iOS 14: How App Clips Will Impact Your App Marketing Strategy

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During the Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) 2020, Apple announced some significant changes that would come along with iOS 14. One of the biggest feature updates is the introduction of ‘App Clips’.

What are iOS 14 App Clips?

App Clips provide a way for users to access a small portion of a mobile application without having to download it. The aim is to improve the user experience and encourage users to access new apps whilst on the go – for example, skipping the line for your coffee or checking into a hotel. This benefits the app company at the same time, as it incentivises users to effectively ‘trial’ the app without the need for download. It also provides businesses with greater visibility, placing the app in front of the user without the need to search the App Store.

The introduction of App Clips represents a new stage in how applications will be consumed and developed while providing iOS users with greater instantaneous functionality.

How do App Clips Work?

App Clips will appear on users’ home screens and will often be dependent on the user’s location. Users will be able to access app clips through multiple means, including QR codes, links, and Near Field Communication (NFC) tags.

Additionally users may be able to access the App Clips through Maps, where the App Clip will often be made visible to the user based on location. This method highlights apps which users may not have otherwise known about or considered downloading.

If the user selects an App Clip they will be presented with an App Clip Card, which provides them with a short description of the business and the App Clip’s main functionalities – which is similar to the App Store app page. An application can only have one associated App Clip, however this App Clip is able to house a variety of different Cards, which will present different calls-to-action. 

The App Clip Card will be matched closely to the experience a user is looking for. So, the App Clip Card a user will be presented with will vary depending on the user’s needs, for example a user looking to make a purchase will be presented with a different Card than a user who is looking for assistance.

After using the App Clip the user can either download the full app through a banner in the App Clip, or, after a period of inactivity, the App Clip will be automatically deleted from the user’s device.

The App Clip Invocation Flow

App Clips are triggered by what is known as an Invocation. This is an event that kicks off the whole App Clip lifecycle, and can take on a number of forms. NFC tags are physical objects that users can tap their device on, and Apple’s own distinctive visual codes will act as scannable images that trigger an App Clip on the user’s smartphone.

Other Invocation methods include URLs that are shareable in iMessages, plus a Smart App Banner that can be added to a website header that is active when viewed in Safari. Apple have also teased that location-based suggestions from Siri might be used as Invocations in future, as will tags in Maps.

When a user triggers an App Clip by interacting with one of the above, this fires an Invocation URL that is verified by iOS to guarantee its authenticity and safety – which ties strongly into what Apple are aiming for as we head towards 2021.

App Clips QR code
QR codes will be used to fast track the user journey and invoke App Clips.

App Clips and User Acquisition

Each App Clip will have a small banner intended to direct the user to the full version of the app in the App Store. This allows users who would not otherwise think to download the app to trial it through the App Clip, after which they are ideally encouraged to invest in the full app experience.

The aim is to increase both the visibility of the app through new means, such as geolocation, and encourage users outside of the target audience to download the app.

Optimising App Clips 

Similarly to the App Store, App Clips provide an opportunity for users to get to know the app. With an icon and short description, App Clips should highlight: 

  • The main purpose of the app
  • The functionalities of the App Clip 
  • A description of the business

The icon and branding should remain the same in order to keep in line with company branding and reinforce the relationship between App Clip and app. The full app must also support the same functionality as the App Clip itself, to allow for a smooth continuation of service between the two.

In terms of optimising the App Clip experience to ensure maximum adoption and usage, business should consider the following:

  • Support all possible triggers (Invocations – see below) for the App Clip, including NFC tags and visual codes.
  • Associate your App Clip with a physical location: this acts as another way to inform your customers about the App Clip’s existence through physical signage – for example, a display visible while queueing for a coffee.
  • Make sure that the user receives services offered in the location the App Clip is associated with: for example, specials in a seaside branch of a restaurant chain.
  • Be concise and descriptive with the App Clip’s subtitle – particularly in the early days of App Clips. This is a new feature that will take some time for users to become aware of and adopt – so not only is it important for this subtitle to be appealing and inviting, it also needs to convey what the App Clip does.
  • Ensure the App Clip’s call-to-action is clear in what it is inviting the user to do. This is a crucial step, and the difference between a positive engagement or the user dropping out entirely.

App Clips Limit Data Collection and Tracking

When Apple unveiled iOS 14 at WWDC this year, they placed a heavy emphasis on the importance of user privacy – and App Clips sit at the heart of that strategy.

App Clips give users a smartphone experience without the need to install an app. Added to that, there’s also no need for a user to create an account or give any personal details – it’s a fast, easy and simple process to start and complete the App Clip experience. 

What does this mean for businesses, app developers and marketers? App Clips cannot perform background activity, or access data from apps like Contacts, Files, Messages, Photos, or motion and fitness data. They are also limited to sharing data with the corresponding full app only – any other apps, including those from the same developer, are off the table.

App Clips can send notifications – for example, if a user orders food from an App Clip, they can be kept informed of order and delivery updates. However, notifications are limited to a maximum of 8 hours after each launch of the App Clip.

App Clips don’t have access to a user’s location: they can ask “am I here?” but not “where am I?” This is how actions like ordering a coffee, or paying a restaurant bill, will function smoothly – and ensure your order doesn’t end up in the wrong place.

Delivering Value Through Increased Consumer Confidence

App Clips deliver instantaneous functionality with maximum privacy and transparency. Naturally this represents a shift in the app marketing ecosystem. If apps aren’t able to capture as much data, that makes it harder to follow the user journey or create added value via targeted ads and offers. 

However, with increased privacy comes increased consumer confidence – which in turn should lead to a high adoption rate of App Clips among users. From a consumer point of view, they receive a streamlined service in which they don’t need to hand over any details or personal information. No login details or payment information is required, because they can use their existing Apple accounts for sign-in and make purchases with Apple Pay. This greatly streamlines the user journey and should drive up purchases and interactions.

By having a smooth experience with an App Clip, users should also be more inclined to download the full version of the app for repeat custom and usage. It creates a notion of lifetime value. For example, customers can make repeat purchases from a store without actually installing the app. It also makes purchasing more efficient  – and greater efficiency should in turn lead to a higher number of purchases. The limitations on notifications will have a similar effect – there’s a reduced chance of user frustration at being repeatedly notified.

Apple themselves have created a robust infrastructure between these two phases, allowing for a seamless transition between App Clip and the full app. 

App Clips Allow Businesses to Reimagine Their Interactions with Their Customers

App Clips represent a big opportunity for businesses to revolutionise interactions between themselves and their customers. From scanning an NFC tag to instantly view a menu in a restaurant to paying for parking without needing to install an app, App Clips streamline processes and maintain privacy.

They will act as a gateway for companies to introduce their app to a new audience, while still maintaining functionality. App Clips are for the “here and now” – the interactions between users and their immediate environment. By providing a satisfying and straightforward experience via an App Clip, businesses will encourage their customers to download the full app to allow ongoing engagement and greater functionality.

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Smokehouse Yard, 44-46, St John Street, London, EC1M 4DF 🇬🇧