The first website launched in 1991, and with that milestone came a tidal wave of generic “one-size-fits-all” marketing for the digital masses. Website experiences in those early years were designed to appeal to everyone, leaving little room to cater to individual interests and needs. And while we’ve seen web experiences become richer and more targeted over the years, there’s been a persistent gap that just hasn’t been filled—namely, the ability to speak directly to each individual web visitor.
What is Web Messaging Anyway?
As the name suggests, web messaging is designed to help brands reach people via the web, whether that’s on desktop, tablet, or mobile web browsers.
When people talk about web messaging, they’re usually focused on two specific channels that have become a key part of customer engagement: Web push notifications and in-browser messaging. And if the names sound familiar, that’s because they can really be thought of as browser-focused companions to their app-based counterparts: Push notifications and in-app messaging. That is, web push notifications are to mobile push notifications as in-browser messaging is to in-app messaging.
Web Push Notifications: 101
Your Google Calendar reminder that nudges you to make it to your next meeting in time. A notification that there’s a new email waiting for you in your inbox. An alert letting you know that you’ve just received another friend request. Oh look, your package shipped. Did you see that breaking news headline that just flashed across your screen? Yes, your food is finally on its way!
These are just some ordinary, everyday examples of web push notifications that likely pass right before your eyes on a regular basis, helpful reminders and alerts that are so much a part of our routines that they’re easy to take for granted—even though they’ve only been around since 2015.
Think “push notifications, but for the web.” Like mobile app push, these messages are built for short, urgent communications. With support for rich content, like images, GIFs, and push action buttons that allow customers to engage directly with these updates (think favoriting an item or replying to a message), they’re versatile, too. Even better? Web push notifications are designed to be delivered to web visitors, even when they’re not viewing your website. While many brands have strategies for encouraging web visitors to opt into email marketing or download the company’s app, web push offers another way to keep the conversation going between web visits.
As with email marketing or mobile push campaigns, customers have to opt in to receive these notifications. While that does add a barrier, you may be surprised to see how many end up subscribing: Leading retailer Anthropologie has a healthy list of over 800,000 web push notification subscribers (more on that later).
When it comes to on-site communication, in-browser messages are your secret weapon. And just like mobile in-app messages— to which they bear, let’s say, a family resemblance—this channel is known for its profound flexibility, making it easy to fit the medium to the message. And, as with in-app messages, the only people who will see these communications are people who are actively engaging with your brand’s website—whether that’s on mobile or on desktop.
If your brand has an established mobile messaging strategy, web messaging should seem familiar; this new tool takes the messaging channels you currently use to engage and communicate with app users and makes it possible to do the same with web visitors. But for those new to in-app messaging and in-browser messaging, think of these as the new-and-much improved next generation of older web messaging options: Web pop-ups and interstitials.
In-Browser Messaging With Personalization vs. Old Web Pop-Ups
We’ve probably all had a bad experience or two with web popups. In the early days of the web, they were inescapable, providing experiences that were ad hoc, unwelcome, and sometimes straight-up creepy. But because today’s in-browser messages are modeled after mobile in-app messages, they make it possible for marketers to provide experiences that are wanted and valuable through the use of intuitive message personalization and customer targeting. It’s still important for marketers to be thoughtful about the experiences they’re serving up in this channel since even a personalized message served at the wrong moment can feel invasive, but creating brilliant compelling experiences within your website is now easier than ever before.
5 Types of In-Browser Message Formats
Small messages for brief need-to-know text communications.
Medium-sized pop-ups that can support imagery for medium-priority messages.
3. Full Screen
The most attention-grabbing and largest in-browser message type, capable of including large visuals and text.
4. Email Capture
These custom messages make it easy for brands to nudge web visitors to share their email addresses for future outreach.
5. Custom HTML
With a little coding, in-browser messages can be highly customizable and interactive to fit all your messaging needs.