What is a Push Message?

A push message is a short message on mobile devices, targeting specific behaviors of the mobile user. A push message is often also called a push notification, and these are meant to alert the user to something that’s happening in an app that’s not currently being used.

Push messages often appear as alert-like messages at the top of your device screen, but they can also appear on the lock screen and in a notification window. Push messages started off as text-based messages that could be clicked on to launch an app, but they have evolved considerably over the last few years. Modern push messages can include multimedia, as well as perform app-specific actions, like replying to a social media message, without having to actively dive into the app.

Push Messages are available on Android, iOS, Windows Phone and other mobile operating system platforms.

When are Push Messages Used?

Push messages are used by app makers for multiple reasons but the primary goal is to drive the user back into the app to perform an action. Push messages can also be used to convey quick information to the user that doesn’t require further action within the app. An example of this would be an on-demand transportation company telling a rider his car is arriving—this is useful information but it doesn’t require the user to open the app.

As push messages evolve, we’re starting to see brands use this medium for other goals. For example, Chubbies uses push as a distribution vehicle for short, funny messages. The clothing retailer isn’t trying to drive direct conversion events with push messages or even trying to get the user to open the app. Instead, Chubbies is using push messages purely as a content distribution channel in order to cement its brand voice and build customer loyalty.

What Makes a Successful Push Message?

Mobile has changed customer expectations when it comes to messaging. If a brand sends an email that isn’t relevant or personal, most customers will simply ignore it. But an irrelevant push message feels far more invasive to the customer and could do long-term damage to the customer relationship. A successful push message delivers value to the user and, ideally, also delights the person receiving it.

Today’s customer demands push messages that are simple, immediate, and contextual. Brands can only deliver this by understanding customers as individuals, at scale. A successful push message is about getting the right message to the user at the customer’s ideal time and on the preferred device. Sending successful push messages requires optimizing for copy, timing, and device delivery.


Push messages have a character limit that varies by platform, so be sure to make your message count. The most effective copy is often short and to-the-point and offers a clear call-to-action. Don’t underestimate how effective emojis or emoticons can be in delivering a message in a short amount of time.

The best brands ensure the copy is personalized to the user’s behaviors within the app. Ideally, brands can also automatically optimize push message copy based on goal performance.


Push messages have a higher chance of being successful if they are sent at a time when the customer is more likely to engage. That ideal time varies for each individual user. Predicting the proper timing for each individual user can be tough to handle manually, as many successful brands lean on big data and machine learning technology to optimize for timing.

Sending a push message at the time a user is more likely to engage can have a significant impact on engagement in both directions. For example, sending a push message about a sale on shoes at 3 a.m. will likely irritate most of your customer base, but for those who work the third shift, that might actually be the ideal time to send the message.


The modern customer interacts with your brand on multiple devices. He could be using your app on his smartphone in the morning, browsing your site on his work laptop during the day, and then making purchases on a tablet in the evening. It’s vital for brands to ensure push messages go to the customer’s preferred device because intelligent device delivery boosts the chances of engagement and conversion, especially when this is combined with optimal timing delivery.

A successful push message also has the proper metrics to judge success. These include goals, conversions, and goal uplift. It’s important for brands to have a full understanding of how push messages are impacting the overall customer experience, so tracking opt-outs and uninstalls is extremely important.

Benefits of Push Messages

Mobile is one of the most intimate technologies ever created. It’s the only piece of technology that people carry around with them for most of the day. Mobile is disrupting every industry as more and more time is being spent interacting with these portable computers.

Because of this, push messages are becoming an increasingly powerful communication channel. The interaction rates for push messages are far higher than communication channels like email and social channels. Because of this, push messages have benefits for multiple steps in the customer lifecycle.

Onboarding Campaigns

Data shows up to 90% of app users fade if brands fail to engage. Brands can use push messages to augment an onboarding experience that improves retention and creates customers with high lifetime value.

Mature apps know the initial actions customers take after downloading its app that correlate with long-term, engaged customers. Brands can encourage these “virtuous” actions with push messages during an onboarding campaign. It’s important to incorporate a customer’s individual actions within the app into this onboarding campaign—don’t send a push message telling a user to check out a feature if you know he has already used that feature.

Conversions Campaigns

Brands can use push messages for effective conversion campaigns that can lead to increased mobile revenue. One example is an abandoned mobile cart conversion campaign. For an on-demand food app, the push message would be triggered when a user puts a meal in his mobile cart but doesn’t check out. The goal of this conversion campaign is to provide a gentle nudge to the customer to complete a purchase he has shown interest in.

Re-engagement Campaigns

Even the best apps will see customers fall off over time, but push messages can rekindle their interest through re-engagement campaigns or winback campaigns. The goal of these campaigns is to provide incentive for the customer to hop back into the app and, hopefully, become a long-term customer.

Re-engagement campaigns with push messages can spotlight new features, provide discount codes, or offer other reasons for the customer to open the app. The best winback campaigns are based on engagement states rather than sticking strictly to a time-based schedule. For example, brands should want to engage former power users faster than they would those who never showed much interest in the app or service.

When used correctly, push messages can increase customer engagement, boost app retention, and increase monetization. The best push messages incorporate the customer’s interactions with your service and include automatic optimization for the best device, copy, and delivery time.