4 Steps To Develop Your Push Notification Strategy

Startups often struggle with how to develop their push notification strategy. While email has been around for decades and is fairly mature, push has only been around a few years and people are still trying to get a handle on it. In this post, I’ll cover the basics of how to develop a messaging strategy that applies to both push and email and how to take advantage of some of the unique aspects of push.

Step 1: Define the product’s core value proposition

Push notifications should be an extension of the product’s core value proposition. I can’t emphasize this enough. One of the biggest mistakes I see startups make (and I’ve made myself) is that they send emails/notifications about things that are not strongly tied to the value proposition. The value proposition is the reason people engage with the product and is what sets your product apart. Push notifications should further that engagement and make it easier for them to derive that core value. For users who don’t yet “get” the product, push should help them understand the value. For users who do “get” the product, push notifications should help them engage further engage with it.

Step 2: Figure out what you can send that is tied to that core value proposition

Content generally falls into one of three broad buckets, each with their own pros and cons. The type of content you send depends both on what makes sense with the product and what your resource constraints are.

Marketing Driven: These are notification blasts sent out by the marketing team to most or all users. A lot of ecommerce and brick and mortar retailers fall into this bucket.


  • Coverage: Can send to every single user
  • Minimal engineering effort required, which makes it great for early stage startups

  • Content is not personalized, which leads to low engagement rates
  • Users have lower tolerance to these types of notifications, which means you have to use them sparingly to avoid high unsubscribe and app deletion rates

Transactional: These notifications are triggered by users’ actions on the service. They inform other users about those actions. Facebook and LinkedIn are great examples of this.


  • Generally good engagement since content is relevant by virtue of the fact that the user has an direct connection to the action
  • Higher level of tolerance since users understand what is triggering the notifications

  • Need to have enough engagement on the site, or be connected to enough users, to get the flywheel going


Content Driven: Content driven notifications connect users with relevant and interesting content. They generally use some amount of personalization to figure out which content to recommend.  Twitter for example will send emails/notifications to less engaged users about popular tweets they think the user will be interested in.


  • Can get good engagement rates by sending highly personalized, relevant content.
  • Can get good coverage by sending trending and popular content to users for which you don’t have enough signal to personalize recommendations.

  • Engagement rates get worse the less the user has engaged with the site
  • Expensive to build out recommendation algorithms from an engineering effort perspective

Step 3: Figure out your user segments

Once you’ve figured out what content you send, you then need to figure out who you want to send to. Not all notifications are good for all users. Notifications should be targeted based on where the user is in their lifecycle. A very simple but powerful segmentation is classifying users into new, engaged, and unengaged.

  • New Users – Send notifications that help reinforce the product’s value and help them figure out how to get more value out of the app.
  • Engaged Users –These users are already engaged and understand the product, so only send them the best, most useful notifications that help them engage even further.
  • Unengaged Users – Unengaged users are always the toughest nut to crack since they have already shown a bias towards not engaging with the product. The signals you have on them may or may not be accurate so sending a mix of personalized notifications and broader non-personalized notifications is necessary to try and re-engage them.

Step 4: Think about what makes push unique

Up to this point, everything we’ve talked about can apply just as much to email as it does to push. However, there are a few things that really differentiate push from email and may change your approach to push.

1)   Timeliness – Since most people have their phones on them at all times, push notifications allow you to reach users more immediately than email.

2)   Location Based – Both iOS and Android have good support for geofenced notifications that allow you to notify the user when they are near a certain latitude and longitude point.

3)   Badging – Badging is a way to give the user an indicator that there is something new in the app in a way that is less intrusive than sending an email or normal push, and still triggers a lot of engagement.

The final step is to ask yourself if there is any way these attributes naturally dovetail with your product’s value proposition. For example, geofencing notifications are a great fit for location based apps, but can feel out of place if location is not a core feature of the app.

Wrap Up

 As with anything Growth related, push notifications require a lot of trial and error, iteration, and experimentation. However, I’ve found thinking of push notifications as an extension of the app’s value proposition and then thinking through this framework has helped me a lot when crafting a push notification strategy.

Also read...


  1. Pingback: Fuel Mobile Growth Without Crashing: 23 Ways to Improve User Retention - Apptimize

Comments are closed.