The Right (and Wrong) Way to Use Push Notifications

Written by on Wednesday, June 11th 2014

The Right (and Wrong) Way to Use Push Notifications
It's important to understand what's unique about push notifications in order to be able to truly leverage them. If you think they’re just text, think twice. Misunderstanding the specificities of push notifications can not only make you miss out on their potential, in some cases it may even be damaging.

Don’t Push Your Luck

Have you ever deleted an app because its push notifications were annoying and you couldn’t be bothered to figure out how to turn them off? If so, then you’re not alone. Unlike texts and emails, push notifications aren’t tied to a specific address - they’re linked to an app installed on a phone. Being overly aggressive can backfire, exasperating users. Properly using push notifications starts by making sure your notifications are welcomed by your audience. With the extent to which smartphones have become a part of peoples lives, unwanted messages can feel all the more intrusive. 
However, if used correctly, push notifications can be a very valuable asset to engage with your audience. First of all, anyone who installed your app in the first place is someone who is interested in what you have to say - not someone who absentmindedly gave you their phone number at the cash register. Unlike emails and text messages, push notifications don’t clog up inboxes, so they actually have the potential to be much less annoying. Also, they can’t accidentally get caught up in any spam filters. And, last but not least, opt-in aside, you don’t need to ask for a phone number or email address to be able to send push notifications. 
In a sense, push notifications are ahead of the curve, as long as they are used wisely. So, what is the right way to use them? 

Using Push to Pull in Business

Of course, the content of your messages will depend a great deal on your app. However, no matter if you’ve created an app for your business or a sports team, you should stick to one golden rule: Be specific! The fact that your store offers great service? Your customers already know; they don’t need a reminder. But, that hot new product that people have been asking about for weeks just came in? Push away! Give people a reason to want to receive your messages, and not just grudgingly accept them. One great way to achieve this is by directing users towards interesting - perhaps exclusive app-only - content, a video, for instance, or an online-only promotional offer. 
To further catch users' attention, with push notifications, you can define your personal sound alert, another advantage over emailing and text messages. The added value of this setting is that users will more easily identify the message as coming from you.
Targeting is another way to craft smarter notifications. You can tailor your messages according to the location of your users, only sending messages relevant to where they are. Also keep in mind basics such as the time of day you send your message. You should also track statistics and get to know your users to improve your messages. How many users open the app right after receiving a message? Are people responding positively to the products and services you’re trying to promote? These are parameters you need to keep an eye on to constantly fine-tune the frequency, content and timing of your messages.
How does using push notifications with a marketing approach apply even if your app isn't for a business? Find out below...

Good Push - For Everyone

Even if your app is not for a business, it helps to think about push notifications with the same intent. The question remains the same: for what kind of information are push notifications the best medium? In the case of a football club, push notifications can notify members of practice time changes, link to a video from the weekend's big game you’ve just uploaded to your app. It's up to you to get creative, because no matter the scale of the community you want to build inside your app, engagement is key.

User engagement wise, another great feature available with GoodBarber is the possibility to create User Groups to better manage your user base (for a local team it could be divided into team players, staff members, fans) and to send push notifications accordingly. Notifications can also be dispatched based on the frequency of use of your app. For example, you could send a message only to users who haven’t opened their app in a week or a month, just as a gentle reminder… and you can even limit your notifications to iPhone or Android users only.

Options are endless and can adapt to businesses and communities alike!

In short, the rules to make great push notifications can be summarized with two basic tenets: be specific, and don’t be annoying. Keeping these two essentials in mind when you send push notifications will go a long way in making sure you make the most of this powerful tool, and you’ll no doubt see the results in terms of your usage rate and retention rate.

Of course, we’d love to hear about your experience using push notifications! What did they help you accomplish?


In the history of your tickets with the support I only see a month old ticket, explaining that a bug was recently fixed, which might account for a significant drop. If the behavior of your push notifications still worries you, I would recommend that you open a new ticket to the support team, with attached screen shots, so that they can have a look at your project once again. Be as accurate as possible when describing the issue so that they can reproduce the behavior on their end :)

I hope this helps!
Hello, I have a serious problem with the Push notifications and I wish you could help me solve it. In fact, since more than 1 month and every time I send a push, the total recipients declines in a suspicious way within a few seconds after sending the push. In the beginning, immediately after every push, the Android recipients declined by 3 (none for iOS). That was steady and on a daily basis. Then, the lost number increased and a week later it covered both Android and iOS users. I know that people may opt-out of push notifications, but the way it is happening with me is suspicious (within a few seconds? and in a big number sometimes?). I took various screenshots of this problem and I'm able to send them to you whenever you wish. My provider sent emails to Goodbarber and he says it is a software case and they're working on it. More than 1 month later, still no solution. I'm thankful for your reply on this so that I can send you screenshots and so that we could solve this once and for all. Camille
Good article. Thanks!