Web Notifications: Top 10 FAQs

In this post, you'll find answers to some of the questions we're hearing most often about web notifications. We're also happy to talk through your specific questions: contact us or request a personalized demo anytime!


Web notifications hold a massive opportunity for digital marketers to engage audiences on desktop and mobile web.

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

1) What exactly are web push notifications?

Web push notifications are notification-style messages sent from web browsers to users on mobile and desktop web. After opting in, users receive web push notifications on their mobile device or their desktop — even when their web browser is closed.

If you're using a desktop computer, web push notifications slide onto the top or bottom of your screen. On mobile devices, web notifications are delivered to the notification tray and have a nearly identical appearance to those coming from a mobile app.

web-notification-anatomy-infographic

2) How are web push notifications different from push notifications sent via apps?

From a user’s point of view, web and app push notifications are virtually identical. The biggest difference is that web push notifications can show up on their desktop, not just on their mobile devices.

From a marketer’s perspective, web notifications offer a way to take advantage of the fact that 73% of online engagement is from mobile search, and global web traffic from smartphones is predicted to reach 70% by 2025.

This means marketers can reach audiences where they’re at — on and off mobile devices. For example, web notifications make it easier to reach professionals who are sitting in front of a desktop computer for much of the work day with an interactive, actionable notification.  

web-notifications-on-desktop-and-on-smartphone-example3) Do visitors have to “opt in” to receive web push notifications?

Yes. And much like app push notifications, it is possible to present the opt-in dialogue when it will be best received. As with mobile messaging, we recommend digital marketers present a “soft ask” prior to presenting the web push notification opt-in option. The soft ask should explain the value your customers will get from opting in to web notifications.

4) Can I send web notifications to a user when they are not on my website?

Yes. Users can receive a web push notification from a site regardless of whether or not they are actively using the website in the moment. As long as the browser is open, a web visitor can be sent a notification and it will appear on their desktop or mobile device screen.

See web push notifications in action: request a 30-minute walkthrough and consultation with one of our experts. You'll come away with ideas for using web push to connect with your website visitors using notification-style messaging. 

5) Do I need to have an app to send web push notifications?

Nope! While web push notifications are a fantastic way to complement app push notifications, you can use one without the other.

In fact, web push notifications are another great way to reach more of your customers on mobile — through web push notifications sent to mobile web.

This is great if you don’t have an app. It’s also great if you do have an app, but want another channel for reaching users who have opted out of app push notifications. (Another great way to reach users on mobile without an app is with mobile wallet.)

6) How would I create a web push notification?

If you’re using Urban Airship, you can use the same Message Composer you use to create app push notifications.

We’ve created a step-by-step guide to creating web push notifications — take a look and see just how simple it is.

7) Can I personalize web notifications?

Absolutely. If you’re using Urban Airship, you have access to much of the same kinds of message personalization you do with our app push notifications. That includes real-time triggers as well as automation, personalization, and custom events. (Heads up, not all web push providers are making it possible to personalize web notifications. If you're evaluating vendors, be sure to ask.)

8) What do I need to do on the back end of my website to start sending web push notifications?

You’ll need to do three things -- all of which are straightforward things your web team can get done pretty easily:

  • Install a javascript snippet file that invokes our SDK for web push notifications — a process similar to implementing the mobile SDK for mobile app push notifications.
  • Include a service worker file in the root directory to handle the push requests and to communicate back to the Urban Airship platform.  
  • If your site is not already HTTPS compliant, you'll need at least one HTTPS page.  We offer a mobile security HTML bridge file.

Details on how to implement these steps can be found in our Web Notify Docs.

9) What kinds of messages are best to send through web notifications?

When planning a messaging strategy, web notifications generally fall into the same category as app push notifications — educational, transactional and promotional.

We’ve pulled together a bunch of use cases and examples in our Web Notifications Inspiration Guide; here are a few more:

  • New user / first time offer welcome (“So glad you’re here! Enjoy 10% off your next order!”)

  • Retarget shopper behavior (“See 5 pairs of hiking boots hand-picked for you!”)  

  • Abandoned cart notifications (“You’re just one click away from your boots!”)

  • Preference or behavior-based product recommendations (“Because you liked these hiking boots, we think you’ll love these socks!”

  • Incremental cart upsell (“You’re $5 away from free shipping!”)

  • Price drop on favorited purchase item (“Those boots you love are now on sale…”)

10) Why should I try out web push notifications?

Most brands have far more traffic on their mobile websites then they have app users. In comScore’s 2016 U.S. Mobile App Report, they compared the top 1,000 mobile apps vs. the top 1,000 mobile web properties and found that website audiences are almost three times the size — and growing twice as fast —  as app audiences.

(Apps have the clear edge on engagement though — according to the same comScore report, people spend 20x the amount of time in apps as they do on websites.)

So websites offer a huge addressable audience - and a huge opportunity to deepen engagement with those web visitors with notification-style messaging that demonstrates the value your brand has to offer. And that’s an opportunity brands should most definitely pursue.

Ready to Get Started?

Let’s get you going! Here are some options for next steps:

web-notification-inspiration-guide-cover-image-urban-airship-ebook

Download our Web Notifications Inspiration Guide today to:
- See use cases you can adopt and implement
- Build smarter, more engaging campaigns
- Spark your thinking about web notification possibilities

Get your copy >>