The Power and Pitfalls of Using Browser Push Notifications

With the advent of browser push notifications, marketers and publishers now have a new channel to directly connect with their audience. Odds are, you’ve encountered browser push opt-in requests many times: browser-generated dialogs asking whether you want to “allow” or “block” notifications from the site you’ve just entered.

With the advent of browser push notifications, marketers and publishers now have a new channel to directly connect with their audience. Odds are, you’ve encountered browser push opt-in requests many times: browser-generated dialogs asking whether you want to “allow” or “block” notifications from the site you’ve just entered.

The ability to reach users immediately, no matter where they are, makes browser push a high potential channel for delivering breaking news or the day’s top articles. By using push to connect users directly with their best content a couple times each day, marketers and publishers can build valuable direct relationships with a broader audience.

That’s not to say browser push success is automatic. In fact, the wrong push approach can cut these relationships short before the first notification is sent. To implement browser push effectively, it’s important to recognize both its power and potential pitfalls so you can craft a strategy that doesn’t push people away.

The Power of Push

Apps for phones and tablets have been around for years, and many publishers use app push notifications to reach their audience and buzz their pockets to drive engagement, all without the algorithm interference of social or the deliverability challenges of email. However, the biggest obstacle here is usually the app itself — getting people to download your app can be tough, assuming you have the resources to build an app in the first place. Less than half of digital publishers have an app, and for those that do, audience penetration averages less than 5%.

With browser push, publishers get the same instantaneous reach of app push without the hurdles. Not everyone will download an app, but everyone uses a browser and browser push notifications are functionally identical to app notifications. They appear on your desktop or phone home screen, even if you are not browsing the web. And with all modern web browsers now supporting push on mobile and desktop, your potential audience is significant.

Even better, you have a good chance of converting this potential audience. Browser push tends to earn higher opt-in rates than other channels because of its low-hurdle opt in.

While some visitors may hesitate to hand over their email address, especially on mobile, you may succeed in asking them to complete a lower-effort action. Opting into push requires nothing more than clicking the mouse, giving publishers access to a sector of their audience that might be wary of giving up personal information.

The Pitfalls of Push

These benefits have led more marketers and publishers to incorporate browser push into their strategy, especially as increased browser support makes it more attractive and companies like OneSignal give them the ability to send unlimited push notifications for free.

Of course, wider use of push doesn’t mean that marketers and publishers are using it the right way. Those push subscribers who refuse to hand over their email address probably wouldn’t be happy to learn that free browser push services make a business of selling their user data. Making a serious push with browser notifications may require publishers to rethink the use of free push services. They’ll also have to rethink their push approach.

Many browser push strategies go awry at the attempt to obtain the opt-in. Often, marketers and publishers rely solely on the browser’s default permissioning request, that dialog box generated natively through the browser as soon as the page loads. While the default dialog does offer a low hurdle for your audience, it creates a high-stakes situation for you. Before visitors even get a chance to view your content, default dialogs hit them with an ultimatum: agree to receive push notifications from this site or block them outright. It’s hardly a way to welcome new visitors.

Without prior knowledge of your content, your invitation will most likely be rejected. And since very few people will dig deep into their browser settings to reverse their decision, your push notifications are essentially blocked forever, robbing you of a chance to connect in the future.

Growing Your Push Audience

The key to growing your browser push audience lies with a more strategic opt-in request. In order to maximize your audience and prevent an immediate block, it’s best to make sure the browser dialog is displayed only at the point when your audience is likely to convert.

To do so, you can present an initial message that lets visitors trigger this allow/block prompt themselves, making it likely that users only see the dialog box when they’re ready to opt in. That way, if they haven’t reached that point yet, you still have a chance to convert them at a later time, after they’ve seen enough of your content to know they’d like to receive alerts about it.

Deploying your own opt-in request also gives you the ability to customize your message, which can make all the difference when it comes to earning an opt-in. Like email newsletter capture forms, you can compel more people to opt in by first telling people what they’re opting into. By clearly communicating the value of receiving your push content, you can earn something more valuable in return: a direct audience relationship.