The Ultimate Guide to Push Notifications [2023]

The Ultimate Guide to Push Notifications [2023]

What Are Push Notifications?

Push notifications are on-screen clickable alerts delivered by an app or website to users on their desktops, laptops, or mobiles. They contain snippets of information meant to be sent by brands to a user’s device.

We all knew what notifications were but do we know why they’re called Push?

They are called push notifications because the publisher, not the user, initiates the updates. Push notifications allow businesses to interact with users after downloading the app or visiting a website.

Get Inspired By How Zivame Used Push Notification To Boost Conversions by a whopping 20%

Push vs. Pull

At the dawn of digital creation, there were two entities – clients and servers. Clients are receivers, while Servers are givers.

When a user visits a website and watches a video, what they (the client) are technically doing is requesting the website (the server) for information (the video).

Upon making this information request, the website shows the requested video. In other words, one could say they ‘pulled’ information from the website. 

Let’s flip this example and look at it from another angle.

The same site releases a new video and sends the user a pop-up that reads – “Your much-awaited TV show just dropped its second season. Watch it”.

Unlike in the previous example, here, the website sent the user a piece of information without a request from them, OR it ‘pushed’ information to the user.

This is the fundamental difference between Push vs. Pull.

Having said that, a really great push notification can really pull you in.

How do Push Notifications work?

With a fair understanding of push notifications, it’s time to see them in action. For starters, let’s learn about

The five moving parts:

Lifecycle of a push notification

That being said, let’s see how these moving parts come together.

Publication of the app

  • The app publisher integrates with the OSPNS.
  • App publisher receives an application programming interface (API) from the OS service. The app uses the API to talk to the service.
  • The app publisher implants a software development kit (SDK) in the client app. The SDK is a code library native to the OSPNS.
  • The app publisher publishes the app on the Google Play Store or/and the AppStore.

Installation of the app

  • User downloads the client app from an app store.
  • When user opens the app, unique identifiers for both the device and the app are tagged to the OSPNS.
  • The OSPNS passes these unique identifiers to the client app that sends them to the app publisher.
  • The app publisher receives and stores these IDs along with other registration details.

Transmission of the notification

  • The app publisher uses a campaign management platform to craft a message and uses the API to create an automated message to be sent via the API.
  • The publisher then uses the platform to define a target audience of users who will receive the push notification.
  • The publisher decides if the notification should be sent now or scheduled for later.

Create That 'Aha' Experience For Your Customers With Push Notification

How are Push Notifications Different from SMS and Email as Engagement Channels?

While there’s no shortage of communication channels today, ranging from the traditional ones like SMS & emails to the more new-age ones like Push & In-app notifications, many marketers still pin a huge chunk of their hopes on the former two. 

And it’s surprising, to say the least!

You already know about the worldwide uprising against people checking their SMSs – people just don’t open their messages these days. And let’s not even talk about emails’ open rates and click-through rates (CTR).

Then there are other challenges with these platforms. For example, SMSs are subject to content whitelisting. As far as emails go, there’s no guarantee when your recipients would open them (if at all they do), which defeats the purpose of timely & prompt communication.

Now, I’m not downplaying the efficacy of mailers. It’s a hugely important engagement channel, but the problem surfaces when marketers limit themselves to emails. Today, a lot depends on what you want to communicate & not so much on how you want to communicate it. This is why there’s a dire need to look beyond traditional communication.  

The alternative? – Push Notifications.

Push notifications solve for all of these. From a breadth of use cases to multiple customization options, push notifications are slowly becoming the gold standard for reaching out to customers. The idea that you can get your messages right in front of your users at just the right time (without asking them to move anywhere) with minimal effort & can customize your messages to invoke actions from them has paid attractive dividends. 

And rightly so! Businesses use push notifications because they have a deliverability rate of 90%. They also increase their conversion rate by as much as 7X as opposed to email marketing.

As a channel that is not only accessible but also can actively engage your users, leading to higher conversions, it’s an option you just can’t ignore as a marketer.

Pro Tip: To sum up, push notifications are different from SMS & Email in the following respects:

  • Extremely prompt
  • Very high deliverability, open & click rates
  • Deep linking to specific pages
  • Ability to use rich media
  • Easy Opt-in process without the need for any personal info
  • Cross-platform delivery 
  • Comparatively less costly, or in most cases free
  • No cap / extra charge for the number of notifications you can send

To see how brands leverage push notifications as a channel, read the case study on ALTBalaji, a Subscription-based Video-On-Demand (SVOD) platform.

Why Should You Use Push Notifications?

There was a time when marketing was mostly, if not all, about acquiring users. Businesses put zero to negligible efforts into retaining users, building user loyalty, ensuring repeat purchases, or establishing user advocacy. 

Thankfully, that has changed!

Marketers increasingly realize the importance of retention marketing as a real business case. And today, there’s an equal, if not more, emphasis on retaining users through various methods of user engagement & remarketing.

But while there are multiple acquisition avenues, the engagement channels are reasonably limited. You can keep going back to your SMSs & emails, but when you have an audience who doesn’t like to open messages & keeps unsubscribing from emails, there’s really not much you can do in terms of engagement. 

Enter Push Notifications.

And all of a sudden, you’re in a position to send rich media in your messages, ensure higher click-through rates via personalized communications & nudge your users to take action at the right time for your desired events.

Increase Your CTR By 40% Using Push Notifications

Follow the best practices

Following are a few of the most common ‘whys’ of Push Notifications:

1. The Right Kind of Users

There will be different stages in your Buyer’s Journey, and pretty obviously, not all of your customers will be in the same stage. This is why even your messaging cannot be the same for all. Imagine sending a “complete your purchase” message to someone who’s not even visited your product page!

Hence, it becomes imperative that you hyper-personalize your messages based on your users’ standing in their respective journeys.

Your ultimate goal is to push your users, stuck at different levels of your buyer’s journey, deeper down the funnel and enable them to complete your desired actions. And unless you do your targeting right, your objective could remain elusive.

2. The Right Kind of Messaging

Have you ever been to an art exhibition? If you’ve and didn’t understand the hype surrounding seemingly weird paintings, then you’re like me.

But we cannot just outright refute the credibility of these paintings. Art lovers and painting aficionados would be outraged.

The same logic applies to communications. You cannot know what messaging will resonate with which person; hence, it’s vital that you continually experiment with your messages & then pick the one that seems most appealing yet data-driven.

 3. The Right Kind of Delivery Mechanism

You’re not the only one who wants to engage with your users, right? There are a plethora of other brands that want to grab your users’ attention.

Let’s say your email lands in your user’s inbox at 1 am. They’re fast asleep. Now, by the time they get up in the morning and check their mailbox, there are 10s of other emails which ultimately push your mailer further down the queue, reducing its chances of being opened. As a marketer, you’d certainly not want that. So what do you do?

With Push notifications, you can choose the precise time when you want your users to receive your messages, specify the DND (do-not-disturb) times for your users, and send your messages in their respective time zones.

Ensuring just the deliverability won’t cut it anymore. A far greater emphasis ought to be laid on contextual delivery.

4. The Right Kind of Engagement

Let’s say your target audience is millennials between the age of 18 – 25. You know, today, the attention span of millennials is at an all-time low. Many apps are competing for this age group’s attention, and everyone is doing their utmost to create relevant content & communicate in the best possible way.

But is that enough?

Push notifications come with an added layer of innovation wherein you can compose rich messages (images, banners, carousels, GIFs, even videos), providing a memorable experience for your users and doing more than “just communicating.”

When top brands such as USA Today say that they saw an 18% increase in monthly app open rates by including rich notifications, it’s no joke!

Imagine if you could send delightful communications to your users right at the time, impressing upon the value they stand to derive by being on your app. Similar to what this brand does for its customers.

For an in-depth overview of how to maximize the value of your push notification campaigns, check out the Best Practices for Push Notifications.

Pro Tip: Your message strategy is more about the user than the brand. You are writing FOR THEM. NOT YOU.

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Types of Push Notification Campaigns

In the era of Conversational Marketing, people are very mindful of what they receive. As such, as a brand, you need to be prudent about not just what you communicate but also when you communicate – the timing of your messages.

According to a survey by the UK’s Data & Marketing Association (DMA), 78% of respondents said they’d immediately delete the app or disable the notifications if they were unhappy with what they receive. And there could be many reasons for this unhappiness – irrelevant messages, untimely notifications, non-contextual notifications, etc. 

Understanding your user behavior first could be the key to reducing your churn rate. So let’s have a look at some of the most common use cases for push notifications.

1. Triggered Campaigns

They are another very effective way to re-engage with your users. Like triggered email campaigns, triggered push campaigns are event-based campaigns sent to your customers once they complete a particular action.

Once inside your conversion funnel, your users receive a series of automated messages triggered by predefined rules, the aim of which is to move your users to the next funnel stage. You can send in multiple messages in a single campaign that a user will continue to receive until they complete your desired action & move to the next stage. 

Defining the entry points (who receives what message) will be crucial here. While you want to convert your users stuck at different stages of your funnel, bombarding them with too many messages might prove counterproductive, leading to an increased churn rate.

Remember that there are users in your conversion funnel, ready to convert, all with just a nudge. And the best way to provide that nudge is through Triggered Push Campaigns.  

2. Promotional Campaigns

Before I begin, let me debunk a myth for you. 

According to this study, people like to receive promotional texts – as much as 57% of them. And this data is just about SMS, not considering the other communication channels.

Notifications that promote a product or service’s offerings to get users to take the desired action are called promotional notifications.

Suppose you’re an e-commerce company running a two-day sale on your app. How’d your consumers know about it? You don’t expect them to just be on your app at the right time, do you?

If your customers don’t know about such promotions, no matter how well-planned or thoughtfully targeted they are, they’re just not going to act like you want them to.

For all your new offerings, sales, giveaways, and exclusive offers, you’ve got to notify users and remind them (to create a sense of urgency & FOMO) to open your app at the right time to take the desired action.

When browsing your platform, your users give you a lot of behavioral data. This is called first-party data, which includes product preferences, purchasing power, browsing duration, etc. By leveraging this data, you can build immersive tailor-made promotional messages that resonate with your customers. Promotional messages could be about:

  • Flash sales promotion,
  • Brand news,
  • Product launches,
  • Newsletter updates,
  • Affiliate/Referral programs.

3. Transactional Campaigns

There are notifications whose job is to deliver critical time-sensitive updates to the user. Such messages are called transactional notifications due to their transactional nature. They could be about:

  • Order confirmation
  • Payment success/failure
  • Shipping status
  • Return/Refund
  • Billing update/upgrade/ downgrade
  • Account update
  • Signup Confirmation
  • Account quota limit reached

But there’s a fine line between what your users want to be intimated about (what will excite them or if something is good enough to know) and what they might consider spamming. Just like any other campaign, your intimation campaigns must also have actionable components in the form Call-To-Actions (CTAs).

Pro Tip: Avoid sending the feel-good type of intimation campaigns unless your communication doesn’t concern a milestone (birthdays, anniversaries, or reaching a specific checkpoint).

A Marketer's Guide to Mobile Push Notifications

Measuring Your Push Notification Campaigns

What’s exciting about new-age marketing is that you can (and should) measure every campaign. Understanding the success of your initiatives, be it for acquisition or retention, is very important as the results will form the bedrock of your future campaigns, helping you better understand your target audience.

If you’re not measuring your campaigns & not nurturing your consumer insights, there’s no way you can market or even sell your product effectively.

Specific parameters assess the performance of your push campaigns. Let’s look at five key performance indicators (KPIs) that will help you measure your push notification campaigns.

1. Opt-in Rates

Measure the number of users who have signed up to receive your push notifications.

2. Click-through/Open Rates

Measure the number of people who click on your push notifications.

3. Conversion Rates

Measure the number of people who complete a predefined goal after opening your push notifications.

4. Time spent on the app after clicking notifications/ Time spent on conversion.

Measures the time your users spend on your platform after clicking through a push notification.

5. Influenced Conversions

Measure the number of times your users manually open an app after receiving a push notification (rather than tapping on the notification directly to open the app) within a given time frame.

6. Enhanced Delivery Rate

Views and measures the click distribution on Chinese mobile manufacturers like Huawei and Xiaomi. WebEngage introduced Enhanced Delivery because the device-level restrictions in these devices kill background processes while stopping FCM (Google/Firebase Cloud Messaging) & APNS (Apple Push Notification Service) from delivering a push notification. Enhanced Delivery expands the current push notification delivery mechanism beyond FCM and APNs.

Push Notification Performance Stats

Due to the ubiquity of mobile devices, push notification has worked extensively well for mobile publishers. That’s the reason why it was introduced for the web as well. A whole industry has established itself on the back of this simple messaging medium.

To give you an overview of the performance of this medium, we have curated some key stats from reliable first-party and third-party sources.

First-Party Stats

According to our study, out of the 2 Billion messages sent by enterprise businesses that use WebEngage in the last nine quarters, 87% of the traffic was via push notifications.

Besides B2B, push notifications also emerged as the widely used channel in the consumer market. Here’s the overall channel bifurcation –

Source: WebEngage

Here’s how App Push Notifications perform as a channel.

Source: WebEngage

Third-Party Stats (Source:

The average smartphone user receives 46 mobile push notifications per day

  1. Overall push notification opt-in rate – 60%
  2. Android average push notification CTR – 4.6%
  3. iOS average notification CTR – 3.4%
  4. Rich formats improve CTR by 25%
  5. Advanced targeting improves CTR by 300%
  6. Push notification personalization improves CTR by 400%


For marketers, it stands out as an engagement channel because it is accessible and actionable. From recollection to retargeting, Push Notifications are designed to give you a bang for the buck. With the right people to guide you when you embark on a journey of retention-led growth, you are only a good decision away from building a community of loyalists and advocates. Booking a free demo with us could be that good decision.

Push notifications lead to 7 times more conversions over conventional marketing channels!

  • Created: 25 Nov 2022
  • Last Updated: 25 Nov 2022



Dev Iyer Senior Content Specialist, WebEngage

Dev is a design thinker at heart with a penchant for stories, marketing, and technology. He draws inspiration from obscure places but mostly from black coffee. He has authored and co-authored renowned books like Death By Tools and Push To Pull: An Ultimate Mobile Push Notifications Guide. When Dev isn’t writing, he’s exploring new tech, gaming, binging movies, and responding positively to food.

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