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8 ways that iOS 8 will change mobile engagement

September 11, 2014

Brent Hieggelke is chief marketing officer of Urban Airship

Brent Hieggelke is chief marketing officer of Urban Airship

By Brent Hieggelke

Nothing since Apple’s introduction of push notifications in 2009 is as significant to mobile engagement as its support for interactive notifications and widgets in iOS 8.

Over the last five years, push notifications have grown from a developer tool to deliver alerts to users to become the most transformative marketing technology of the last decade, driving dramatically greater consumer response than traditional channels such as email.

While Apple is technically following Android’s lead in supporting button-enabled push notifications and widgets, the anticipated pace of adoption for iOS 8 means that users across the world will soon have these capabilities in their hands.

Even more important, support across all the major mobile platforms for this new push notification format and widget experience makes it the new “normal.”

Anyone involved in mobile applications and marketing needs to take note as the implications are massive.

Action buttons and widgets deliver effortless experiences to the most visible areas of any mobile device – the lock screen and Notification Center.

Here are eight fundamental ways iOS 8 will transform mobile engagement:

1) Greater choice, interaction and calls to action
In the past, application users either swiped a push to respond, or ignored it in the moment to possibly remember it later.

Push action buttons enable businesses to offer multiple ways to respond to messages, offering immediate feedback into what users want more or less of and how you can best interact with them in the moment and over time.

We believe interactive notifications are as significant to mobile apps as remote controls are to cable television.

If you cannot easily tune into and out of what you want, having hundreds of TV channels is impractical, even burdensome.

The benefits and results driven by push messaging will gain new dimensions when users are given greater control and multiple ways to interact and offer instant feedback with simple button taps.

2) Responsive, choose-your-own-adventure experiences with deep-links
Buttons and the push notification itself can each be deep-linked to different in-app and mobile Web pages, offering users more relevant and responsive experiences.

In the simplest example, a button pair of Yes/No would serve up different deep-linked landing pages to users, answering their intent with different content and paths.

Interactive notifications are the gateway for users to choose-their-own-adventure and for businesses to serve up messaging and app experiences that respond to their needs in relevant ways.

3) Single-tap downloads of mobile coupons, images and music
Action buttons can go beyond message response to deliver single tap functionality such as Download.

Whether it is brand or lifestyle-oriented images that app users can use as wallpaper or your latest mobile coupon, you can drive greater adoption and engagement with content and re-target those users with related messaging, such as expiration or location-aware reminders for downloaded coupons.

4) Go beyond audience engagement and retention to drive user acquisition
The requirements of downloading an app and opting in to receive push notifications have always meant the channel is more oriented to customer engagement and retention.

Now, through a Share action button, users can easily amplify relevant messages through their social channels in a few taps, aiding in acquisition efforts as their followers see the value of the app and its messaging.

5) Capture more interest and greater conversions, not just immediate response
While basic push messaging drives higher response and conversion rates than traditional marketing channels, it largely relies on users’ immediate response or them remembering the message and opening the app later.

With a simple Remind Me Later button, businesses can capture and cultivate user interest and use automation messaging to send appropriately timed reminders to drive higher conversions.

Interactive notifications offer next-generation direct response marketing, but also so much more.

6) Amplify user insight, surfacing controls typically buried in preference centers
Drive greater relevancy by making it easier than ever for users to self-select their preferences.

From iconic thumbs up/down and smiley/frowny faces to Like/Dislike, and Follow/Unfollow action buttons, recipients can indicate what they want more or less of with a single tap.

In the history of marketing, it has never been easier to get immediate feedback and action from your most loyal customers: your app users.

Understanding users’ affinities for certain types of notifications and content at the messaging-level offers a continual stream of fresh and dynamic insight into what matters most to them.

In-app preference centers, while still important, are levels deep within apps and only reach a portion of your audience with surface-level controls (e.g., weekly vs. daily deals, men’s vs. women’s clothing).

In-app behavior offers a wealth of user insight, but are dependent on ongoing app use and cyclical, developer-led tagging of app pages.

With interactive notifications, the scale and breadth of user insight that can be collected and leveraged by non-technical staff – from the initial button tap to deep-linked clicks and responses to follow-on automation campaigns – eclipses what today’s best practice approaches deliver.

7) New high-value, real estate that could spur the next land rush
IOS 8 enables apps to create widgets that consumers can add to the Today View of the Notification Center for the ultimate in top-level, at-a-glance access to content.

In a world where the typical device has several dozen apps, the Notification Center is arguably the most visible and easily accessible area of the device, offering brands the opportunity to rise above the noise with dynamic, bite-sized, sticky content.

8) Better app discoverability and melding of physical environments with digital experiences
App Store enhancements including continuously scrolling app search results, app preview videos, app bundles, Editor’s Choice labeling and app suggestions from Spotlight and “Popular Apps Nearby” offer even more opportunity to drive greater app user acquisition.

Depending on your location, iOS 8 will surface app suggestions on the bottom left corner of your lock screen, enabling you to easily open existing apps or download new ones relevant to where you are.

WHILE APPLE’S event this week focused on the bright and shiny new iPhone models and bigger strategic moves with Apple Pay for mobile payments and Apple Watch – marrying smartwatch features with comprehensive health and fitness capabilities – iOS 8 is the foundation that brings these new devices and experiences to life, and is something apps should tap into quickly as it makes its way into consumers’ hands Sept. 17.

Brent Hieggelke is chief marketing officer of Urban Airship, Portland, OR. Reach him at

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