Push Notifications – What, Why, and How

One thing that businesses do not lack is ways to connect with customers – email, websites, mobile apps, social media, PPC campaigns, traditional media, etc, etc. The problem many businesses face, therefore, isn’t establishing a connection. Instead, it is cutting through the noise so your message is heard. This is what makes push notifications such an effective marketing tool.

Push notifications enable you to push a message onto users’ screens without them having to retrieve it. It works a bit like the notification you get when you receive a text message, i.e. when you look at the screen you see a preview of the message without having to tap an icon or press a button.

Of course, a push notification doesn’t mean the messages you send are pushy. The best push notification services design their technology in a way that integrates seamlessly with users’ devices, and lets them ignore notifications quickly and without hassle. Therefore, so long as push notifications are used responsibly, they enhance marketing efforts rather than being regarded as spam.

In fact, users like them too. This is because they are more convenient than an RSS feed, but less of a commitment than signing up to a newsletter. With push notifications, the user remains in complete control of what they see on their device and can disable them whenever they choose. This is unlike an email newsletter where the user has to trust the business they are giving their email address to.

As a result, businesses use push notifications in a range of different ways. This includes:

  • To promote loyalty progammes – customers don’t feel like you are hard selling them when you give something back, such as promoting something connected to your loyalty programme;
  • To send relevant and targeted messages – the more relevant and targeted your messages are, the less likely they will be considered spam. For example, a pizza delivery business sending a push notification with a special offer at 4pm on a Friday afternoon will get a much better response than sending the same message at 10am on a Tuesday morning – because the timing is right. Another example is a retail shop using geofencing technology to send messages to customers who are in the vicinity of the store, i.e. when they are more likely to be in a buying frame of mind;
  • For customer service – to send customers alerts, delivery updates, reminders, etc. You can also use them to announce the launch of new products;
  • To promote website content – sending customers updates when a new blog is posted, for example. Push notifications can be manually sent but you can also set them up so they send automatically too.

Web Push Notifications

Web push notifications work through the browsers of your users. Crucially, however, the user doesn’t have to be on your website when they receive the notification. This allows you to proactively communicate with your customers instead of waiting for them to visit your website and/or devoting resources to encourage them back. Push notification services can be added to any website.

Mobile Push Notifications

Mobile users are more comfortable with push notifications than any other user. This is because they see them so frequently – an update on their Facebook account, a message to update an app on their phone, or a notification highlighting the arrival of a new email. For your business, mobile push notifications let you engage with customers, even though your app is not open. Plus, the service can be added to any mobile app.

Best Push Notification Services

A number of push notification services exist, but here are three of the best:


OneSignal lets you send push notifications to mobile users on Android and iOS devices as well as to website users. It’s easy to set up, you can segment campaigns, and A/B test. In addition, it is completely free to use.


PushEngage delivers push notifications to customers using either the Chrome or Firefox web browsers. It works on both the desktop and mobile versions of these browsers, plus there is a feature rich free plan in addition to premium plans.



Betaout is an ecommerce platform offering a range of tools and features including email marketing and SMS marketing as well as mobile push notifications. It includes in-depth analysis, and the initial sign up is free.

Push notifications are unlikely to become the only tool you use to engage customers, but they make a valuable contribution to an overall marking strategy.

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