Understanding web push notifications and how they function

Basic information regarding web push notifications, their concept and usage.

What are web push notifications?

Push notifications, also called server push notifications, are the delivery of information from a software application to a computing device without a specific request from the client.

Web push notifications can be sent to a user via desktop web and mobile web. These are alert style messages that slide in at the top or bottom right hand corner of a desktop screen, depending on the operating system, or appear on a mobile device in a manner nearly identical to push notifications delivered from apps. Web push notifications are delivered on a user's desktop or mobile screen anytime they have their browser open - regardless of whether or not the user is on the website.

How do they work?

Unlike pull notifications, in which the client must request information from a server, push notifications originate from a server. Typically, the end user must opt in to receive alerts; opt-in usually takes place during the install process and end users are provided with a way to manage alerts if they change their minds later on.

Any company with a website can send web push notifications after installing code (a web-based SDK) from a web push service on their website to enable them. No app is required.

For users, clicking or tapping on a web push notification takes a visitor to whatever web page (URL) the brand has determined.

The web notification opt-in process

Web notifications are a permission-based marketing channel. Before receiving a web push, users have to opt in to receive them.

The opt-in prompt comes from the user's web browser. This prompt is called a browser-level opt-in prompt, or browser-based prompt.

Brands can handle the opt-in process in different ways with both the opt-in process and the timing of the opt-in ask.

Types of messages brands are sending with web push notifications

For notification-style messages, brands most often send notes that fall into one of the following categories:

  • Transactional: Confirmation of important transactions (e.g. purchase, shipping, delivery, requesting service reviews, etc.)

  • Educational: Educating the audience about key events, products or offerings

  • Promotional: Promoting special offers or limited time opportunities to drive conversions

  • Lifecycle: Welcoming new or returning visitors, incentivizing first purchase, encouraging deeper exploration of the website, thanking social advocates and retargeting campaigns

Examples of web push notification messages

Here's a few use case examples brands might send to communicate with opted in web visitors:

  • Welcome new users with an offer ("Our welcome gift to you - enjoy 10% off your first order!")

  • Deliver curated picks to retarget users based on behavior ("Winter is coming. 5 coats to keep you covered.")

  • Abandoned cart notifications ("Your items are waiting - don't miss them!")

  • Recommendations based on a user's behavior or preferences ("3 Little black dresses, hand-picked for you.")

  • Upsell opportunities to encourage additional conversion ("Spend $5 more, get free shipping.")

  • Price drop on a favorited or wishlisted product ("Don't miss out - a fave top of yours is now on sale.")