How Effective Are Web Push Notifications For Marketing? [IN PROGRESS]

Push notifications have caused a lot of annoyance over the past few years. These are the small popup windows on websites that look like this:

If you accidentally click ‘Allow’, the website will then send you alerts that look like this:

It’s easy to see the appeal of push notifications for marketers compared to the more traditional email marketing, since it’s far easier to get people to opt-in (they don’t have to type anything) and you can’t run into potential spam problems. As such, tons and tons of big-name sites have used push notifications, and loads of push notification providers have sprung up that make it easy for webmasters to integrate push notifications to their website.

But how actually effective are push notifications? Do they actually deliver similar (or better) results to email marketing, and what sites should use them? As I have no personal experience with push notifications and certainly never intend to use them, I put out this query:

How effective are website push notifications right now? Would like to hear from webmasters who have used web push and can share traffic numbers, especially how it compares to email marketing.

So far we’ve got just a small handful of comments from people who have actually used push notifications (if you have experience using push notifications as a marketer, please add a comment here), which I’ve listed below. I very much hope to be able to add to this article in the future.

I have quite a few clients and colleagues who make good money with push notifications. Long story short, push notifications can generate lots of revenue, but you have to have other things in place for it to work. First, you generally need a lot of traffic. Only some of your users are going to opt into push notifications, and of those, only a portion will click on them when they get them. Those percentages can be small, and they're getting smaller as push notifications gain popular and people develop notification blindness. The sites we've seen do best with push notification are the ones with the biggest audiences. Second, you generally need something to sell. Pushy notifications are rarely worth it for the traffic alone. Instead, the companies who are doing best with them have a funnel in place to steer traffic to revenue-generating pages. That could mean sending a push notification about a blog posts that then directs people to a sales page, or it could mean pushing out a new product. Whatever the case, push notifications usually only work if you're pushing people into money-generating places.

--Perrin Carrell,


I use push notifications on my site and while I still use them because it gives me a little PUSH when they first go out, the actual click through rate is only 3%- an alarmingly low ROI. Right now, my fee isn't enormous and I cull the list every 3 months to keep it low. If that changes, then I would get rid of them all together. I have a much higher click rate using traditional email lists.

--Jessica Formicola, Savory Experiments


We’ve seen a conversion rate for Push notifications that far exceeds that of email.

They might be “annoying” but they work — especially if done effectively.

The key is NOT to simply annoy your visitors asking them to join a list when they don’t even know anything about you. Instead create rules about when your push notification opt-in is shown.

For example, set it so that it only shows up for visitors that come to your site more than 1 time; those that visit more than 2 pages in a single visit; those that stay on a certain page longer than 3 minutes, etc.

Every business probably has internal KPI’s that they use to determine success. Figure out what those are and then tie it into the push notifications to trigger when you know you are most likely not to annoy the visitor first, and second and most importantly, get someone to opt in and WANT to receive your updates.

As far as conversions, on our website we see push notifications getting about the same click through rates as email, at about 1-2% depending on the campaign, when it is sent, etc. And because push notifications do not require a user’s email address or anything fancy, you are more likely to get an opt in, and build a bigger list faster.

I actually highly recommend businesses use push notifications — correctly — to grow their lists and offer another way to interact with and deliver messages to their audience.

--Chris Fernandez, Women's Health Interactive