The Importance of Push Notifications in eCommerce

The fast-moving world of eCommerce is one that is sometimes difficult to keep up with. There always seems to be a new marketing trend or method, or something comes along that changes the way you need to approach your marketing. If you run an online store, you’ll understand where we are coming from.
Marketing is of course of paramount importance. There is no one market that does not feature strong competition. Even if you have found a niche there will be others in there too, so you need to employ all the marketing tricks of the trade to ensure your brand is the one that people turn to.

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Consumers and Communication

The most important factor in online marketing is undoubtedly the consumer and your communication with them. The eCommerce experience is a different journey from that of a bricks-and-mortar store. Your existing customers expect an experience that is geared towards them personally. They are shopping online not only to save time and money but to get the best service possible.

How do you ensure this service is delivered? Personalization has a large part to play in giving your customers what they expect. We’ll talk more about personalized messages and communications later, but the overall topic of this article is that of push notifications.

We want to look at what push notifications are and how they are important to your business. We’ll also have a brief look at the arguments against using push notifications and how to schedule and structure personalized messages. So, let’s begin: what are push notifications?

What Are Push Notifications?

Push notifications are messages that are sent to consumers by brands for various purposes. It really is that simple. Why have push notifications become so important? There is one simple reason: the rise of mobile devices usage. It would have been difficult to envisage even 20 years ago the ubiquitous nature of the smartphone now.

According to Statista, there were 3.8 billion smartphone users in the world as of September 2021. That amounts to just short of half of the population of the planet. These capable and versatile devices are overtaking the PC and laptop as the most-used mobile devices for online retail.
Push notifications are sent to smartphones by way of SMS – Short Message Service – or by way of other text messaging services. Thus, the eCommerce business can reach any number of consumers wherever they may be, and even if the individual is no longer using the company mobile app. We’ll talk about the benefits of such reach in more detail shortly.
push notifications
So, push notifications are simply messages sent by a business to a consumer to be read on a handheld smartphone. Before we move on to look at types of push notification messages, consider this: this sort of a text or SMS message has an open rate as much as 50% greater than email. Furthermore, some 61% of users who were notified of an app launch via push notification launched the app within a month. That compares to 28% who did so in the same time frame without the push notification message.
So, it’s simple, effective, and far-reaching. What sort of messages are push notifications used for?

Different Types of Push Notifications

Push notifications are used to get a message to a consumer. This could be one of many types of communication, so let’s look in brief at some of the ways you can use this messaging medium to talk to your customers.

Product offers can be sent by push notification to tell the consumer about new deals or offers that you have at your eCommerce site. This is an effective method of keeping your customers up to date and also can help convert interested leads into additional customers.

Order updates are widely sent by push notification using automated systems. A message stating ‘Your Order is Confirmed’ may be followed by one indicating it has been despatched and including an estimated time of arrival. If you use some apps for this purpose, it may also include a tracking link.

push notification on mobile

Content updates are important in eCommerce marketing and can be notified in this way. Here’s an interesting statistic: 64% of customers say they would like brands to contact them with relevant content information more often. The key word here is ‘relevant’, and we will cover this in more detail later on.

Exclusive offers, special deals, or flash sale can effectively be communicated via mobile push notification methods, and 75% of consumers are happy to receive such offers via this medium.
The above are four types of alert notifications that can be effectively used to keep customers interested and aware but as we are about to see there are plenty more ways you can use this simple and effective method of communication to build your brand awareness, keep customers on your side, and increase conversions.
Push notifications could be used through the desktop or mobile devices. There are actually two types of web messaging that can be used for communication purposes- web push notification and in-browser messaging aka. browser push notifications.

Web push notifications are messages sent to a user through the desktop web or mobile web. Website push notifications are usually delivered on a user’s desktop or mobile screen anytime they’re active on their browser.

Browser push notifications are in-app messages that engage only the visitors that are active on the website.

Mobile app push notifications are similar to desktop push notifications. They are also triggered by a downloaded application on your mobile device.

push notifications desktop or mobile devices
The next section covers the reasons you should use push notifications and could be an extension of the above list. However, we believe that the effectiveness of this method in dealing with the factors we talk about below deserves to be explained in more detail. Let’s not hang around, here’s our look at why you need to use push notifications.

Why Should I Use Push Notifications?

Before we look at how push notifications can benefit your marketing for an eCommerce store, we need to stress that it is not a stand-alone solution. Push notification needs to be part of a marketing strategy that involves social media marketing, email marketing, and other marketing channels, and all areas of digital marketing you may already be using.
It is, however, perhaps the most successful communication strategy in eCommerce marketing. A lot of that has to do with the high open rate of this sort of message – we mentioned above people are as much as 50% more likely to open a push notification message than an email – and also because as a direct message it is viewed as being more personal to the consumer. Below are some of the reasons why businesses and consumers warm to the push notification method.

Re-Targeting Customers

Online shoppers who visit your store and perhaps buy once then never return are ripe for re-targeting. What do we mean by this? Put simply, you need to remind them why they came to you in the first place. You have a database of clients and former clients. Every now and then it is worth running an analysis on this database to uncover those clients who have not come back. You can then use personalized push notifications to reach out to them.
Engage with them to discover why they have not returned, offer a deal or incentive for them to return, and tell them about new products that may interest them. This is a process that should be repeated regularly as the lost customer is lost income. The uptake may be slight but give the ability to reach many consumers with a single message it takes little time to gain back some of the lost customers.

One-Click Subscription

One massively important factor in online marketing is the customer database we mentioned above. The usual way to gather that information is to ask new customers to fill in a subscription page and open an account. This is successful in most cases, but many people do not want to give that information away or find filling in the form too time-consuming.
Push notifications allow you to send out a message and they can subscribe to future communications with just a single click of the button. The conversion rate for this method is far higher than for any other, which makes push notifications the way to go for lead gathering and conversion.

Engage with New Customers

Automated push notification methods include the ability to engage with new visitors when they come to your store. Send a message welcoming them and asking what you can do to help, for example. The effect of this is akin to a personal store assistant in a brick-and-mortar store.
There is no need for the consumer to give out information such as an email address. You have access to them via their smartphone notifications. This is a quick and simple method of approaching new customers and engaging with them.
Using push notifications also allows you to send a lot of messages at your request to many people with a single push of the button. We’ll talk about the content in such a message later, but now we want to look at one of the biggest problems facing eCommerce stores – cart abandonment.

Push Notifications as a Cart Abandonment Solution

It can’t be stressed enough just how serious a problem cart abandonment is in the eCommerce sphere. It’s so common a problem that it may lose eCommerce retailers billions of dollars per year across the board. So, what is cart abandonment, and why do need to pay attention to it?

Picture yourself as the consumer. You visit a store, you like what you see, and you put some products in your cart. When you get to the end and head to checkout, you are suddenly confronted with added costs – let’s say a delivery cost you were not expecting. You leave your cart and leave the store.
There are a number of problems for the retailer here. One is that they have lost the customer. Another is that they have items in a cart in limbo. Another consumer may come along and want the product in the cart and find it out of stock.

Here are the main reasons for cart abandonment:

Here’s the shocking part: in some market sectors, the abandoned carts rate can reach an astonishing 97%. Across all sectors, it remains around 70%. That is a great deal of lost revenue through simple to fix reasons.
The answer is to have your delivery costs displayed clearly, and also added to the cart total in the on-screen display. Also, ensure you offer a quick checkout option and enable payment by the most popular methods. So, where does push notification come into this?
push notification on mobile
Using an automated push notification medium, you can remind customers who have abandoned carts after a selected period of time to complete their orders. Perhaps half an hour, for example. By sending them reminder notifications – which we know is 50% more likely to be opened than an email – you can ask what the problem is, and perhaps offer an incentive in the form of a discount which is time-limited.

This method of challenging cart abandonment is a successful one. Because the consumer is likely to read the message, they are more likely to come back to you if you make it attractive for them to do so. Perhaps waive the delivery cost on the first order or offer a discount on their next if they complete this one. There are many incentives you can consider, but whatever you do cart abandonment is one area you need to concentrate on.

Remote Consumer Communications

One of the most impressive aspects of push notifications, and it’s one we have already mentioned, is that of being able to contact consumers without the need to have their email. The importance of this simply cannot be overlooked. It’s a form of instant communication. You have the ability to target customers anywhere, at any time – more about the time shortly – with any form of message you want. The added bonus is they can read the message on screen without opening it. It’s there, clear and simple.
Here’s an interesting fact: recent research found that push notifications offering a discount or deal would be subscribed to by 50% of those who receive them to their mobile. That’s quite an amazing take-up rate.
There is a phenomenon among consumers known as ‘fear of missing out’ (FOMO) which is often cited in marketing as being worthy of pinpointing. By using push notifications to offer time-limited deals and create urgency you trigger the FOMO response and may bring consumers to your store so they can be part of the deal in progress.

On-Point Brand Messaging

By using the resources you have, you can use push notifications to further personalize the message you are putting across. We mentioned earlier the importance of relevance in the message content. One reason people are less likely to open a marketing email is that they’ve seen so many that are simply not of interest to them.
Consumers prefer to receive notifications with personalized content. A direct SMS or text message offering information of interest to that consumer – and that group of consumers – is always going to elicit a better response. The demographic could be age, location, sex-related, or based on prior purchases and engagement. That the message is there without the need for interaction makes it more likely to be acted upon.

Personalized product recommendations based on past purchase history have been proven to boost uptake by colossal amounts. The consumer wants to feel that you care, and by using your database of information you can take the personalized message further. One research project discovered that open rates can be boosted by as much as 400% using this method.

While consumers do want to hear from you as we have seen earlier on, there are some people who put forward arguments against push notification, so let’s have a look at these and how we can get around the problems.

Arguments Against Push Notifications

The arguments against push notifications are valid, but each can be overcome. They are as follows:
All of the above is understandable, yet part of the versatility of the push notification method lies in the ability to determine when and where your target audience will get the message. Remember earlier on when we said consumers are happy to receive such messages – they will be happier still should it be sent when most convenient! Let’s now have a look at the importance of considered timing in sending push notifications.

Optimizing Push Notifications

While push notification is simple to use and also implement, some thought needs to be put into the timing of the message. The content is also important, and we will talk about that next, but timing may just be the most important factor of all.
There are three areas in which marketers get it wrong: the content, the time the message is sent, and the frequency of messages. Get these right and you are going to boost your client base. Get them wrong – or even just one of them – and you will lose out. Let’s talk about the timing of a message, and when you should and should not deliver.

The Importance of Timing

Put yourself in the shoes of the consumer once again. It’s 3 am and a message comes through on your smartphone. Given the time, it must be something important! You grab your phone only to find it’s a push notification message offering you news about a new product. 3 am is not a time at which you are going to respond favorably.
This happens all too often. Indeed, research has shown that as many as 63% of marketers get the timing wrong. There are a few reasons for this, these being:
Now each of these has many facets within it. For example, let’s say you want to target customers in North America. There are six time zones across the continent. If you send your push notifications to all at the same time only 1/6th are going to get it at a relevant time. It’s important to know the time difference between your location and that of your consumer.
As for a consumer’s previous interaction with the app you need to make full use of that data. Sending a message to a consumer who usually reads it between 6 pm and 8 pm at a different time of day makes no sense: you need them to get it when they are most likely to open it.
Furthermore, there are other times when consumers are less likely to open a message. During working hours, for example, and on Sundays. Indeed, in France, it is against the law to send marketing material on a Sunday. By carefully analyzing the data you have by geographic and demographic means, you can determine when and where messages are more favorably received.
So, in summary, make an effort to send messages when they will be opened, and not when they will be wasted. This is to make the best use of your time as well as that of the customer. Now let’s have a brief bit about the frequency of messages.,

Never Too Many or Too Few

Here’s the thing; if you get messages several times a day from a business you can guarantee a great deal of those is going to be irrelevant. They have not been targeted to an audience, but simply sent in general. That approach puts the client off straight away. The trick to keeping in touch as regularly as the consumer wants is to ask them. When you first engage, ask if they would like to receive special offers, a newsletter, or other communications on – for example – a weekly basis. This not only enables them to opt in or out of your marketing communication but also tells them what to expect from you. If they agree, then give them what they agreed to and no more or no less.
We’re nearing the end of this article now and we’ve covered some important topics, with just a couple left. We need to have a look at how a push notification message should be structured.

How to Structure a Push Notification Message?

The big word here is one we’ve already used: personalization. No matter what the reason for your message, it needs to be personalized to the consumer. Of course, the point of a system such as this is that you do not need to create hundreds of personalized push notifications. However, you have information in your database about the customer’s prior engagement with you, what they buy and when they buy it, that can help you put together a group message for a certain demographic. Personalized notifications should be an integral part of your personalized marketing strategy.
Let’s briefly revisit the types of push notification messages we mentioned earlier on and see what should go in them.

The product offer message should be a concise and simple invitation to partake of an offer or deal. Keep it short and friendly, not entirely formal, and include a link that when clicked takes them to the product page and sets off the timer. This is the best way of engaging with a customer to full effect.

The order update notification is a simple message telling the customer you have received their order, have processed it, or it is on its way. The latter may include a link to a tracking option with information on the ETA. This sort of message reassures the customer you are important to them.

Content update messages were the third type we mentioned and should include information that is relevant to the customer. New products they may be interested in, for example, based upon their previous engagement or purchase history, or their location, age, or sex. This is another message where personalization is to the fore.

We should also take a brief step back to the cart abandonment problem. A cart abandonment message should ask what you can do to help and reassure the customer they are important to you, as well as offering a possible enticement for them to complete the transaction. This message is one of the most important of all and its delivery and tone needs to be timely and convincing.


We hope that this article has helped you understand why push notification messaging is vital to any eCommerce store or service’s marketing campaign. The mass move towards using smartphones as the communication device of choice plays not only into the consumer’s hands in terms of convenience for them but also into the hands of the retailer who now has a direct link to the consumer.
By devising push notification campaigns for all of the above aspects of an eCommerce business it is possible to simply and streamline lead gathering, customer retention, and many other aspects of building a brand without the need for great expense and complex software. Without a doubt push notification is eclipsing email as the marketing communication medium of choice, and if you are not already up to speed now is the time to take steps to get ahead of the opposition.

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