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What Are Push Notifications, and How Do They Work?

Angela Stringfellow

Last updated on

If you’re one of the 6.64 billion people on the earth that owns a smartphone, you’ve almost certainly encountered a push notification. Nearly every application and marketing team deploys them to produce real-time alerts of important information to their users.

Push notifications exist to inform, notify, and increase digital engagement. Studies have shown that push notifications can boost user engagement with your mobile and web applications by 88%. Push notifications are a notable way to communicate with your consumers, but many may not realize they can benefit your internal teams and processes as well. Grow your business from within by utilizing push notifications to maximize your internal teams' engagement, efficiency, and productivity.

What are Push Notifications?

Push notification, also known as a push message or push alert, is a short, concise message that can pop up on a user’s mobile device, web browser, or desktop.

Push notifications can only be sent after a user has opted-in to receive them. Once a user has opted-in, the notifications appear in an alert fashion. They typically display a brief message, a call-to-action (CTA), and rich media such as emojis, images, or hyperlinked buttons that lead to your app or website. Organizations most often use push notifications as a marketing or external communication tool, but they can also be used to communicate with internal teams or for security authentication.

3 Styles of Push Notifications

Push notifications can be received in the following three styles on your mobile device, web browser, or desktop.

  • Banner notifications: short messages that pop up and disappear on their own. They can reveal the first sentence of a message, such as an alert when you receive a FaceBook message, or contain alerts for promotional sales, flight or traffic information, or live updates on a sports game.
  • Badge notifications: a red “badge” displayed in the upper-right hand corner of an app’s icon. The badge will typically be a red circle with a number inside it. You’ll see this type of notification when your app needs an update, you have an unread message, or something new has been posted.
  • Alerts: short messages that pop up and stay on-screen until they are manually deleted/exited. These notifications are typically time-sensitive alerts such as an event time change, status change to a flight, or a security alert.

How Do Push Notifications Work?

Now that you know what push notifications are and how they appear, let’s dive into how they work. Each mobile device and computer will have its own operating system (OS), such as iOS, Android, Windows, or Mac. These operating systems generally have their own notification systems: Operating System Push Notification Service (OSPNS).

Developers utilize these systems to deliver push notifications. Once an app is developed (application server and client app), you’ll need an app publisher to enable the app with each OSPNS. You’ll find the steps to achieve this outlined below.

Adding Push Notifications to an App

An app publisher will need to register with each OSPNS. Once registered, the OS service will provide an API (application programming interface) to allow the app to communicate with the service. An SDK (a code specific to the OSPNS) will also need to be integrated into the app. The app publisher will then upload the app to the respective app store.

Activating Push Notifications

The app should now be available for users to download and install on their devices. The app and the user’s device will each have unique identifier codes (IDs) that must be registered with the OSPNS. The ID codes will be shared with the app and the app publisher. The app publisher stores all registration details to customize services and notifications for each user.

Sending Push Notifications

There are two ways an app publisher can send a push message.

  1. Manually compose the message through a message composer and push it to the client app
  2. Set up automated messages via the OSPNS API.

The publisher can define the target audience, tailor messages according to user data (location, demographics, user activity patterns, etc.), and decide whether to schedule a message for a specific time or send it immediately. This ability is essential because it allows you to segment your user base to send personalized messages to different users.

To properly manage user data for push messaging, you’ll need to build the infrastructure, or hire a third-party vendor to help write, target, and send the messages. Many companies choose to go the third-party route as it requires significant resources to build and maintain the infrastructure themselves.

Grow Your Business With Internal Push Notifications

Push notifications are a standard tool that marketing teams use to engage with their customer base and target audience. Push notifications help amplify user engagement, increase conversions, and boost retention. However, many companies don’t realize they can also utilize push notifications to communicate with their internal teams in similar ways. Here are a few ways push notifications can help grow your business from within.

Engage Internal Teams

Engage your internal teams with concise push notifications instead of company emails no one opens or reads. Push notifications can be sent in real-time and automatically appear on employees’ desktops or mobile devices. Using push notifications to promote upcoming company events (office parties, awards ceremonies, team retreats), employee recognition, or company news encourages higher employee interaction and involvement.

Keep Employees Informed

Keep your employees informed and educated with individual or company-wide push notifications. Be the first to alert your staff of significant internal changes, project deadlines, upcoming events, internet outages, or even office closures due to weather emergencies.

This type of information leaves your staff feeling positive about your brand because it is relevant, can save your employees' time, and lets them know they are protected and cared for. Not only that, by keeping employees informed in real-time, you can boost company culture and increase efficiency and productivity.

Provide User-Friendly and Effective Communication

Push notifications are prompt, easy to manage and provide a higher response rate than emails, making them a more effective way to communicate with your staff. They’re also user-friendly as employees only need to absorb the information or click the CTA. In addition, push notifications are relatively simple to produce with minimal added expenses.

Automate Processes and Reminders

In addition to broadcasting company news and announcements, push notifications can automate departmental processes such as legal compliance updates, onboarding, paid time off, and other HR-related benefit notices.

Push notifications can also automate reminders for training purposes, project or task deadlines, and workflow and meeting or schedule updates. Automated processes and reminders help to ensure open and transparent communication and create a positive employee experience. Positive employee experiences lead to increased production, fewer mishaps, and a more collaborative atmosphere.


There are two valuable assets that keep companies growing — consumers and employees. There can’t be one without the other. Your internal teams keep your business working smoothly to provide your consumers the service and products that keep them coming back! Push notifications are the game-changing tool that can help your business grow from the inside out.

When notifications are appropriately used, they allow you to connect to your staff and consumers in meaningful ways. Push notifications create value, increase engagement and enhance the employee and consumer experience by providing relevant information in real-time. Ready to grow your business? Start from the inside out with ease by using MagicBell’s customizable, complete notification system and inbox. The inbox helps organize push notifications and prompts users to open unread notifications that were initially dismissed. Save time and resources with MagicBell and implement a customized, turn-key notification system within 15 minutes or less.

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