Last update: September 2021

5 mins to read - 2020/08/31

What Are Rich Push Notifications? A Primer

What are rich push notifications? Perhaps it’s a term you’ve seen used with regards to mobile engagement. Maybe you are aware that they are more effective than standard notifications. (“Rich” is a good thing, after all.) But what exactly makes one discernible from the norm?

A standard push notification is one that only consists of text. A rich notification, on the other hand, is one that utilizes rich media such as:

  • images
  • GIFs
  • videos
  • audio
  • deep links and interactive buttons

They are a great way to give your notifications some flavor to offset the written content. Use emoticons to add some color. Add a touch of humor with a tongue-in-cheek GIF. Direct your user to a specific page in your app with a deep link. Below, we’ll take a deep look at how rich media can help your push notifications pack that extra punch they need to drive click-through rate.

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What Are Rich Push Notifications?

To be clear, rich push notifications are just the aesthetic and cosmetic aspects of your notifications. They have nothing to do with other important factors such as timing and personalized content. Rich media are the wrapping paper on the outside of the gift. They are not directly related to the heart of the notification, but they make the experience far more enjoyable.

However, not all devices facilitate rich media equally. iOS devices are much more accommodating to rich notifications than Android. iOS allows 3 different types of images (JPEG, GIF, and PNG), 4 different types of audio content (AIFF, WAV, MP3, and M4A) and 4 different types of video (MPEG, MPEG2, MP4, and AVI). Android, on the other hand, only allows JPEG and PNG images, and they do not support audio or video content.

rich push notifications images
Image Source:

How to Use Images in Notifications

A picture is worth a thousand words. According to Gravitec, rich media in your push notifications can improve click-through rate by up to 5%.  And with push notifications, where you have a limited number of characters to get your idea across, including an image can really hammer your message home. Images can evoke an emotional response from your users. If your notification is trying to sell a product, showing the user a picture can be a good way to pique their interest and get them to take the next step.

A good rule of thumb for sending images in your notifications is to keep them below the maximum size of 5MB. When it comes to images, your best bet is to include a JPEG or a PNG, as that will show up on both iOS and Android devices. iOS devices will also display GIFs as well, which lets you tap into the vast wealth of internet culture in the bid for your user’s attention.

What If a User’s Phone Doesn’t Allow for Rich Push Notifications?

Rich media in push notifications should always act as a garnish to the content itself. You should never rely on the image or video itself to convey your message, since many users’ phones won’t be able to support it.

Luckily, iOS allows you to add alternative text to rich media that doesn’t show up on your user’s device. For example, say Netflix sends a notification with the following GIF:

GIF source:

Along with the caption: “Hey all you cool cats and kittens! Stream the newest episode of Tiger King to find out if Carole Baskin really killed her husband!”

For iOS devices that don’t support GIFs, alternative content might read “Looking for your new binge watch? Try Tiger King!”

Always make sure your content makes sense independent of whatever rich media you add on to it. And then use alternative captions as a safety net for iOS users. This is also something to keep in mind when segmenting your users. For users with more advanced devices that are likely to support rich notifications, you may wish to send them notifications that are more contextually dependent on that rich media.

Other Rich Media to Use in Notifications

There’s a lot of room for creativity when crafting push notifications. Audio and video content can also go a long way to creating an emotional reaction and grabbing your user’s attention. (Although be careful not to overdo it. Too much audio and video content can come off as hokey, and can undermine your message.)

Emoticons are a quick and easy way to spice up your text. They don’t have the same effect as an image, but they add color and pizzazz. And they serve a similar purpose without eating into users’ data.

Create a more engaging experience to your notifications by including deep links and interactive buttons. A deep link functions much like a URL link would on an internet browser. When a user clicks on it, the deep link transports them to a particular page in your app. It’s effective for retail apps, if you want to direct a user to a specific product page. They can also be useful for mobile games, if you want to encourage a user to start a session at the exact point in the game where they left off.

Interactive buttons serve a similar purpose, and can be useful in tracking click-through rates and app opens.

Combine Rich Media With OpenBack’s Data Signals for Best Delivery Results

OpenBack has 40+ custom data signals that give you more agency over how and when you send push notifications than any other SDK on the market. Our use of edge computing eradicates any lag time between sending a notification and its delivery to the user’s device, meaning you can communicate with users in actual real-time.

Furthermore, our data signals can be used to eliminate common pain points of using rich media in your push notifications. For example, some users may swipe away notifications because they are in a situation where they can’t watch video content, or because they are low on data. OpenBack can help you discern the appropriate times and contexts for sending notifications. For example, with our platform you can gauge the following data points:

  • whether a device headphone jack is in use
  • device battery life
  • mobile network signal strength
  • screen brightness
  • uses machine learning to assess whether a user is bored (i.e. scrolling aimlessly on their phone)
  • and much more!

OpenBack’s approach to rich push notifications truly goes above and beyond what the market standard can offer. If you would like to learn more about how OpenBack combines cutting edge ML and edge computing technology with rich media functions to offer your user a groundbreaking mobile engagement experience, get in touch with one of our experts.

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