Guide to Implementing Web Push Notifications, Without a Vendor Lock-in
So you have heard about the new engagement channel for your Mobile and Desktop browser users – Website Notifications? Do you know what is Web Push Notifications? Web Push Notifications re-engage your users and get them back to your website when they are elsewhere. You decide to implement this on your website and are confused about various options available to you. After the Parse debacle, you now wonder how can you make sure there is no vendor lock-in when you implement Push Notifications for your website.
Or you are reading this because the first vendor you implemented with you didn't take enough precaution and got locked in, and now their prices are too high. Always check for the push notification features offered by the web push notification service provider. In case you want to migrate from the current push notification platform to others, you should follow the steps mentioned here.
We at PushEngage, want to write about this openly. Transparency is a core value of ours. Secondly, we want our customers to stay with us, because of the experience on our platform and not because they are locked-in.
If you are in rush, here is a TL;DR Summary
- Ensure you use your Safari Certificate. ps: FCM Key is not needed as we now use unique VAPID key since Aug 2018.
- Ensure you gather subscriber on your domain (i.e. final allow is on your domain)
- Ensure you use your own Safari Certificate. ps: FCM Key is not needed as we now use unique VAPID key since Aug 2018
- Ensure you gather subscriber on your domain, by using HTTPS Custom Subdomain.
Read ahead for the detailed version
Let's begin and see how to integrate push notifications without vendor lock-in.
Basic Questions to Answer Before Going Live
1) Is your Website HTTP or HTTPS?
Do you have an HTTPS website or a sub-domain or section of the website that is on HTTPS?
What is HTTP or HTTPS? If you check the URL of your website, do you see the green lock with Secure like you see on PushEngage site.
If yes, then you are on an HTTPS website, else HTTP. To know more about HTTP or HTTPS check wiki link here.
Why is this important: Push Notification subscription and sending requires an HTTPS domain, so if you have your own, you can use it. Later see what other benefits this has.
If you don't have an HTTPS sub-domain, we provide you with an HTTPS sub-domain hosted on our site e.g. https://yourdomain.pushengage.com/. This is then used for subscribing users and sending push notifications. This is the key to achieving full portability in an HTTP site. We have custom-subdomain settings as a feature in our platform.
What impact does this subdomain have on your notifications?
a) During subscription, your website users will see this subdomain,
Native Subscription Pop-up
b) When the message is sent, it will have the URL of the subdomain displayed in the Push – even though you can land the user on any URL on your domain.
In the above case, CouponRani.com used their own custom sub-domain https://ping.couponrani.com which had https, and this appears in subscription requests and notifications.
2) Two Steps to Avoid Vendor Lock-In When Integrating Push Notification
Step 1 One of the first steps to ensure portability, is to create your FCM Project and FCM Key. This is free and you can use the guide by Google on how to create an FCM key here. What is an FCM key – FCM stands for Firebase Cloud Messaging, and is the underlying layer for Browser Push Notifications. If you implement your FCM key, then its easy to import your subscribers to other push notification vendor. This way you can avoid vendor lock-in for Push Notification service.
Note: FCM settings alone wouldn't avoid the vendor lock-in. This is a key point most websites miss that. Let me explain why?
Step 2 : Hence, the second thing needed to avoid vendor lock-in is to use your own HTTPS sub-domain or an HTTPS domain for these push notifications. Moving a full site to HTTPS is some effort, and even though it is advisable from SEO perspective, it is still some effort work. A workaround is to have just a subdomain on HTTPS or a page on your site on HTTPS. This is an important step that requires you to collect subscription in a domain which is under your control.
Example: In the case of CouponRani, this was at https://ping.couponrani.com in the example above.
Now you have Identified the domain/sub-domain Where & How You will Collect Subscribers.
Hence, We have built custom subdomain as part of standard features of the product
To enable custom subdomain setup in PushEngage, you need to do the following if you are an HTTP site
a) Buy an SSL certificate
b) Setup a domain https://notify.yourdomain.com, and enable SSL certificate on that. You will need to set up a DNS mapping for this domain.
c) Then you need to place the PushEngage installation files in the subdomain
d) Enter this in Custom Subdomain setting in PushEngage
That is it and you would be live with Push Notifications without vendor lock-in.
It would be good to get your configuration checked with our support team by emailing at email@example.com
Best Practices for Subscription Management & Collecting Push Opt-in
Keep in mind when you start Push Notifications on your website, you start with Zero subscribers. You will slowly need to get subscribers and build your list, which has huge ROI potential. There is currently no way to convert your email subscribers into Push subscribers.
Hence we should identify what are the best ways to get user subscription on your and how to increase your opt-in rate.
In general, we expect that your site should get at least as much subscription/opt-in rate for Push Subscribers as it is for Email. We believe this is for two reasons
- You do not need to type anything while subscribing to Push Notifications. A click is easier than typing in a text box.
- You are in full control of your Push Notification subscription, as you can opt out of Push Notifications for any site through your Browser settings.
How should you collect subscription? If you are full HTTPS site, you will see only 1 native pop-up that appears like below.
If you have only a portion of the website on HTTPS, then you will need to use other elements like a Pop – up, Bell, or Bottom Bar, or any other, which on Allow goes to the HTTPS version of the website.
Apart from collecting subscribers in one global list, you should think of segmenting the users and putting them in various lists based on their site action, location, or any other attribute. We can do this by using automatic segmentation and custom segmentation feature in PushEngage. Read this post on how to set this up.
Do you acknowledge the users that they have successfully subscribed to Push Notification for your website? We believe this can be important user experience element, as the Push Notification pop-ups (an abundance of them) can be confusing and a welcome notification reconfirms that they have successfully completed the subscription. In a sense, this is similar to welcome email and confirmation of subscription in an email.
Using Drip Web Push Campaigns, now you can send out a Welcome Notification, say 30 minutes after the user has subscribed. This can have more impact as this reaches when the customer has left the site, but they remember your site clearly, and is a good time to nudge them for any action. Here is an example Welcome Drip Sent after 30 minutes.
4) Steps to go live with Push Notifications
5) Examples Of Push Notification Campaigns
Now that you are collecting subscribers for re-engaging with them, which campaigns do you run for your subscribers? This is a broad question and answer depends on what kind of site are you running, but let us share the common type of campaigns that are being used –
A. New Article Alert Campaign
B. Breaking News Alert Campaign
C. Price Drop Alerts
D. Coupon/Offer Alerts
E. Product Availability Alert
F. Shopping Cart Abandonment Campaign – Send targeted notification based on cart abandonment on Mobile or Desktop site
G. App Download Push Campaign – Get App downloads
H. Social Media Engagement Campaign – Drive Facebook likes, Twitter Follows
Early results indicate that Web Push Notification is a high ROI channel, and fast growing, so you should definitely try this out for your website. Since Web Push Notifications are a new standard, expect a lot of new features and changes it. As you think about enabling your website with Push notifications, implement it in a way that leaves you with more flexibility.