You have a brand new app (whether it be web or mobile) and it's doing great. Your daily users are increasing, some are converting to buyers of in-app content, and some are even following your social media accounts to stay informed. However, you realize there's one feature you haven't added yet: Push Notifications.

Push Notifications are critical to keeping users engaged in your app. They're what keeps them coming back to reply to that message, take advantage of your offer or share something with their friends. However, now more than ever, apps have been abusing their access to users' lock screens and browser notification trays. There are a few tips you want to follow to gain user trust, because once your app's notification access is revoked, you have little chance of getting it back.

For the sake of simplicity, I'll be covering this topic based around iOS apps, but the mentality and general logic will follow through to other platforms, too.

Obtaining Permission

Before you can think about the types of notifications you want to send, you first need to consider the flow in which you want to obtain access to the notification feature on your users' phones. You might be thinking, "Oh that's easy, I'll just ask when they first open the app!" Don't.

User-Guided Prompting

Random prompts for access to permissions is a great way to have that Don't Allow button tapped without a second thought. You ALWAYS want to make sure it's the user's own choices that lead to you requesting elevated access to device features.

Offer the option for your user to enable notifications for specific services themselves, then prompt when they go to enable it. Say you have a food delivery app; once the user completes checkout, you may pop up a simple question "Hey! Do you want to be notified about updates for this order?" with a simple yes/no response. When your user taps yes, then prompt for notification permission. Because you're asking for elevated access in response to a user's own "soft-choice", you're much more likely to gain access.


Soft-Choices are super important, and it's a pretty easy concept to grasp. When you invoke a permissions popup on a device for elevated access, it's generally referred to as a "Hard Choice", because your app can't control the outcome of the user question. Granted? Okay great but if it's Revoked then there's not a lot you can do to save that.

Soft Choices are simply asking the user about various features they may not be currently benefiting from and saying how to enable them.

  • Messaging App: Tell the user you can import their phone contacts to help them find their friends on the app. If they say yes, prompt for Address Book access.
  • Restaurant Reservation App: Tell the user you can instantly show locations around them that take online reservations. If they say yes, prompt for location access.
  • Concert App: Once someone buys their first ticket, ask if they want to stay in the loop with news for the event. If yes, then prompt for notification access.

This flow might seem obvious to many, but giving the user more insight into how their data will be used to benefit them gives a huge step in improving permission prompt acceptance rates. However, just because you can ask without a hard choice prompt, also keep in mind...

Don't Over-Prompt Your Users

Your end goal is notifications access, but that doesn't mean you berate your user with constant questions and ads on what they're missing out on. This happens more than you'd think, even from the big guys (Reddit, we're looking at you.)

I received access, now what?

Congratulations! Your user trusts you enough to give you the ability to virtually poke them across the internet. It's important not to misuse this trust, and to keep the types of notifications you send consistent. You also want to ensure your user feels as though they have options regarding what they're notified about.

Personalize Your Notifications

Notifications should feel like they're for your user, not just a mass-broadcasted announcement. Everyone hates spammy email newsletters and junk mail, so don't try to turn their notification center into something that holds the same type of content. That'd be a quick way to have your notification access revoked.

Be Clear, Specific, and to the point.

There shouldn't be any guessing about what will happen when your notification is clicked or tapped. It might feel tempting to try to clickbait the text in an attempt to increase conversions - but avoid it.

Provide Clear Ways to Customize Notifications

When you're granted notifications access, unlock a section of your app settings that lets your user choose what type of notifications they receive. New Message? Sure! Marketing? Maybe not. Forcing them to accept all types of notifications will just carry the same result you've gotten used to seeing: Revoked Access

Include Emoji 😇

Emoji have taken the internet by storm, and users have gotten used to seeing them almost everywhere. Only do this if it fits your demographic, though. Pizza place offering 20% off? Absolutely. Enterprise-focused file management app? Maybe not.

Cap Notification Blasts

Many sales systems allow you to create campaigns for notifications. Be careful about rolling any one user into too many different campaigns - because the spam builds up fast. Ensure your app moderates the amount of "automated" notifications a user receives in one day and either don't send it or deliver them quietly.

Keep it Short

Best performing notifications are typically under 25 characters. Don't deliver a book to a lock screen.

You're on the right track.

There are no best practices for every app in the space since everyone will always have a different demographic, app purpose, or similar. Sticking to these tips will help ensure your users stay subscribed to your alerts, though!

If you need one-on-one help with implementation for your specific app and clients, we'd love to have the chance to help you out. Get in touch with us and we'll leverage our years of experience to work with you on the best strategy.