What iOS 16 Means for Customer Engagement
Every June, Apple unveils its latest round of software and hardware updates at its annual Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). Last year’s major announcements centered on privacy, with new features that empowered iOS users to understand and control how their personal data is used on Apple devices. This year, the narrative from WWDC leaned more toward personalization, with announcements focusing on new features that help iOS users fine-tune and customize their individual experiences.
To help marketers more fully understand the implications of Apple’s big day, we combed through dozens of new feature releases to round up the most relevant updates for customer engagement:
1. iOS Safari Web Push Notifications
What It Is: You’ve heard of web push. You’ve heard of mobile push. Now, Apple is leveraging an open standard to introduce iOS Web Push, allowing marketers to reach mobile users in connection with Safari, Apple’s web browser. Previously, web push notifications were only supported on the desktop OS version of Safari, but starting in 2023, notifications will be supported on the mobile iOS, too. Users will be prompted to opt in to receive these notifications; once enabled, the web push notifications will appear as if they were native mobile pushes, even when Safari isn’t actively open.
While the move is a big change for Apple, opening up the potential for websites to easily reach their visitors with out-of-product messages, similar functionality has existed for years on Chrome and other browsers. That makes this shift something of a catch-up move for Apple, which has traditionally focused more on its mobile app platform when it comes to supporting brands’ customer engagement efforts. However, the increased scrutiny of its App Store ecosystem (and related fees) over the past few years may be encouraging Apple to turn more attention to the need to serve businesses and consumers on the mobile web, something that this shift helps to support.
What It Means for Customer Engagement: This update is a big win for brands with websites and Progressive Web Apps (PWAs), which will now be able to reach users with urgent and important messages on iOS devices even when their website isn’t actively being used. For brands that get web traffic from iOS devices, now is the time to start planning your push primer strategy, so you’re ready to quickly grow your push-enabled audience as soon as this update is available.
2. The Lock Screen, Reimagined
What It Is: This year’s WWDC Keynote kicked off with the reveal of a new Lock Screen experience on iOS devices, ending an era of relative sameness in this area for iPhone and iPad users. Instead of being stuck with the same Lock Screen experience as every other Apple user, users can now tweak more of the visual aspects of the Lock Screen—like the color and font of the time display—and customize the information they can see without unlocking their device.
Some of the highlights from this shift include: A new notification experience, in which notifications will roll up from the bottom of the screen instead of appearing at the top; new widgets to display information at a glance; and a new Live Activities API that allows third-party apps to display real-time updates on the Lock Screen, though that final feature won’t be available until later in the year.
What It Means for Customer Engagement: The new Lock Screen experience gives companies with iOS apps more opportunities to reach users with at-a-glance information and updates. While this feature can provide value for various use cases, brands that send time-sensitive push notifications (e.g. sports scores, breaking news, and delivery updates) will particularly benefit from the Live Activities feature, which will allow them to consolidate a stream of updates into one Lock Screen widget that updates in real time. Take a food delivery app, for example: Users will be able to watch the delivery status update in real time in a Live Activities widget on the Lock Screen instead of receiving a new push notification for every update.
That being said, this functionality brings with it new challenges, as well as opportunities: In particular, marketers who choose to take advantage of Live Activities will need to establish clear guidelines about when to use Live Activities and when to use push notifications to avoid over-messaging users on these channels. It’s likely the product and engineering teams will be responsible for using the Apple Live Activities API to implement these updates, so marketers looking to take advantage of this new functionality should prioritize their relationship with these teams to ensure alignment.
3. Focus Mode Filters and Other Updates
What It Is: During last year’s WWDC conference, Apple introduced Focus Modes, which are essentially customizable Do Not Disturb modes that iOS users can toggle between in order to fine-tune their user experience. For example, turning on a “Work” Focus Mode might limit notifications from social media apps, personal messages, and other non-work-related app activities.
This year, Apple announced that they’re updating Focus Modes to make them easier for iOS device users to create and customize. One of the new customization features, Focus filters, enables users to get really granular with how their Focus Modes work in their apps—making it possible, for instance, for a user to set up a Focus filter in the Apple Mail app that hides personal emails when the user has the “Work” Focus Mode enabled.
What It Means for Customer Engagement: Focus Modes give iOS device users more control over what notifications they see and when they see them. And as Apple makes Focus Modes easier and more appealing to use, it’s worth keeping an eye on engagement metrics like push opens to see if users are changing their behavior in a meaningful way. Over time, additional adoption of Focus Modes has the potential to lead to a reduction in push clicks and other engagement metrics—and if that does end up happening, it may prove to be something of a double-edged sword for marketers. On the one hand, this shift could potentially weaken the impact of generic push campaigns by reducing how quickly a given message is seen. On the other hand, the change could also make push clicks and other related engagement metrics even more significant signals of user intent and interest.
Looking to respond to this shift by mapping your iOS push notification campaigns more closely to user preferences? Last year, Braze made it possible for brands to specify the urgency of each notification they send in Braze by selecting one of four classification levels—passive (lowest urgency), active, time-sensitive, and critical (highest urgency)—in the push notification composer. Each classification level has its own rules around interactions with Focus Modes (for instance, passive notifications never break through Focus Mode rules, while critical notifications can), making this a smart way to ensure that the messages you send are received according to user preferences.
4. Editable Apple Messages
What It Is: The Apple Messages app is adding the ability to edit a message, unsend a message, mark messages as unread, and recover recently deleted messages. While iOS users can send and receive both SMS and iMessages from the Apple Messages app, it’s important to note that these new features don’t impact those two message types in the same way. Editing and unsending messages will only be available for iMessages, whereas users can mark both iMessages and SMS as unread and recover recently deleted messages of both types.
What It Means for Customer Engagement: Since this update is primarily aimed at iMessages and not SMS, the impact is likely to be minor for most marketing teams who rely on SMS to reach mobile users. One possible upside for customer engagement? These updates may actually help to extend the life of the SMS messages that your brand sends. That’s because SMS recipients on iOS will now be able to mark a given SMS as unread, making it easier for them to keep from losing track of messages they’re interested in and allowing them to read and respond to these messages at a more convenient time, or to quickly recover an unintentionally deleted SMS.
5. Update SMS Filter Extension Support
What It Is: In response to the growing number of SMS messages being sent by brands as part of their customer engagement efforts, Apple announced the introduction of expanded support for the automated filtering of unknown senders. While Apple already allowed consumers to filter messages based on whether a user is known or unknown, this new feature supports a far more nuanced categorization approach where SMS messages are auto-filtered into the following categories and subcategories: Transactions (Finance, Reminders, Orders, Health, Public Services, Weather, Carrier, Rewards, Others), Promotions (Offers, Coupons, Other), and Junk.
What It Means for Customer Engagement: Just as the introduction of Gmail’s Promotions Tab signaled a move toward the filtering of emails from brands, this announcement represents a progression in how Apple handles SMS marketing messages vs. messages from a recipient’s friends and family. That said, this shift is more of an incremental move, as consumers still need to take the initiative—by downloading a third-party filtering app, customizing their settings, etc.—to be able to access this functionality, something that is likely to limit how many of your customers leverage it.
However, Apple has a long track record of slowly making potentially disruptive features easier and easier for consumers to access over time, so brands shouldn’t sleep on this shift. To prepare for increased movement in this direction, marketers should consider leveraging SMS Contact Cards to encourage users to save their information, since that will remove their brand from the “unknown sender” category and allow their messages to continue showing up in the main SMS folder for most users.
While these announcements are the key ones when it comes to Apple updates that are likely to impact your customer engagement efforts, they’re far from the only changes coming with the advent of iOS 16, which is expected to be released in September 2022. Interested in digging deeper into what Apple has planned? Check out their iOS 16 preview page.
Curious what customer engagement updates are in store for Android devices? Check out our look at arguably the biggest bombshell in this year’s Android developer preview.