April 24, 2024

Push Notifications vs In-App Messages: Which is Better?

Explore the characteristics, benefits, and use cases of push notifications and in-app messages to help you make a decision on which one to choose.

In the era of smartphones and mobile applications, effective user engagement and communication are crucial for the success of any app. Two commonly used methods to communicate with users are push notifications and in-app messages. While both serve the purpose of delivering important messages, they differ in their delivery mechanisms and impact on the user experience.

In this blog post, we will explore the characteristics, benefits, and considerations of push notifications and in-app messages to help you make an informed decision on which communication channel to choose for your app.

What are push notifications?

Push notifications are messages sent from an app to a user's device even when the app is not actively in use. They appear as alerts on the device's lock screen or in the notification center, drawing the user's attention to the app. Push notifications can be personalized, and timely, and contain text, images, or even interactive elements.

Push notifications

Advantages of push notifications

Wide reach

Push notifications enable you to engage users even when they are not currently using your app. This helps keep your app top of mind and encourages re-engagement.

Instant delivery

Push notifications are delivered in real time, ensuring that users receive time-sensitive information promptly.


By leveraging user data and segmentation, you can send targeted push notifications, delivering relevant content that resonates with individual users.

Rich media capabilities

Push notifications can include images, videos, and interactive elements, enhancing their visual appeal and effectiveness.

Deep linking

You can deep link push notifications to specific sections or content within your app, directly guiding users to relevant information.

Considerations for push notifications

  1. Permission-based: Users need to grant permission to receive push notifications. It is essential to respect their privacy and send meaningful, non-intrusive messages.
  2. Opt-in and opt-out: Provide clear and easy-to-understand options for users to opt in or opt-out of receiving push notifications.
  3. Delivery limitations: The appearance and delivery of push notifications depend on the user's device settings and operating system. Differences in design and behavior across platforms should be considered.

Use cases of push notifications

Push notifications are widely used in mobile apps to engage and communicate with users effectively. Here are some common use cases for push notifications in mobile apps:

Reminders and alerts

Apps can send push notifications to remind users about important events, appointments, deadlines, or any other time-sensitive information. The below image shows how Duolingo sends reminder to complete their daily lessons.

Duolingo sends notification reminders to complete daily lessons

Promotion and offers

E-commerce or retail apps like Myntra can use push notifications to inform users about discounts, sales, exclusive offers, or personalized deals to encourage them to make purchases.

Myntra can use push notifications to inform users about offers

User retention and re-engagement

Push notifications can be utilized to re-engage inactive users or remind them to revisit the app. For example, a social media app like Tinder sends notifications about a new visitor or a new match.

Tinder sends notifications about a new visitor or a new match.

Personalized recommendations

Apps that offer personalized content, such as music streaming apps like Spotify which sends push notifications to suggest new songs, playlists, movies, or TV shows based on user preferences and behavior.

Spotify sends push notifications to suggest new songs, playlists, movies, or TV shows based on user preferences and behavior.

What are in-app messages?

In-app notifications, also known as in-app messages, are messages that appear within the app itself. They can be displayed as banners, pop-ups, or interstitials, providing information or requesting user action while the user is actively using the app. In-app messages are designed to blend seamlessly with the app's user interface, creating an immersive user experience.

Different in-app nudges

Advantages of in-app messages

Contextual relevance

In-app messages can be triggered based on specific user actions or events within the app, providing highly relevant and timely information.

Enhanced user experience

By appearing within the app's interface, in-app messages maintain the app's look and feel, ensuring a seamless and immersive user experience.

Interactive capabilities

In-app messages can contain interactive elements, such as buttons or forms, enabling users to take immediate action without leaving the app.

A/B testing and optimization

In-app messages allow for easy testing and optimization, as they can be modified and updated within the app without requiring changes to the underlying infrastructure.

Considerations for in-app messages

  1. App usage is required: In-app messages are only effective when users are actively using the app. They may not reach users who have not opened the app recently.
  2. Design and placement: Careful consideration should be given to the design and placement of in-app messages to ensure they do not disrupt the user experience or obstruct essential content.
  3. App version compatibility: In-app messages may require app updates to introduce new features or changes to the notification system. This can limit their availability in older app versions.

Use cases of in-app messages

In-app messaging refers to the ability to send and receive messages within a mobile app or web service. It enables real-time communication and interaction between users and can enhance the user experience in various ways.

Here are some different use cases for in-app messaging:

User onboarding and tutorials

In-app messaging can guide new users through the app's features and functionalities. It can provide interactive tutorials, tips, or step-by-step instructions to help users understand and navigate the app effectively.

For instance, you can improve the onboarding process by creating in-app flows that guide them to the right features. Taking Google Pay’s example, they know that a new user will be activated much faster if they make a payment to their contacts via a search or by scanning a QR code. They make sure a new user is aware of how to use those two features with tooltips.

Google Pay uses tooltips


Choose from tooltips, spotlights, coach marks, and more to bring attention to monetization flows. Build awareness, educate your users, and convert them to paying customers to increase revenue.

For instance, Jar uses in-app nudges to improve monetization and nudge users to invest.

SonyLiv uses Slider feature

Marketing and promotions

In-app messaging can serve as a marketing tool to send targeted offers, promotions, or personalized recommendations to users. Messages can be tailored based on user behavior, preferences, or demographics to enhance engagement and drive conversions.

For instance, Spotify displays a in-app modal as shown below based on user behavior and their taste in music.

Spotify sends the in-app message based on user behavior and their taste in music

Feedback and Surveys

In-app messaging can be utilized to collect feedback from users or conduct surveys. It allows app owners to gather user opinions, suggestions, or ratings directly within the app to improve the app's features or user experience.

Shown below is an example of how Meesho uses in-app surveys to get valuable feedback within the app.

Meesho uses in-app surveys to get valuable feedback within the app

Difference between push notifications and in-app messages

Push notifications and in-app messaging are both communication channels used by mobile apps to engage with users, but they have some key differences:

The table shown below shows how in-app messaging is different from push notifications:

Difference between push notifications and in-app messages

Choosing the right communication channel

Push notifications are ideal for reaching users outside the app, delivering time-sensitive information, and encouraging re-engagement. In-app messages, on the other hand, excel at delivering contextual messages, and real-time communication, facilitating in-app metrics lift, and enhancing the user experience.

Ultimately, the choice between push notifications and in-app messages should be based on your app's goals, user behavior, and the type of message you want to convey.

Plotline helps growth and marketing teams build in-app nudges in a no-code manner

While push notifications have been relied on by B2C companies to engage users and boost metrics, it has become saturated, with consumers receiving an average of 46 push notifications per day.

As a result, their effectiveness has declined. To overcome this, companies need to find new ways to connect with users and drive growth. That’s where in-app messages come in, but building them in-house can be time-consuming and challenging - dev bandwidth is always scarce.

Plotline's no-code in-app engagement platform enables you to deploy in-app nudges without writing a single line of code within 15 minutes. It can help satisfy multiple use cases and deliver amazing user experiences. We provide powerful event-based targeting and user segmentation to help the right user take the right action at the right time.

If you're interested in learning more about how in-app messages can help you drive activation, adoption, retention, and monetization metrics, book a demo with us.

Sign up for our newsletter
Sign up for our newsletter

Improve funnel metrics with Plotline

Join companies like ShareChat, Meesho, Jupiter, Jar, Khatabook and others that use Plotline to run in-app engagement and boost activation, retention and monetization.

Thanks for your faith in us! We will reach out to you shortly :D
Oops! Something went wrong. Would you mind trying again?