What is an app notification?

An app notification is a message or alert sent by an application to the device user. They include push notifications and in-app notifications. 

Their names imply the main difference between in-app notifications and push notifications. In-app notifications are only visible within the app while the user engages. Push notifications, however, do not require the application to be opened, and messages are displayed on the mobile screen, even when the device is locked.

Furthermore, users must opt-in to receive push notifications as they can intrude. In-app notifications do not require opt-in. Users often have granular control over both types of notifications in their device’s notification settings, being able to adjust notification groups or disable them entirely.

Appropriately used, app notifications are a great way of communicating with engaged users without the cost of sending SMS messages or emails.

What are the benefits of app notifications? 

Enhanced user engagement

  • In-app guidance: Guide users through onboarding, introduce new features, or provide contextual help when needed. This improves the overall user experience.
  • Targeted messaging: Segment your audience and send personalized notifications based on behavior, interests, or location. This makes information relevant and likely to be acted on.
  • Timely reminders: Remind users about abandoned carts, upcoming appointments, or deadlines within the app, increasing retention and action.

Increased conversions and revenue

  • Promotions and offers: Send exclusive deals or time-sensitive discounts to drive product adoption and increase purchases.
  • Feature upselling: Introduce premium features or subscription plans with well-timed nudges, enticing users to explore more of your app’s offerings.

Improved user experience

  • Important updates: Notify users about essential updates, new features, or changes – fostering greater user satisfaction and a sense of connection with your app.
  • Problem resolution: Alert users of potential issues, provide troubleshooting, or direct them to in-app help resources. This proactive approach builds trust and loyalty.

Data-driven insights

  • Measure effectiveness: Track open rates, clicks, and in-app actions to evaluate the success of each notification campaign.
  • Understand user behavior: Analyze notification engagement patterns to reveal how users interact with your app, informing future improvements and feature development.

What are the use cases for app notifications?

App designers must ensure that app notifications are only used for useful messages that benefit the user. If one sends too many unnecessary notifications, the user might turn off notifications on the lock screen, adjust their notification group preferences, or even 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, a notification can 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 enable them to go down the marketing funnel, but again, these should be appropriate and targeted to each user.
  • Low-level alerts: If, for example, a user needs 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 is more beneficial to the user to receive them, then you can prompt them to allow them to, but do not do it too much, as it will annoy users.

Push notifications

  • Limit reached: If the user has reached some limit, such as an overdraft limit on a banking app or a credit limit on a shopping app, 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 transmit warnings of events that could save a 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.


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Feb 20th, 2024
4 min read