Last Updated on
February 12, 2024

Web vs Native App Push Notifications for Ecommerce

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Push notifications are rocket fuel for countless eCommerce businesses.

But, there are two distinct types: web push notifications and native app notifications.

Which is best?

Native app push notifications are much better than web notifications for eCommerce.

We don’t expect you to just take our word for it though, read on and we’ll lay out our reasoning in depth. 

Web vs Native App Notifications: The Key Differences

The term 'push notification' can be a bit ambiguous because there are two distinct flavours:

  • Native app notifications
  • Web Notifications

What are Native App Notifications?

Native app notifications are sent (to state the obvious) from a native iOS or Android app installed on a user's device.

They're sent via the native infrastructure of the operating system, and can be highly personalized, content rich, and tightly integrated with device features like vibrations and sound settings.

Native push will get you:

  • Higher Opt-In Rates: users are much more likely to allow notifications for apps they've downloaded already over random websites
  • Great Personalization: native apps can tailor notifications based on user behavior, preferences, and location, making each alert more relevant
  • Superior Delivery Rates: Unlike web notifications, native alerts aren't at the mercy of browser sessions and can reach users round-the-clock
  • Increased Engagement: rich media and CTAs within notifications can tempt users back into your app

So if you read nothing else:

Native notifications enjoy higher opt-in rates, higher engagement, richer features, and can be worked into more sophisticated workflows and analytics setups.

What are web notifications?

Web notifications are sent using web browser infrastructure like service workers

They do not require any kind of specific installation (except on iOS) but the user must give their permission when they're on your site. 

They're generally simpler, less personalized, and are dependent on the browser running for delivery. 

One advantage of web push is that they can be sent through both desktop and mobile browsers, but on mobile they lack the flexibility and UX of native notifications.

Now let's go into the 8 key reasons why native push notifications win.

3 Key Reasons why Native App Notifications are Superior for eCommerce

We’re going to give you 3 key reasons why all eCommerce brands should prioritize native app notifications. 

1: Native App Notifications Have Much Higher Opt-In Rates

For web notifications, you must get visitors permission while they are on your site through a permission prompt.

On desktop they look like this:

And more importantly, on mobile they look like this:

Ask yourself, do these look appealing to you? 

When was the last time you clicked "allow" when you saw a "blahblah.com would like to send you notifications" popup?

Can't remember, huh?

The fact is that it’s intrusive to land on a site and they immediately ask for notification permission. 

Most people don’t give permission by default. 

That's probably why according to push provider Gravitec, opt-in rates for web notifications are a paltry 5% for e-commerce websites.

So, not great. 

Of course 5% is better than nothing, which is why we recommend you do use web push in your overall mix.

But when it comes to actually using notifications to drive significant results, we want to do better than send them to 1 in 20 customers. 

Native app notifications blow away their web counterparts here.

Think about how different it is to ask a random site visitor for permission compared to a user who has already gone to the trouble of downloading and installing your native apps.

The fact that they downloaded the apps is a sign of loyalty, so of course they'll be more receptive to you contacting them.

They’re primed to give permission.

According to Airship's detailed report, opt-in rates for native app notifications on Android range from 49% to 95%, with an average of 81%.

On the iOS side, they range from 29% to 73%, with an average of 51%.

So, opt-in rates for native app notifications are 10-15x higher than web notifications.

Just having the apps gives you an opportunity to ask for permission the right way, and send messages to people who actually want to be contacted.

2. Native App Notifications are Better for Lucrative iOS Users

Though globally Android has more users, iOS users are more economically valuable. 

Research has shown that even though there are twice as many Android users, and the Google Play Store has twice as many apps as the App Store - iOS apps generate twice as much revenue. 

That’s because iOS is relatively dominant in rich countries, especially the US with ~58% of the market.

Not only are they dominant in the richer countries but they are popular with richer groups within those countries. 

A study by Slickdeals found that, on average, iPhone users have an annual salary almost 40% higher than their Android counterparts ($54k vs $37k). 

Further research by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that owning an iPhone is a strong indicator of high income. 

In their words:

"Across all years in our data, no individual brand is as predictive of being high-income as owning an Apple iPhone in 2016."

So, sorry Android owners, but iPhone users are on average wealthier and more economically valuable to businesses.

It’s no surprise that Apple guards them jealousy. 

That’s why, for a long time, you couldn’t send web push notifications on iOS at all. 

Web notifications were purely an Android and desktop thing, and if you wanted to send them to iOS users you could only do so through native apps. 

That all changed though with iOS 16.4.

For the first time, web notifications got the greenlight from Apple and businesses have been able to send them to iOS users. 

Even with this huge change though, it is still much harder to send web push notifications to iOS users compared to Android. 

On Android, you can just ask for a site visitor's permission when they’re browsing, and once they opt in that’s it, you can fire away with your notifications. 

With iOS, you’ll need an actual progressive web app, and the customer will need to install it on their home screen. Only then can you ask them for permission. 

As you can imagine, all this is high-friction. 

Few of your customers, realistically, are going to add your site to their home screen then give permission for you to notify them.  

With native apps though, downloading and installing it from the App Store then enabling notifications is a more reasonable expectation that fits with the customer’s existing habits. 

Native apps give you a way to connect with iOS users with less friction, and once they’ve downloaded the apps and given permission you can send them personalized messages based on their in-app actions and behavior. 

The bottom line: web push is good for Android and desktop - but native push is far superior for iOS.

3. Native App Notifications Are More Personalized

Web notifications can be personalized to a degree, but they’re generally used as more of a scattergun approach. 

Most businesses use them to send generic messages promoting new deals and products en masse. 

The reason is that there’s only so much data you can get about a web visitor, especially if they aren’t logged in or have cleared cookies. 

On the other hand, you can collect plenty of data on your native app users, and they’ll be logged in by default. 

This makes it far simpler to send targeted and personalized messages.

Here are a few examples:

  • Updates on products they’ve previously viewed 
  • Notifications when an item in their wishlist is on offer 
  • Cross sells and upsells 
  • Shipping and delivery updates 

A crucial one is abandoned cart notifications. 

Abandoned carts are a plague for eCommerce brands.

Consider that almost 70% of carts are abandoned in total, and the average eCommerce store loses 75% of sales due to this.  

Nightmarish. 

Luckily, abandoned cart notifications can (somewhat) save the day.

Abandoned cart notifications prompt the customer to finish their purchase. They’re 38% more effective than email reminders, and convert at nearly 8%. 

Using them is as close to a no brainer as you’ll get in eCommerce. 

Native apps are perfect for these. 

For example, our own abandoned cart notification feature puts these notifications on autopilot for our customers. 

When their apps detect that a customer has closed the app with items in their cart, it triggers a series of local notifications (only possible with an app) designed to nudge them back into the app to complete their purchase. 

These work great. 

To summarize: native apps allow you to set up more sophisticated notification flows and send more targeted and personalized messages.

They’re less intrusive, more relevant, and can provide more value because of this. 

You can even give customers greater control over which notifications they receive through an in-app message center.

Get Started with Native Push 

There are other reasons we could have used to argue for native push - better design options, deeper integration with device functionality, better UX, more detailed analytics. 

But these are the core:

  • Higher opt in rates 
  • Better for iOS 
  • More personalized (and therefore powerful)

You should actually set up both though. The ideal notification setup is: 

  • Web notifications for desktop and to bring a small slice of website visitors into the funnel
  • Native app notifications for deep engagement with loyal customers 

You can set up web notifications quite easily by signing up with a popular service like OneSignal and a little configuration. 

For the more powerful native app notifications you need, surprise surprise, a native app. 

The best way to build them for eCommerce brands is MobiLoud

MobiLoud converts your existing web store into iOS and Android apps worthy of a billion dollar brand, at a price point affordable for a small business. 

We blend the best of the web with the best of native technology, building your apps in just weeks for a tiny fraction of the usual price tag. 

We set you up with everything you need to send native push notifications, and to use them to maximum effect. 

For a start we integrate with the market leading push provider, OneSignal, allowing you to send unlimited push notifications to iOS and Android devices. You can send all the notification types we mentioned above, and deeply integrate push into your existing customer experience. 

We also have a dedicated feature for abandoned cart notifications that we mentioned previously. 

This is handled completely by our team, who use best practices in CRO and copywriting to maximize recovered carts for you. If abandoned carts are a problem for you, this alone could pay for the price of the apps.

Check out some of our app examples and case studies for an idea of what's possible.

Our team is ready to answer all your questions, and get you on the App Store and Google Play in just weeks.

MobiLoud has worked for thousands of businesses - from one-person startups to massive multinational retailers. 

It’ll work for you too. 

Book a call and speak to an eCommerce app expert today!

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