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A Comprehensive Guide to Push Notifications

June 27, 2019  •  By: Renee Chemel

Guide to Push Alerts

Push notifications are an ideal way to break through the clutter and competition online to connect directly with the consumer. But as with all marketing methods, there’s a time and place for this technology, and overusing it or using it at the wrong time can alienate your audience.

Here’s what you need to know about using push notification marketing to advertise to and connect with your audience — and how to keep those connections high-quality so consumers don’t block you.

What Are Push Message Notifications?

Push message notifications can occur in both mobile (Android) and desktop environments.

On mobile devices, push notifications are small messages that pop up on the screen to inform the user about content or updates, even when the associated application is closed. The specific way the promotional ads work on a mobile device tend to depend on the user’s settings: Some appear as screen pop-ups, others are drop-downs from the top of the screen. Some users set message notifications to appear over the lock screen, while others don’t.

The concept of web push alerts is the same on desktop devices. They appear as a clickable pop-up, usually in the bottom left or right corner of the screen. Depending on the technology behind your push message notifications or how the user has them installed, the pop-ups may occur no matter what applications are open or may only work when the user has opened a specific internet browser, such as Chrome.

In either case, the person has to click or tap on the app notification to open the related app and view the content.

How Do Push Alerts Work on Technology?

The way push notifications works vary slightly according to what type of device they’re being used on, user settings and the technology you’re using to make the push. But they follow the same basic premise, which is outlined below.

  • The publisher chooses an option (service) for delivering push alerts.
  • The publisher creates an opt-in for push notifications; you usually offer this when someone downloads your app, visits your site for the first time or signs up for a newsletter or other service.
  • Users opt-in to receive push alerts — a critical step before you can start sending things. Otherwise, you risk crossing lines of legality, and you definitely annoy consumers. On Apple devices, opt-in is always manual. On Android devices, many apps work via passive opt-in, which means the opt-in is included when the user downloads the device. Because of this, Android users are around twice as likely to use notification alerts as iOS users.
  • Once permission is provided, you can publish push notifications to let users know about new content, new offers or other information.

Depending on how the user sets them up and what options are offered, push notifications can:

  • Display a message on the screen
  • Display an icon or drop-down option that users must click on to get the message
  • Cause an audible notification, such as a chime or alarm
  • Cause a mobile device to vibrate
  • Display only when a certain application is open

What Are the Benefits of Push Notification Marketing?

Push notification marketing can be beneficial for both brands and consumers.

Benefits of push marketing to brands include:

  • A direct connection to the consumer. With social media and search results governed by powerful algorithms that don’t always play in your favor, the ability to cut straight to the chase and ping a person’s phone is huge.
  • The chance to get news to consumers fast. Planning a flash sale, launching a time-sensitive product or have important news about an upcoming event? Notification alerts help ensure your customers see the information in a timely manner.
  • Building a significant relationship with the consumer. When push notifications are handled correctly, they can help you build a relationship with the customer. They may come to rely on your notifications for certain information or to manage a process or function related to your goods or service. That’s a great position to be in as a brand.

The benefits of push notification marketing for consumers include:

  • Easy access to important information without sorting through everything. The internet gets up to 2.5 quintillion bytes of data added every day — the amount of data the world generates is so huge, we have to use an unfamiliar-sounding number to describe it! And while consumers only view a tiny fraction of this information, the amount of data available to them can be overwhelming. Push notifications make it easy to prioritize information in an automated way.
  • Not missing important updates. Consumers may opt to receive notifications about events, sales or blog updates so they don’t miss out on anything.
  • Increased functionality of apps. Many apps allow consumers to configure notifications that let them know it’s time to take action or remind them when they haven’t done something for a while. This can help consumers organize their use of apps.

When Should You Use Push Notifications?

It’s not all benefits and hurrahs when it comes to pushing promotional ads, though. In an article for Wired, David Pierce rants against the constant intrusion too many push alerts can have on his day. For this reason, you have to be careful how you use push alerts or your audience will disable them.

Here are some tips for when and how to use promo email advertising to ensure a greater chance at success.

  • Provide custom options so consumers can decide when they get ad alerts. Consider the eBay app, which allows users to request updates when very specific products are listed for sale. It’s unlikely someone would want a push alert every time an auction is listed, but they may want to know whenever a specific Denon CD player is listed.
  • Don’t use push alerts for every update or function. If users are getting many updates a day from you, they’re unlikely to pay attention to them in the long run. Try to use ad alerts for the most imperative communications or helpful functions. How many updates you can get away with daily does depend on the age of your app and what type it is, so you do need to test. Start with fewer apps and build up from there to determine where the best performance is found and what the tolerance for push notifications is among your audience.
  • Do some research to determine what times promotional advertising is most effective for your brand. According to Accengage, notification alerts tend to have the highest email open rates on Tuesdays, and updates during nonworking hours tend to perform better.
  • Don’t forget about time zones when you’re programming push alerts. It’s a good idea whenever possible to partition your list into time zones so you can send push emails out at appropriate times because one thing that’s sure to alienate a user is being awakened at 3 AM every morning by your promotional update.

What Else Do Publishers Need to Know About Push Messages?

When it comes to crafting your push message, know that shorter is better. According to Localytics, push notification messages under 10 words have higher-on-average click-through rates than longer messages.

  • 10 words or less — 8.8 percent CTR
  • 11 to 20 words — 4.9 percent CTR
  • 21 words or more — 3.2 percent CTR

The copy itself is also important. Even though the user subscribed to the message notifications at some point, keep in mind the clutter that can develop on a mobile device. Users get many push notifications, so yours needs to stand out, be clear and hopefully remind the user about your brand. Try to craft creative copy that provides an action-oriented message that ties to your brand.

  • No: Time to sign into your account.
  • Better: Sign into ShopShop for 50% off now.
  • No: New message for you.
  • Better: Stephanie contacted you on FriendApp; see the message now.

Ten words aren’t much, but they’re plenty if you’re careful about the message. Try to include the who, what and why with a soft or hard call to click. You have to make the person care enough to click or tap to find out more.

Finally, customize your message notifications in any way possible. This is not a one-size-fits-all technology. A push notification pops up on a mobile device a lot like a text from a friend might. And even though it’s not a text, personalization can help the consumer see it in the same light, making it something to look forward to, look at right away or respond to in a proactive manner.

Make Push Notifications Work for You

PowerInbox’s push monetization features let you score even more value and revenue from push marketing. Reliable ad placement in push notifications all but guarantees monetization, and our smart automated approach lets advertisers target specific users with less work. Whether you’re a publisher looking to increase the ROI on connections or an advertiser in search of more opportunities to get placed in front of the right audiences, PowerInbox can help.

Contact PowerInbox today for more information on intelligent, automated ad approaches that drive up revenue without alienating your audience. You can also download our eBook to learn more about push notifications and how they drive new revenue for publishers.


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Your direct-sold ads in email that easily translates into money. How? Check out AdServer for Email.

Drive revenue in every email you send. Learn how with RevenueStripe.