11436 SSO

The Path to Push Notifications

Jul 09, 2013

Push notifications have become one of the central design patterns for mobile apps. What does it mean from a technical and business viewpoint? 

Let's explore by first looking at the 1998 movie You've Got Mail! It’s a story between two people (played by Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks) who hate each other in real life, but who anonymously engage with each other, back-and-forth, on dial-up email, and fall in love.

You’ve Got Mail! is the epitome of the way people used to interact with each other via email. During the advent of the Web, people refreshed email incessantly—pulling communications to them. The way people communicated with computers fifteen years ago seems so out-of-date.

However, a lot of businesses still communicate the way they did ten years ago, which means employees must refresh email to get up-to-date messages. While outside of work, people use mobile devices to quickly connect through text, social media, and so on.

Email used to provide people with brief reliable communications but today we receive far too much spam. That’s why email efficiency has decreased considerably. According to a recent study by Morgreet, only about 13% of personal and 30% of business emails are opened; yet, about 98% of SMS (text) messages are read.

With the explosion of mobile devices, personalized SMS messages have become the de facto way to communicate quickly and effectively. And push notifications have become the newest way to communicate with users via mobile apps.

Many apps ask users if the app can provide news or updates, which is a compelling entry point back into an app. Push notifications encourage users to perform actions and create context accordingly, so they can also help you dramatically increase app engagement and adoption.

In the comparison below, you’ll see the differences between the way email, text, and push messages are used.


Push notifications



Intended for app users

Originally intended for mobile devices

Originally intended for the Internet

Pushes messages directly to app users

Pushes messages directly to users

Pull messages to you by refreshing

Short messages, directs users to open app and take action

Short messages, easy to digest

Long messages, takes time to digest

Tied directly to app users, gives them more value

Can be tied to mobile apps

Limited use, not tied to mobile apps

Easy to unsubscribe, usually constitutes an app uninstall

Easy to unsubscribe from

Sometimes users can unsubscribe

Context specific to apps and the world all around

Usually personal, otherwise viewed as spam

Not context aware, often viewed as spam


In general, short messages, whether they are personal or commercial, pushed directly to a device, are more likely to be read. If you are like us, you check email, especially personal email, only about one or twice a day.

Today, a movie like You’ve Got Mail! would be remade using WhatsApp or SnapChat. Also, the characters wouldn’t spend time hovering over their inbox. They’d exchange short messages, using the popular apps that people use nowadays.

In our next post, we’ll talk about how you can create push notification in five easy steps.

We invite you to push notifications on Apigee today, with 10M free push notifications forever!

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