The main difference between in-app notifications and push notifications is implied by their names. In-app notifications are only visible within the app while the user is engaging with it. Push notifications on the other hand do not require the application to be open and messages are displayed on the screen of the mobile, even when the device is locked.
Furthermore, users have to opt-in to receiving push notifications as they can be quite obtrusive. In-app notifications do not require opt-in.
Used properly, app notifications are a great way of communicating with engaged users without the cost of sending SMS messages or emails.
What are use cases for app notifications?
App designers need to make sure that app notifications are only used for useful messages that benefit the user. Send one too many unnecessary notifications and the user might disable notifications or abandon the app altogether.
Here are some suggested use cases for both in-app and push notifications that are useful:
In app notifications
- Message alerts: If the app includes peer to peer messaging, then a notification can be used to alert the user that a new message has arrived.
- Suggestions: Notifications can be used to encourage users to try out new features or products to encourage them down the marketing funnel, but again these should be appropriate and targeted to each user.
- Low level alerts: If you want the user to take an action, for example to install an update, but it is not critical – then in-app notifications are better as you are not interrupting them unnecessarily.
- Prompt to enable push notifications: If you feel that it would be more beneficial to the user to receive them, then you can prompt them to enable them, but do not do it too much as it will just annoy users.
- Limit reached: If the user has reached some limit, for example an overdraft limit on a banking app or a credit limit on a shopping app – then they will be happy to receive a push notification to warn them.
- Critical warnings: Some apps, for example breaking news, weather, or flood alert apps, can be used to transmit warnings of events that could literally save the person’s life.
- New version available: If you are removing support for the version of the app that the user has, then you can warn them that they will need to update to the latest version with a push notification.