What is a push notification?

A push notification is a short, typically clickable form of pop-up message that is sent directly to users’ devices.

These messages notify users of useful information, including new product or app features, unread messages, special offers, among other timely updates. 

Done well, push notifications are highly effective and engaging marketing tools that inspire users to take specific calls to action. Ideally, these will add value for users by giving them information they want; otherwise, push notifications risk being irritating and interrupting other important tasks.

Specific types of push notifications that add value to users include:

  • Targeted news items, including weather updates, political news, and industry updates tailored to the user based on their specific interests. 
  • Behavior-based messages that are triggered in response to specific user actions. For example, if a user downloads a new app, these push notifications may remind them to complete a user tutorial. For activity-based apps, such as language learning or fitness apps, they may remind users to engage on a daily basis and keep up their progress.
  • Upgrades and updates that let users know about new features and improvements that will allow them to get even more value out of your product or service.

What is a mobile push notification? 

On mobile devices, an app can send users mobile push notifications whether they have the app open or not. These messages appear on users’ mobile device home screens and can serve a variety of purposes, from alerting users to new features to informing them of sales and promotions. 

In some cases, push notifications ensure users have timely documentation on hand, such as concert tickets for upcoming shows or flight tickets on days of travel. Typically, users opt in to receive these notifications. 

Social media apps, messaging apps, and email apps might use push notifications to alert users when they’ve received a new message or when a follower has commented on a social media post. The goal of these kinds of push notifications is to increase user engagement with the app by ensuring that users are instantly alerted to any activity.

Adding emojis to push notifications increases the open rate by 20%”

In some cases, push notifications may alert users to an emergency or hazard. Some federal, state, and municipal government entities use mobile push notifications to alert citizens of drastic changes in weather, such as approaching storms or wildfires.

Research shows that the average US smartphone user receives 46 app-based push notifications each day. Adding emojis to push notifications increases the open rate by 20%, and adding rich formatting, like images and video, to push notifications increases the open rate by 25%. 

Studies also show that restraint is key for brands using mobile push notifications. Even one weekly push notification from a brand can lead to a 10% reduction in the number of users who opt in to receive notifications.

What is a web push notification?

Web push notifications are messages sent to users through their desktop or mobile web browsers. These notifications typically appear in the top or bottom corner of the user’s browser window and resemble mobile push notifications. Web push notifications can be sent to any user who has their web browser open, even if they aren’t on the website that’s sending the push notification. 

Like mobile push notifications, users almost always have to opt in to receive web push notifications. But unlike some email or SMS notifications, users don’t have to provide any personal information to sign up for web push notifications.

As with mobile push notifications, there are a number of reasons companies may send users web push notifications. Brands often use them as a marketing tool to promote products and special deals. News sites might use web push notifications to notify users of breaking news events, and to spur engagement with their articles and websites. 

What is the recommended frequency for sending push notifications?

Depending on your marketing goals, the number of push notifications you send out will vary. Some high-activity apps, such as project management tools, may send real-time push notifications to inform users of daily tasks and project updates. These daily notifications are most successful when they are relevant and personal to the user. For other apps, weekly push notifications may suffice: for example, a personal finance app may send out a weekly recap on a user’s progress against their financial goals.