Apple’s iPhone 7 and iOS 10 announcement coming on September 7 could mean new updates with high potential upsides for retail brands.
It’s a long time coming: Retailers have had a hard time adapting to user behavior on mobile. While the customers are spending more time on their phones as they browse online and shop in stores, the devices haven’t become the bridge between the digital and physical realms that people thought they’d be. For one, mobile apps are a walled garden of sorts, useful only to those who actually download and use it. As for push notifications, it’s been a challenge to get customers to opt in to them and keep them from opting out.
New features coming to Apple’s software and hardware are meant to give customers a better user experience. If retailers pair that with smart content, mobile strategies will improve. “A large percentage of what we’re going to see with the new updates is the ability to make life easier,” said Derek Fridman, ecd at the agency Huge. “And if your life is easier, marketers’ lives are going to be easier.”
Better push notifications
While push notifications give retailers a way to reach customers at opportune moments — like when an online sale is going on, or when a customer enters their store — the content in those messages isn’t that great. Now, Apple will provide the ability to customize them.
That means that retailers will be able to outfit push notifications with photos of a shoe that a customer looked at on their phones before they went into the store, along with where to find it, for instance. With more ways to customize, retailers will have more of a chance to catch customers attention. According to a study of 1.5 billion notifications done by push marketing platform Leanplum, notifications were 800 percent more likely to be opened when they had some element of personalization.
With the update, retailers will also be able to better tell if what they’re pushing out is being well-received. When customers dismiss a notification in the lock screen, the sender will be notified. That will help retailers get a better sense of the type of information customers want to see.
“This will help improve the quality of the content,” said Fridman. “Retailers can get excited about all the possibilities, but there’s a trick to it — and that’s getting smarter about what you send people.”
More uses for the mobile app
Most retailers accept that their mobile apps are going to be for their customers who shop frequently enough to warrant app space on their phones. That has led some, including Patagonia, to drop the tool altogether, saying its mobile web experience is more efficient and readily accessible. But new updates from iOS 10 could create a smarter loyalty program out of the update.
Apple is expected to roll out a new paid option for apps that acts as a monthly or annual subscription service. A retailer could charge loyal customers a fee to get exclusive products and benefits, such as free shipping or points with in-app purchases.
“Apps need to have something special, and the apps that are still being downloaded and used are the ones that provide a lot of convenience,” said Fridman. “Figuring out how to improve the user experience, both on mobile and in stores with the app, is something brands should invest in.”
And as users take to apps more, retailers who haven’t prioritized them will probably start to catch up, said Chris Paradysz, CEO of PMX Agency.
A higher-quality camera
The exact specifics of the iPhone 7’s camera are still to be announced, but it is likely to have a double lens function that will improve functionality and photo quality. Since brands are also social media curators, they’re doing as much with phones in hand as customers are. Where a fuzzy video or photo on Snapchat or Facebook Live may have turned a brand away in the past, they can count on better quality with the new iPhone.
This could be especially relevant to the beauty business, which has a lot of possibilities in terms of visual content.
“Cosmetics are way ahead of the app because there’s so much more they can do,” said Paradysz. “They have AR, and all that will look better with a better camera.”