What are push notifications?

Smartphone users are familiar with such notifications: “Alex has posted something for the first time in a while!” or “20% off all electrical appliances today!” It buzzes, beeps, and rings… and wants your attention around the clock.

Do you get notifications on your cell phone when an acquaintance has commented on a stranger’s Facebook post or when new series are announced on Netflix? Then you have activated the push notifications of the triggering apps.

Push notifications in everyday life

Almost every application on your smartphone or tablet independently sends notifications or push notifications. Without having to open the respective app, you can find out about new emails, Whatsapp status updates, Facebook friend requests, eBay offers, or other supposedly relevant information.

Originally, push notifications served to save time: BlackBerry, for example, introduced push e-mails in 2003 so that users did not have to constantly check their inbox. Apple then made push a system-wide feature in 2008, followed by Google in 2013.

How do push notifications work?

Unlike pull notifications, which require the user to explicitly retrieve desired information, push notifications are “sent” by a server. For Web Push Notifications (WPN), a website visitor must sign up for a notification service once. For App Notifications, installing the app is usually enough. In both cases, notification services can be canceled at any time, just like a newsletter.

Use of push notifications

Notifications can be beneficial for both users and advertisers. As a user, you conveniently receive all the “important” updates almost in real-time, e.g. hurricane warnings, breaking news, or flight information.

Marketers, on the other hand, can use push notifications to encourage their target customers to open an app in order to increase their engagement.