This post was updated on 17/3/2017. Please give it a fresh read for insights into latest statistics and new research around push notifications.
Website push notifications are clickable messages sent by a website to their subscribers’ browsers. They work similar to mobile app push notifications (notifications sent by a mobile app which land in your notification tray) except that they work on websites instead of apps and can be accessed on all devices (desktop, mobile, tablet, etc).
In this article, we’re going to take a look at 7 facts about website push notifications that you need to know before you start using this channel.
1) It Occupies a Unique Place Among Communication Channels
Websites use a number of communication channels to grow and engage their traffic — email, social media, SMS, and push notifications (both websites and apps). Let’s take a brief look at each of them in turn.
Email is one of the most commonly used communication channels. Email works because it is useful for delivering important information since it is stored in the user’s inbox unless the user deletes the email. A post on Cision lists reasons why email is the key to communication. We list these here for you:
1. Email open rate and click-through remain high
2. Email is the most consistent communication platform
3. People prefer email to social communication (for brands)
4. Email is far more customizable than social content
5. Email is mobile-enabled
Also, if you look at the email open rate graph (2006-2016), it will be evident that email has remained a powerful channel of communication for a decade.
As pointed earlier in the post, though email remains a preferred communication channel for brands, social media otherwise has a huge reach as well. People spend more time on social media than any other online activity. For businesses, social media is the new way of communicating and monitoring what people in the industry are talking about. However, engagement remains a thorny issue — only 0.07% of your Facebook audience interacts with your posts and the figure is 0.03% for Twitter.
SMS is effective for delivering time-bound information — 90% of SMS messages are read within the first 3 minutes. However, SMS often comes unsolicited since it does not require any permission from the user and phone numbers are easy to acquire. For this reason, SMS is usually considered to be a low-quality communication channel.
Mobile App Push Notifications
They over email for promotional content in that it delivers messages in real-time and has a higher response rate. (Open rates for push notifications are 50 percent higher than for email, and click rates are up to twice as high, according to this survey.)
Website Push Notifications
Website push notifications differ from mobile app push notifications in that, they also cover desktops. Desktop usage still accounts for 48.7% of total internet usage worldwide. Web push notifications help you reach out to this large a chunk of users globally.
Another point to consider is the cost factor. Building a quality app is an expensive affair and the ROI can be difficult to justify. If reach is the goal, mobile websites are doing much better than mobile apps. This makes website push notifications more critical since it gives businesses the ability to send push notifications without making an investment in an app.
2) It’s a Strictly, Permission-based Communication Channel
By default, whenever you install a mobile app, you give the app the permission to send you push notifications on your device. Websites, however, need to explicitly take permission from their users to send them push notifications. This is how it works:
A. The first step is to get opt-in from visitors. As soon as someone arrives on a website, an opt-in box is triggered. If the visitor clicks on “Allow”, he/she is added to your subscriber list.
B. As soon as a ‘visitor’ becomes a ‘subscriber’, you can send them push notifications from your website. These notifications will arrive in real-time. Clicking on the notification will take the subscriber to the URL specified.
An important point to note about website push notifications being a permission-based channel is that this permission can be revoked very easily. Users can simply right click on any notification and block further notifications from a particular site. What this means is that, your push notification subscriber list is pretty high quality, since the people who remain your subscribers are actually interested in hearing from you. On the flip side, it also requires that websites craft compelling push notification content to keep subscribers engaged.
3) The Push Notification Copy Plays a Crucial Role
An important aspect which plays a big role in the effectiveness of push notifications is the copy. Character limits for push notifications fall in the range of 40-120 characters. Because of these character limits, the copywriting becomes that much more important since the message has to be squeezed into a small package while still retaining its effectiveness.
Some tips for writing effective push notification copy:
Use a Clear, Action-oriented Message
Writing a vague push notification which does not provide a direct benefit to the user only adds it to the long list of messages that are read once and forgotten the next second. To differentiate yourself from the rest of the pack, practice writing messages that persuade the user to take an action by providing him with a clear benefit that he’ll derive from the offer. Look at the example below; the notification on the right is overall more direct and action-oriented. Whereas the left notification merely informed the user that a sale is going on, this one strongly encourages the user to start shopping.
One very common mistake is to try and write a summary inside the push notification. The best copywriters try to identify what will make the user interested in the page behind the notification, and create the copy based on that insight.
In the words of Robert Cialdini, author of Influence, we are more motivated by the idea of potential loss than of potential gain. This is also known as the scarcity effect. For example, if you have a sale coming up for your online store, try sending a push notification that says something like, “Flash Sale! 12 hours only.”
Similar to the scarcity effect is the effect of social proof. IBM’s marketing slogan in the 80s, “No one ever got fired for buying IBM”, is one of the most powerful marketing phrases ever created. This is a great example of social proof. In the below notification, the social proof element can be clearly seen.
4) Timing is Imperative
Website Push Notifications, by their very nature, require an instant response on the part of the receiver. This makes timing all the more important. A classic mistake is to ignore the time zone your subscribers are located in. Websites should be particular that each time zone receives the message at an appropriate time. It’s definitely more complicated than sending out a notification in a single batch, but that’s the kind of effort that is required. For more insights (and stats) on push notifications scheduled by time zone read this post on Segment.
5) You Shouldn’t Send Out Push Notifications Too Frequently
As I mentioned previously, permission to send push notifications is as easy to revoke as it is to give in the first place. Push notifications being a high-engagement communication channel, it’s critical to avoid inundating your subscribers with more notifications that they can handle.
Since website push notifications is a fairly new technology, there is no benchmark data out there on optimal frequency. At this stage, you need to carefully monitor your click rates, time on page, bounce rate and opt-outs after every push notification to find out which frequency works best for your audience.
6) One-size-fits-all is Less Likely to Work for this Medium
Personalization is nothing new for us. We all know that it works. Naturally, it is doubly important to avoid the spray-and-pray approach when it comes to website push notifications, too.
As noted by a Localytics survey conducted in November 2015, users expect highly personalized and relevant messages. Spamming them with irrelevant messages will only lead to user exasperation and increased opt-outs. For example, this guy is totally opting-out after receiving this notification.
The need is to segment their subscribers into different buckets based on users’ preferences or behavior. One way of doing this is to ask subscribers for preferences at the time of opting-in (for example, allowing your users to select the specific types of notifications they’d like to receive). Another very effective way is to go for behavioral segmentation i.e. putting subscribers into different segments based on their on-page activities like type of pages viewed, number of views of a particular page etc.
7) Click-rate Isn’t the Only Metric You Should Track
The most immediate metric that comes to mind when thinking website push notifications is click rate. However, if you’re only tracking how many folks clicked on your notification, you’re missing out on the actual conversions and value created by your push notification campaigns.
Instead, you should strongly focus on the business goals and website actions you deem most important. These will include purchases, free trials, form fills, ad clicks, among others. Tag your notification links with the proper UTM parameters and then use your analytics tool to track the actions of users who arrive on your website via push. This is the only way that you will be able to determine whether website push notifications are working for you or not.
In closing, website push notifications is a powerful tool in the hands of businesses to communicate with their audience in real-time and at a very personalized level. Being aware of these 7 points is critical if you want to maintain a healthy and engaged subscriber base and get more clicks and business results out of web push notifications.
Here are a few interesting articles if you want to see how websites are currently using push notifications and what the results are like:
- How SEO Hacker Increased their Return Visits through Push Notifications
- How MyEnglishTeacher got a 16.5% average click rate from this push notification channel
- Still Relying on Emails for Time Sensitive Deals? Sorry, They are Going Unread! – a PushCrew Success Story from Freeflys
- How an eCommerce store made 3-digit Revenue from a Single Push Notification