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Push Notifications

The Functioning of Push Notifications

Creating a push notification is very simple, but the functioning behind it is very intricate. The communication channels, API, and push services are tightly connected with each other to ensure the delivery of the push notification on time. Read more to know how push notifications work.

The Functioning of Push Notifications: A Journey from Marketing Automation Tool to User Device

Push notifications (PNs) are powerful tools for customer engagement and retention marketing. This tool stands on the foundation of technical compliance of the platform’s infrastructure, and the services like APNs (Apple Push Notification) and FCM (Firebase Cloud Messaging).

What is a push notification?

Push notification is a message delivered directly to the homescreen of the user who has installed the app or using a website. When a user downloads an app, they typically opt-in to receive push notifications by default. However, users have control over the delivery preferences for push notification. They can opt-out or turn off notifications at any time. But still, push notifications remain to be the most successful tool for customer engagement.

The types of push notifications

There are two types of push notifications - App-based push notification and Web-based push notification.

App-based push notification - These are commonly referred to as push notifications. App-based notifications are generated within the app and usually require the user to opt-in first. These notifications are often displayed as pop-ups on mobile devices.

Web-based push notification - They are also known as web-push notifications, and they can be displayed over desktop screens or mobile devices. Any site can send push notifications through supported operating systems and browsers. The appearance of notifications depends on the browser or operating system being used.

How and where push notifications can be used?

Push notifications can be cloud-based or app-based. They are built to work with a service provider that helps to send the notification. They serve as a communication channel utilized in various domains, including marketing, civic communication, and security authentication.

Let’s see how each domain utilizes the potential of push notifications to their advantage.

  1. In marketing - Push notifications can be a valuable tool for increasing sales, customer retention, and providing data for marketing analysis. They enable actions in the sales funnel, such as reminding customers of abandoned carts or re-engaging them. Well-executed push notifications can enhance brand awareness and reduce customer churn, resulting in higher click-through-rates.
  2. For civic communication and time-sensitive events - Utility push notifications have shown the highest engagement rates compared to other types of push. Local governments employ push notifications to deliver safety alerts, such as severe weather warnings, outages, traffic alerts, and community-driven information like missing person alerts and government updates.
  3. Security authentication- They are used as an additional verification factor for identity authentication to access your personal data or websites. Online banking and healthcare platforms often leverage push notifications as an identity authenticator, adding an extra layer of security.

    You must have seen Google sending push notifications to your device when someone tries to login from an unrecognized device. That’s how push notifications are leveraged as two-factor authentication and security check.

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Why are push notifications so important?

  1. Amplifying Engagement with Strategic Execution: Strategic timing, personalization, and segmentation are crucial factors that contribute to the success of push notifications. The average click-through rates for push hover around 2% - 3%, a well-planned and executed approach can yield higher engagement levels.
  2. Surpassing Email Open-Rates: Push notifications have an ability to achieve higher open-rates compared to email as it is delivered directly on the device screen. By leveraging this channel, organizations can bypass the cluttered email inboxes and reach their audience directly on their devices.
  3. Automation for Efficient Communication: Automated marketing campaigns and communication enables organizations to deliver information in a timely manner with push notifications. Whether it's delivering breaking news, public service announcements, or personalized updates, push notifications ensure immediate delivery to recipients. This automation saves time and resources while maintaining the relevance and immediacy of the content.
  4. Real-Time Responsiveness and User Satisfaction: Push notifications enable real-time responsiveness, allowing organizations to engage with users instantly.
  5. Facilitating User-Centric Customization: Push notifications empower recipients with control over their notification settings. Users can opt-in or opt-out of notifications, customize their preferences, and receive information on their terms. This mitigates notification overload on users and also challenges organizations to deliver highly relevant and valuable content to maintain user engagement.
  6. Valuable Behavior Analytics: Push notifications provide valuable behavior analytics that can inform content strategy. These insights enable data-driven decision-making and help create more compelling and impactful content for push notifications.

How does push notifications work?

  1. From a marketer’s perspective -
    A marketer creates a short and concise copy for the push notification. Using the tools to set up an automated marketing campaign via push notification, selecting the target user segment, and the time to send. Once the campaign is live, marketing automation tools help to send these pushes to the target audience.
  2. From a receiver’s perspective -
    A user who installs the app for the first time, opts in automatically to the push notification services. The user receives push notifications to take some action and engage with the app.

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  4. The technicality of PN (behind the scenes) - From the marketer to user, push notifications go through a series of steps to ensure the delivery. Before even the marketer could take the campaign live, a lot happens in the background.

    Push notifications are specific to each operating system. iOS has APN as their service whereas Android has Google’s FCM. Anyone who is making an app (the publisher), needs to enable the app with respective services. The publisher receives an API (application programming interface) from these services as a mode of communication with them. This API is integrated with the SDK (software development kit) of the app, which act as a code library for each operating system.

    Once the user installs the app, the SDK enables the API to send push notifications through APN and FCM. An API enables push notifications from cloud services to app or web push services. Once the marketing automation tool requests a push notification, an API calls this service and sends the message to the target audience.

    However, there’s a faster way to send push notifications by leveraging API calls for highly-time sensitive messages. But fundamentally the process is more or less the same.
There’s a key requirement for successful working of push notifications - Push Tokens!

Push tokens act as an indicator that alerts the APN and FCM service that this device has subscribed to receive push messages. Without a push token, it is impossible to send push notifications to a user.

Each push token is made by two halves - Foreground token and background token.

Foreground token:This helps to display the notification on the device screen. With user opt-in, they enable both foreground and background tokens from the services (APN and FCM)

Background token:This is assigned to all apps installed on the device no matter the opt-in status. It is mainly used to track app uninstalls. A silent push notification is sent using a background token to check if the user has uninstalled the app. It is never displayed on the screen.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, creating a push notification campaign with your automated marketing tool is a very simple and faster process, but the functioning behind the push notification is very intricate. The communication channel, API, and push services are tightly connected with each other to ensure the delivery of the push notification on time.

You can leverage the benefits of push notifications to improve your customer engagement and retention as well. Apart from the execution, a lot of thought and effort goes behind cracking the right content strategy and user segmentation for such push notifications. Springwood growth and marketing automation services can help you unlock the full potential of your marketing efforts and generate higher revenue.

Keywords - push notification, APN, FCM, Push token, customer retention, marketing automation, automated marketing

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