An introduction to push notifications

A push notification is a message sent to a mobile device that typically is displayed on the consumers' lock screen in the notification panel.  The benefit of push notifications is that they can provide information to the consumer without them actually having to be in the mobile application that the consumer downloaded.  Examples of common push notifications include: 

  • Mobile games
  • Sport scores
  • Weather conditions
  • Flight status and check-in information from airlines
  • And in the context of Plexure, personalized messages and/or content sharing information with the consumer on goods and services from a given retailer

Why Push notifications work

Push notifications can look much like traditional Short Message Service (SMS) messages, but since push notifications don't use or rely upon a consumers' mobile phone number itself, push notifications will only reach those consumers that have downloaded your mobile App.  Push notifications are typically considered less intrusive than SMS, however on average they have much higher click-through rates.  Push offers a great direct way to interact with your consumer and can drive actions from the consumer that include:  

  • Increased sales (through offers and product notifications)
  • Improved customer experience
  • Improved customer satisfaction
  • Conversion of 'unknown' users to 'known users' ("Hi there", if you register for our loyalty program today, get 10% off your first purchase!").
  • Sending transaction receipts or summaries directly to consumers' mobile device immediately after a purchase
  • Driving consumers to other marketing channels ("Hey there", like our Facebook page and get a special treat!").

Components that are needed to allow Push notifications to work

For push notifications to work you need to have in place several key components.  While from a pure technical perspective, you could create other solutions that might not rely upon all of these elements, for the purposes of this article, we will assume it's a more typical implementation.  Also, whilst other operating systems such as Blackberry and Windows do also accept and utilize push notifications, this discussion is limited to Android and IOS. 

A mobile device - This is the foundation here and the channel by which you will communicate with the consumer. This doesn't have to be a mobile phone, it could be a tablet for instance, however in the case of engagement of your consumers in the physical world (like your retail locations) it's more practical that it be a mobile phone.  The only assumption here is that the mobile device is Android or IOS.

Mobile App - The Mobile App does not actually create the Push notification (although technically it could), instead the mobile Mobile App is intended to provide the content when a push notification is received and accepted. Also, it will provide the device identification needed to the back-end system that actually creates the content for the notification and requests the push to be sent by the notification service.

Push Notification Service (Apple Push Notification Services or Google Cloud Messaging- Now referred to as FireBase Cloud Messaging) - These services provided by Apple and Google are how the notification is actually delivered to the mobile devices.  This is mandatory, if you want to send a push notification to a mobile device, you must use the respective push service.  In this article we won't get into the details of how those services work, token exchanges, etc, however a more technical article will discuss those aspects. 

A back-end Content Management System, CRM, and/or personalization and engagement platform (Plexure) - This is the component which formulates the contents of a push notification as well as the actions associated with it. It is the system that requests a push notification such as "Welcome back Sally" is created and sent to a given user and then triggers the content in the Mobile App that is desired.  


An example of how a flow could work:  

1) The back-end system determines it needs to send a push notification to Sally that says "Welcome back Sally, check out the amazing offer we have for you!".  The back-end system then utilizes either the Apple or Google notification service to send that push notification to Sally's mobile phone.

2) The Apple or Google notification service receives the request from the back-end system and creates the actual notification and based upon Sally's device identifier, sends that push notification to her device.

3) Sally receives a push notification on her mobile phone saying "Welcome back Sally, check out the amazing offer we have for you!", she is also presented with two options "Ok" or "Cancel".  If she clicks on "Ok" she is taken into your mobile app, if she clicks "Cancel" the push notification is acknowledged and goes away.

4) If Sally clicked 'Ok', she is then taken into the mobile app, which requests from the back-end what content to show her.

5) The back-end provides the relevant content to the mobile app.

6) The mobile app displays the content that the back-end provided to Sally.

Considerations when using push notifications

Push notifications is a tool that can be used to help you reach and interact with your consumers, however like any tool, you should consider a few important things when using:  

Make the interaction meaningful - Every time you interact with the consumers, you want the experience to be meaningful for them, so resist sending out notifications to 'just say Hi', make sure there is a good reason for the interaction such as you want to share a great offer, reward them for their loyalty, share important information about a purchase or make their life easier. 

Don't send too many - To expand on the previous point, you also should whenever possible, be judicious with how often you send push notifications.  You want to avoid overwhelming your consumers or making them feel like they are getting 'spam'.  

Send it at the right time and place - This is key! Ideally, you are trying to optimise the timing of the push notifications to the consumer that will provide the most impact. You don't want the consumer to get a notification of an event going on in your store after they have left.  Additionally, you want to time it so they receive the content just as they arrive in the target area.  This can be accomplished through beacons, geolocation, and digital displays. 

Take note of your target group - You want the interactions to be meaningful and make your consumers feel more connected with your brand.  While there may be occasion to utilize broad generic push notifications, we have found much more success when making them as targeted as possible.  Also, the larger your pool of recipients, the longer it will take to get those notifications sent out.  Within the Plexure platform there are a number of tools to help mitigate this, however the larger the number of notifications you want to send out, the longer it will take to complete the process from the first to the last consumer in that group.  


For additional information about push notifications and how they might best be applied to your specific situation, don't hesitate to contact your Plexure representation or our support team here.

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