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Push Notifications: Why You Want Them & How to Build Them Into Your App (Part 1 of 2)

If you're not already familiar with them, push notifications are a fantastic way to engage with your users. In the first of this two-part series, we break down what they are and why you should want them.

6 October 2021

by Aman Mittal

What are Push Notifications?

Push notifications are text or rich media messages sent to a user’s device or a web browser. They are used to provide convenience and value to app users and can be triggered locally or sent from a third-party service when the app is not running.

If you’re not already familiar with them, they are a fantastic way to engage with your users. For example, an app user can receive push notifications for things like traffic in their neighborhood, weather, flight check-ins, promotions, product offers, etc. For application publishers, a push notification is a direct way to engage with users without worrying you’ll get lost in someone’s inbox.

In this article, we are going to give you an overview of the various types of push notifications, how they work conceptually, and how using a push notification allows you to capture high-quality leads and maintain engagement with the app users.

The Anatomy of a Push Notification

Push notifications are supported across many different devices and platforms, but each platform varies in the way that it displays them. For example, a push notification triggered in Safari’s web browser may look pretty different from a push notification triggered in Chrome, and the same could be said for push notifications that pop up in Android vs. iOS.

With that being said, the general structure of a push notification is going to be roughly the same, and is made up of the following elements:

In this general sense, a push notification can be represented visually as:

A diagram showing the anatomy of a push notification.

These are the main components that exist in every push notification, but there are other elements a push notification may contain, depending on the platform.

How do Push Notifications Work?

Push notifications are generally sent to fulfill two purposes: 1) to provide personalized deals and messages for specific app users, and 2) to provide a general-purpose notification targeted at a larger user base.

App publishers can feasibly build their own infrastructure to address these two use cases, but building an infrastructure can be daunting. Between budget constraints and a lack of resources to handle the infrastructure, many developers prefer to use a third-party service to provide cross-platform push notifications. App publishers can easily leverage these services and keep their focus on building and maintaining the app.

Although there are many different push notification services available, one of the most commonly used ones is FCM (or Firebase Cloud messaging). It provides a messaging gateway for both web and mobile applications to send notifications to corresponding users. The app server sends a notification and the information of the app user to FCM which then verifies the information and sends the notification to the device. This description is a general flow of how push notifications are sent from the server to a user’s device using a dedicated service like FCM.

What is an Opt-in Message, and Why is it Important?

Your app’s opt-in message is the very first notification you’ll send to potential subscribers, and it directly determines the conversion from a visitor to a subscriber. With this in mind, it’s essential to clearly communicate the kind of value your push notifications are going to offer.

Opt-in processes are going to differ depending on whether your users are accessing a mobile app or a website. If you have a website, visitors will receive a little drop-down message or pop-up on their screen that will ask them if they’d like to receive notifications from your website, and they can generally choose either “Allow” or “Block”.

Opt-in options on mobile are a bit different—iOS devices will ask a new user if they’d like to receive notifications from your app, but on Android, users are automatically considered opt-in by default when they download your app.

When putting your opt-in message together, it’s important to add some customization into your messaging in order to add more context to your communication. Craft your opt-in message with your business and target audience in mind—speak to them the way they want to be spoken to, and time your opt-in request accordingly. If your opt-in message is going to be popping up on your website, consider whether you’d rather make your ask right away or after they’ve spent some time looking around. And finally, make sure that it’s easy for a user to opt-out and state this explicitly in your messaging. This will help you to establish and build a certain level of trust in both you and your brand.

Types of Push Notifications

There are four main types of push notifications. In this section, we’ll take a look at each.

Web Push Notifications

This type of notification message is sent to a user through their web browser, but it can be used on web browsers for laptops, desktops, tablets, and mobile devices. On everything but mobile devices, these push notifications will appear in the form of an alert on the right-hand side of a user’s screen. On a mobile device, they appear as an app push notification would appear. Web push notifications are generally delivered when a user is active on their browser, regardless of whether or not they’re on your website, specifically.

This type of push notification is typically sent as part of marketing campaigns to increase web engagement, conversions, and return rates. Lots of content management systems (CMSs) and platforms have integrations or plugins that can be used to implement this kind of push notification, so it’s relatively easy for those with little to no technical experience. This is in large part what makes web push notifications such a handy tool for marketers!

Desktop Push Notifications

This type of push notification appears on a user’s desktop only and is typically used by products or software that has been installed by a user on their desktop or laptop. They generally provide users with alerts or updates on the product and occasionally campaigns to engage users. In comparison to web notifications, they are not as easy to build and may require the use of a third-party service to trigger.

Mobile Push Notifications

These types of push notification messages appear only on a user’s mobile after they have installed your application, and they are similar to desktop push notifications in many ways. They are product-oriented, may require the user to opt-in depending on the mobile OS. They are also used for various purposes such to increase app engagement, sustain conversion rate, send out personalized messages and alerts.

As with desktop push notifications, mobile app push notifications are triggered by an application that a user has downloaded on their mobile device. Unique identifiers are registered for your app and the user’s device with the OS’s push notification service when a user opens your app, and these unique IDs are also shared with you. From here, you can choose to put together and send push notifications with the goal of increasing customer engagement.

A person reviewing something on their smart watch.
Image by fancycrave1 from Pixabay

Wearables Push Notifications

Today, wearable devices support push notifications, and messages on these devices are synchronized directly with a user’s mobile device. The appearance of a notification message is different on wearables from other devices since they have a smaller screen size, and messages on these devices are typically shorter.

Why Should You Use Push Notifications?

You should use push notifications because they allow you to capture high-quality leads and maintain user engagement without asking for any personal information. From an app publisher’s point of view, a push notification provides you with a unique opportunity to speak directly to your users.

With push notification campaigns, you can convey the messages that you need to without having to put together a full-length newsletter or email, which saves you time and keeps your message from being lost in someone’s inbox. Promotional emails have a tendency to find their way into spam or promotions folders, but push notifications bring your messaging front and center. As a result, push notifications have a significantly higher open and click-through rate than email or SMS campaigns.

Using a push notification service, you can also automate campaigns, set up expiration dates for time-bound messages, and send out push notifications based on geographical location and time zone. This ensures that you’re saving time, creating a sense of urgency, and putting your messages in front of users when they’re more likely to be receptive to your calls to action. With actionable and personalized push notifications, you’re more likely to see a significant uptick in return traffic and engagement.

Different Types of Push Notification Campaigns

Everyone wants to feel special, and highly personalized push notifications are the closest you’re going to get to communicating with your users one-on-one. Users are more likely to click on messages that appeal to them and their interests directly, so it’s important to find ways to pique their curiosity and appeal to their emotions. Some campaigns are going to appeal to customers more than others, but these are the push notifications most likely to keep your users interested and your brand top of mind:

Rich Push Notifications

Rich push notifications are composed of images, emojis, and links to videos in addition to the basic formula that we outlined in our “Anatomy of a Push Notification” section. These elements provide more context to your users, visually increasing the appeal of your message visually, and they come in handy when a push notification service has character limitations. Emojis are a great addition to a message because they add a certain charm and human quality to your communications.

try our app estimate calculator CTA image

Triggered Push Notifications

Triggered push notifications enhance your user’s experience with your app and brand, and they enable you to establish a series of automated messages based on real-time data and information you have accumulated on a user’s behaviors while using the app.

You should create different types of campaigns based on your push notification marketing strategy, and campaigns can be either open-ended or closed. With open-ended campaigns, you can send a series of notifications to users without an exit trigger, and the campaign ends once your subscribers have received all of the notifications in the sequence you’ve created. With a closed campaign, you set a predefined goal or action for your subscriber to take. Once they complete the action or goal you’ve set, they exit the campaign and will no longer receive the notifications remaining in the sequence you’ve created.

FYI Notifications

For-your-information (FYI) notifications are used to send the app users an alert about their topic of interest, and they often contain an external link. For example, in an e-commerce app, you may send information related to new brands or items added to your e-commerce platform, updates on the price of an item a user has added to their wishlist, etc.

Abandoned Cart Notifications

According to a study conducted by Baymard Institute, 69.57% of online shopping carts are abandoned. Think about that percentage for a minute—for every 100 potential customers that add items to their cart, roughly 70 of them will leave your app without completing their purchase. Can you imagine how much your revenue would go up if you were able to capture those sales instead of losing them?

With abandoned cart notifications, you can.

You can nudge these users to complete their purchases with a sequence specifically for abandoned carts. Additionally, you can build a small marketing campaign or use FYI notifications to let the user know about various changes that may have occurred since the time they added the item to their cart—things like a price drop, new discounts or offers, limited stock, etc. Engaging users with nudges like this creates a sense of urgency, or FOMO, and encourages them to complete the checkout action.

During each campaign, you can also track things like:

Reminder Notifications

Similar to abandoned cart notifications, reminder notifications are used to send nudges to users when you want them to complete an action. This is a great fit for fitness apps that want to remind someone to do their daily workout or submit their food intake for the day and job portals that may want users to finish completing their account or filling in their resume details.

Geolocation Notifications

A Geolocation notification provides updates to users based on their geographical location. These types of notifications can be used to target a specific subset of your audience, and a common example of these notifications can be found on dating apps like Tinder or food delivery apps like Uber Eats. These apps collect a user’s current location and then send updates based on their nearby availability.

Mobile-friendly Push Notifications

This type of notification is specially crafted for mobile users. If a large amount of your audience uses mobile devices to access your website, then you can send them mobile-only push notifications. A mobile-friendly push notification is something that can be sent without having an app too.

Time-bound Notifications

Time-bound notifications are a great way to drum up a sense of urgency with users for specific campaigns you’ve created, and they often lead to more click-throughs. They are often used for sending information about limited-time promotions, flash sales, etc. When setting up a time-bound notification, it’s important to clearly state the offer’s expiration date.

Transactional Push Notifications

Transactional push notifications are a great way to keep your users updated on the status of their transactions. Examples of this type of notification are subscription status updates, shipping and tracking notifications, notification that a payment has been made or processed, etc. These messages help you get important information to specific users and increase the odds of a successful retargeting campaign.

A person checking the notifications that popped up on their smartphone.
Image by Tran Mau Tri Tam from Pixabay

Common Strategies for Push Notifications

Simply implementing a push notification campaign does not produce results—you need a personalized strategy for your campaigns. Here are some tips you can use to implement a strong strategy:

Metrics to Track Your Push Notification Strategies

Tracking how your users interact and engage with your push notifications is important from a business perspective. It’s important that you keep track of the following metrics:

Opt-in Rate

It’s important to track your opt-in rate because it lets you know if your messaging is speaking to your audience. If you have a really great opt-in rate, you know that your copy resonates with them. And if you don’t, it’s a clear indicator that you need to further refine the way that you’re speaking to your audience.

Browser and Platform Distribution

The browsers and devices that your users are on when they receive your notifications is an important user behavior metric you should track. This data can help you identify the best format for your notifications.

Delivery and Click-Through Rate (CTR)

With push notifications, it’s important to analyze the performance of each notification that you send. Pay close attention to things like delivery, open, and click-through rates because these stats can help you gauge the quality of the content you’re sharing. Over time, you’ll gain an understanding of what works and what does not so that you can refine your approach accordingly.

Conversion Rate

Your conversion rate is the percentage of website or app visitors that successfully complete a desired action or goal out of your total number of visitors. A high conversion rate is an indicator of successful marketing campaigns and good UX/UI. It also means that your users want whatever it is that you’re offering and they’re able to easily get it. Conversion rates are important to keep track of as they help you determine the success of your push notification campaigns and help you determine ways to improve them with in-depth analysis.

Common Mistakes Made When Sending a Push Notification

Push notifications can be incredibly beneficial for your business if they are used strategically, but some strategies can do more harm than good:

Instead, try to implement the following best practices:


Push notifications can be a powerful tool to add to your marketing strategy arsenal, but it’s important to use them wisely. If you’d like to implement push notifications for your app or website, our expert team of professionals at Crowdbotics can help you get up and running. Get in touch with us today for a detailed quote and timeline!