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Push notifications have been around since 2009, two years after the iPhone was released. Yet push notifications haven’t changed all that much since then.
With mobile technology pushing innovation forward, you’d think by now there would be a better way to grab someone’s attention. Good news — there is! You can provide a much richer experience (see what we did there) through rich push notifications.
Even though rich push notifications aren’t widely supported yet (we’ll get to that soon), they’re an interesting medium to experiment with. Including them as a part of your notification offering will give you the opportunity to see how far you can take your visuals and branding to increase user engagement.
If you’ve never implemented a notification system, it’s also a good way to get your feet wet in the notification ocean.
Rich push notifications can elevate your push game because they allow you to incorporate more than just copy into a message.
Think of it as a mini-email in a notification, with the possibility of including copy, images, videos, audio, GIFs, and interactive CTAs. Hard work goes into email campaigns, but they don’t always reach your users’ inboxes at the appropriate time. Sending these media-rich notifications provides you with a more immediate way to reach users.
The makeup of a rich push notification is fairly easy to understand — you can incorporate rich media content in your push notifications. This content aligns with your copy, creating a more visually appealing and on-brand experience. In a traditional push message, the copy is the focus, and an image (if included at all) occupies a small space. The first instance of rich push was the ability to include large images with the release of Android 4.1+ in 2012. Apple followed a few years later, adding even more support for different kinds of rich media with the release of iOS 10 in 2016.
Let’s break down where rich push notifications are supported and the types of content you can include for each device and system.
Apple is leading the way (shockingly) with support for rich push notifications. The following are all the types of media you can include in a rich push to iPhones and iPads running iOS 10:
It’s also worth noting that iOS provides a way to include alternative text for unsupported devices and browsers. Alternative text should be added, regardless, to create accessible experiences for everyone, but it’s also very useful to get the message across if the content doesn’t load.
If your rich push notification includes a giant image of two people rowing a canoe down a river, you can provide alternative text that describes the image: “Two smiling adults row a canoe down a river in sunny weather.”
If your lovely giant canoe image gets sent to an unsupported device, or a bug stops it from loading, users will still understand the intent behind the unloaded image.
Support on Android is very limited at the moment, with only large images being supported in either a JPEG or PNG format. All other rich media content would have to be shared through links rather than directly loaded in the notification.
While GIFs are not technically supported, you can still send them to Android devices in rich push notifications. The catch here is that much like email clients that don’t support GIFs, they will freeze on the first frame and not play through. If you don’t want to create two separate notifications, one for devices that support GIFs and one for those that don’t, as long as the first frame of the GIF provides a good representation of the message, it will get the message across.
There’s still a long way to go with desktop browser support. The release of Chrome 56 in 2014 introduced a version of rich push with support for large images in Android mobile and desktop browsers. Unfortunately, when web push support was introduced for Mac users with the release of Chrome 59, rich push for Mac users remained unsupported.
There is currently no support for rich push notifications on Mac desktop browsers.
Since not every device and browser within a certain ecosystem will support the same things, you need to be thoughtful and considerate with development and design. While rich media can enhance the notification, it’s still essential to make sure the copy conveys the whole message.
Beyond meaningful copy, there are size limitations for rich content. Much like content in an email, just because you can max an image out to the size limit doesn’t mean you should. Optimizing rich content will create a smoother experience for users.
Rich push did not expand the amount of copy that can be written, so these notifications have the same character limit as regular push notifications. While there isn’t a standard between devices or browsers, the support for a Title element is generally between 30 and 50 characters, while a Description element can generally run a few hundred characters. You can find a breakdown here.
We’ve already mentioned that content should be optimized. What you (or your designers) are aiming for with optimization is the smallest size possible while retaining the desired level of quality. When content weighs less, load times are faster. Here are some sizing goals for rich content:
While these are the suggested limits, we can once again look to emails to get a basic idea of how to aim for maximum optimization. There are technically no weight limits for email content. According to Litmus, you should aim for a 1MB weight limit for images and a 10MB weight limit for videos. Discussions in their forums as to what works best for video content suggest keeping videos around 10 to 20 seconds in length.
While emails are different than rich push notifications, they do share some similar goals, like loading and delivering visually pleasing content. Successful email content can be a guide for rich push notifications.
If you’re sending weighty content in your rich push notifications, you might want to consider using a content delivery network. CDNs provide fast delivery of content to your users by caching the content on servers that are located closer to their physical location. This is especially helpful for load times of heavy content, like videos.
While interactive CTAs (also known as push action buttons) and deep links are not rich-push-notification-specific, they make a lot of sense to include with rich media content. Interactive CTAs provide the user with options, like entering the product, or something else entirely, like sharing the notification.
In the example above, the user can choose to go to the site to shop or share the notification. If you’re worried people will dismiss your notifications because they don’t have time to interact with the content, you can provide reminder CTA options. A CTA of “Remind me in two hours” allows the user to interact with it when they have more time.
The support for multiple buttons is as follows:
Since rich push notifications can also be sent to users while they’re in your app, you can refer to them as more of a well-timed email — they reach your customer when you know they’re active. So much time is spent designing, writing, and developing various forms of email, it would be interesting to see how similar content increases engagement when sent as a rich push notification.
Even if rich push notifications aren’t as widely supported as other notification types, there are still paths to successful implementation and increases in engagement. A study by Gravitec shows when rich push notifications include a large image, click-through rates can increase 2%-5%. And rich push notifications with interactive buttons receive 40%-60% better engagement on top of that. This seems to be backed up by another study by Braze, where NASCAR saw a 40% increase in conversion through the use of rich push notifications.
Let’s take a look at a real email from Wildist, encouraging people to sign up for their outdoor photography workshops, and see how it might potentially be turned into a rich push notification.
The email on the left uses an attention-grabbing image, a small amount of copy indicating a sale on workshops, and a single call to action to visit the site to look for workshops. On the right is a mock-up of a rich push notification on iOS, taking advantage of video support. The user can watch the video and learn about the offering without leaving the screen, as well as taking multiple actions provided by the interactive buttons.
If a user doesn’t have time to interact with an email or push notification at the time it’s originally seen, how likely is it they’ll return to look at it later? By including a reminder option in a rich push notification, you’re giving users another chance to interact with the content later.
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With MagicBell you can send rich content and customize the inbox to match your brand. You’re no longer limited to boring text-based notifications!
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