Play Nice – 3 Ways To Increase Web Push Opt-In Rates

Since the day they arrived, native mobile apps have offered the ability to send messages to a user, even when they’re not interacting with an app. An app’s ability to access device features, like these push notifications, has been considered a major argument for building a native app.

In recent months, the web has been abuzz with news that push notifications are now being implemented in most major browsers, desktop and mobile alike. This means that without an app, a website can communicate with its users, even when they don’t have the site loaded. They’re not available everywhere quite yet, but we’re rapidly approaching a point where any website is able to send out notifications at any time to a wide variety of devices.

Web push on desktop

Push notification from a website, on desktop

However, websites do not get this capability automatically. To prevent misuse, the browser offers a layer of user protection that every site has to abide by. Each website must first ask for permission before sending messages, and the user has the ability to disable messages from that site at any time.

This comes with some consequences that could affect your messaging adoption rates.

Obtaining User Permission

You might be familiar with a common pattern on iOS. The first time you open a new app, you’ll often be prompted to allow the app to send you push notifications (this usually doesn’t exist in Android apps).

iOS push notification permission dialog

The standard iOS push notification permission dialog

This dialog is required and must be presented to the user before the app is allowed to send push notifications. It’s not customizable – the wording and design is set by the system, and the app has no ability to control it. If it’s dismissed, the app is not permitted to display it again, ever. The user would then have to dig into their system settings to enable notifications from the app, which is hardly a common user behaviour.

A lot hinges on this dialog. And yet it must be presented.

Web push notifications operate in much the same way. The browser forces a site to display a dialog overlay asking the user for permission before it can send them messages. It’s also non-configurable, and if it’s dismissed, the user must dig deep within the browser preferences to re-enable messaging for that site.

Web push on iOS

The standard iOS push notification permission dialog

To help combat the downsides of this opt-in process, we’ve developed 3 best practices to increase the number of users who opt in to receive push notifications from your brand.

1. Two Tap Opt-In Process

At Mobify, we’ve developed a two tap opt-in process for retailers to increase their web push subscriber base. The two steps are:

  1. Ask Permission – set by the site owner, configurable, can ask multiple times
  2. Confirm Subscription – set by the system, not configurable, can only ask once

The problem with the subscription dialogue as presented by the system is that customers don’t have enough context to make a choice yet. Because the dialog isn’t configurable, they’re not given any expectation about message content or frequency, which would help them decide whether the notifications will be relevant to them or not.

Instead of loading up a website and immediately being confronted with an obtrusive hard ask dialog overlaying the page content, what if a user was instead presented a custom banner or other inline page element they could easily ignore? This permission ask is under the site owner’s control, and could simply mention the site would like permission to send them messages while staying easily dismissable.

By allowing customers a soft opt-out that’s under your control before subjecting them to the subscription confirmation, you’ve retained the ability to ask them permission again at another more opportune time.

2. Optimizing The Permission Ask

There are many forms the permission ask can take, from banners to switches to inline dialogs.

Different versions of push notifications

This allows you to also provide customers  with a better expectations up front about what they will receive. You could link the banner to a page informing them about the type of message content and frequency they can expect, and then – and only then – present them with the choice to continue, which would finally trigger the subscription confirmation.

This creates a much smoother onboarding flow. Customers have a better understanding of what they’re signing up for, and by continuing they’ve already expressed much greater willingness to receive messages from the site.

3. Asking Permission In Context

By analyzing typical customer journeys, you can identify places where your communication could use a boost and provide contextual messaging that delivers real value. These potentially lead to different implementations of the permission ask.

For example, you may already be sending an email to customers when their packages ship, so you could provide them with the option to enable shipping push notifications when a product goes out for delivery. Contextually, it’s a no-brainer to ask a user to opt in to these messages during checkout, so the permission ask could be implemented as a simple checkbox when finalizing their order.

Another possible use case is on a product page for a sold out item, you could allow customers to sign up for a notification when the product comes back in stock. This could be presented as an alternate to the Add To Cart button, following similar design cues with alternate wording.

Keep in mind that when you ask for permission in contextual ways like this, the resulting message content you send out will need to match the expectations you set when you obtained a user’s permission. Understanding the context implicit in a user’s choice and respecting it will lead to a better long term experience.

Building A Wide Subscriber Base

When customers are immediately asked to subscribe to push notifications the first time visiting a website, many will choose to opt out . The better way is ensuring that permission is asked for contextually when a customer is more receptive to the idea of receiving notifications from your website, and presenting them with a better idea of what they’ll receive beforehand. Following these best practices will ensure that you don’t alienate customers, and that you have a wider subscriber base to engage with.

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