The Basics of Push Notifications Explained

By CIOReview | Thursday, September 8, 2016
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With the latest developments in mobile applications domain, companies can now send pop up messages to users even when they aren’t actively using the app. A customized message delivered for the purpose of alerting the end user about a specific brand activity is called a push notification. Push notifications appear to be SMS texts but are delivered only to those users who have subscribed to a particular alert.

For the message to be received, it is not necessary that the device screen be left unlocked or the application associated to the notification be turned on. Such a feature is extremely beneficial for businesses seeking long term relationships with customers, by keeping them informed of updates and offers.

There are primarily three stages of tasks that should be performed in order to send a push notification:

• The mobile application must be properly configured with the Push Notification Service
• The server must send the push notifications to the intended devices correctly
• The application must receive the push notification so as to perform the required tasks and handle user actions.

Many organizations have now chosen the cloud for efficient management of messaging services and its well-timed distribution to the subscribers. But with the continuous upgradations in application development space, publishing push notifications have become complex and back-breaking for software developers.

Problems faced by developers

With most of the businesses offering free relay service, supporting thousands of users at a single time becomes a complicated task for developers. One of the common issues faced by developers is in getting the alerts to the target users on time.  In any collaborative application development, the server based asynchronous notification is a feature that leaves an impact of the actions of one person on the outcome. Mostly, a go-between app is required to manage tokens, APIs and administer the outgoing information.

However, the mediator app used by developers doesn’t remain untouched by the arm of challenges and is prone to technical glitches. Using a third party push notification integrator solves the problem, but is not easily afforded by many of the backed players in the development arena.

Using cross platform APIs

As we zoom onto the technical aspects of development, it is evident that for each mobile device supporting different APIs and features, a separate code is to be written. With the large number of mobile devices in use, it is advisable for developers to use cross platform APIs as they provide a simple mechanism to address the user groups.

Stepping up from the legacy mode

Managing a legacy push notification is not just arduous, but is also not up to the mark when compared to the features available in the latest systems. Expert views suggest that migrating from the legacy systems will be of great advantage to developers as it saves a considerable amount of time. An automated push campaign with dedicated features targeting user behavior is undoubtedly an add-on.

Targeting the audience

From the receiver’s point of view, push notifications are not merely components of a promotional activity, but a catalyst to enhance customer experience. A study reveals that 50 percent of the applications are idled within the first three months of download. This compels businesses to discover newer methods of customer engagement even when the application is left offline for days. Delivering the right messages to the right audience will definitely improve the application experience, thereby building long lasting customer relationships. Push notifications have almost replaced emails as marketers can now send their regular updates, which otherwise would have remained unnoticed in the inbox.

Configuring and sending push notifications

To add a push notification to the app, the publisher will first have to register with the push notification service of the particular operating system. Once registered, the publisher will be provided with an API that establishes communication with the end user. Application developers then include a code library to the app which is designed for a specific operating system. Finally, the publisher makes the app available for downloads in the mobile app stores. Sending a push notification involves mainly three steps:

• Identifying the user groups to whom the messages are to be sent
• Determining whether the notification has to be sent immediately or at any other scheduled time.
• Drafting the message either manually or automatically and sending via API.