In today’s busy, distraction-filled, sometimes overwhelming modern world, it’s not enough for brands to invest in billboards and TV ads and other forms of advertising and hope that their customers pay attention. To successfully influence your audience’s customer journey, you need to reach out to your users directly using the customer messaging tools at your disposal. That means email. That means in-app messages and News Feed Cards. And, in particular, that means push notifications.
When it comes to engaging and retaining customers, brands that use a multichannel approach to messaging see stronger results—and push notifications fill an important niche by allowing brands to reach their users with brief, simple messages no matter where they are or what they’re doing. But what if they could do more than that?
How iOS 10 is supercharging push notifications
Earlier this week, Apple released the fourth version of its iOS 10 beta to developers. And while consumer-focused improvements (like new emoji options and the ability to delete stock apps) have been getting the bulk of the coverage, there’s big news when it comes to customer messaging, too.
This new version of Apple’s mobile operating system is poised to significantly expand what’s possible for push notifications, giving brands powerful new tools for customer engagement and retention. Once iOS 10 becomes publicly available this fall, marketers will be able to:
1. Send push notifications that support rich images—including animated GIFs
While Android push notifications already support the inclusion of images, this iOS update marks the first time that brands have been able to send push to iPhone and iPad users that include rich visual content. That gives brands a new way to catch their users’ attention with the push they sent, potentially increasing the effectiveness of this powerful engagement channel and making for a richer messaging experience. Add in the ability to feature eye-catching animated GIFs in your push notifications, and you have a messaging channel that rivals in-app messages and email when it comes to the ability to host rich visual content.
While the addition of images to iOS push notifications comes with a lot of potential benefits, marketers should keep in mind that a push that includes a GIF or other image is still a push—and 78% of customers who receive push notifications they’re unhappy with will opt out of push or uninstall an app. So before you start adding images to every push notification you send to your users, consider using multivariate testing to make sure that the pictures you’re including are adding value and aren’t turning recipients off.
2. Include audio and video with push notifications
iOS 10’s support for richer push notifications doesn’t stop with images—this new update will make it possible to include audio files (such as songs, sound effects, or voice recordings) and video with the push you send to iPhone and iPad users. Recipients who 3D Touch or swipe down on push notifications they receive will be able to listen or view this content right from their device’s lock screen, making it possible to—for instance—promote your music streaming app by including a clip from Rihanna’s new single.
Because users have to take action in order to experience the audio or video assets associated with these push notifications, it’s less likely that including them will irritate recipients—however, it also means that people may not realize that you’ve included them at all, especially in the weeks and months right after iOS 10 becomes available. Consider highlighting this new functionality in the text of the initial push notifications you send with this kind of content, then keep an eye on whether your audience is taking advantage or not before making regular use of it.
3. Give customers the ability to carry out actions right from the iOS lock screen
One of the major themes of this year’s edition of Apple’s WWDC event was the importance of providing customers with a seamless user experience, whether by making it easier to move between different devices or by giving individuals the ability to carry out related tasks within their current app—for instance, making restaurant reservations within an iMessage group chat. And one of the biggest updates to iOS 10’s notifications makes that sort of seamless experience even easier by allowing for users to take advantage of some in-app experiences within the iOS notifications center.
With iOS 10, Apple is making it possible for users to access some previously app-only experiences—such as monitoring the progress of a ride they’ve requested from a ride-hailing app or accepting an event invitation—directly from the lock screen. It’s not clear yet how many of these sorts of interactions iOS 10 will support, but Apple’s move to allow users to interact more deeply with brands within notifications makes it increasingly possible for marketers to use push notifications as the first step in a richer mobile customer experience beyond the app.
Not every brand will be able to take advantage of this new functionality in their push notifications. But for those who can, it only makes sense to include in-notification actions if doing so will actually make for a better user experience. Before rushing in, put yourself in your customers’ shoes and think through how this change will add value; if it doesn’t, then hold off.
Apple’s move toward richer, more interactive push notifications is a big deal. If this functionality catches on among brands, and is positively received by users, we may well look back in a year or two and find that text-only push notifications seem old-fashioned or basic compared to the messages we’ll be receiving. But don’t be fooled—these changes make crafting great push notification copy even more important.
While the audio, video, or in-notification interactions that iOS 10 makes possible are powerful tools for engaging customers and demonstrating the value that your brand can provide, message recipients will only be exposed to them if they take action and directly interact with a given push. Brands that excel at today’s text-only iOS push notifications will have a major advantage when it comes to convincing users to engage with their message’s richer elements.
So as you prepare for iOS 10, make sure you think seriously about how to use the new messaging functionality it makes possible to build on the push notifications you’re sending now. Future-you will thank you.