How To Effectively Use Push Notifications to Engage Your Users

If you’ve been living under the rocks, the best way to explain Apple push notifications is by saying that it’s a way of getting people/users to jump back to your app, from whichever screen they’re using.

Imagine that you’re playing a video game on your iPhone, and then all of a sudden, someone has mentioned you on Twitter – you naturally get a push notification, if you choose to click on that notification, you’re directly brought back to the Twitter’s application, the end result.

It’s all that push applications are, but they’re quite essential to your apps, and for many businesses, are an important part of their business strategy. I’ll be going a little bit more into detail as to how we can use our push notifications to engage our users in the best possible way.

At the moment, there are 3 different – common – types of push notifications:

  1. Alerts
  2. Badges
  3. Sounds

we can use whichever suits us the best, to capture our users attention and hopefully engage him back to our application. As for the badges, it’s those little numbers that you see appearing on top of application icons, that’s a push notification as well.

Apple Push Notifications

Apple first announced the service on June 9, 2008 with a stated release for that September; however, as stated by Scott Forstall at the iOS 3.0 preview event on March 17, 2009, the rollout was delayed after a decision to restructure the APNs for scalability purposes due to the allegedly “overwhelming” response to the announcement of the APNs. At both events, Forstall stated that push notifications were a better means to maintain battery life than background processes (which are used for pull technology) as far as receiving notifications are concerned. [W]

You will want to start by creating your own Push Notification server, it’s a pretty difficult task for newcomers, and so we recommend reading this tutorial from ServerDensity, which goes through all of the aspects of building a stable push notification server; including the information on how to handle tokens.

Watch the above video to better understand how the tokens work, and why they’re so essential to your apps. I think once you grasp those basic concepts, it gets a lot easier, and the tutorial will seem a lot less of a hassle as well.

Local and Push Notifications for Developers   Apple Developer

Your next step in this case, is to visit the official Apple documentation on push notifications, it would be silly to try and copy/paste everything from there into this post, and it’s better to read from an official resource than it is to read as interpreted by a 3rd party.

How To Effectively Use Push Notifications to Engage Your Users

At this point, you’ll have enough knowledge to build your own push notification server, and begin pushing those notifications to your apps. It doesn’t get easier than that, but what are some other aspects we can utilize in order to improve the quality of our service? I’ve gathered up a few things, I think you’ll find them useful.

  • 3rd Party Services – you can avoid setting up your own server, by using the services of businesses that provide solutions to push notifications. they’re built to scale, and you’ll find quite a few online.
  • The Right Library – Node.js, PHP and many other programming languages have their own classes and libraries built for handling push notifications, always make sure to use software that’s reliable and secure.
  • SSL Certificate – remember that you need to generate an SSL certificate for both development and live environments, Apple disallows talking to the APN server without a certificate.
  • Use Them Wisely – going overboard with your push notifications will end up in people leaving your app for good. make sure you’ve got everything figured out, and send notifications only for the highest priority things.

It’s easy to confuse something for what it’s not, and notifications are definitely not a thing to use for constantly bombarding your app users. Instead, try and figure out the best way of using them, and then take that knowledge to your advantage, to increase the engagement rate.

I hope these tips will come of use to you, and feel free to reach out in case you need help or advice.