The Art of Push Notifications


That time when your phone buzzes indicating you’ve got a new email or a new WhatsApp message or saying that there are new episodes available for your favorite show on Netflix – everyone using a mobile phone knows about push notifications, we generally call them app notifications or notifications. These are these instant popup messages that apps use to send microcontent to their users.

Interestingly, mobile phone users’ tend to pay attention to notifications as they just pop up even when the app is not running or even if the user may not be using the app actively. On the other hand, many users do get frustrated by regular notifications if they are very useful to them and may uninstall or stop using the app altogether.

If you have an app in the store, you probably already know a lot about these notifications. You probably might have triggered a dozen of them already using one of the modern tools like Google Firebase or OneSignal. Well, push notifications are more powerful than email, since there’s almost no friction for the users to check these notifications, a click on the notification banner would lead them to launch your app or a relevant screen in your app if you did a good job building the app right. However, the important thing to understand about notifications is when should you trigger them for your app so that they help the user and create more engagement with your app, rather than actually hurting the users.

Make the notification actually useful

One of the key goals of push notifications is to increase the user engagement with your app, especially when you have a solid customer base. However, they can work against you if they annoy your users beyond an extent. Try to make the notification useful and important to the user. How do you do this?

If a user has installed your app, you probably know few details about him/her. Some of which you may have asked during onboarding, no? It may be a good idea to gather some data points (of course with the permission of the user) that may help you personalize their experience in the app. If you don’t have granular details of the user, rely on the analytics integrated into your app to figure out the user’s demographics and interests on a given day or week and use it to create relevant notifications.

For e.g. considering that you have a shopping app and the user has visited category ‘Kitchen & Dining’ more than once this week. Your backend may also know what specific product pages did the user check out in the category, maybe the user is looking to purchase a new dining set and browsing for a good deal or something specific. Well, that’s the data you want to use for your push notifications – a useful notification would be info on good discount offered on such a dining set (provided that the user didn’t make a purchase yet ;). This would be the most basic example but depending on what your app does, there can be many such signals to sniff for to create relevant content for your app users.

Of course, you can’t have a team looking for these patterns and manually triggering notifications, so you would need to build some automated framework on your backend or use an off-the-shelf solution which uses these data signals and triggers notifications for such users based on their usage of your app.

Provide options to interact

You sent a useful notification! But that is not enough, the user has to click on the notification unlock the phone and go to your app to perform an action.

the art of push notifications

How about giving the user some quick options to act on without having him go through all that navigation. These actions could be quick actions that just require a click, some of which are shown above.


Another important factor to consider is the ‘time’ at which you actually trigger these notifications. Everything is predicated on what your app does, which in turn determines when the user would be interested in those notifications. Have you noticed notifications from grocery delivery services like Amazon Now, Instacart, BigBasket, etc. when the weekend is nearing, that’s what I’m talking about. How many times have these notifications reminded you that you need to place an order for the weekend grocery delivery!

The time of the day plays a crucial role too. I remember when a popular messaging app started sending out ‘Quote of the day’ notifications every morning to some of its users – well, some users may like it and consider it useful that their morning starts with good inspiration. But there are many better examples of when you could time notifications for a user.

If your app is used by people across different time-zones, you gotta make sure that your users don’t end up with an automated notification triggered by your backend during the middle of the night, at the least! You really do not want to disturb your users while they are sleeping, period. To overcome this, many apps tend to delay their automated notifications to the morning or office hours especially if they are recommendations triggered out of user-generated content during the sleeping hours. Some engineering teams go beyond this and work on personalizing the time and frequency of notification for each user. In any case, your app should make a point to register and update the timezone of the user on your backend systems to have a good control over this.

I can guarantee you that if there’s relevant useful content in your notification and it is triggered it at the right time, there’s a 100% chance of a conversion happening on your app.


Remember what happened with email marketing, it was cool and worked in the 90’s because people used to read every single email. Today, no one reads email unless they know the sender, just take a look at your inbox unread count. We all get so many emails every day and we don’t read them all. That’s exactly what you need to prevent for your app notifications.

Don’t forget that there are other apps that send notifications to the users too. I have more than 200 apps on my phone, you can call me a power user but I believe an average person would have about 30 to 50 apps on his device. Getting too many notifications no matter how relevant, would annoy the user and the user would either stop using your app altogether or disable notifications for your app. Once the user does this, your window to the user’s device is gone! So always be reasonable in sending notifications, do not overdo it. Provide options in your app for the user to turn off notifications or set topics that he would like notifications for – some smart apps do this when the user is onboarding the app.

Utilize other avenues to connect with Users


If you have a good number of daily sessions and need more conversions on your app – push notifications may not be ‘the solution’ for you. You may want to use other techniques like in-app messaging or optimize the user experience of your app that leads to more conversions. If your app is more transactional in nature it’s always best to bank on the legacy channels like SMS and email to notify the user about important stuff. Notifications, in this case, can be optional and something that the users can opt-in for.

Based on what your app does, there can be other channels to connect with the user and probe more user engagement but that’s probably topic for another day.

Figuring out the right strategy for User Engagement your app

If you are looking to work on creating a user engagement strategy which includes push notifications, in-app messaging or automated frameworks that drive more users to your apps, please drop us a line on our contact page.