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What Are Web Push Notifications? Everything You Need To Know—With Examples

Angela Stringfellow

Last updated on

Mobile-first experiences and app push notifications are important, but apps aren’t the only way businesses stay in touch with their customers. Web push notifications help businesses, websites, and content creators reach their users and subscribers via desktop browsers, tablets, and even mobile devices—all without the need to create a complex app.

Web push notifications are small messages a website sends to a user’s device. These alerts act similarly to other notifications and appear in the same manner on the user’s device, delivering updates, alerts, and other important information. Users don’t even need to be actively surfing your site to receive alerts, so this is a great way to keep users in the loop in real time.

Most consumers are used to app push notifications, but web push notifications are an alternative with a little more flexibility. As consumers digitize their lives even more, push notifications encourage more engaging, interactive experiences.

For businesses, they provide a direct line to customers, enhancing engagement and driving conversions. For users, they offer a convenient way to receive timely information tailored to their interests.

In this guide, we’ll explain how web push notifications work, why they’re beneficial, and how to make web push notifications work for your business.

In this article:

What Are Web Push Notifications?

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Photo by Austin Distel from Unsplash

Web push notifications are short messages a website sends to a user’s device, usually as a pop-up message on the screen. In this digital age, where information overload is a real challenge, web push notifications cut through the noise to deliver relevant and timely content directly to users’ devices.

Imagine you're browsing your favorite news website, and you get a small pop-up asking if you'd like to get notified about the latest stories. That's a web push notification in action: it’s a simple yet powerful way to stay connected without the hassle of constantly checking a website for new information.

Web push notifications keep users and businesses connected as long as a user’s browser is open. The user doesn’t even need to be on the business’s actual website to receive the notification.

This technology leverages a combination of browser capabilities and server-side infrastructure to deliver real-time updates, alerts, or personalized messages directly to a user's desktop or mobile device.

Web Push Notification Examples

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Every business leverages web push notifications differently. You can do a lot with this technology, which makes it a great addition to creative marketing, sales, and customer service initiatives.

Here are just a few real-world examples of how businesses have utilized web push notifications to support their communications strategies:

  • Shake Shack: Shake Shack used creative and engaging push notifications to tease new products like the Black Truffle Burger. Using questions and local slang (like "NOLA" for New Orleans) in their notifications created a sense of intimacy and engagement with users. The clear call-to-action (CTA) connected the online experience with their physical locations, too.
  • Bokksu: This is a brand that sells Japanese snack boxes to subscribers across the globe. Bokksu used visually appealing product images in their cart reminders, using descriptive words to build appeal for their products to boost sales.
  • Boxed: Boxed’s web push notification campaign targeted users with abandoned carts. They sent rich notifications with a limited-time offer for Cyber Monday with a strong CTA and urgency-driven copy. Boxed didn’t recapture all abandoned carts, but they successfully converted more carts through the power of timely web push notifications.

As you can see, personalization, urgency, and clear calls-to-action make web push notifications a valuable addition to any communication strategy. If you’re frustrated that your promotional emails are going to spam, create web push notification campaigns to interact with your users in a more engaging way.

How Web Push Notifications Work

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Web push notifications use a combination of browser capabilities, service workers, and push services to send messages to users’ devices.

There are some differences in how specific browsers handle web push notifications, but here’s how the process generally works:

  1. A developer sets up web push notifications.

Websites must register a service worker to handle web push notifications. Service workers are scripts that work in the background of a browser. These act independently of the webpage, allowing push notifications to be sent even when the user isn’t browsing your site.

  1. The developer sets up a Push API.

The developer also sets up a Push API to send messages via a push service. When it’s time to send a message, the website communicates with the push service, which triggers the service worker to fetch and display the notification.

  1. Users grant permission to receive push notifications.

Users visit your website, which will ask for permission to send notifications via a pop-up box. If the user opts in, their browser subscribes to the notifications.

  1. The browser generates a unique subscription.

After a user grants permission to receive push notifications, the browser generates a unique subscription for the website.

The subscription includes a set of keys and an endpoint URL, which the website uses to send notifications to that specific user. The subscription details are sent back to the website’s server or the push notification service it uses. 

  1. The website sends notifications.

When the website wants to send a notification, it sends a message with the notification content to the push notification service, using the unique endpoint URL from the user’s subscription.

The push service is provided by the browser, such as Firebase Cloud Messaging (FCM) for Chrome, Mozilla Web Push for Firefox, and Apple Push Notification Service (APNS) for Safari.

  1. The push service delivers the notification.

The push service receives the message from the website and queues it for delivery to the user’s browser.

  1. The service worker intercepts the notification.

The service worker (the script running in the background of the user’s browser) receives the push message from the push service and triggers an event to display the notification.

  1. The service worker displays the notification.

Using the browser’s Notification API, the service worker creates and displays the push notification to the user.

A web push notification can have several elements, including a title and body content, a notification URL, as well as a banner image, icons and calls-to-action to get the user to take a specific action directly from the notification, such as “View Cart,” “Checkout,” or “Subscribe.”

Keep in mind that web push notifications may have a different appearance depending on the user’s operating system and browser.    

  1. Users receive and interact with the notifications.

Once they subscribe, users receive notifications even when they’re not actively on the website. The notifications will appear as a pop-up on the user’s device, which the user can tap or click to open the website.

If you included a more specific CTA like “View Cart,” it should take users to that particular landing page or their shopping cart.

  1. Users tweak their settings.

Like any notification technology, users have ultimate control over their push notification settings. For example, they can disable notifications or only opt in for certain types of notifications.

If they don’t like your notifications, there’s a good chance they’ll unsubscribe entirely, so only send valuable notifications and avoid overwhelming users with messages.

MagicBell simplifies the process of sending web push notifications. Learn how to implement web push notifications on your own domain—without breaking a sweat—with MagicBell.

Use Cases for Web Push Notifications

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You can use web push notifications for just about anything—as long as you have something valuable to say, of course. Here are just some of the ways businesses and websites use web push notifications to interact with their audiences.

Personalizing the User Experience

The more personalized your push notifications are, the more eager users are to engage with them. Try these personalized web push notifications to pique users’ interest:

Marketing and Sales

Businesses set up web push notifications to pull users into their marketing and sales funnels. Use web push notifications to send:

  • Promotional alerts: Retailers send notifications about sales, special discounts, or exclusive offers. For example, an online clothing store might alert subscribers about a 24-hour flash sale.
  • Product launches: Announce new products or services through push notifications. For example, tech companies use push notifications to alert subscribers about new features or gadgets.
  • Event announcements: Send notifications about upcoming events, webinars, or product demos.
  • Cart reminders: Abandoned carts cost businesses a lot of money. You can’t convert every lost cart, but web push notifications will certainly encourage more customers to complete their purchases.

Sharing Information

Not all brands need to send FYI-style information to their subscribers, but sometimes it’s necessary. Since web push notifications go through in real time, they’re a great way to share time-sensitive information when it counts:

Benefits of Web Push Notifications

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Businesses have several ways to reach their subscribers, including email and SMS messaging. However, web push notifications have distinct benefits over these other strategies.

Better Engagement and Conversion Rates

Disappointed by your website’s traffic and conversion rates? Web push notifications will move the needle for your site. Web push notifications boost user engagement, bringing more people to your site. This increase in traffic often contributes to more conversions, helping your business increase ROI with relatively little effort.

Real-Time Communication

Web push notifications have a big advantage over email because users receive the notifications immediately. Since they appear as a pop-up, you get to skip the line and go straight to the most visible area of a user’s screen.

If you want to communicate time-sensitive information like flash sales, breaking news, or emergency alerts, web push notifications are the best way to do it.


Compared to traditional marketing channels—and even digital channels like email marketing—web push notifications are more cost-effective. For starters, you don’t need to invest nearly as much time or energy creating these notifications.

Plus, they can reach a much broader audience without many resources. Push notifications are accessible on almost any device, making them an accessible, cost-effective tool for reaching more people.

Better Customer Service and Support

Are customers asking you for more timely customer service and support? Asking them to enable web push notifications makes providing timely support, feedback requests, or answering frequently asked questions much easier.

You can even pair web push notifications with an AI-powered chatbot to reduce the load on your customer service team, reserving your human resources for more complex customer issues.

Best Practices for Implementing Web Push Notifications

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Web push notifications might sound more complex to pull off than email campaigns, but they’re actually pretty easy to set up. Follow these tips to roll out web push notifications for your business.

Regulations like GDPR and CCPA require you to obtain consent to send notifications. Sending notifications without express consent is a no-no, so set up your push notification system to always require consent first.

Double opt-ins might decrease your total subscriber base, but they’re a best practice that keeps your list clean and compliant.

Don’t be coy about what you’ll do with a subscriber’s information, either. Clearly explain what users are signing up for and how often they will receive notifications. This transparency builds trust and increases the likelihood of users opting in.

You don’t have to overwhelm users with opt-in messages immediately, either. Use timers or triggers to display the pop-up after users have time to engage with your content first. This will minimize the annoying pop-ups and increase the likelihood of opt-ins.

Watch Your Messaging

Push notifications should be short and sweet. Don’t mix messages: get straight to the point and tell users what to do. Encourage user action with clear calls to action. For example, try “Shop now” for a sale alert or “Read more” for a news update.

Personalized messages also tend to have higher engagement rates. Connect your customer database with your web push notification solution to personalize these messages as much as possible based on user behavior, interests, or past purchases.

Carefully Time Messages

Sending too many push notifications is a recipe for annoying your subscribers, and if you overwhelm them with too many alerts, there’s a good chance they’ll opt out. Your web push notification platform should give you the option to add frequency caps to the campaign so you don’t send too many alerts to each user over a period of time.

Always Test and Optimize Your Notifications

Few campaigns are perfect out of the gate. Check your push notification analytics for insights on messaging, timing, CTAs, segmentation, and more. Collecting enough data to draw meaningful conclusions might take a while, but this is the best way to improve the quality of future web push notification campaigns.

If you aren’t sure which push notification users would prefer, invest in A/B testing (also called split testing). This tests different aspects of your notifications, like messaging, timing, and visuals, to find what works best for each audience segment.

Embrace Web Push Notifications With a Few Clicks

Web push notifications are a powerful digital communication tool. From marketing to personalization, push notifications have the power to boost user engagement and grow your business with few resources.

If you haven’t integrated push notifications into your outreach strategies, now’s the time to do it. Embracing this technology leads to improved engagement, higher conversion rates, and a more personalized user experience, ultimately contributing to the growth and success of your business.

You don’t have to be a technical pro to pull off web push notifications, either. MagicBell simplifies web push notifications in our intuitive, all-in-one messaging inbox. See the magic firsthand: create your free MagicBell account now.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are web push notifications compatible with all browsers and devices?

Most modern browsers support web push notifications. Chrome, Firefox, and Safari all allow web push notifications, although functionalities vary by browser. Regarding devices, there may be compatibility issues with some older versions of browsers or operating systems.

How do web push notifications differ from app push notifications?

Websites send web push notifications through a browser, so they don’t require an app download. App push notifications, on the other hand, are sent by installed apps. Lastly, web push notifications can reach users on both desktop and mobile devices, while app push notifications are limited to mobile devices.

Is it possible to send multimedia content in web push notifications?

Most web push notifications can include multimedia content like images or icons. However, this varies based on the user’s browser and your notification service.