Push notifications are the building blocks of any great mobile marketing strategy, but sending the perfect push isn’t as simple as it may seem. If you are a mobile marketer or product manager looking to learn more about using push notifications effectively, you’ve come to the right place. This post is the first in the introductory series Push 101: A Beginner’s Guide To Crafting Great Push Notifications. Follow this series or download the full guide to master the basics and discover what push notifications can do for you.
Let’s start with the basics.
What is a push notification?
Definition of a push notification: a type of message sent from an application to a device, most commonly used by mobile apps to deliver pertinent information to their mobile users. Push notifications appear as alert-style messages on the home screen of a user’s device. The user does not need to have the app open or running to receive a notification from that app. Push notifications are available through all operating systems: iOS, Android, and more.
It is important to understand that push notifications are more than just another mobile messaging channel. Push notifications provide mobile apps with a unique opportunity to engage and communicate with their users, when used correctly.
How should mobile apps use push notifications?
Mobile apps should use push notifications to enhance the product experience and drive user engagement and revenue. To do this, push notifications need to convey information that users need or want to receive. There are two types of push notifications that every mobile app should be sending: transactional and engagement.
Apps use transactional push notifications to deliver information that users need to receive at a specific time. For example, travel apps should use transactional push notifications to send a message about a flight update or gate change, while financial services apps should use transactional push notifications to send a message about a bank account update or fraudulent charge alert.
Apps should use engagement push notifications to deliver information that drives users to complete key virtuous actions – for example, making a purchase, sharing on social, completing an onboarding event, and more. When crafted correctly, this type of push notification can have significant impact on long-term user retention, engagement, and lifetime value. The important thing to consider is every user is different, and users should only receive engagement push notifications that are uniquely personalized and relevant to them.
What are all of the components of a push notification?
The image below highlights the key features of a push notification sent through iOS:
- Title: Indicates who is sending the push notification.
- Icon: Also indicates who is sending the push notification.
- Text: Displays what the push notification is saying. The iOS banner display shows only the first 60 characters, and the Android banner display shows only the first 45 characters, so make sure the content of the notification is concise and compelling.
- Swipe: Allows the user to take action immediately after they swipe. Swiping on a push notification directs the user into the app, in some cases into a specific or unique page in the app. The swipe function is available from the lock screen of the device. When the screen is unlocked, the user can engage by clicking or tapping on the notification.
How are push notifications controlled? How do users enable or disable them?
Push notifications sent through iOS are controlled from the notification center in the Settings section of the device. iOS users have a great deal of control when it comes to enabling or disabling push notifications, as they can be turned off or on by the user at any time. Additionally, before iOS apps can send push notifications to a specific user, they must ask and receive permission from that user. Read more about the best practices for ensuring users opt in to receive your push notifications.
Steps 1, 2, and 3 show how an iOS user can easily adjust their push notification settings:
Push notifications sent through Android are also controlled from the notification center in the Settings section of the device. One key difference is that Android apps are not required to ask for permission before sending push notifications. In this case, the onus is on the user to opt out of receiving notifications from a specific app by adjusting their notification preferences.
How can apps adjust the push notifications they send? What levers can be pulled?
Push notifications have become the primary tool for driving mobile engagement, and winning apps have learned to take advantage of the many levers they can pull to create and send push notifications that delight. These levers include:
- User targeting and segmentation: which users should receive the push notification?
- Content, copy and personalization: what should the push notification say? How can it be effectively personalized?
- Timing: when should each user receive the push notification?
- After the push: what happens after the push notification is received?
We will break down the best practices for each of these key areas as the series progresses.