Push vs. email vs. in-app notifications—what’s best?

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Olivia Doboaca
Push vs. email vs. in-app notifications—what’s best?

Table of Content:

  1. Email notifications pros & cons
  2. Push notifications pros & cons
  3. In-app notifications pros & cons
  4. What’s better?
  5. Afterword
  6. FAQ
    • What’s the difference between push, email, and in-app notifications?
    • How to boost mobile app email open rates?
    • How often should mobile app notifications go out?

So, the internet's turned our brains into goldfish, right? Attention spans are down to a measly 5 seconds. Tough scene for any brand trying to get a bit of that. If you want to catch and keep customers, you’ve got to be slick—crafting content that grabs 'em and doesn’t let go.

Let's get down to the showdown of marketing channels, trying to figure out which one's the champ at pulling in and locking down clients.

Email notifications pros & cons

Email's not just for sending memes to your work buddies—it's a killer way to hit up both potential and existing customers without breaking the bank—your budget-friendly megaphone. Every second, over 5 million emails blast through the internet, and a chunk of those are trying to sell you something.

So, what’s the use case?

  • Deep dives. Got something complex to explain? Emails are your submarine. Get into details without worrying about brevity.
  • Big news. Launching something big or shaking things up? Email lets you lay it all out, from the headline to the fine print.
  • Educational content. Teach your audience something valuable. Emails can be your classroom, with lessons that stick.
  • Long-form relationships. Building a bond or nurturing leads? Emails are the slow burn of digital romance.
  • Newsletters. Regular updates, industry insights, or curated content collections. Emails are perfect for serial storytelling or keeping your audience in the loop.

With email marketing, brands get all up in your inbox with deals, content, and all sorts of stuff hoping you'll bite. It's like they're throwing a party and you're the VIP—they just need you to show up. They tailor messages, split people into groups, and keep tabs on who's actually reading their emails and clicking on stuff. Plus, you get to spice up messages with pics, videos, and links.

So, email notifications are the old-school mixtape of the digital world—personal, detailed, and meant for those moments when you've got more to say. They're clutch for deep thoughts on security updates, or the lowdown on the latest features that'll make your app the next big thing.

They're also your go-to for reeling back in the people who've ghosted your app, getting the skinny on what they think about your service, or cross-selling your other products. But remember, nobody likes an inbox hog. Flood their emails with stuff they don't care about, and you're just one click away from "unsubscribe." Keep it relevant, make it customizable, and treat their inbox like you'd want yours treated—no one likes finding their digital rug buried under a pile of spam.

Also, do kindly note: a single promo email a week is probably more than enough, no matter how hot your product is. You will know if they are ready for more.

Push notifications pros & cons

Push notifications are those little nags that pop up on your phone or browser, tossing info at you even when you're not looking—short, snappy, and straight to the point.

Push notifications blow emails out of the water with open rates. Instant buzz in your pocket, making sure businesses can shout out their stuff without waiting in the email queue.

What about the use case?

  • Time-sensitive alerts. Perfect for urgent stuff like meeting reminders, as Google Suite shows.
  • Re-engagement. Nudge forgotten users back. Netflix does it with tailored messages to series fans.
  • Med reminders & alerts. Keep health in check with timely nudges. Apple's Health app is on it.
  • Limited-time offers. Drive sales with exclusive deals.
  • Cart reminders. Combat shopping cart ghosting. Amazon's gentle nudge beats a hard sell any day.

These things are great for getting people to do something right here, right now. Plus, you can tweak them to fit exactly what your users prefer, based on their past likes and clicks. Personalized pestering, but in a good way.

Push notifications are good for quick heads-ups, like "Yo, your order's ready," "Watch out, security issue nearby," or "Psst, new message." Perfect for hyping up new features or content, poking dormant users to see what's up, fishing for feedback to polish your app, or slinging your other goodies their clients might like.

Don't go nuts blasting these out. Annoy your users with spammy, irrelevant pings, and they'll either disable notifications altogether or get rid of your app. Make every word count, too.


In-app notifications pros & cons

In-app messaging is like having a GPS inside the app—guiding users around, showing off cool features, and making sure they don't get lost. When messing with in-app notifications, make sure you're not annoying your users, or they'll bail. It’s a whole different thing, really, since you can automate them and place little message traps where they really count.

Use cases—let’s see ‘em.

Onboarding tours. Show newcomers around with sleek messages. Keep it simple to avoid overload.

Contextual updates. Pop up at the perfect moment with relevant info, like finding cheap flights on Skyscanner.

Feature announcements. Yell about new stuff inside the app.

Special achievements. Cheer users on for milestones. Makes 'em feel good and stick around.

Feedback requests. Ditch email for feedback. In-app requests get real responses, not spam folder exile. However, deliver good value first! Otherwise, it’s likely you’ll get nothing.

Since push and in-app notifications are two peas in a pod, timing can overlap. Oh, and don’t forget: both these tricks work on websites and mobile.

Use it to welcome newbies with how-tos and what's-what, flaunt your latest features and deals, and pry open their brains for feedback with surveys. It's a direct chat line to your users—make sure they're getting the most out of your app, stick around, and actually like what they see. Done right, this strategy is brilliant for making your app the one they can't live without.

What’s better?

Emails are your go-to when you need to dive deep into something complex, roll out the red carpet for something new, or give the lowdown on your latest blog spill. Push notifications are quick hits for the stuff that can't wait, big news, and those "don't forget" moments. In-apps, are that—in-app guidance and feel-good stuff.

  • The common ground: push and email need a thumbs-up from users. This means people want to hear what you've got to say. Personal touch—all can do it. Emails can get cozy, calling you by name and chatting about stuff that matters to you. Push notifications, though, are slick with the timing, hitting you up based on what you've been poking around at online. In-apps are there in the middle.
  • The divide: when it comes to crafting your message, emails are your canvas—you can go long, add visuals, even tack on files. Push notifications are just a few words and maybe a pic. In-apps, again, are in the middle. Emails might sit unopened, but push notifications get in your face almost always. You can’t miss in-apps because you’re actively doing something in the app.
  • The golden rule: chill with the spamming. Your inbox is already a mess, and your phone's buzzing non-stop. Overkill leads to "see ya" and "nope." Keep push notifications to a light sprinkle, 2–3 times a week tops. Emails—once or twice is plenty. In-apps, moderate in between. During onboarding, you will have more, but do you have to keep it up later? Nah. Sure, some can bend these rules, but for the rest of us, this is the sweet spot. Too much of a good thing is bad.

Set this combo up smart, and you'll be fine.


Push notifications are like a quick slap to the face—fast, impossible to ignore, and perfect for grabbing those fleeting 5 seconds of attention online. Emails are the long game—more room to chat, stick in people's brains, and pretty up your message. In-app notifications are there in the middle, but they’re serving a different purpose altogether.

Choosing between a slap or a chat depends on what you're trying to do, who you're talking to, and what you wanna say. If you can, why not both? Why not all of them, in fact? Just…in moderation.


What’s the difference between push, email, and in-app notifications?

Emails are for long stuff and can get ignored. Push notifications are quick, and can annoy people but get seen. In-app messages need you in the app to work, and are in the middle content-wise.

How to boost mobile app email open rates?

Use emails to keep customers without spamming them. Make it personal and interesting. Don’t send too many or they’ll hate it. Be receptive to user feedback, if you receive it.

How often should mobile app notifications go out?

Push notifications get noticed fast, perfect for "act now" moments. But they can anger users if you overdo it. 3-5 marketing push notifications are about as much as you can possibly afford to do.

React to user feedback and market trends faster