Push notifications are messages from an application that pop up on your device with information that the application team intends to communicate to their users. The application, in particular, may or may not be open at the time, can be a mobile or web application, and sometimes requires you to take a specific action.
Push notifications are increasingly used today as a strategic marketing tool. When done right, they help you increase user engagements, improve user experience, and ultimately retain users. Companies use push notifications to remind users about their favorite movie or TV show, remind them what's been left behind in their online cart, or update them about what's currently trending.
In this article, you'll learn about how push notifications work and some best practices to employ when creating and sending push notifications to your users. You'll also learn about some considerations to keep in mind when developing and sending out push notifications.
[Push notifications are just one of the 40+ features you'll find in CometChat's Extensions Marketplace. Head on over to our docs to see how easily they can be implemented. You'll see we've done most of the work for you!]
How Do Push Notifications Work?
There are two kinds of notification protocols: push and pull. The pull protocol is where a client (the app) sends a request to a server, expecting a response from the server based on that request. In contrast, a push notification doesn't require a request from a client before sending a response. Based on conditions, including downloading an app and granting notification approvals, the publishers (or app server) can send push notifications to the client without the client sending any request.
There are two steps to set up push notifications: activation and publication of notifications. To activate push notifications, the client (the user's app) sends a request to a notification service, like Firebase Cloud Messaging (FCM) (for Android) or Apple Push Notification service (APNs) (for iOS devices). These services are responsible for managing the notifications in the OS on which your user's device is run.
Once the request is received, a token that represents your app on that particular user's device is returned to the client. The client then communicates this token to your server, which eventually stores it in a database.
Once you have what you need to publish and send notifications to your users, you need to send a push notification with the token to the notification service. The notification service uses the token to determine the particular user to whom the message has to be sent and then sends the notification to the user's device. Here's a diagram of how push notification works:
Best Practices for Push Notifications
When used properly, push notifications are great marketing tools that draw the user's attention back to your app. But with the wrong approach, they can be the reason for which the user abstains, deletes, or uninstalls your application.
Push notifications can quickly become annoying and irrelevant, and it can cause users to lose interest in the application and your service. To avoid this scenario, the following are some best practices you can employ to maintain and even improve your users' experience with your application:
1. Plan Your Frequency
Frequently sending out notifications to your user can become annoying and eventually be a disturbance. No one enjoys spam emails, and you don't want your notifications to feel like one. It's a good idea to come up with an appropriate interval for sending push notifications with calculated reasons for that specific interval.
According to Business of Apps, 40 percent of users lose interest in an application if they get anywhere between three and six notifications per day. A good rule of thumb is not to send more than five notifications per week.
2. Be Concise
At first glance, your message should communicate exactly what you want your users to know. A vague or wordy message decreases the chance of the user paying attention to your notification and can even make the notification seem irrelevant.
Get straight to the point and use phrases, headers, or styles that will catch your users' attention. Check out this PushEngage article for some great examples.
A good example of conciseness is this iPhone usage notification:
3. Prompt the User to Take Action
The goal of push notifications is to get your user's attention. Including action items like buttons and styled links helps the users engage with your content and can navigate them to more information or to purchase a product.
The user should be able to intuitively determine the action items you're communicating. Use a clear call to action with words like "join", "buy", "view", or "subscribe" to get the user to do something rather than passive tags, such as "please join," "kindly consider," and "we encourage you to." This Twitter notification, for example, uses clear and concise calls to action:
4. Provide Valuable and Exciting Information
It's important to remember that your notifications can be sent to your users when they are busy with other things. If you are going to distract them, it needs to be worth their time.
Present the user with an update that will convince them to take interest. Imagine a new episode of your favorite Netflix series or updates on your favorite athletic event popping on your screen as a notification; there is a very good chance that you will take time from what you're doing to find out more.
5. Be Relevant
Not all messages have to go to all users. It's a best practice to use your user analytics to target the right audience. Sending a bunch of unrelated or irrelevant notifications to your user is a poor practice and increases the chance of your app getting uninstalled or deleted.
Study your users closely and send them notifications that they'll be interested in. Empathize with your users and ask yourself, Do I want to receive this kind of notification on my device?
6. Be Timely
The time at which your notification is sent can also help get you closer to your goal. You want to consider things like time zones, user active periods, and seasons/festive periods before sending out your notifications. If you're able to contact a user at the right time, you have a better chance of achieving your aim.
Considerations for Push Notifications
Beyond implementing common push notification best practices, there are other aspects to consider. Constructing and planning a push notification from scratch can be really tedious. You have to worry about what the workflow will be, how and when the notification has to be triggered or sent, what types of user devices and OSs are used, how a user will register on your app with different devices, what the user's online/offline status is, what browser specifications are needed for web apps, and so on.
Complications can occur, like notifications not being sent due to network error, user updates, or switches to a new OS; notifications not triggering due to bugs or errors, system downtimes, and delayed responses from the server.
CometChat, a communication platform that provides you with solutions for user engagement, helps take care of all these troubles for you while you worry about other necessities like the content of your notifications and the landing page that it will be linked to. CometChat provides you with support for various web browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, and Edge, as well as support for iOS and Android.
CometChat abstracts the complexities of push notifications, such as connecting to notification servers, setting up workflows, and maintaining the process, and it provides you with its push notification extension where you can quickly implement push notifications in your web or mobile applications.
In this article, you learned about push notifications and why they're important. You've also learned about some best practices to employ when implementing push notifications and sending them to your users, including sending concise messages, sending fewer but relevant messages to catch users' attention, and sending engaging messages that attract the user in a call to action.
While sending push notifications can be complex, CometChat makes it easier than ever. It provides you with out-of-the-box solutions and features, such as push notifications, email and SMS notifications, webhooks and bots, online presence indicators, chat SDKs, and UI kits. Try CometChat for free today and see how quickly you can get a fully featured in-app messaging experience up and running on your site.