iOS 10 for Ecommerce: Challenges, Opportunities, Predictions

Like a lot of people, I downloaded iOS 10 last week. I hadn’t read much about it, so when I woke up the morning after installing it and had a text waiting from a friend, I wasn’t expecting a message that looked a lot like the one George Tinari at Guiding Tech shared in June:


Thanks, Apple. Now every text message my mom sends will be accompanied by some sort of nonsensical effect or GIF.

Of course, those flashy effects weren’t the only change Apple made to its mobile operating system — and they certainly aren’t the most important updates for ecommerce marketers. That distinction is left for several other features that will likely change how (and where) brands engage with customers on their mobile devices.  Unsubscribing Just Got a Whole Lot EasierBefore we dive into the opportunities iOS 10 creates for ecommerce marketers, let’s focus on one of the biggest areas of concern — the Mail app. Specifically, a new banner that appears at the top of some messages in the app that reads: “This message is from a mailing list.”

Here’s what it looks like:


What does this mean for ecommerce marketers?
Obviously, the concern is that this banner will make it easier for people to unsubscribe from marketing lists. And while that may prove true, it doesn’t really change anything for ecommerce marketers. If someone wants to unsubscribe from your list, they’ll find a way to do it. And, frankly, it should be easy for them to do so. You’d rather have someone unsubscribe from your list than report your email as spam.

That said, this iOS 10 tweak does reinforce the importance of sending highly personalized emails. If your messaging, offers, and email flows resonate, people won’t pay much attention to the unsubscribe banner.

The other change worth pointing out is that iOS users can now delete the company’s built-in apps — and this includes Mail. This could lead to more people ditching the Mail experience altogether and opting to use other mail apps (like Gmail), which would mitigate concern over the change above. Even if that doesn’t happen, it’s worth remembering that only 7.6% of emails are opened in Apple’s Mail app. So, we’re talking about a very small fraction of most email lists.

The Lock Screen Becomes a Hub for Engagement
I’ve seen a lot of people bemoaning iOS 10’s new lock screen. But after spending some time with the new operating system, I think this is the best new feature. If you haven’t seen what it looks like yet, here are a couple dummy images from Apple (via The Verge):


There are a couple of things worth noting about this change.

First, unlocking the phone requires two steps: A fingerprint scan and a full press of the home button. If you only perform the first one, then you’ll technically “unlock” the phone, but you won’t advance to your home screen — you’ll just stay on the lock screen. This gives users a bit more time to:

  • Notice and interact with Apple’s new Rich Push Notifications, which support images, GIFs, video, and audio
  • Read and respond to text messages, and view rich media email notifications directly from the lock screen

While this functionality has existed on Android devices for a while, it’s a noteworthy update for Apple — particularly given the fact that Apple device users convert at a higher rate and reportedly spend about 10% more online than Android users.

What does this mean for ecommerce marketers?
It’s simple: When you send email, SMS, or app push notifications to your customers, you’re going to have a lot more freedom to be creative and personal. Here’s one example of what these push notifications might look like in an ecommerce setting (via Relate):


This opens the door to numerous possibilities, including:

  • Personalized product recommendations that are tailored to customer preferences and behavioral patterns
  • Short videos announcing or revealing new product launches
  • GIFs that show off your brand’s personality and sense of humor

Of course, this new tool doesn’t give you carte blanche to start peppering customers with push notifications. It’s worth remembering that 52% of users find push notifications annoying — particularly when they come too frequently or aren’t personalized to their preferences. So, as should be the case with any marketing tool, be thoughtful about what you send, who you send it to, and when you send it. Third-Party Integration with Siri and MessagesYes, Apple is finally opening up Siri and iMessage to third-party app developers… with a caveat. At first, third-party development for Siri will only be open to specific categories of apps: sending/receiving payments, searching photos, fitness, and booking rides (think: Uber and Lyft).

In the short-term, this limits the opportunity for ecommerce marketers to build functionality around Siri. But iMessage — and, more generally, SMS — is a very different story.

iMessage now has its own app store, which will allow Apple users to add a variety of new functionality (stickers, games, third-party app integration, etc.). For marketers, this opens the door to creating SMS strategies that are far more personalized and creative, and it hints at opportunities for future innovation that could drastically improve the user experience.

What does this mean for ecommerce marketers?
Again, the impact of this change is longer-term. Until Apple opens up Siri and iMessage integration to more types of apps, the opportunity to innovate will be limited. Still, it’s fun to hypothesize about the opportunities these integrations could create.

For instance, think about how a customer’s experience would be changed if he or she could:

  • View and buy a product directly through an SMS push notifications
  • Track shipments or leave a review directly through iMessage
  • Send links to products via SMS that include images (or video) of the product and preview text about it
  • Use Siri to search for specific products from specific retailers, and complete a purchase without having to be redirected to another app

These are just guesses about what could be possible with Siri and iMessage integration. Some may never come to fruition.

That said, these types of possibilities — like the others I mentioned in this post — should be on your radar. What’s clear is that Apple is striving to make its user experience as seamless and singular as possible. The company wants its customers to be able to access as much as possible through its devices and its ecosystem.

If you can find a creative way to align your business with that strategy and deliver a more personalized, relevant customer experience in the process, it could differentiate your brand and create a critical competitive advantage in the process. Keep LearningInterested in getting more tips and advice like this? Subscribe to our newsletter and get our freshest content on ecommerce marketing and more.

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