You have to go way back to 2003 to find what is often credited as the first ever push notification – BlackBerry’s Push Services, designed to inform users of their incoming emails. Back then, the only way to read an email on a train was with a BlackBerry in hand, but fast forward 16 years and push notifications are a part of everyday life.

Research has found that the average opt-in rate for push notifications in 2018 was 53.3% – a huge market in which advertisers can operate globally. Push notifications have become part and parcel of everyday life, with media buyers now widely investing in this ad format on both desktop and mobile devices. But what makes push notifications so popular for advertising teams? And what are the challenges they need to overcome in order to use them so effectively?

An advertiser’s dream

What sets push notifications apart from other digital ads is that they not only look like alerts that users are used to seeing on their home screens – calendar appointments, email alerts, or Skype messages (or any other notification that prompts a user to take action) – but they’re not placed in web pages, where users are expecting to see ads. As a result, people are more likely to click on push notifications rather than ads on websites or social media. While the average click-through rate for shopping ads on Google sits at only 0.86%, push notifications, on average, achieve almost double that number, at 1.5%.

Push notifications have been recognised by many for their ability to not directly disrupt the user experience, whilst providing flexibility and urgency to show targeted content at the right time. This is why they’ve become so effective for advertisers. When executed correctly, these native notifications are delivered directly to a user’s device to offer advertisers direct access to target audiences without any intermediaries.

The benefits for advertisers don’t end with how well-received push notifications are, either. This style also creates high visibility and reach for ads. According to Accengage, the average reaction rate for push notifications is an impressive 7.8%, making it an effective tool for acquiring new users. Immediately grabbing the attention of users without being intrusive, it allows advertisers a means of re-engaging audiences, generating higher engagement and improved click-through rates.

Improving brand appreciation

Digital ads, in general, receive a large amount of flak in the modern world. Consumers often share the same experience of the pair of shoes that follows them around the internet, which feel both intrusive and irrelevant as they make an appearance on almost every site they access. However, push notifications can often be of great benefit to users. Though advertisers have to be careful not to bombard consumers with notifications, last minute coupons, offers and deals can make a user feel valued by a brand – and can even add another touchpoint in a company’s marketing funnel as a result.

Push notifications also play a prominent role in improving user experiences with brands. Keeping users updated with time-sensitive, well targeted information can be of great benefit considering the unintrusive nature of the tool. Through this the alerts don’t feel like ads, rather they’re there to give customers more information, or to let them know about upcoming promotions or offers. Amidst the sea of marketing competition, a gentle reminder goes a long way.

It may seem simple, but subtle alerts help to enhance brand consistency and improve customer care strategies, sparking interest amongst consumers without negatively impacting their overall user experience.

Not yet the finished product

While push notifications have profound benefits, there is still improvement needed in their use across the advertising industry. With that said, we’re certainly heading in the right direction. Brands are still figuring out when the best times to send alerts are, how many they should send in a week, and what kind of content their users want in order to gain maximum effect.

However, we’re constantly learning more about our audiences, and developing a better understanding of the users receiving these messages. What is already a very well-received ad format that generates strong results for advertisers has the potential to continue its presence within the modern digital ad toolkit.