Ecommerce marketing podcast: Why Pushnami’s CEO loves web push for ecommerce shops

Ecommerce marketing podcast: Why Pushnami’s CEO loves web push for ecommerce shops

Knowing what marketing channel to implement next can be challenging for ecommerce marketers. Will the new channel help you acquire more customers? Will it help you score repeat sales? Is it easy to integrate? Is it worth the investment?

Pushnami CEO Emerson Smith recently joined Arlen Robinson with the Ecommerce Marketing Podcast to talk about the new marketing channel taking over the ecommerce world: Push Notifications. In their 30-min conversation, they discuss web push, the benefits this marketing channel can have for ecommerce brands and most importantly, how it integrates with other marketing channels like email that ecommerce businesses already rely on.

Don’t get left behind! Learn more about the competitive advantage push notifications offer by tuning in.

Arlen: Welcome to the Ecommerce marketing podcast. I am your host, Arlen Robinson and today we have a very special guest Emerson Smith, who is the Founder & Chief Executive Officer of Pushnami, an omnichannel messaging platform based in Austin, Texas that powers email, app push, and web-based push for over 20,000 websites globally. With over 15 years of MarTech startup experience, Pushnami is Emerson’s third venture in his career. He’s worked with top affiliates, ecommerce stores, and marketers to drive the thing we all care about: conversions.

Emerson: Thanks so much. It’s my pleasure to be here. 

Arlen: I am excited to talk to you because we’re going to be talking about the new messaging platform, that’s really kind of exploded over the past few years, which is push notifications and how eCommerce businesses can successfully utilize them to help drive traffic and increase sales, and really create a stronger relationship with their customers and web visitors.

So I’m really excited to dig into it. We haven’t, I don’t think I’ve really had anyone on that talks specifically about push notifications, lately. So it’s a really refreshing, and I know what you’re going to provide is going to go a long way. But before we get into all of that, why don’t you tell us a little bit more about your background and, specifically how you got into what you’re doing today?

Emerson: Sure. Well, let’s see, I graduated from the university of Texas way back in 2002 and in a post 9/11 world it was a different job market back then, as you can imagine. And I was always very good with computers and I had done sales through telemarketing for the university. Nobody was really hiring here so I just decided to move to Manhattan with a laptop and a few thousand bucks saved up. I started my first internet technology company out of my apartment in the East village out there. That was really exciting time and with no mentorship and just going for it in the city of Manhattan, it was like going to the school of hard knocks and I learned so much good and bad about business and ethics and all kinds of great stuff.

I’ve been through everything through my career from taking on partners, to acquisitions, to investors, all those kind of things. And it’s been amazing. My previous company, I helped architect and build an entire ESP for email and it’s still in operation. So I’m really proud of that.

This venture is completely bootstrapped and self-funded with no outside funding or investors, a hundred percent owned by me except for what I’ve distributed to the employees here, and it’s been an amazing adventure.

I got my first browser-based push notification in the summer of 2016 and coming from an email world. I was just blown away. I can still remember the notification appearing on my screen and I stared at it for like 10 minutes. I just knew this was something special and it’s been amazing to grow to where we are now. We opened our doors in January 1st, 2017. We now have 74 employees, nine positions open. It’s been a fantastic life.

Arlen: Yeah, that’s awesome. Yeah, that’s really some pretty tremendous growth in just a few years. Kudos to you for sure. It does seem like you just really dove right in, you said starting in 2002, just going to Manhattan with a laptop and some ideas and kind of going forward with it.

I have a similar story where I kind of decided to kind of jump ship from the consulting firm that I was with back in about 2000 or so, and went full speed ahead with OSI affiliate software, which. Is, uh, what I do day to day, but, uh, yeah, it’s an exciting journey.

And I, I know you have a lot of stories, so I’m sure over the years, working with these different startups and firms. I know you’ve learned a lot, so yeah, that is awesome. Now of course, the topic for today is push notifications.

And so you got your first push notification is about 2016. So it is a fairly new technology and marketing channel for those listeners that may or probably have seen it, but don’t know a whole lot about it. What exactly are pushed out of the web push notifications and you know, how can they be utilized by an eCommerce business?

Emerson: Definitely it’s one of the most common things we come across when we’re talking to people about the technology. So web based push or what’s commonly known as browser-based push is a technology that allows you to collect subscribers and deliver messages through the actual browser that’s on your desktop or mobile device. So every device already has a browser on it. There’s almost no reason anymore in the modern day, not to have a browser on your device. You’ve probably started to see this as you’re visiting websites. Usually your laptop is easiest way you’d see it. You’re going to a website and a box is appearing. “This website would like to send you notifications, allow or block.” That’s really how the subscription starts with that technology. It’s a very small piece of code you place on there. You start collecting the subscribers and now you can deliver a notification to that consumer without having them install an app or without all the deliverability issues you can run into with email. 

Arlen: So that’s good stuff. And like you said, that’s um, when this whole technology kind of first emerged, I was starting to see different brands using web push.

And I’m like, what is that? And then all of a sudden, like you said, I recognized it. I started seeing it across so many different sites and different platforms. And I said, okay, wow, that’s different. You know, it’s really what sets it apart is just the fact that people can just opt in, just kind of instantly just through their browser, without having to fill out anything. It’s just works with a click of a button.

Now from an eCommerce world, whether you’re selling products, widgets or maybe even a service offering, how can this really be utilized effectively to really grow your audience? And really the ultimate thing is the bottom line is to, to just drive sales. What are some strategies for doing that? 

Emerson: So Arlen, before I go into that, I want to circle back to one thing you said, because you, you really kind of got it faster than a lot of people did and hit the nail on the head. And that’s how easy it is to opt in. So as we all know, our email inboxes have become kind of part of our identity in some ways.

Since, you know, you don’t often change your email, all your friends and family and contacts, and you’re protective of it these days. Right now with email, you’re really trying to compete, not only to get inboxed with Gmail past that promotional tab, but to the inbox and to the top of that inbox so you’re not shuffled with 14 other messages. What browser- based push allows you to do is kind of hit the reset button.

It gives the consumer a hundred percent of the control over who can send this notification and, and whether or not they want to receive them anymore. So it’s a really powerful kind of reset and new way to communicate with people that gives the subscriber all the control, because unlike with email, a browser-based subscriber can’t be stolen or traded or hacked or anything like that.

So I did want to follow up on that thing you said, because it’s really important. In regards to ecommerce, we almost instantly saw how well this can work instantly building a faster subscriber base.

You know, you can ask them with one single click to opt-in, as opposed to waiting until you’ve got them all the way through the cart system. To sign up and give you their email address or trying to have them enter it, their email address, which a lot of people are reticent to do by the way, browser based it’s a simple click. I can say “yes or no”. And if they don’t like it, they can always unsubscribe.

So we see this working with cart abandonment, which is such a big thing, as you know, with all of your listeners. Sending messaging recommendations, even shipping statuses and customer support, things like that, all work with browser-based push just like they would with email 

Arlen: Good stuff. And I think really also what does set it apart from emails, even SMS text messaging, there’s a lot of companies that are doing that with just the direct contact that you have, where people can get that browser-based notification just kind of right on their screen right there. Whereas, you know, with email things are just going to people’s inboxes and there’s kind of really no telling when they’re going to see it, when they’re going to view it.

And, you know, most people, these days are inundated with hundreds and hundreds, sometimes thousands of messages. Right? So this definitely is a little bit different. I think also what makes it really powerful is especially on a browser-based level. And when you’re on a desktop, when you’re on a screen, people are, these days are already kind of naturally accustomed to getting notifications.

I know for myself personally, I’m on a Macbook and I use iMessage so I’m used to getting my text message alerts right there on my screen. So this is just another alert that could come through.

I think other people are the same way. You’re kind of accustomed to getting those types of messages. So it’s not something that’s going to be off-putting or something that you’re not used to familiar with this still, you know, another notification there that has some information that you can digest.

Emerson: Really good point and totally feel the same way. I get alerts and notifications of all different types of whether there’s a new Gmail notification, if Facebook sends you a friend request, a Slack message, you know, you’re getting these notifications and just like you said it’s quick, it’s not intrusive. You’re getting what you want, or you can move past it very fast. Whereas with email, you kind of have to delve in, right? 

Arlen: Exactly. Now from your company history, when you started up in 2017, I would imagine you guys have a fair amount of statistics from your customers, success stories, lessons learned and all that type of stuff. What specific stats could you provide as far as the effectiveness of push notifications? 

Emerson: Well, this, my wife will tell you, I could talk about pushing notifications for hours, and I’m not going to do that to you here, but there are advantages, like you said, of being such a large platform where we’re live on 20,000 enterprise level websites globally.

It gives us a fantastic view of the entire environment and what is going on. One of the first things that most of our clients are somewhat surprised about is the opt-in rate and how high it is. We see globally inside of our system our average client has an 18% opt-in rate, and that is usually very surprising for a lot of clients.

They don’t think it would be that high. And they’ve tried things like “sign up for our newsletter”, things like that. And it’s very, very low. But it’s really about just testing and making sure you’re putting it in a way that’s non-intrusive that the consumer likes, the other thing is deliverability because you are doing a one-on-one kind of encrypted handshake between your website and that consumer, the deliverability is through the roof.

There’s no spam box or anything like that so we’re seeing click rates push on average at 40% for our clients. It’s still all very valuable, but it’s going through the roof and it, it’s not uncommon for open rates to be above 80% for our clients as well.

So those are the kinds of things that we love to see. Particularly with e-commerce, they turn it on and it’s very fast, it starts happening instantly. They start getting things like cart abandonment and things like that going, and they typically see a 10x to 30x ROI by the second week of using push technology.

So it instantly makes a difference in what they do. 

Arlen: Those are some pretty astounding stats for sure. You know, like you said, 18% opt in rate, 40% click through rates. 80% open rates. That’s really incredible. Those are definitely stats that you don’t typically get with just emails. So that speaks to the power of it, for sure.

Now to kind of play devil’s advocate here, as far as the customers, that may be kind of interested in it but maybe a little bit wary about it. Is there something that could kind of prevent people from getting the notifications? Let’s say you’re promoting maybe a new product and you want to notify people that are on your subscriber list. Is there something that could prevent people from actually getting them? 

Emerson: Nothing that we’ve seen. That’s one of the great things about push again is push subscribers. They can’t be traded or given away. So there’s no chance of abuse if they don’t like what you’re sending them, they’re going to unsubscribe and that’s it. So there’s no need for a spam box or things like that, where people are harvesting your information and sending things to you.

With this great power comes great responsibility. You need to take care of your subscribers and make sure what you’re sending them is relevant. After that, it really is fantastic when you can focus more on the messaging and optimization, rather than deliverability.

Arlen: That’s awesome. So one of the things I was also wondering is with the different types of push campaigns that you could set up as far as promoting different types of items in your experience, either with the brands that you’re familiar with, or just any brands that are outside of your company that you’ve seen in your experience, how do they usually coordinate push campaigns with their regular email campaigns? Is there some type of best practices for doing this or do they, does one compliment the other or how exactly does that work? 

Emerson: It’s a common concern we get from clients. They are heavily reliant on email number one and other things like SMS, like you mentioned earlier, but mostly email and they’re concerned like, is this going to be too much or is it going to interfere?

But really the important thing to think about just like with adding any other technology is it’s very ancillary to email and we can help coordinate with our clients saying, okay, let’s try email first. If that doesn’t work, then send, push, or send them both at the same time. And these things can all be tested and monitored.

But the important part is that it is quickly becoming a requirement to stay competitive. Just like you could open an eCommerce store and not have email, I suppose. You know, you would probably say that was a bad idea to your listeners and say, you should do it. Well, it works really well. And it’s the same sort of thing.

Things we say to our clients is look, you should really use push because your competitors are getting really good at this and it’s allowing them to pull ahead. So you need to stay competitive. You want to stay ahead of the other people, so you should get involved in this.

Arlen: That makes sense.

And I, a lot of it just goes down to like any marketing strategy or campaign that you do. It really does all go down to testing. So I don’t know if there’s any kind of set science that says, okay, when you do this, you need to do it at the same time as you’re doing your email campaign or, but bottom line is you just have to see through your tests.

What shines best with your audience and what works well. So yeah, I’d say it’s kind of a way around to doing the testing, but it sounds like just because it’s a different platform and it’s really kind of totally separate than email. It almost can’t hurt if you do it at the same time or as an email campaign, you do it before or after.

I think in either case, I don’t think it’s going to interfere with an email campaign.

Emerson: Never once in our three years have we had a client saying “Oh, this is interfering with the other thing”. Once they turn it on and test it, instead they start leaning in and saying, “How can we get this to accelerate? This is working out really well. We’re finding this is helping us”. And in fact, they’re building a subscriber base that is much faster and higher quality than they would with email. Because again, to get that email, you know, it requires them to either go through the cart process and sign up if it’s an eCommerce, or making them enter their email, whereas browser-based, you can offer to them at a higher level and just say, look, do you want to get notifications, allow or block.

Arlen: Yeah, definitely. For sure. That’s pretty much what I thought. As we get ready to wrap things up, what tools or resources are really just required prior to make this push notification happen?

And also, secondly, I know one question that I think my listeners may be wondering because these days, I think everybody is glued to a mobile device. How do they work across mobile devices as well? 

Emerson: Definitely. So push technology is very easy to get running. If you have an intgeration with Shopify or similar for our clients, it’s basically a few clicks.

You can get going within about 15 seconds and be up and running. If you have something more customized or specially-coded or things like that, it just requires you to host a small file on your FTP. This is what’s called a worker file that powers the opt-in encryption. Then just simply placing a small bit of code on the website where you want people to opt in and that’s it.

And that can be handled through tag manager from Google, or just be placed directly on the code. So it’s a lot easier than most people think to get going and if you have the right platform and tools, you can even control when the opt-in shows and that sort of thing, so that you can set up split testing to ensure nothing’s happening with your website load performance.

In regards to browsers, it works on all browsers across the board in regards to devices, desktop, tablet, and mobile, but only Android on phones, iOS isn’t currently available for push technology. So that’s not us. That’s just in general. Although we keep our fingers crossed with every new release. So we’re highly confident it’s coming.

Arlen: Now with the push technology on the Android, a mobile device, does it require, or that mobile device to have a special app, or how exactly does that work on a mobile Android device? 

Emerson: Great question because I really want to reiterate this. It requires no app downloads at all. Just like you’re on your desktop.

You go to a website, it allows ask you, do you want to opt in? It is the same process on a mobile. Would you like to opt-in to notifications? You now have a hundred percent deliverability to a brand new subscriber. Amazing way to build a base and get that communication going. 

Arlen: It’s good stuff.

And it, has there been any word from the Apple community on if they’re going to ever have support for this and the iOS operating system at all? 

Emerson: We already see it live on laptops and desktops for the Apple community. So I phone is the logical next step. We don’t always get direct heads up and things like that, but we wait with every release and we say, is this the one that’s going to happen?

So we’re ready when it does. 

Arlen: Sounds good. Well, that’s, this is awesome. I was really excited to have you on today, Emerson, because like I said, I, this is kind of new to me and it’s just something that I know. On my end with our company OSI affiliate software, with something that we talked about with discussing where we’re actually doing some different things with regards to our marketing.

So it’s definitely, I think something that we may implement sooner than later. Because it really does only seem like it can be a win, win strategy. So, yeah. Yeah. I’ve learned a lot and I know our listeners have as well, so it’s really been awesome. But what I would like to do when I always wrap things up just to switch gears, just so our audience can get to know you just a little bit better.

What is one closing fun fact that you think our listeners would be interested to know about 

Emerson: Wow. Let’s see. Really into electronic music. I can go to concerts whenever I get a chance away from my kids and that sort of thing. And I feel like I’m the oldest one there. And I even have like a DJ set in my office so every once in a while when I will off some steam off, 

Arlen: Okay. That’s good stuff, man. Yeah. Back in the day when I was kind of growing up. I really, really idolize kind of the whole DJ community. And I often try to dabble into it. I didn’t get too far into it. I of, I left that up to some of the guys that were a little bit better in that, but, uh, yeah, I do like electronic music as well.

I’m a huge fan of the group. Disclosure, huge fan of them, the other they’re awesome group out of the UK. And, uh, yeah, they really have that house music sound down Chicago, so, 

Emerson: I’ve seen them live in Austin before.

Arlen: Oh, really? I’d love to see them live for sure. Yeah, that’s awesome, man. What I appreciate you sharing that lastly, if our listeners would like to get a hold of you and pick your brain anymore about push notifications and this whole push technology, what is the best way for them to get in touch with you? 

Emerson: My direct email is and I’m always available. I don’t care how big we get. I’m always available to our clients at any time personally, but if you want to learn more, you can always go to There’s some really great info. 

Arlen: That is great. Well, thank you for sharing that and providing your email and thank you again, Emerson for joining us today on the eCommerce marketing podcast.

Emerson: It was a lot of fun. I hope I get to meet you in person sometime come visit us in Austin whenever the world has done flipping itself upside down. So it’d be great to meet in person. 

Arlen: Yeah, definitely. And a South by Southwest is definitely on my list to attend. So hopefully, maybe next year, my, myself and my business partner have always kind of tossed around attending and, um, you know, hopefully like you said, when the world opens back up, we’ll see what happens in 2021.

Maybe I get a chance to come out there for sure. 

Emerson: Do it, we throw a huge South by party every year you can, and your business partner would be our guests. 

Arlen: That’s awesome. Thanks again Emerson!

Emerson: Take care. 

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