Why Do Websites Want To Send Notifications?

If you have been browsing any modern web application, you more than likely have been prompted to allow notifications to your browser. This is becoming more common as e-commerce, news, and product-focused websites try to open a new channel of communication to their users.

The constant pestering for access can become a nuisance but it also must be for good reason, right? So, why exactly do websites want to send notifications?

Well, as more web sites heavily rely on returning customers the importance of communication methods such as push notifications increases significantly. Once notifications are enabled, a website has a more direct channel of communication to its users, allowing them to entice the user back to the site with news, promotions and general updates.

Notifications have been an effective way of communicating with users on mobile phones for over a decade. It is a tried and tested formula on mobile and its value has been clearly demonstrated over the years, so its implementation for browsers was inevitable.

There are a handful of common use cases where notifications provide a lot of value to a website. Let’s explore some of these options.

When Do Website Use Notifications?

As we have already established, the use of notifications opens up a line of communication between website and user that wouldn’t otherwise exist. This creates many opportunities for a website to utilize this method to increased user retention and revenue. On the flip side, there is a delicate balance that must be struck between the website and the user.

Notifications can be counterintuitive if they become too invasive for the user. This not only leads to notifications being disabled but also a possible unsubscription from the website’s product or service.

Many industries have already adapted notifications and have since benefitted immensely from them:

E-commerce

When we think of the goals of an e-commerce site, the use cases for browser notifications become immediately apparent. There are so many different facets to generate revenue that holding on to the user’s session is of utmost importance.

In fact, more than 22% of push notifications user resides in the ecommerce industry. The most common scenarios are:

  • Sales promotions
  • Time-sensitive deals
  • Personalized promotions
  • New product announcements
  • Abandoned Carts

With this in mind, any eCommerce website will prioritize a returning user over all else. After all, the likelihood of a returning user converting to a sale is significantly higher as they have arrived back at the website for a specific purpose.

This has typically been achieved via email, a user will typically receive an email about either a promotion or an abandoned cart.

So, how effective has this been the past? Well, on average, e-commerce sites can expect a 2% click-through rate,(CTR). This number is on the decline due to fatigue with high volumes of email promotions.

Additionally, most email suits tend to filter promotions into their own inbox, which reduces the chance of a user ever bothering to see it. This creates ample opportunity for push notifications to be more effective.

Some estimates have estimated the click rate from push notifications to be 4-8 times that of email notifications. Provided that the user has opted-in to receive notifications, the potential of this increased CTR allows push notifications to be an extremely powerful permission-based medium for increasing revenue.

News

Mobile news applications have been utilizing push notifications for many years. It enabled news outlets to send out daily updates to their readers. This came especially handy for breaking news alerts, where drawing the immediate attention from the user was particularly important.

The trend for these breaking news strategies started to change for some major publishers. Just using these types of notifications for major news alerts was seen as a bit shortsighted, this is evident from the The Times completely left this strategy behind in 2016.

Instead, publishers sought to draw their reader’s attention to promote some of their stronger journalism and major exclusive stories. This is thought to be a more effective strategy as breaking news stories are often too noisy and framed with excessive urgency.

A more standard news notification to promoting better quality analysis articles proves to be a better method to improve daily interactions with readers.

This is just as applicable to news websites sending a push notification to users browser. After all, the goal of a news website is to reengage the user on a daily basis, leveraging push notifications is a very effective way of achieving this.

A key metric for tracking tangible value for a news website is called Subscriber Lifetime Value(SLTV)

Essentially, SLTV is an estimate of the average revenue that a customer will generate throughout their lifetime as a subscriber. It is frequently used across many industries with subscription modals. 

For news push notifications, it is thought that SLTV can increase in variety of ways, including:

  • Description Images
    • Push notifications that use images increases their SLTV value by up to 10%
    • Images in notifications add an extra layer of engagement
  • Frequent Alerts
    • Non-invasive notifications send out up to 4-8 times a day is capable of increasing SLTV by up to 40% 
    • Essentially the news website can become a habit for a reader with this direct communication from the notification.
  • Personalise
    • Based on what they have read before, notifications can be personalized for each reader
    •  This has the potential to increase SLTV by 20%
    • This opens up a whole new aspect of analysis for user trends, the personalization of a notification will require sufficient knowledge of users previous new browsing habits
  • Engagement dictates relevancy
    • Users that a more engaged from notifications are more likely to convert on articles that are not as popular
    • Inversely, users that are less engaged overall, are likely to only click on the most popular articles

For the news industry, push notifications really seem to open up a whole world of analysis of a readers habits.

Education

Online learning has seen rapid increases in popularity over the last ten years. With users having access to such a wide range of educational topics across many different industries, there is a natural inclination to keep these users engaged for as long as possible.

Education-based websites are no different to other industries, they want user retention, as well as wanting users to learn on their own platforms. Essentially, an education website wants to inspire the user to learn more, spending more time on their platform and buying more courses.

Giving a user a gentle reminder to learn and engage can be the difference between someone sitting down and doing a full course and someone narrowly missing the opportunity.

Because the overall time that an individual has to commit to learning a full course can be quite long, drawing a user in via browser push notifications is a massive win for any educational website.

There are a variety of interesting ways that this can be achieved:

  • Encourage the user to a course with an interesting fact or mock test
  • Personalizing the notification with recommended course based on what they have completed already
  • Using reminder notifications, education sites can inform users of a course that’s been left incomplete.
    • Additionally, the sites can reemphasise the importance of a lesson they are currently learning
    • A tactic commonly seen by these sites is to send a user notification during the post-lunch slump (around 2:45) to encourage the user to refocus.
    • With gamification also being a common method of increasing CTR, virtual rewards are frequently used. including experience points, badges and streaks. Leaderboards are also used via push notifications to give the user an indication of where they rank amongst others
    •  

Push notifications are also fast becoming a staple for educational websites because of email marketing click rates declining. Similar to e-commerce sites, there has been a noticeable reduction of email CTRS because of email fatigue and email suites filtering promotions.

According to MailChimp, 23.42% of emails from education and training sites are opened on average. While this stat is not as drastic of a reduction as e-commerce sites, there is still an opportunity to improve this via push notifications. Therefore, education and training sites have really invested time into how they can utilize push notifications effectively.

Overall, push notifications are a relatively cheap feature to implement for any website. It does risk alienating users who aren’t very engaged or who find the notifications too invasive.

However, the general trend looks like marketers are moving from email notifications to push notifications because of the potential extra value they bring when it comes to additional clicks and user engagement. There is an infinite amount of creative way to use a push notification, with some tactics being industry-specific.

With the use of push notifications on the rise, it bodes well for the website’s attempting to increase general CTR and conversion. There is a surprising amount of depth to creating notifications, and each industry has its own unique personalization methods to design the most relevant notification for its users.

While I initially thought that push notifications in browsers were a cheap way to get my attention, after seeing the various implementations and careful considerations that competent websites take into account before sending one out. It’s clear that it’s one of the most effective marketing channels available for increasing user interaction.

Gareth Dunne

Senior JavaScript Engineer and creator of JSdiaries. Passionate about the latest in web technologies and how it can provide value for my clients.