Understanding what push notifications are and how to effectively use them to engage your users

Woman receiving push notification

Push notifications are an increasingly popular way to engage users with timely and relevant information. Despite their popularity, it can be tricky to understand exactly what push notifications are, how they work, and why they help improve user engagement. In this article, we'll provide a clear definition of push notifications and explore their distinct types and benefits.

Keep reading to find out:

What is a push notification?

Push notifications are messages from a sender that appear as pop-ups on a user’s device. They let you quickly communicate critical and time-bound information to your users, even when they are not actively using your app or website. You’ll normally see push notifications as pop-ups or banners, but how they show up depends on the device and operating system. It’s common to think of push notifications in relation to mobile devices, but web apps use them too.

How push messages work

Now that you have a better understanding of what push messages are, let’s see if we can clear up how they work. To receive a push notification, users must have the app installed and opt in for messages, but the app doesn’t have to be open for a push notification to come through. They can be scheduled to be sent at a specific time or triggered based on the user’s location. For example, a retail store could send a push notification with a discount code to users who are near one of their physical locations. Push notifications can also be customized with unique sounds so they are more recognizable and memorable.

The delivery method of push notifications varies according to platform. The Apple Push Notifications (APNs) API is utilized by app developers to send notifications to iOS devices, while mobile back end as a service (BaaS) software, such as Google Firebase Cloud Messaging and Amazon Simple Notification Service, is used to integrate notifications across devices.

Different types of push notifications

Push messages appear on users’ devices in a few ways, which can alter the push notification’s meaning. The two primary types of notifications are banner and alert. Banners pop up, usually along the top of the device, and disappear after a few seconds. Alerts appear but stay on the screen until manually dismissed. Push notifications can contain an introductory message or provide updates for specific events, such as discounts, game scores, or flight schedules, regardless of the delivery method. They can also trigger a variety of actions or responses — like a badge that shows up on the app icon, usually with the number of unread notifications.

The advantages of push notifications

Now that we know what they are and how they work, let’s look at some key advantages of push notifications:

Sending your own push notifications

Now that you know what push notifications are, how they work, the different types, and their benefits, you can start delivering compelling push messages to your users. Consider how often you want to send push notifications and the content you’d like to include, like a promotional offer or upcoming event reminder.

Adobe Campaign helps you manage the entire customer journey, including delivering push notifications, creating dynamic emails, and analyzing customer profiles. Watch a demo video to find out how Campaign can help you send exciting and timely content to your customers, so you can increase customer loyalty, boost app usage, and grow revenue for your business.