Product Design

What Are Push Notifications and How Can They Help Your Mobile App?

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What Is a Push Notification?

A push notification is a short message that nudges a user to act. Introduced by Apple in 2009, push notifications have become a powerful user engagement tactic in recent years. Push notifications help catch a user’s attention in a busy, distracted world with low attention spans.

Push notifications notify users about an update, remind them of something, or prompt them to return to an app.

Push notification by the Calendar app on iOS. Source: Apple

Websites, web apps, mobile apps, and even wearable apps can all send push notifications. With people spending between 5 to 6 hours on average on mobile devices, mobile app notifications are an exciting opportunity for developers, marketers, and app publishers to spur users to action.

Modern mobile marketers utilize different types of push notifications to nudge users and increase engagement:

  • Ecommerce shops use personalized push to increase sales
  • Social media apps send real-time updates to keep users up to date
  • Media companies send content to deliver time-sensitive information

Types of Push Notifications

Time-sensitive push notifications: These push notifications create a sense of urgency among users. Great for launching limited-time deals or announcing flash sales in the ecommerce industry.

Reminders: Reminders help users avoid forgetting something important, like meeting someone, completing a daily task, etc. Great for to-do apps, personal assistants and health and wellness apps.

Personalized notifications: Personalized notifications are used for sending relevant content to mobile devices. For example, a personalized special offer to convince a user to buy something.

Triggered push notifications: These push notifications are a result of the user’s actions. A daily mobile notification about a workout streak after you sign up for a health or fitness challenge is a great example.

Transactional push notifications: Transactional notifications update users about their recent purchases, subscription renewal, order status, etc. Banking apps, fintech platforms, and ecommerce apps all use transactional notifications.

Abandoned cart push notifications: These push notifications remind customers to complete their purchase. Ecommerce platforms also use these notifications to remind buyers of the time-limited nature of a deal.

Rich push notifications: Rich notifications include video, GIFs, emojis, or images for grabbing attention and maximizing engagement. Online food delivery players use food images linked to restaurant menus to make users crave and order directly.

Informational push notifications: Informational notifications deliver information and updates in real-time. Think of news apps sending instant updates with world news, or a weather app updating you about weather.

Promotional push notifications: Apps send promotional and marketing offers to segmented user lists via push notifications. Promotional notifications can increase website hits and conversion rates, and also serve as an affordable marketing medium compared to PPC, social media, and other channels.

Location-based notifications: Users receive location-based notifications when they visit a particular location. Think of Google Maps telling you about the nearest places of interest based on your recent travel history or a dating app reminding you to find your date in a new city.

Benefits of Push Notifications for Mobile Apps

Push notifications offer a great opportunity for mobile marketers to open a direct communication channel with users.
When used correctly, push notifications can be a powerful way to engage and delight users. Here are some of the benefits of using push notifications for mobile apps: 

Push notifications drive engagement 

With 25% of the apps used only once after installation, relevant push notifications can make a huge difference in driving engagement. Push notifications increase the app engagement rates by up to 88%.

Push notifications remind users about all the exciting things they might miss. When combined with interesting personalization tactics, such notifications pull users towards the app.

NYTimes sends a daily roundup of news. Users are sent news items based on their reading habits, which increases app engagement.

NYTimes sends daily news recommendations to boost engagement. Source: Taplytics

Push messages increase conversion rates 

Push messages entice users, drive impulse purchases, and can lead to a 4x increase in conversion rates when done right.

Users love personalized push messages. Discount offers, special deals, and insider access notifications work really well for conversions.

Companies use segmentation in their push strategy to improve direct conversion rates and meet user needs with relevant offers.

Personalized offers via segmented push notifications register a higher conversion rate. Source: Business of Apps

TripAdvisor — a leading travel platform uses personalized push notifications to offer special deals on hotels. More users are inclined to book a stay as a result of the highly relevant nudge.

TripAdvisor using personalized push notifications to drive conversions. Source: Marketing Insider

Push strategy boosts user retention metrics

A powerful mobile push strategy can serve as a magnet that attracts users, making them keep coming back. When done right, push notifications can increase the user retention rate by 3 to 10 times.

With so much information to digest daily, digital consumers quickly get distracted. They can forget about you, your app, and your offerings in a matter of hours. But when you send them a highly targeted and well-crafted nudge, it can catch their attention and keep them hooked.

Users who opt-in for push notifications use the app more often. Source: Invesp

Push powers ROI-driven marketing campaigns

Push notifications open a highly effective and affordable marketing channel for every mobile marketer. Remarketing notifications help promote the latest offers, almost instantly increasing the conversion rate.

Push-enabled mobile apps can directly send a targeted message to their audience, drive traffic (or conversions), and reduce marketing spend. For companies with lots of mobile app users, a thoughtful and targeted push strategy enhances the marketing ROI without increasing the costs.

BeyondTheRack — an ecommerce platform used push notifications to retarget its website visitors. BTR used its existing user base to improve core marketing metrics.

In just three months, users were spending 72% more time on the website, there was a 50% increase in returning visitors. BTR registered tangible growth in CTRs and revenue.

BeyondTheRack used push to remarket and re-engage users. Source:

How Mobile Apps Use Push Notifications: Real-Life Examples

You see a push notification every time you pick up your smartphone. Though there’s no limit to what message you can push to your users via notifications, here are some common examples:

Ecommerce platforms

Ecommerce apps send personalized offers, provide order updates, remind users about the items they left behind in the cart, etc. Push messages hook shoppers and enhance the shopping experience.

Amazon’s personalized push recommendations for shoppers. 

Amazon uses push notifications to update a buyer about orders and offer personalized deals based on shopping history/wishlist.

Push order updates by Amazon.

Streaming platforms and entertainment apps

A streaming app like Netflix uses push to keep users excited. Netflix is known to tease users about their favorite shows, give them sneak peeks, and more. 

Netflix’s push notification about the new season release.

Entertainment apps also use push notifications to remind users about payment cycles or resume watching something they left in the middle.

Netflix’s push reminder about updating payment information.

On-demand apps: Ridesharing, food delivery & other services

Push notifications work wonders for on-demand service apps like ride-hailing apps or food delivery companies. 

Uber uses push notifications to offer minute-by-minute updates and inform users of any change in their ride.

Push notifications by Uber. Source: GeekWire

Lyft — Uber’s competitor also uses location-based push notifications to ping users about any change in planned routes.

Lyft alerting users about route changes in real-time. Source: Twitter

Zomato — a food delivery startup leveraged push notifications to increase user activity and order volumes over the years.

Zomato’s daily push notifications are a mix of quirky, relatable, or time-sensitive messaging.

Push Notification Best Practices: Things to Keep in Mind

Practice caution 

Users may love push but everyone hates unsolicited messages out of the blue. Use push notifications judiciously in your overall marketing strategy. Remember, too many notifications can annoy your users and prompt them to disable push (60% of users opt out of push) or uninstall your app altogether. 

Utilize emojis

Emojis make your brand more human and more approachable. They’re fun and create an instant connection. Using contextual emojis within your push notification can increase open rates by up to 85% and boost conversions by up to 9%.

Use crystal clear messaging

Push notifications should always be short and sweet. Remember, your goal is to grab attention. Use concise and impactful copy to stand out and prompt users to take an action.

Fewer words create a larger impact with push notifications. Source: Upland

Leverage personalization 

The right personalization tactics can make your push notification campaigns blow up. When you push content or a right offer within the right context, users are more inclined towards trying out your offer.

For example, restaurant or food suggestions for a user who has just landed in a new city. A food or travel app could send a 50% coupon code on first order in the push.

Push Notifications: Do’s and Don’ts


What is the difference between a push notification and a text message?

A text message can be sent to anyone and is delivered as an SMS. A push notification is broadcasted to the users of a mobile app on a smartphone. Push notifications can be rich, targeted, and more sophisticated than a general text message and are a great marketing tool.

Can I send push notifications without an app?

Yes, you can use push messaging to send notifications to your website visitors. Visitors can opt-in for notifications when they visit the website and will get regular updates via their internet browsers (on mobile or desktop).

What is the difference between in-app notifications and push notifications?

Push notifications are messages that encourage a mobile user to perform a specific action within an app. In-app notifications move an already engaged app user further in the buyer journey.

Push notifications are delivered as an external notification on the device, in-app notifications remain within the mobile app.

Use Push Notifications Wisely to Improve Engagement

Push notifications solve a major challenge for mobile apps — engagement and retention. With contextual push notifications and personalized messaging, your app can turn into something more — a companion that never keeps the user out of the loop.

If you’ve got a mobile app and are still thinking about push notifications, you’re leaving a huge opportunity unattended. Start building your push strategy and utilize push to your advantage.

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