Rich Push Notifications: Mobile Marketers’ FAQs

Thinking about using rich push notifications? If you're not, you should be. Our research shows that push notifications with images have a 56% higher direct open rate on average than notifications without images.

In this post, we share answers to some of the top questions mobile marketers ask about leveraging rich push notifications.

What are rich notifications?

Rich notifications are essentially push notifications that support photos, videos, gifs and even audio. They can also include interactive buttons.


Rich push notifications are notifications sent with images or other rich media like movies, GIFs or sound.

What are the differences between rich notifications in iOS and Android?

As is the case with push notifications, there are a few platform-specific differences when using rich notifications.

At this time, Android only allows images. With the release of iOS 10, Apple began allowing notifications with imagesand othe media like GIFs, video and sound and allows image cropping for thumbnails.

Rich notifications in iOS also allow you to provide alternative text. That means that users who cannot receive rich push notifications will receive a message that does not reference the rich media (i.e. “Check out our sale on patio furniture!”) while those who can receive rich media will get a message that does reference it (“Check out the patio table you see here!”)

rich-push-notifications-examples-screenshotsExamples of a rich notifications on iOS and Android. For more images and inspiration, get your complimentary copy of our Rich Notifications Inspiration Guide.

What media types can I send in rich notifications?

Each platform supports different types of media:

- Image (JPEG, GIF, PNG)
- Audio (AIFF, WAV, MP3, M4A)
- Video (MPEG, MPEG2, MP4, AVI)

- Image (JPEG, PNG)

What's the optimal file size for the media I send in a rich push notification?

The theoretical maximum file sizes are 5MB for image, 10MB for audio and 50MB for video. We recommend clients plan conservatively. We also offer our clients the option to use a content delivery network (CDN) to ensure rich media gets to customers quickly and reliably. Learn more about who a content delivery network can improve your rich notifications in this blog post. 

How much of a boost in response rates can I expect if I use rich push notifications?

Our data study revealed that rich notifications with images have a 56% higher direct open rate on average than notifications without images.

How should I handle the possibility that a user won’t be able to see the image in a rich notification?

Good user experience is at the core of successful mobile messaging strategy. If a user can't understand your message because they can't see the related image, that's a bad user experience.

This could happen for a few reasons. Maybe a user hasn't downloaded the latest version of your app. Maybe they're using an old OS. Or maybe they had a network connectivity drop, or a server was busy, so the image didn’t download.

Whatever the reason, bake in a strategy to make sure your users can understand your message — whether or not they can see the related image. Here are a few tips:

  • Craft your messages carefully: Write your notification in a way that doesn’t reference the media you’re sending so that it will still work even if the media download fails. For example, “Breaking News: Michael Phelps wins 23rd Gold Medal” may be a better choice than “Michael Phelps wins 23rd Gold Medal. Re-watch the moment: [with GIF]”

  • Segment your users: Use our out-of-the-box segmentation to target only users mostly likely to be able to receive rich notifications - for example, those with the latest version of your app.

  • Use alternate text: Take advantage of the safety net of alternate text. Provide two options for text: one option that gets displayed when the image downloads successfully,  and the other to preserve readability when it doesn’t.  

And rest assured, that when all else fails, iOS 10 has a built-in backup plan when images fail to download.

Once iOS receives a rich notification, it gives the app 10 seconds to download the image. If download fails for any reason (e.g. server is busy, network connectivity drops, etc. it simply doesn’t display the image) the text of your message will still come across, loud and clear.

What mobile analytics can Urban Airship collect from rich notifications?

We can measure user behaviors within a rich notification, such as:

  • Direct and influenced opens

  • Message response: did they interact with any part of the notification?

  • Button/Interactive button response: if you include an interactive button pair we can track which button a user clicked

Each of these responses can be tagged to trigger conditional follow-on messaging to create more personalized, targeted messaging.

Ready to get started using rich notifications?

To deploy rich notifications on Urban Airship’s platforms, for Android you’ll need SDK 5.1.0+ and iOS 10 requires SDK  iOS 8.0+.

Have more questions about rich notifications? Get in touch any time.

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Download our Rich Notifications Inspiration Guide today to:
- See use cases for rich notifications that drive increased customer engagement
- Get the stats from our research on rich media's impact on push notification open rates
- Get ideas you can put to work for your brand today!

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