Some of the things you need to consider before choosing a push notification platform for your business.

Type of message you are going to send

There are two types of messages that you can send as push notifications: Mechanical push and behavioral push.

Mechanical push. These are the messages sent after a specific activity. They are triggered by a user action or a predetermined time or event.
Mechanical push notifications are immediate, list-based, or event-triggered.

Behavioral push. These are personalized messages you send based on the past activity of the user in your app or real-time information like location. These push notifications are highly targeted, timely, personalized and deep link into a specific page of your app.
Behavioral push may not make sense for apps that are very transactional or if you don’t have the necessary resources to set up these campaigns.

Do you want an all-in-one solution or a focus solution?

Decide if you want a tool focused only on messaging, or if you also want analytics and in-app A/B testing options.

Focus on messaging
Tools focus on messaging usually provide the following:

  • Full-featured options for sending personalized messages
  • Reporting on campaigns
  • A/B testing copy
  • Deliver notifications at the right time for each user

In this category, there are also cross-platform tools covering push, email, and SMS.
Kahuna, Appboy, Outbound or Iterable are tools focused on messaging.

“All-in-one” mobile marketing and product suites
These tools offer push and email services, and also in-app A/B testing and funnel analytics. These type of tools might be a better choice if SDK bloat is a big issue for you. Tools in this category: Mixpanel, Urban Airship, Localytics, Leanplum.

Other things you need to consider

  • The volume of push notifications that you are planning to send. It’s critical to have a provider with the infrastructure to handle volume without crashing or missing message sends.
  • Speed of push notification delivery. For example, for media companies, speed is critical since they need to be the first to push out breaking news.
  • Levels of customer segmentation and message personalization options.
  • Possibility to create and send interactive push notifications.
  • Tools for reaching app users who aren´t opted in to push notifications. Things like in-app messages, an in-app message center (an inbox for your app), web push notifications and mobile wallet passes.
  • Options to send push notifications that include videos, images, and other rich media. You are looking for a vendor that has the ability to handle the increased file sizes rich push notification requires.
  • Option to send automated push notifications, the ability to deliver in-the-moment messaging based on users actions.
  • If you are not a developer, you should consider the following:
    The development resources available to you. If you don’t have any, look for push notification services that are reliable and have a lot of functionality that will allow you to do what you want to do without needing a mobile developer.
    Get comfortable with the push notification message composer. Is it easy to use and understand? Will you need help every time you need to send push notifications? How streamlined is the message composer workflow for the messages you are sending the most?
  • If you are a developer, consider the following:
    The push notification SDKs, is it clear and well documented? Updated regularly? Open source? Lightweight for bandwidth and processing constraints?
    Check GitHub, Stack Overflow, Twitter to see how well the vendor is interacting with developers.
    How easy is it to integrate the push notification platform with other technology in your stack?
    Are APIs clear and easy to access from your back-end systems?
  • See if the vendor offers a free trial before buying.
  • Customer support for both free and paid options.
  • Access to mobile analytics and user-level data. How easy is to bring data into the push notification platform from other business systems and how easy is to export data to use in other channels for retargeting.
  • The pricing structure
  • Your mobile growth goals and how are you going to reach them

Push notifications platforms

Carnival.io

Levels of customer segmentation. You can create audience segments based on user preferences, behaviors, device attributes, and location. Deliver messages in local time.
Message personalization. Create one message that automatically tailors to each individual user based on profile, behavior, and location. Insert individual data into every message (name, account information, loyalty status).
Rich messaging. You can send video, images, links, and text with emoticons.
Ability to send automated push notifications. Marketing automation to trigger messages at the perfect moment for each user (onboard users during their first week, re-engage users after inactivity, retarget based on past actions, geo-target)
Tools for reaching app users who aren’t opted in to push notifications: in-app messages. You can give your rich content a home inside your app with a fully customizable Message Stream.
Free trial. No free trial
Pricing structure. You need to contact them for pricing.
Access to mobile analytics and user-level data. You can automatically pull in events captured by Adobe Analytics, Amplitude, Flurry, Google Analytics, Localytics and Mixpanel for message targeting.

View live engagement stats, the SDK automatically captures installs, uninstalls, app opens, Monthly Active Users, location, technology. You can see message performance (message impressions, app opens from push, delivery status). Capture user actions such as sign ups, screen views, and purchase.

Urban Airship 

Offers mechanical and behavioral messaging. Full suite of mobile marketing and content publishing. It’s great for marketers, developers, and product owners.
Great for companies with MAU (Monthly Active Users) from 1,000 to 50,000,000.
Great if your objective is to grow and retain mobile users.
It’s easy to use with step-by-step campaign builders that let you set automation triggers, segments, message content and A/B tests quickly.
Unlimited push notifications, unlimited in-app messaging.
Levels of customer segmentation. Unlimited tagging and segmentation. Allows to segment messages based on in-app behavior, user preferences, location or device information. The moment a user downloads your app, Urban Airship automatically begins building a user profile based on where and how they use it.
Rich messaging. Images, video, gifts, interactive buttons, social sharing
Ability to send automated push notifications. Trigger push notifications and in-app messages based on users’ first behaviors. Offers a limitless flexibility with rules-based automation engine that triggers messages in response to almost anything (locations, events, inactivity)
Tools for reaching app users who aren’t opted in to push notifications: in-app messages, an in-app message center, web push notifications and mobile wallet passes
Free trial. Yes
Pricing structure.

  • Free option up to 1,000 addressable users.
  • Basic. $99/month up to 10,000 addressable users
  • Essential starting at $149/month tiered pricing by audience size
  • Comprehensive starting at $343/month tiered pricing by audience size

Access to mobile analytics and user-level data. Optimize conversions, track installs and uninstalls, analyze recency, frequency, and monetary metrics. Export data to any channel in your stack.

OneSignal

OneSignal is a high volume push notification service for websites and mobile applications. The OneSignal Dashboard exposes all the functionality of OneSignal in an easy-to-use interface for developers and marketers alike.
Levels of customer segmentation. You can create any number of segments. Segments are only created using the Dashboard and by adding filters based on certain data attributes. By default, OneSignal creates four different segments that you may target (All, Active, Not Active, and Engage)
Message personalization. You can add user data tags to build more personalized messages.
Rich messaging. Audio, image, video. At a technical level, there are two types of rich notifications: content extensions and media attachments. Content extensions allow developers to add custom views of their app within a notification. Media attachment allows developers to attach URLs to relevant content (pictures, videos).
You can also add action buttons to your notifications.
Ability to send automated push notifications. Automatic/triggered notifications. Automatically send a push notification to users once they become part of a segment.
Tools for reaching app users who aren’t opted in to push notifications: OneSignal does not have any built-in UI for in app messages. However, they provide the necessary functionality to create your own in app messages.
Free trial. It’s free
Pricing structure. 100% free, unlimited devices, unlimited notifications.
Enterprise pricing plans start at $40 for up to 500,000 users.
Access to mobile analytics and user-level data. Message reports show you the result of sending a notification. You can export your OneSignal easily and supports the following integrations: Google Analytics, Amplitude, Mixpanel, Adobe Analytics, and other analytics vendors, Oxwall and Zapier.

Push Woosh

Future ready and highly scalable system that enables companies to manage push notification traffic going up to millions.
Marketers can define the target audience and plan marketing strategies accordingly.
It’s a service of high scalability and high speed. Great for product owners, marketers, developers and enterprise. A good option if you need to consider high volume and high speed is important for you.
Levels of customer segmentation. You can build any kind of segment with Tags. You can collect additional data from your users as Tags (gender, city and DOB, the amount of money spent on in-app purchases) and use this data for precise segmentation.
Message personalization. Personalize your message by modifying the message content with corresponding Tag values that you collect from your users.
Rich messaging. Allows you to build deeply customized rich media pages with images, embed video, CTAs and other media content your users can interact with.
Ability to send automated push notifications. Automate some or all of your push notifications by setting the target audience segment and frequency. You can send automated push notifications to users entering a specific area using the geo- zone feature.
Tools for reaching app users who aren’t opted in to push notifications: in-app messaging
Free trial 14-day free trial to try all the features
Pricing structure.

  • Start Up up to 1,000 devices for free
  • Developer up to 50,000 devices $41.95 per month.
  • Marketing up to 250,000 devices, starts at $125.95 per month.
  • Enterprise flexible devices-based pricing. Contact company for price

Access to mobile analytics and user-level data. Measure app installs and opens, push subscription, sent & open rates, all tag data statistics.

Mixpanel

Delivers super helpful in-app event analytics. It allows companies to track people’s activity and behavior on their mobile phone and web app.
Great for product managers. It’s for companies with MAUs 1,000-1,500,000 that have as an objective improving funnel conversions with personalized notifications.
Levels of customer segmentation. You can create hyper-targeted campaigns based on your users’ characteristics.
Message personalization. Send personalized messages based on user’s characteristics and past actions.
Rich messaging yes
Ability to send automated push notifications. Mixpanel lets you send notifications based on the actions that people take in your app.
Tools for reaching app users who aren’t opted in to push notifications. You can send customers an email, in-app notifications, or SMS text message
Free trial. Yes
Pricing structure.

  • Free 20M data points per month.
  • Startup $99/month starting at 1M data points per month.
  • Business $999/year starting at 10M data points per year.
  • Enterprise contact for more information.

Access to mobile analytics and user-level data. Mixpanel ties notifications to more meaningful data, events that you already track using this platform (logging in, a purchase). Once you add Mixpanel, you can pick and choose which actions to track in your application with a simple point & click interface.

Leanplum

This platform is best for mobile-first companies that have over 100,000 -10,000,00 MAUs and want to measure how push notifications affect key performance indicators down the funnel.
Levels of customer segmentation. Enables holistic segmentation across every aspect of a mobile app.
Message personalization. Leanplum provides context and personalization enabled by individual user profiles that get richer over time. Demographic, behavior, location, time, and external data to provide powerful insights.
Rich messaging. yes
Ability to send automated push notifications. Ability to target based on what users do and who they are, recognizing individuals at scale. Automatically send messages to segments based on key behaviors, in response to events like news updates, content releases, and promotions.
Tools for reaching app users who aren’t opted in to push notifications: in-app messages, email, app inbox
Free trial. Free 30-day trial
Pricing structure. Leanplum customizes pricing plans depending on the enterprise needs.
Access to mobile analytics and user-level data. Leanplum captures all events and behaviors associated with a user, without limits or data point costs. You can customize parameters, reports, and metrics. You can see the impact of your campaign in real-time so you can focus on optimizing.

Localytics 

Ideal for companies that plan their communications based on how people are interacting with their app. It’s great for growth and enterprise marketers. For companies with MAUs 50,000 – 50,000,000 with the objective to drive engagement across the entire user lifecycle.
Levels of customer segmentation. You can target users based on a combination of profile data (who they are) and event data (what they have done inside the app).
Message personalization. Personalize your push notifications dynamically for each and every user, using information such as user’s name, favorite category, and more. You can also personalize deep links and rich push content.
Rich messaging. Images, GIFs, videos, audio files, emoji support.
Ability to send automated push notifications. Automatically send a message after a user performs a specific action. You can use Localytics Places to send a location-based push notification the instant a user enters or exits a geofence.
Tools for reaching app users who aren’t opted in to push notifications: in-app messages, email,
Free trial. No
Pricing structure. You have to contact them, price tailor to you
Access to mobile analytics and user-level data. You can see how your push messages drive changes in user behavior. You can see if a campaign is causing users to opt out of push notifications or uninstall the app.

Appboy 

It’s a communication platform built for mobile-first marketers. Best for companies with MAU 50,000+ with the objective to drive mobile-centric customer engagement, retention and advocacy.
It’s an all-in-one engagement platform that allows you to send transactional, triggered, and promotional push notifications in milliseconds and at scale. Great for mobile marketers that are looking for speed and high volume.
Levels of customer segmentation. Segmentation tool to target the right users, at the right time and on the right device.
Message personalization. Segment and contextually personalize push notifications with public and private APIs and user profile data like attributes, events, devices, send-time preferences, geo-targeting data, and more.
Rich messaging. Add images, animated GIFs, and video. Push action buttons.
Ability to send automated push notifications. Send messages at optimal times using Intelligent Deliver and action-based triggers.
Tools for reaching app users who aren’t opted in to push notifications: in-app messages, email, News Feed Cards
Free trial No
Pricing structure. Contact them to get a detailed pricing quote tailored to your needs.
Access to mobile analytics and user-level data. You can view comprehensive reports and a cross-channel view

Outbound 

Makes it easy to send messages based on what a user has and hasn’t done in your app. Good to communicate across email, SMS, and push. It’s great for growth marketers and companies with MAUs 50,000 – 1,000,000.
Levels of customer segmentation. Use any combination of user properties and event data. Send messages in real-time as customers take actions. Segment users by their actions and attributes. You can build specific, real-time segments.
Message personalization. Customize message with user attributes, event data or content that Outbound fetches from your server at send time.
Rich messaging. Yes
Ability to send automated push notifications. Trigger-based campaigns that allow you to send messages based on the user’s activity within your application. You can also create instant campaigns, trigger-based campaigns that have no delay and deliver time-sensitive transactional messages.
Tools for reaching app users who aren’t opted in to push notifications: email, in-app messages, SMS
Free trial. Free 14-days trial. You have full access to the product: create campaigns, use the API and send messages.
Pricing structure.

  • Startup $134/month up to 2,000 messaged users.
  • Growth $359/month up to 10,000 messaged users.
  • Enterprise from $499/month up to 20,000 messaged users to $2,000/month 200,000 messaged users. For millions of messaged users contact for custom price.

Outbound charges based on the number of users you message each month. Each messaged user is count once, no matter how many messages you send to that person.
Access to mobile analytics and user-level data. Outbound tracks goals (actions you want your users to take). You also have A/B testing tools and you can create variants of each message.

Pushcrew 

Push notifications for website and mobile. Push notifications work on all devices, for all websites. It allows you to build a mobile audience on your mobile website without having to create a mobile app. PushCrew supports multiple websites and multiple users in a single account.
Levels of customer segmentation. You can group your audience into various segments to send targeted notifications. You can segment your audience based on geography, interests, and more.
Message personalization. Send interest-based, personalized, and relevant communication. Push notifications are clickable so you can send users to any URL on your website or outside your domain.
Rich messaging. Images and emoticons support. You can also add up to two call-to-action buttons and each button can have a separate landing page URL with individual UTM parameters.
Ability to send automated push notifications. Schedule your notifications for a time and date of your choice. You can send notifications when your audience is more active, including geolocation.
Free trial. Free 14-day trial
Pricing structure.

  • Startup free up to 500 subscribers
  • Premium starting at $25 per month up to 2K subscribers to $250 per month up to 50K.

Access to mobile analytics and user-level data. PushCrew Push Notification tracking feature helps you plan an effective marketing strategy with multiple metrics (real-time subscriber count, delivery rate, click rate).

Pulsatehq 

All-in-one engagement software for mobile apps. Designed for marketers with a quick set up.
Levels of customer segmentation. Select audience with real-time segments with beacons, geofences or in-app events.
Message personalization. You can see rich customer profiles that combine CRM and social data with in-app behavior and real-world location events to personalize your messages.
Rich messaging. Images, GIFs, videos
Ability to send automated push notifications. Schedule content to be delivered when users are most likely to take action.
Tools for reaching app users who aren’t opted in to push notifications: in-app notifications
Free trial. Free 14-day trial
Pricing structure. Contact for pricing
Access to mobile analytics and user-level data. Easy to understand analytics. You can export and share your campaign data in a variety of formats including images/email/PDF. Export your raw data into Excel, CSV or JSON

Resources
10 Best Push Notification Tools to Monetize Your Mobile App
Comprehensive buyers guide push notifications platforms
What’s the best push notification service?
Which Push Notification Tool Should You Use?

Push Notification Platforms
LeanPlum
Urban Airship
Swrve
Sendpulse
OneSignal
PushCrew
Localytics
Mixpanel
GoRoost
Pulsatehq
PushBots
PushWoosh