Interactive push notifications – what they are, when and how to use them

Push messaging has been around since the turn of the century, first with Blackberry push email and then with BBM. Since then, with the proliferation of smartphones push usage has grown leaps and bounds, so much so that Apple’s servers alone were pumping out 7.5 trillion pushes back in 2013. Consequently, mobile push notifications have become one of the most important channels for customer engagement and customer communication. However, with increasing usage, the response rates for traditional push notifications are going down.

Businesses need to increase the effectiveness of their push notifications, the communication needs to be contextual, timely, actionable, and above all, useful to the customers. Milton Ericsson, the American psychiatrist famously said, “Effectiveness of any communication is defined by the response”.

Enter Interactive push notifications.

They might just be the answer if done right. Messaging apps like WhatsApp and Messenger provide a reply option directly from the notification tray. Not having to go into the app makes it convenient for users to respond/act on the notification potentially leading to higher response rate.


But given the popularity of messaging apps, they may not be the best barometer to gauge the effectiveness of interactive push.

Before we dwell this further, it is important to understand what constitutes an interactive push notification. Interactive notifications allow business to add up to 3 response buttons to a notification which when clicked can trigger actions in the background (e.g. sending a response to WhatsApp message directly from the notification tray without opening the app) or foreground (e.g. opening a webpage in the browser). There can be different actions associated with each button to trigger different response journeys. The list below captures some use cases to illustrate the versatility that interactive notifications can bring to customer journeys.

    1. Closing the loop: Routine transaction alerts can be sent as simple push notifications or SMS messages. However, in cases where fraud is suspected, an interactive push notification provides a convenient mechanism for customers to indicate whether they authorized the transaction or report fraud.


    1. Improving CX: Use of SMS for sending payment reminders is commonplace. Banks can instead use interactive push notifications with a ‘Pay Now’ button which is deep-linked to the bill payment page in the mobile app to provide a much better customer experience.


    1. Proactive Journeys: Most online retailers send one-way order delivery notifications but more often than not customers would want to change the time or date of delivery. Customers can be empowered to do this by embedding relevant calls-to-action within the delivery notification.


    1. Effective Promotional Notifications: Make the most common use of push messaging more effective by coupling interactive notifications with rich push notifications.


Push messaging by default is thought of as a marketing channel due to its excessive use in promotional campaigns. This is understandably annoying for end customers especially when app downloads are increasing exponentially year-on-year (source).

Interactive notifications turn this notion on its head; as the list earlier illustrates, interactive push notifications are a great choice for service notifications and in-life comm. It partly is the reason why interactive notifications were introduced back in 2013 with Android 4.2 with Apple adding support for interactive buttons on mobile push notification in 2014, soon after extending it to Apple watches.

Now, given how useful interactive notifications are, why are they not as widely used as they ought to be?

The reason is due to mobile platform level complexities and the challenges involved in re-engineering existing business systems to cope with these complexities. The processes involved are completely different for Android and iOS.

IMIconnect insulates business systems from these underlying complexities, so businesses can focus on creating better notifications and ultimately better customer journeys. IMIconnect’s native SDK for Android and iOS handle respective platform complexities and expose several interactive notification categories i.e. different button combinations that can be directly used while sending notifications. IMIconnect makes it really easy to link customer actions with automation flows allowing you to easily close the loop and deliver delightful customer experiences, reduce costs through automation of customer journeys and unlock revenue opportunities through contextual and timely engagement.