How to Acquire More Users With Web Push Notifications (Growth Hacking: Volume 001)

Marc Howard
Jun 23, 2016 · 7 min read

This post will kick-off a braindump series that identifies the most compelling user acquisition channels, growth strategies or tools that I have experimented with in the world of growth hacking or growth marketing.

While there are tons of awesome sites that already list growth tools the sole purpose of this series is to pick one then go deep into practical use-cases and scenarios and walk you through exactly how you can try it for yourself in your own organization. This month is all about web push notifications baby!

The Benefits of Web Push Notifications

What it is: Web push notifications are similar to those notifications that you get on your IOS or Android device but instead of coming from your phone or tablet they come from a website which you opted-in to their alerts.

A push notification on a desktop and mobile device

While most SMB, Enterprise, SaaS even micropreneur sites all primarily use email (which is still not dead BTW!) web pushes are a newer breed that have the following benefits over email:

  • the message is shorter and quicker to read
  • the message pops-up whenever your internet browser is open so no need to wait until your email is open and read
  • its a one-click link to your landing page of choice (note: link to a landing page not your main website make
  • To receive pushes, no extra software or plug-ins are required (other than having the Chrome or Safari browser)
  • Push costs are significantly lower than those of SMS, being equal to emails or sometimes costing even less
  • Push’s contents aren’t checked by any scripts or delivery systems, meaning your message won’t fall into such tabs as ‘Spam’, ‘Social’, ‘Promotions’ (how many of your emails fall into this bucket?)

Should I Use Push Notifications or Email?

Most people view push notifications with a greater sense of urgency than email messages (think time-sensitive deal or shipping alerts). Consider using push for more time-sensitive or breaking news kind of communication. You can do this by simply mapping your user personas into those that prefer more traditional email communications and those that are ok with a more frequent communication channel.

For example if you run an ecommerce business push would be great for new deals or time-sensitive coupons while email great for sharing your latest new fashion line.

Here is a Message Mapping Exercise to help figure this out:

  1. Determine the urgency level of your message:
    If it's something that they would benefit on acting on sooner rather than later use push; if it's your latest 5,000 word blog post consider email.
  2. Define your persona’s tolerance level for marketing messages:
    If you find your push notifications are getting higher unsubscribe rates then reconsider the urgency or importance of sending over push and if it would be a better fit for email.
  3. Map persona’s tolerance level to the message urgency level:
    More active users or power users may welcome more communication. Expect quicker action from push users versus those on your email list. If you run a travel agency for example your “Leisurely Traveler” persona would probably be more suited to receiving your “Summer Getaways” email while your “Weekend Warrior” may be a great fit for your “50% off Cirque du Soleil tickets — THIS weekend only!” push notification.
  4. Build and send your email or push notification campaign to that persona:
    (Next I’ll walk you through the many push notification solutions out there and some more real-world examples of when best to use.)
Web push decision graph (courtesy of Mobify)

How to Growth Hack Web Push Notifications

What many people don’t know about web push notifications (or fail to leverage) is that they can be fully customizable. Why does that matter? Conversion rate.

Similar to signing-up for an email newsletter, web push notifications also require you to “opt-in”:

Opt-in prompt for a web push notification

Taking the time to customize this message and making it a bit more engaging can boost opt-in rates. Here are a of couple creative examples of sites that fully customize the web push opt-in (note their use of logo as well):

If you have a high-traffic website, “turning-on” web push notification can give you thousands of new subscribers on Day 1.

Practical Use Cases

Promotional Campaigns

With the average web push opt-in rate around 5% and the top hovering at 28% web push is an opprtunity to offer deals, coupons and other time or event-based incentives for those that you could not (or did not) reach via your social media or email outreach.

Here are some promo campaign ideas with web push:

  • 24 Hour flash sale
  • Beta users’ invitation for a product or feature release (i.e. first 500 sign-ups)
  • Join Me at… (i.e. last chance for book signing at Barnes and Noble today)
  • Overstock sale — all excess inventory must go today (75% off!)
  • We’re underbooked — come join us! (i.e. last minute availability for a yoga studio or training event)

Content Marketing

For those visitors and potential customers that may be leery of signing up for another email list push notifications is a less of a commitment since they are not giving up their email address. With the vast majority of content marketing being via social or email you can stand out from the conventional communication channels, at least while push is still at its infancy.


Not only can push acquire leads or potential customers its real-time visibility can be quite a boost for webinar attendance. This comes in handy for those that may either forget to attend or those that received an email invite but neglected to take action. That last minute push can be just what's needed to get seats filled.

Ecommerce Transactional Messages

When we think transactional messaging that’s traditionally email alerts notifying you of a purchase, that you abandoned your cart, a failed payment, etc. If you’re like most people once off a ecommerce website it's “out of sight out of mind”. Email works if they are watching emails but more than likely they left are are either browsing another site or doing something else on the computer. Push is a great way to get them back to your site and unlike retargeting you need not wait until they are surfing the web again.

News and Media Sites

For mainstream sites like CNN, MSNBC and The New York Times, breaking news delivery has moved beyond the world of real-time email alerts. These and other major (and now many minor) news and media outlets leverage web push to keep readers up-to-date no matter whether you’re working in Excel or surfing the web:

How to Implement and Experiment

If this sounds like a new user acquisition channel that you would like to explore the good news is that there are many free (and paid) solutions that provide this and most can be setup on your site or blog within minutes.

Here is a non-definitive list of some of the most popular web push notification solution providers:

There are at least a dozen others however these are the more popular and especially work across desktop versus just mobile-only.

If you have a high-traffic website, “turning-on” web push notification can give you thousands of new subscribers on Day 1.

Future Thoughts on Push

Web push notifications are still only in their infancy — the following are some novel (and questionably creative) uses cases for web push that I can see happening in the next year or so (note: these are my views only and subject to being totally wrong — so don’t quote me at your next cocktail party):

  • Location-based alerting — this is in use today with mobile apps like FourSquare but a growing number of freelancers and consultants are now working out of coffee shops and cafes. The next wave of web push will be a platform where you opt-in to sharing your laptop location and in turn it will alert you to the latest area deals and events
  • Taxes — although procrastinating on doing your taxes is a favorite American pastime, companies like TurboTax will leverage convenient reminders when you are at your computer (even if you ignore the reminder emails). Since most of us do taxes on the computer the timing couldn’t get much better.

It's odd that mobile push came before web push but that doesn’t mean that more and more interesting and creative use cases will pop-up.

Are you using web push today — why or why not?

Growth Hacking for Startups

Content of the latest startup growth strategies, techniques and tools — and practical how-to use cases.

Marc Howard

Written by

Tech writer, crypto analyst and author of the forthcoming book, The Future of Work {According to Humans}

Growth Hacking for Startups

Content of the latest startup growth strategies, techniques and tools — and practical how-to use cases.

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