It is rumored we'll see a new iPhone and possibly an iPad Mini this week. But from a marketer’s standpoint, the big news was in June, when Apple CEO Tim Cook announced that iOS 6 will be available this fall, most likely released in concert with the new iPhone.
The beta release of iOS 6 has been available to developers since then, and there are key features early adopters are already incorporating into their mobile strategies. These include: new enhancements to the Safari mobile browser, deeper integration with Facebook and the Passbook application, an assumed precursor to an Apple-operated mobile payments system.
Savvy brands can use these new tools to greatly improve a consumer’s experience and overall engagement. Incorporating updated functionality into a well-integrated, seamless experience is as important, if not more important, than the functionality itself. Here are a few feature tips we can expect from the new operating system:
Brands will have some great new functionality to incorporate into their mobile optimized sites with the release of Apple’s updated mobile browser. One new feature is the ability to easily show a banner, rather than a page takeover, at the top of your mobile site to point users to the corresponding app in the App Store. As marketers struggle to drive downloads of their apps, this is a great way to point consumers to your mobile app instead of relying only on the mobile site.
With iOS 6, brands can allow consumers to upload photos directly from their camera roll to their mobile site. This feature makes it easier to drive engagement in programs with a heavy user-generated content element, like a photo contest.
Finally, there is the ability to synchronize browser tabs with iCloud. Many users are hesitant to engage in certain experiences on their phones, such as filling out registration forms or divulging personal information. Those consumers will now have the ability to put down their iPhone and pick that visit back up where they left off, preventing significant drop-offs.
With the deeper integration of Facebook into iOS, there’s a great opportunity to boost social functionalities in apps and mobile sites. Improvements such as showing Facebook events (like friends' birthdays), synchronizing friend lists with contacts and the ability to post or share content from anywhere are small changes that make social sharing more seamless. And they help marketers drive engagement.
In addition, the ability to more easily integrate Facebook login capabilities will be a massive improvement for mobile-optimized sites. Many iPhone and iPad users are always logged into Facebook’s mobile app. With this new feature, consumers will no longer be required to re-enter their login information to activate sharing capabilities on other mobile sites if they’ve logged into the Facebook app. This removes a substantial barrier to consumers using social functionality — and marketers can look forward to users sharing their content more consistently and easily across the Web.
Passbook has been one of the most talked about changes in iOS6 given its potential to disrupt the mobile payments space. Rumors are that the new iPhones will be equipped with NFC capabilities and Passbook integration. Users will be able to automatically apply offers/coupons to purchases, earn purchase-based points or punches on their mobile loyalty/punch card, or deliver purchases to their phone. This is a game-changer.
What Apple eventually does with payments and NFC remains a mystery, but marketers can take steps to capitalize on the initial release of Passbook. For example, they can integrate coupons and gift codes and allow consumers to store these codes in Passbook for use via mobile, as opposed to email. It also allows brands to set time or location-based alerts so that offers can present themselves to consumers when they are about to expire or when the consumer is physically at a retail location where the offer can be redeemed.
Imagine walking by your local Starbucks in the morning and getting a notification that your free coffee offer will expire in two days and you can get an upgrade to a free Pumpkin Spice Latte today? The applications for both retailers and online merchants are endless.
The key is to focus on the features that will make the consumer’s mobile engagement more enjoyable and integrated into your overall brand experience.