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What Apple iOS 8 Notifications Mean for Merchants

Apple announced a groundbreaking new operating system on Tuesday. iOS 8 will be available starting September 17 to iPhone, iPad and iPod touch users as a free software update with new Messages and Photos features and a new Health app.

For online merchants and marketers, one of the features of iOS 8 that is really powerful is the new interactive notifications. Push notifications can keep users informed with timely and relevant content, whether a merchant’s app is running in the background or inactive. Notifications can display a message, play a distinctive sound, or update a badge on an app icon.

Now with interactive notifications, users can take action on texts, email, and messages from apps right from their notification banners – without leaving the app they’re in and without having to open up a new app. As Apple explains, “Now it’s easy to quickly reply to important messages and keep doing what you were doing.”

Urban Airship put together an “inspiration” guide to help merchants think about how they can use interactive notifications. It shows an example of a department store thanking a user for downloading its app by offering them a coupon they can download, and presenting the user with two buttons: “Download” or “Decline,” letting them easily take action with one tap.

In another example, a department store pushes out a notification with a message, “Take 20% off items in your shopping cart when you buy by Friday,” and presenting a “Buy Now” button and a “Remind Me Later” button, so that the shopper can take action with just one tap.

There was a lot to absorb on Tuesday with Apple’s multiple announcements, and interactive notifications aren’t getting a lot of media attention. Reviewing the inspiration guide can give you a greater sense of the potential of the feature in ecommerce.

We also checked in with Brent Hieggelke, Chief Marketing Officer of Urban Airship, to learn more about what adding interactivity to notifications means for merchants and shoppers.

EcommerceBytes: What should online merchants know about the new interactive notifications?

In the past, app users either swiped a push to respond, or ignored it in the moment to possibly remember it later. This basic form of push messaging already drives dramatically greater response than email – 50% higher open rates, ten times higher click-through rates, even 1200% greater conversion – but the format offers little opportunity to learn about those who don’t respond. In addition, everyone who swipes-through is treated exactly the same way, arriving at the same destination.

If push messaging today drives the greatest open and click-through rates of all marketing channels, then interactive notifications will become recognized as the ultimate in direct response marketing and the easiest way to gain immediate insight and action from customers at scale.

Interactive notifications (rich notifications in Android and Fire OS) include action buttons within push messages, giving consumers greater choice and multiple paths to engage in effortless experiences.

EcommerceBytes: Can small sellers take advantage of them, or is this really about larger merchants with mobile apps?

While merchants do need an app to take advantage of interactive notifications, increasingly SMBs are adopting their own apps or working with third-parties that offer app functionality spanning multiple brands.

As one example, Craftsy, which offers craft-oriented tutorials, doubled its revenue in 5 months after implementing push and in-app messaging.

EcommerceBytes: Anything else to help our readers put the news into perspective?

Button taps, in addition to push message swipes, offer immediate feedback into what users want more or less of and how you can best interact with them in the moment and over time. With Urban Airship any button tap or swipe can be deep-linked to a different in-app or mobile web landing page, with user attributes assigned or removed with every click for better targeting and triggered multi-touch automated campaigns that drive higher conversions.

Businesses can capture and cultivate more interest for higher conversions by enabling multiple types of responses including capturing Remind Me Later audiences that are interested but just can’t respond in the moment. This is next-generation direct response marketing, but it is also so much more.

Among the more than 20 buttons we’ve predefined for rapid deployment by customers, are options like Follow/Un-follow and Opt-in/Opt-out. Buttons like these enable apps to expose user controls traditionally buried in preference centers to better tune and target push and deep-linked in-app messaging to individuals’ interests and affinities.

You can download the inspiration guide on UrbanAirship.com. Urban Airship provides mobile marketing solutions and enables brands to engage shoppers in highly contextual and relevant ways.


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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.