A push notification (also known as a server push notification) is the delivery of information to a computing device from an application server where the request for the transaction is initiated by the server rather than by an explicit request from the client. While 'push notification' is most often used to refer to notifications on mobile devices, web applications also leverage this technology.
APNS (Apple Push Notification Service ) launched as the first mobile push notification service in 2009. Since then, Google released and iterated on its own push service and Rich Notifications became par for the course on Android and iOS devices. In addition to these advancements, the W3C Push API sets the standard for push notifications from web applications.
Push notifications do not require a particular application to be open on a device for the message to be received by the end user, so a smartphone user can see notifications even when their phone is locked, or an app is not running.
The end user must opt-in to receive push notifications from a given application. An application usually makes the opt-in request on its initial installation, and the user may always grant or revoke consent for notifications at any time.
Each native mobile application platform (iOS, Android, Windows, Fire OS, Blackberry) has its own set of development guidelines and standards, as well as its own OSPNS (Operating System Push Notification Service). Most of these OSPNS allow push notifications to include text, images, app badges, and sounds. The OSPNS routes the notification from the application provider to the application user’s device.
To add push notifications to an application, the application publisher registers with the push notification service of the OS for which they’re developing. Then their OS service provides an API to the app publisher so that the app can communicate with the service. The app publisher then adds the SDK to their application, then uploads the app to the appropriate app store.
There are several benefits of push notifications:
- Cost: Mobile users without unlimited texting plans must pay for incoming texts and are likely to quickly opt out of SMS communications, while there is no extra charge to the consumer for a push notification to a mobile phone.
- User Control: Requiring a user to opt in for notifications (and always allowing them to opt-out) as well as flexible notification preferences give users control over where and how they receive notifications.
- Risk Reduction: Push notifications do not conflict with the rules of the TCPA, as these notifications are entirely opt-in/opt-out. Therefore, push notifications may help reduce the risks of harassing users and potential litigation.
- Engagement: Push notifications increase application engagement and improve retention rates.
While push notifications are now instrumental to communicating with an application’s users, there are some unique challenges raised in this ecosystem. Making good business decisions around what, when, and how frequently to push is critical to relevant and appropriate communication with your customers. For instance, respecting time zones and sleep patterns, as well as user engagement habits, can go a long way to providing useful notifications.
Targeting your push notifications to user segments and personalizing messaging for specific users can help ensure you aren’t flooding users with unwanted messaging. The goal of push notifications is to provide value to your end users, not just to provide marketing value to your business. Twilio’s Notify can help you orchestrate notifications across platforms, devices, and users to better serve and delight your customers.