December 1, 2023

Push Notifications vs. In-App Notifications.

App engagement is pivotal in enhancing Lifetime Value (LTV), revenue, and the user experience of a successful app. Engaging users effectively increases their interaction with the app, fostering loyalty and encouraging continued usage.  Push messages and in-app messages are key engagement vehicles, offering personalized communication to re-engage users, enrich their in-app experience so they

But what is the difference between in-app messaging and push messages?  Let’s dive in and see why both of these engagement notifications can help keep a user engaged with an app.


Difference between Push Notifications & In-App Notifications.

  • Push notifications – standard mobile notifications that are used most often. These are messages that are sent from a server directly to the user's device, visible even when the app is not actively in use. They serve to inform, remind, or re-engage users by appearing on the lock screen or notification center.

  • In-app notifications – messages that the user gets inside the application after they have opened it and they enhance the user's experience by delivering timely and relevant information during app usage.  These messages can guide users, promote offers, or provide important updates.

In addition to their location (outside or inside the app), push notifications and in-app notifications differ from each other in the following way:

  • Purpose: a push notification brings the users to the application whereas an in-app notification guides the users inside the app.
  • Working principle: a push works at any time whereas an in-app works only when the application is open.
  • Audience: a push is aimed at the potentially disengaged audience whereas an in-app targets the audience that’s already using the product.
  • Disabling a notification: a user can always turn off a push whereas in-apps cannot always be disabled by users.

Here’s a quick table showing the differences between the Push Message and the In-App Message.

Push Notification

In-App Notification




User experience

pop-up on lock or home screen

pop-up once app is opened.

User Touchpoint

Passive Touchpoint


Opt out by user


No opt out

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Use Cases - Push Notifications

Here are the most popular using Push notifications:

  • To promote the app. These messages inform the user about the brand’s special offers and discounts, e.g. holiday or seasonal discounts. Example: “Cooler weather means it’s a jacket time! Here is our most popular style. All jackets are now 20% off.”
  • To inform. These messages are triggered by various activities and transactions that the user has made within the product. Example: “Your video is ready to view. You can now watch it.” by Facebook.
  • To deliver location-specific information. These notifications are based on the user’s current location and their purpose is to deliver information that is specific for this location. Example: “Welcome to New York! See where your friends have been in the city.” by Facebook.  Facebook users can choose to receive such messages each time they visit a new city.
  • To retain users. These messages encourage the user to stay and continue using the product. A good example of a retention message is an abandoned cart alert in e-commerce apps. Game developers also actively use retention push notifications in order to bring players back to the game.


Use Cases - In-App Notifications :

Once a user is in the app, this is where “In-App” notifications really shine.   The developer now has a chance to directly influence the user in a positive way.  

However, In-app messages should appear at the right time and be tied to user behavior for the best impact.  For example, if your potential customer places an order, and you suggest that they take a survey, it will not cause anything but irritation.  Here are some examples:

  • Personal recommendations. Personalization is crucial in building customer loyalty. An application can collect information about the user’s behavior and preferences. By collecting and analyzing this information, you can offer the most suitable content and recommendations based on real-life interests. For example, the Beats Music app creates a playlist based on the songs you’ve previously listened to. Instead of just spamming all users with notifications of updates and recommendations, they use the “Just for You” notifications on the main screen.
  • Gamification elements. In-app notifications are a perfect form to encourage users. This can be done by using notifications similar to gaming achievements, such as badges, stickers, and other level-up awards. For example, Duolingo gives its users the “Lingots” currency for specific achievements in mastering a foreign language.
  • An easy way to tell friends. All app creators want their users to share it with friends.  For users to start talking about you, you need to provide them with a convenient opportunity.  Use an in-app message combined with some event in the application: for example, a user has completed a slow motion video and can share it with friends.
  • Short tips. Most users do not like reading guidelines on how to use the product. In-app notifications are a great opportunity to show small tips and short contextual instructions. As a result, the users will instantly adopt the correct experience of using the app, without interruption and without going to a separate screen to read the manual. Such built-in guidelines can also serve as a part of the user onboarding process.
  • Adding friends. If your product is based on user interaction, you can use in-apps to push the users to the desired action. Show them how easily they can interact with others.  You can suggests importing information about your Facebook friends to the calendar.
  • Getting the user’s consent to receive push notifications. You can use in-app notifications to ask the users whether they want to get push messages and explain which benefits they can get if they enable the notifications.
  • Asking for feedback. It is easier to get feedback from users when they are engaged or have just used your application. In-app notifications work well to get you that valuable feedback from your users.
  • Asking for reviews. It is easier to get a better review from users who just created and exported content on your app.  For example, after a user creates a slow motion video and uploads it to a social media platform, ask them for a good review.
  • Inform about new features. Let your users know the enhancements and updates in your app while they are actively using it.

In-App Notifications show up in a variety of forms…..

Based on the location on the mobile device screen, there are the following types of in-app messages:

  1. As a full page message that appeals to the aesthetic tastes of the users.
  2. In the center of the screen. This format is good for providing users with information that they definitely should not miss.
  3. As a bottom banner for unobtrusive communication.
  4. As a top banner that creates the effect of a push notification.

Each location-based type is useful for different reasons, but some positions see better results when it comes to engagement and conversion.

  1. Full page in-app messages:
  2. These can be extremely effective if they are visually appealing. After all, this is exactly what consumers pay attention to when choosing applications. While some types of in-app notifications are useful for increasing brand loyalty and obtaining extra information about the user, others are aimed specifically at the user’s purchase.
  3. Center screen notifications:
  4. These are on average the most popular, as they are more likely to prompt immediate action. However, everything depends on your marketing goals.

Read more: What Is In-App Messaging and How to Use It to Improve User Retention