Although Android has supported web push across mobile devices for years, Apple has historically barred companies from sending these eye-catching mobile-first web alerts.

Over the years, even as more popular browsers have announced support for these notifications, Safari has long held out as a significant outlier in providing this capability

iOS16 and Expanded Browser Support for Mobile Push Notifications

Finally, an exciting announcement at this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference '22 confirmed support for mobile web notifications on Safari mobile by 2023. (In other news, the conference brought notable changes such as a new lock screen experience, and the new Live Activities API. )

With iOS16, companies with a web-first model will soon have an innovative way to engage their users, expand engagement, and drive key business goals.

Apple claims slightly over half of the global mobile market share, which means the recent enablement of web push on iOS devices represents a tremendous business opportunity for web-first companies.

Giving Web-First Companies a Mobile-First Mechanism for Engagement

Every company should strive to engage with consumers on a mobile-first basis, but for businesses with a web-first model, mobile engagement can present a challenge. Whereas companies with a mobile app can send their users timely push notifications and spur reengagement directly within their apps, web-first companies have historically been forced to use alternate channels to reach audiences on iOS mobile phones.

As a result, web providers have had to improvise their engagement strategies by asking users to opt into SMS or email as alternative communication options.

Why do Companies Choose a Web First Model?

Mobile app development incurs a high cost and requires a significant investment of resources.

Oftentimes, it doesn’t make sense for businesses with a successful web-first model to invest the necessary time and resources in creating an app if doing so won’t ultimately benefit their monetization model.

Resource-constrained web-first companies are an example of businesses that may not feasibly invest in mobile app development and should instead aim to connect with users active on mobile through web push.

This could also be the case for entrepreneurs or early-stage companies with minimal or no funding. The bottom line is that many companies aren’t in a position to invest resources in app development.

Some examples of web-first businesses that may not benefit from developing a mobile app include social media marketing businesses, independent consultants, photography or design services, and others.

If you think about standard B2B audiences, for instance, most users will work from their desktops during the workday, which could be a reason to stick with a web-first model. B2B companies may want to develop an app in the case that it better connects stakeholders and clients or allows users to perform their jobs more easily.

In considering the tradeoffs of developing a mobile app to reach mobile-first users, businesses should only go out on a limb to do so if they are sure that developing an app will directly benefit their target audience.

For modern companies that are not app-based, mobile web notifications are a viable alternative engagement channel to reach iOS target audiences.

Why Do you Need Mobile Web Push Notifications on iOS?

Here are a few key statistics illustrating the importance of using mobile web notifications as part of your engagement strategy for iOS users.

  • Safari claims almost 20 percent of the global browser market share
  • Whereas the average email click-through rate is between two and three percent, push notifications have an average CTR of eight percent
  • iPhone users statistically earn an average annual salary of around 53,000, whereas Android users earn an average annual salary of only $37,000
  • In addition, iPhone users spend an average of $101 per month on technology products, which makes them a higher-spending market segment
  • Web notifications are used by more than eight percent of top websites

A Brief History of Browser Support for Web Notifications

Historically, Apple’s lack of support for mobile web notifications has dramatically slowed the adoption and utility of web push as a channel. Previously, even if an Apple device had a supported browser installed, users would still have been unable to receive web push notifications.

In 2015, Chrome became the first browser to implement support for the web push notification API. Today, additional browsers including Chrome and Firefox on OS, Windows, OS X, Safari on OS X, and others —have implemented support for web push. In the time web push has existed, developers with an Android audience have leveraged the web push channel to reach their mobile users, creating a more cohesive mobile web experience.

Finally, In early 2022, Apple hinted at support for web push on mobile devices in its first Beta of iOS 15.4. In Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference in 2022, the tech giant announced the release of web notifications for early 2023. The browser will implement the standard W3C Push API to send notifications. This framework is standard among other non-iOS browsers such as Chrome and Firefox.

How You Can Implement Mobile Web Push Notifications

1) Know the Basics of How They Work

Before you deploy mobile web notifications, you should understand both how they appear to your end users and also how they are configured.

Mobile web notifications are displayed on the corner of a user’s screen in a fashion that’s strikingly similar to a mobile push notification… (Wow!) On a mobile screen, they appear at the top, or right side of a mobile device’s screen provided that a user has their web browser open.

When a web notification is sent, users click on it, which will take them back to a URL that the company in question has defined. Web push notifications are received on a permissions-only basis, meaning your users must opt into this communication channel. The web push experience also differs across browsers. Some allow more freedom to include images and other elements.

The delivery of push notifications involves two APIs—a notification API and a push API. Every browser uses a different notification delivery service to deliver web push notifications. Chrome uses Firebase Cloud Messaging (FCM), Safari uses Apple Push Notification Service (APNS), and Firefox uses MDN Servers.

To start sending notifications, you’ll first need to install a web-based SDK from a web push service on your site.

2) Understand Permissions Frameworks

Mobile web push notifications are a permissions-based channel, similar to SMS or email. Relative to SMS or email opt-in processes, web push permissions are easier to implement.

The process of opting into mobile web push notifications is almost the same as opting into regular web push notifications, save two important distinctions—how custom web permission prompts are displayed, and how the native browser permission prompt displays. On mobile devices, the native browser permissions prompt takes up a user’s entire screen.

3) Be Strategic With Your Opt-In Strategy

When it comes to requesting opt-ins for the mobile web channel, you’ll want to be strategic in when, how, and in what way you ask to open this new mode of communication. When requesting permissions, most companies can benefit from a subtle approach instead of blasting a generic request to all of their web users at the default time.

Delaying the Native Prompt

To avoid this tone-deaf approach, you can instead delay the native browser prompt and craft your own personalized message to incentivize users to subscribe.

By first communicating the value of receiving mobile web notifications, you’re likely to gain more subscribers and instill initial trust in your brand. With the optimal web push provider, you can better cater your permissions request using a custom prompt, bell prompt, or category slide-down message.

With a strong marketing automation provider, you can also modify when users see push permission prompts based on criteria such as a number of page views or time spent on a page in order to better time your permissions request.

4) Know the Differences between Mobile and Web Push on Mobile Devices

As we’ve discussed, web notifications operate in a different way than mobile push notifications. They are delivered to the end user through a given browser via a different path than traditional mobile push notifications, which are contingent on a company having a mobile app.

Although mobile push and mobile web push notifications have a similar appearance on the end user’s device, web push notifications are only seen by users who are currently active on the device in question. This is another reason that when you implement your mobile web push strategy, you should aim to optimize your experience based on users’ activity and behavior patterns using strategies such as tagging and segmentation.

Mobile Web Push Use Cases as of iOS 16

Here are some key use cases that illustrate the value of connecting with your web audiences in a mobile-first way as of the new iOS.

1) TeleHealth

Let's say you’re a Telehealth portal that offers patients various services such as appointment booking, symptom reporting, and more. When your patients are accessing your site on mobile, you can communicate with them around important health-related alerts, such as their provider sending them a message, an urgent need for users to self-report symptoms, and more.

2) Small Business

Maybe you own and operate a small business with brick-and-mortar locations. You likely don’t have a mobile app to sell your products on, because you have no budget for such an endeavor In order to reengage mobile web visitors with your on-site offerings, you can send them targeted follow ups about your new Fall products, the availability of a certain item, and more. Using mobile web notifications in this way will create a more user-friendly mobile web experience.

3) Trading/Betting

Imagine you’re a web-based trading platform that routinely aims to reengage users to perform coin or stock exchanges. Reaching your mobile audience with alerts around the fluctuating value of their assets is powerful, especially on mobile, where your users usually spend a lot of their downtime. In this use case, you may also want to send security and privacy alerts via mobile push to make sure users are safely trading and transacting.

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