Push has a high opt-in rate (see more below).
What can you use push notifications for?
Abandoned cart Get users back to complete the checkout process.
Onboarding Welcome users to your app and get them up and running.
Announcements New features, updates, and upcoming events.
Offers Discounts and rewards.
Rewards & delight Make users feel good with rewarding progress in a game.
Live updates News, scores, order status.
More after jump! Continue reading below ↓
How To Implement Push Notifications
You can build your own push service on top of the different APIs and operating system platforms available. iOS has APNs. Google has FCM. Web browsers use Service Workers, Notification API and the Push API. When building your own you need to consider the push service, managing subscribers, permission prompts, message composition, delivery and reporting.