At the Worldwide Developers Conference in June, Apple announced a number of changes coming with release of the iOS 8 operating system being rolled out in September. Marketers who communicate with consumers via mobile must be aware of the coming changes so they can adjust their strategies and technology capabilities leading up to the release. It’s important to note though that iPhone 4 will not support iOS 8, so for the time being push strategies taking advantage of new iOS 8 capabilities will need to include legacy support for iPhone users who have not yet upgraded to a new device.

The iOS 8 updates primarily focus on improving user engagement through a more streamlined and interactive experience including features such as:

  1. “Actionable” push notifications
  2. Notification center and lock screen widgets
  3. Developer access for in-app fingerprint passcodes
  4. Updates to limit location tracking (in favor of consumer privacy)

Let’s take a look at these new features one by one so we can understand their impact on us as marketers.

Actionable Push Notifications

Similar to Android’s rich notifications, marketers will soon be able to deliver interactive calls to action to iPhone users running iOS 8. How the recipients respond to a notification not only permits further personalization to drive conversion, but it allows collection of additional behavioral data reflecting each person’s interests and preferences for engaging with your app.

Most importantly, in iOS 8, users will be able to view and respond to push notifications without switching apps, providing a less disruptive experience and hopefully making consumers more receptive to receiving push.

To do: Come up with interactive calls to action such as the ability to comment, purchase, sign up for alerts, enroll in a program, ask for feedback, etc., and develop the capability to personalize the user experience and tailor content based on how each person responds to the notification. You’ll also need to come up with a plan for measuring success. Some companies may require technology enhancements to process these real time interactions at the scale of their customer base.

Notification Center and Lock Screen Widgets

This addition opens up an entirely new channel that marketers can use to communicate with consumers. The idea is that the notification center and lock screen will serve as a news feed of customized content from their various apps. This is great for creating a persistent location where your app notifications can remain top of mind. That being said, it may require an extra compelling reason to get someone to open your app once they adopt regular usage of the widget, because they’ll no longer necessarily need to open the app to get quick updates.

To do: Design and create a widget that will encourage your customers to engage with your app in their notification center and/or lock screen. Develop a strategy and implementation plan for how the widget and the app will complement each other as part of a unified experience.

In App Fingerprint Passcodes

Touch ID is already available as a fingerprint identity sensor on the iPhone 5s, but iOS 8 opens it up so developers can incorporate the feature into their apps. This feature significantly reduces the barrier to logging in, making a purchase or any other behavior that requires people to input a large amount of information. Now the same information (e.g., credit card) can be stored and authorized using a person’s fingerprint -- leaving significantly less friction and less opportunity for abandonment.

Learning Opportunities

It’s likely that many consumers may be hesitant to share something as personal as their fingerprint, so widespread adoption may require dedicated messaging on behalf of your app as reassurance that the fingerprint data is secure, encrypted and only stored as a mathematical representation that can’t be reverse-engineered into an image of their fingerprint.

To do: Integrate the Touch ID fingerprint identity feature into login, checkout or other flows within your app requiring passwords or personal data.

Randomized MAC Addresses

To protect the privacy of its customers, Apple announced that iOS 8 will start randomizing MAC addresses, or hardware-based identifiers, each time the device scans for a new WiFi access point. This will prevent consumers from being tracked, as their MAC address is identified each new time it reappears at a location such as a brick-and-mortar store. The implication is that marketers will be no longer be able to use location data based on MAC addresses to track and send targeted communications to in-store shoppers who use iPhone or iPad.

To do: Determine the impact of randomized MAC addresses to your current marketing operations, and if applicable, refine your strategy for collecting and applying location data.

Other Updates to Keep on Your Radar

In addition to these marketer-centric features, iOS 8 will also include a few product and developer-focused capabilities that touch the periphery of the marketing ecosystem such as Test Flight for built-in controlled beta testing of apps and CloudKit for backend processing services.

Mobile is becoming an increasingly important medium to engage your customers, and Apple seems committed to helping brands and app developers use technology to open up new channels that help marketers achieve their goals. If you can study these changes and implement appropriate strategies to take advantage of them, not only will you have a leg up on your competition, your customers will appreciate it.