Mobile phones and the internet have changed the way people live, work and access information and services. As smart phones and laptops swept into people’s lives, businesses also realized that one of the most effective ways to communicate and engage with consumers is on their devices.

Enter push notifications.

Sending a push notification that offers something of value to consumers has emerged as a powerful user engagement force for marketers – an ultimate communication gold standard. These notifications have become an integral part of the modern marketing mix, as they run complementary to traditional communication channels like emails and SMS – often outdoing them on several fronts.

What are Push Notifications?

Push notifications are actionable messages that are sent to a visitor’s device from a website, via a browser. These messages are contextual, timely and personalized and best used to engage, re-engage and retain website visitors. 

Push notifications do not require a user’s personal information for registration. This means that users give permission to receive notifications without filling any long forms. Long-drawn registration processes are known to cause huge drop-off rates and stunt user base growth for marketers . It’s more like an on-off switch, rather than a mechanism that requires a customer’s personal contact information. These messages are sent directly to a user’s device, pop up as soon as they’re received and reside on the notification panel.

Let’s look at some intrinsic advantages of having web push notifications in your marketing portfolio:

  • Send messages even when the user is not active

Users don’t have to be online or on their desktop to receive push notifications. They’ll be able to see all the notifications that they’ve received once they launch the website.

  • Don’t depend on a mobile app 

Web push notifications help marketers stay connected with their mobile users without investing in developing and offering mobile apps. Android phones users receive notifications in a way that’s similar to in-app notifications.

  • Easy opt-in experience

Unlike other marketing channels, web push notifications offer users a seamless opt-in experience – they only have to click `allow’. They don’t have to worry about sharing their personal data, like name, email or phone number, and are assured that the channel is GDPR compliant. 

  • Swift delivery

Web push notifications reach a user instantly, without any transmission delays. All messages are sent and received in real-time. 

  • Increased engagement

Since push notifications are sent in real-time, they incur higher engagement rates as compared to other marketing channels. By offering discounts, targeted web push notifications help companies increase the number of users returning to their website. Also, they can analyze a user’s active online time based on the real-time engagement rate with them.

  • Higher conversion rates

Personalizing messages and targeting a segmented audience not only offers users a great experience but also helps boost conversion rates. Marketers can further improve conversion rates by sending notifications when their users are most active online, or based on the actions they’ve taken on specific product pages.

A Brief History of Push Notifications

The credit for introducing push notifications goes to Blackberry, the flagship phone brand of Research In Motion (RIM). It introduced the first-ever email notification system – called Push Services – in 2003. Business executives didn’t have to keep checking their email inbox anymore; they received an immediate update notification on their mobile phone.

Mobile phone manufacturers soon jumped onto the notification bandwagon. Apple launched APN (Apple push notification) – the first ever push notification service – in 2009.

And then the floodgates opened. Google came up with Android Cloud-to-device messaging (C2DM) a year later, which was subsequently replaced by Google Cloud Messaging (GCM) – which introduced push notifications to browsers for the first time. GCM was later rechristened as FCM (Firebase Cloud Messaging). 

The browsers followed suit. In 2015, Chrome launched Chrome 42 and later, Chrome 56, which introduced rich web push notifications. In the same year as the Chrome launch, Firefox extended support to web push with its version 44. This was extended to cover mobile devices a year later. 

Today, push notifications have become the default way in which users interact with the entire mobile phone universe – be it reading news, entering an app, checking a new product on a retail website (See how Insider can assist marketers) or playing a game.  

Browsers that support Web Push Notifications

While most devices and Operation Systems allow web push notifications, it is equally important to know what devices, OS and browser versions do not support this function. Here’s a list of devices that support and do not support web push notifications.

The Anatomy of a Web Push Notification

Web push notifications are made up of 6 integral elements that collectively determine its effectiveness. 

Title: The title is the first thing that a user sees and sets the context of the push notification. While the title is important, it is imperative that you keep an eye on its length. It’s important to be precise, on point, engaging and short. Here are the character limits of web push notifications as supported on various browsers:

Description: The description is the actual message that’s sent to users. It should be short, to the point and clearly convey to the user that they should take immediate action on the notification. The recommended character limit is 120 characters. However, browsers have not specified a maximum limit.

Icon: Brand icons add brand recall and authenticity to notifications. If a marketer does not add an icon, the user will see a default bell icon. Users receive numerous push notifications, so it’s a good idea to add an icon to help differentiate your company from the rest. The recommended dimensions for icons are 192×192 px.

Website URL: This is the URL of the website that sent the push notification. The URL visible on the notification is always the domain from which the user allowed the opt-in.

Image: This is the graphical and visual aspect of a push notification. Using an image in push notification has proven to increase user action and conversion rates. However, it’s up to a marketer to decide on using an image, or sticking to text only. 

CTA: CTA plays a vital role in a push notification. It helps marketers find out a user’s intent – whether they want to engage with the company or not, based on the CTA they choose. It is an additional action that users can take besides clicking on the notification. However, CTAs can be only added on the Chrome platform and there is a maximum limit of 2. 

What types of Web Push Notification campaigns do businesses use? 

Let’s look at the various types of notifications marketers can send and how they can zero on the best-fit messaging for their campaign:

  1. Bulk Web Push Notifications 

Bulk notifications are not new to marketers. They’ve been in the game since the beginning of web push notifications. These notifications are like batch-and-blast messages that can be sent to an entire user base, and come with basic customization properties. Bulk notifications are a favorite with eCommerce, Fintech and gaming websites, to communicate feature launches, special offers or deals. 

For example, an online retailer needs to announce a seasonal sale to its customers and active users. It uses bulk push notifications to ping them about the great throwaway sale prices they can avail of.  

The downside of using bulk push notifications is that they use basic customization that results in lower conversion rates. It might not bring in the same results as other, advanced push notifications. However, it has its plus-side too.

Benefits:

  •       Bulk messages are simple to handle and do not require a lot of technical expertise. 
  •       It has a wider reach since it’s usually sent to a larger user base.

2. Segmented Web Push Notifications

One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to web push notifications. If marketers work on the assumption that all their users have the same set of preferences, it will result in a high number of users opting out of receiving notifications. 

Segmented web push notifications are sent to a set of users divided on the basis of various factors, including gender, age, geography, purchasing behavior or lifecycle stage. Segmented web push notifications can result in higher click-through rates for marketers as they are targeted to specific user groups and personalized to fulfill their requirements. For instance, sending notifications based on a user’s lifecycle stage or past purchase behavior can get higher conversion rates.

Let’s consider an example. An eCommerce company caters to customers across different geographies. In order to create personalized marketing messages, the company segments them as per regional and product preferences or users who haven’t visited the online store for the last 2 weeks. Different notifications are sent to different user segments (Find out about Insider’s AI-backed predictive segments) to create a campaign to increase the monthly active user metric.

Benefits:

  •       Increases open and click rates. 
  •   Customizes notifications for each segment (and has emoji support as well!).
  •       Improves engagement, retention, and conversions. 

3. Recurring Web Push Notifications

Marketers don’t need to personally monitor every web push campaign they design. Recurring web push notifications is an example. You can set a specific date and time to send the notifications, and then let technology take care of the rest of the process. It’s also easy to change the notification frequency – daily, weekly or monthly messages, or any other option. These notifications are popular with eCommerce, food delivery, and entertainment apps, where recurring reminders improve customer engagement. 

For instance, an eCommerce brand, with a significant user base, decides to run a repeated `deal of the month’ campaign. Instead of creating a new web push campaign every month, it sets its recurring push notification for a specific date, when it’s dispatched to the entire database.

Benefits

  •       You can set it and forget it.
  •       Enable multiple campaigns at the same time.
  •       In case of any changes in the message/creative, you can pause and reactivate the campaign.

4. Conversion Web Push Notifications

For online retailers, there is no getting away from cart abandonment. The average rate of abandonment is a whopping 69%! To grow its user base, it’s crucial for companies to get the abandoners to convert. After all, these are users already in the conversion funnel and are ready to purchase. All they need is a nudge. Conversion push notifications are a great way of engaging with consumers who’ve shown intent to convert. It reminds them of the items lying in their carts and prods them with lucrative offers.

Let’s take an example. A publishing company has announced the launch of a book by a renowned author and is taking pre-booking orders. It is flooded with orders. But once the book is released, not everyone who pre-booked gets online to purchase the novel. The publishing house sends Conversion Web Push notifications to these users, reminding them that a much-awaited book was waiting in their cart to be ordered. It works as a timely prompt and the company sees its sales go up. 

Benefits:

  •       Conversion push notifications come with predefined triggers.
  •       Retailers can set the notification send time once a trigger is activated.
  •       To ensure that users aren’t bombarded with notifications, companies can cap the number of messages sent.

5. Price Drop Web Push Notifications

Pricing plays a major role in a purchase decision. Price Drop notifications allow marketers to create alerts based on changes in a product’s pricing. It taps into the principle of urgency and limited availability. 

If a user visits a product page a certain number of times – say 3 times in 5 days – then he will receive a price drop notification whenever there is a change in the price of the product. Price drop notifications work especially well in industries like eCommerce, travel and hospitality. This tool allows marketers to bolster conversions, reduce the visitor-to-buyer journey and provide customers with maximum value for their buck.

Let’s consider a use case. A user is planning a holiday in Paris and is looking for the best flight fares. He visits a travel website and finds the Mumbai to Paris flight tickets are too exorbitant to afford. Summers are still six months away, so he starts keeping tabs on the tickets. He visits the website once a fortnight to check if fares have dropped. His frequent visits put him in the company’s data radar. When prices drop, he receives a push notification and books his tickets pronto.

Benefits:

  • Segments users who are price-sensitive and sends them appropriate messages.
  •       Helps engage and convert price-conscious shoppers.
  •   Enables customers to get the latest price updates without visiting the website.

6. Stock Web Push Notifications 

No retailer wants to lose customers to a zero inventory issue. But it’s a shopping roadblock that customers often come up against: they’ve found a product they dig, but it’s not in stock. How does a retailer bring such users back to shop? With stock push notifications, companies can notify shoppers that their favorite product is back on the shelves. Retailers can drive higher conversions with this well-timed engagement. 

For example: It’s the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sale weekend and an eCommerce retailer is offering discount blasts on electronic products to woo customers. The company gets the soaring response it expected. On Day 2 of the sale, its stock of noise-canceling headphones ran out. The company did a quick stock reboot and began sending stock push notifications to all users who visited the product page and left without purchasing. By the end of the sale weekend, its second stock lot was also sold out.

Benefits:

  •   High purchase rate as users are already in the conversion stage of the funnel.
  •     A perfect way to communicate for timely updates about product availability.

7. Web Push API 

A publishing company printed a new book on a sports superstar. It used Web Push API to inform its sports-enthusiast customers about the new book release.

A customer bought a sweatshirt from an eCommerce site. The retailer used Web Push API to keep him updated on the delivery status of his purchase. “Your product has been packaged and dispatched,” read the first notification. This was followed by, “Your product will be delivered in 48 hours.” 

Web Push API notifications inform users about what’s happening at the back-end of a purchase – like a delivery status, a new release or a flight cancellation. It’s a unique way for companies to engage and retain their customers. It can be used by companies across the board – publishing, finance, eCommerce, travel. 

Let’s take another example of an airline company. Its flight from Istanbul to Cairo is delayed by 5 hours. The company uses Web Push API to send notifications to all its passengers about the delay. 3 hours before the flight departure, the passengers receive another notification, “Are your tickets, visa and passport in place? It’s time to proceed for check-in.”

Benefits:

  •       The value-added engagement with the customer helps build loyalty.
  •       It helps customers keep tabs on any change in the delivery status of a product they’ve purchased.

A Quick Callout 

Let’s run through a quick use case to understand the journey of a web push notification, how it works and how marketers can benefit from it.

An eCommerce retailer is grappling with a growing problem of cart abandonment. It decides to use web push notifications to plug the gaps and increase customer conversions. To do so it tracks the purchase patterns of its customers.

Jane added a pair of running shoes to her cart, but did not purchase it. The retailer waits for one hour – the golden window period – to see if Jane will complete the purchase. When the company finds that Jane has not bought the shoes, it sends her a notification, reminding her that a very sporty pair of running shoes is lying in her cart, waiting to be bought. 

Using Insider’s marketing technology, the retailer checks upon Jane again after 24 hours – to see whether she’s bought the shoes. She still hasn’t converted, the tool finds. This time, the retailer sends her a push notification with a voucher code – offering a 20% discount and free shipping on her next purchase.

It pays to send voucher codes to a customer like Jane. Why?

  •   Since the user has added a product to her cart, she is already in the conversion stage of the funnel. The chances of purchase are higher.
  •       It increases profitability for the company, as it’s offering discounts only to a segmented audience: those who need a nudge to purchase.

The voucher works wonders and Jane purchases the shoes. Even then the retailer continues to engage with her, to build a customer lifetime value relationship (Discover how to optimize CLV). Using Insider’s Architect (Know more about the AI-back customer journey builder tool), the company communicates with her across channels: push notifications offering discounts, emails highlighting the ongoing relationship between the consumer and brand and the special deals she can avail as a long-term client. This personalized communication makes Jane feel unique and she opts to shop more with the retailer.

Push Notifications Vs Other Channels

How do Web Push notifications compare with other communication channels like Email, SMS, Whatsapp (Know more on Whatsapp Business API) or In-app notifications? Let’s do a comparative analysis.

Push Notifications Vs Email

Push notifications and email are diametrically different in many dimensions – be it in terms of length, content, open rate, click-through rate or conversion rate. Let’s look at some key differences between the two, and where push notifications score over emails.

Differences:

  •       Emails vary in length. Push notifications are super short – 50 characters at the most.
  •       Emails can be content heavy. Push notifications are short alerts.
  •       Even though users may not unsubscribe an Email, they can ignore them. But if they don’t want to receive a push notification, they’ll simply block it.
  •       Emails have a longer opt-in process. It’s a one-click process for push notifications – users only have to hit `allow’.
  •       Emails can land up in the spam folder. Push notifications have no spam filter.

The push notification advantage:

  •       They’re short, sweet and to-the-point – just the way consumers like it.
  •       They’re hyper-personalized. Push notifications are sent after tracking consumer behavior, like past purchases, location, interests and app activity, and segmenting them accordingly.
  •       Users can’t give fake subscription information for push notifications. This means 100% accurate contact information for marketers.
  •       Delivery is instant.
  •       It’s a one-click subscription process.
  •       They record a higher click-through rate, as the bounce rate is almost nil and users prefer short messages.
  •       Push notifications pop up directly on a user’s device screen and the entire message is seen (and not just the subject line). So the delivery rate is 100%.

 Push Notifications Vs SMS 

Push notifications and mass SMS texting have emerged as two huge mobile-driven user engagement tools for marketers. While SMS has been around for long, push notifications – a strategy associated with smartphone app technology – are the new kid on the block.

Differences:

  •       SMS messages can include text links that direct users to any webpage. Push notifications drive people to just one app.
  •       If a company wants to communicate a message that needs to be acted upon (flight delay, a doctor’s appointment, event cancellation) then SMS is the way to go.
  •       To receive an SMS, a user must send a text to a specified number to be part of a subscription list. Push notifications require an app download.

 The push notification advantage:

  •       Unlike SMS, it’s a cost-free communication channel.
  •   Companies don’t need opt-in consent. The user opts in when he downloads the app.
  •       Unlike SMS, there are no formatting constraints.
  •       Push notifications are an effective way to improve targeted product communication to existing app customers.
  •       Push notifications are a great driver for product recommendations. Example: suggesting a new web series to watch, a new fashion store to check out.
  • Push notifications can come with added images, which SMS cannot support. 

Push Notifications Vs In-App Messaging 

While push notifications pop up on the lock screen of a mobile device, and go away once a user sees them, in-app notifications only appear when a user logs into an app.

Differences:

  •   Push notifications appear and can be read anytime. In-app notifications need users to be active on the app.
  •       Push notifications are time-bound content.

The push notification advantage:

  •       If a user installs an app and forgets about it, marketers can communicate using push notifications.
  •       Users who opt for push notifications are usually high-value consumers, who want to engage with a company on an on-going basis.
  •       Push notifications can increase engagement rate, drive conversions and improve awareness of a product or service.

Tracking and Measuring Push Notification Performance

Tracking and measuring push notifications is a straight-forward process, when compared with other communication channels. For example, if a marketer launches a Facebook campaign, he’d have to measure diverse metrics – including the cost of attribution, when a user sees the ad, when he converts – to quantify the success of the campaign. 

Push notifications follow simple and clear-cut measuring fundamentals. All marketers need is the following subscriber statistics:

  1. Total number of subscribers: The total number of users who have opted-in for a web push notification. This can be easily tracked from a push service dashboard.
  2. Total subscribers in a given time period: The total number of users who have subscribed to a push notification in a selected date range. 

These two metrics measure the average click-through rate (CTR): that is, the total number of subscribers divided by the total users who view an opt-in screen in a selected date range.

On the performance side, the notification metrics that marketers can measure include:

  1. Weekly growth: The number of users who subscribed to a push notification in the last 7 days.
  2. Sent: Number of push notifications delivered.
  3. Clicks: Number of clicks on a push notification.
  4. CTR: The number of clicks on a push notification divided by the total number of notifications delivered.
  5. Conversions: The number of users who successfully achieved the primary goal of the notification.
  6. Conversion rate: The percentage of visitors who achieved the primary goal.

How to Optimize your Push Notification Campaign

Now that we’ve understood the dynamics of push notifications, let’s look at how marketers can optimize their notification campaigns for maximum clicks and conversions. Here are some actions that marketers can take:

  •       Use content that is rich in visuals: To effectively engage and catch the attention of a user, it’s important to use a rich push template. This would include an image, a website icon, an eye-catching CTA button and emojis, besides relevant content.
  •       Never undermine the importance of the CTA button: It’s the most important component of a push notification, as it drives users back to the landing page. Use a CTA that fetches optimum results. It could be “Buy Now” for an eCommerce company, “Discover Now” for a travel website or “Read More” for a publisher.
  •       Ensure that the notification redirects users to the relevant page: If you are sending a cart abandonment notification, make sure that it redirects users to the cart page. Your efforts will misfire if they land on the home page.
  •       Optimize your landing page: If a user clicks on a notification because they found it relevant and then find the landing page unsatisfactory, it will reflect negatively on your brand image, make the user feel unengaged and result in the notification being unsubscribed. So make sure your landing page delivers all the promises made in the notification.
  •       Speed-up the page load: The page loading speed is as important as creating a flawless notification campaign or landing page. A slow-loading page can lead to a bad user experience and high churn rate. If a site takes more than 3 seconds to load, it translates into a 53% hike in abandoned visits.
  •   Create a cross-device notification campaign: Your notification campaign must be spread across all devices. After all, marketers today talk to a 4-screen generation. Optimal conversion can happen if every device is covered.
  • Use emojis: For best results, it’s a good idea to place emojis at strategic places to improve the look, feel and appeal of your push notifications.
  • Personalize: Marketers mostly employ a batch-and-blast strategy to sending push notifications, without considering a user’s recent activity or whether he’s been active on their website. Push notifications work way better if they are personalized with details like a user’s name, action item and lifecycle.
  • Optimize the notification send time: Always send your notifications at the most optimal time for the user, when he is most likely to be online and will be best placed to take action on the message.
  • Segment optimization: Users don’t like to receive messages that have nothing to do with their interests. So segment your users and send relevant messages to boost conversions.(Dive deeper into marketing segmentation here)
  • Use frequency capping: Don’t overload your users by blasting them with too many push notifications in a day. Use frequency capping tools to limit the number of notification deliveries to a number that users will open and read.
  • Always A/B Test: For best results, test the image, title, text or CTA button of your push notification to find out what users like best. (Learn how to do A/B Testing here)

How Samsung created a High-Converting, Multi-Channel Notification Campaign for Galaxy Note 9, using Insider Tech

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 was one of the most anticipated phones of 2018. To showcase and promote this high-end product, Samsung wanted to build an innovative and consistent customer experience that was spread across multiple channels – be it mobile web (Check out how to design experiences for the mobile web), desktop web or apps. 

How Samsung turned cart abandoners into buyers

Using Insider’s Growth Management Platform, the company devised a Web Push strategy that targeted competing devices and promoted the Note 9. Insider’s Messaging suite tools were used to send web push messages to attract new customers as well as reduce cart abandonment. 

As a result of the Cart Recovery Web Push Notifications, the Samsung marketing team was able to boost web push click-through rates by 14%. Also, the conversion rate of the Cart Recovery Web Push Notifications was 24% higher compared to the conversion rate Samsung achieved with standard Web Push notifications.

Conclusion

Push notifications have caught the attention of marketers in recent years. They are short, crisp and contextual and can fetch optimal results, if sent to the right user at the right time. Marketers have also found push notifications to be the ideal way of engaging with their customers and taking their conversion rates to a whole new level.

Are you ready to take on the holiday shopping rush? We are here for you at every step of your growth journey. Connect with us for a personalized demo @