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.")