With WWDC (Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference) just around the corner, the theories about iOS 10 and the new iPhone 7 are flying every which way. We thought we’d get in on the action and put together a wishlist for this year’s conference, from the point of view of mobile marketing.
Improvements to Apple Search at WWDC?
Last year the introduction of Spotlight as an app and web search tool in iOS 9 seemed like a promising step towards the convergence of web and app content. The search results appeared across Spotlight, Safari and Siri. Unfortunately – though perhaps unsurprisingly considering Apple’s reputation for poor search capabilities – Apple search doesn’t seem to have caught on with users.
This may have something to do with the limited rollout of the feature – in the UK, Spotlight search did not appear to include results from the Cloud Index. This was to be the most promising feature of the search – the Cloud Index would return app recommendations based on popular app content, even if the app was not installed on the device. But in reality, results were restricted to pages from the user’s history, or a (usually inadequate) web search.
However, the more likely scenario is that the user just didn’t think to search within Spotlight. Why open Spotlight for your searches when the more familiar Google Search could do the job, and to a more sophisticated degree? The feature wasn’t integrated into a user’s current behaviours, and it’s likely that the majority of iPhone users haven’t even realised the capabilities of Spotlight have changed.
The user is unlikely to notice the new Apple results, even for Apple search within Safari. It’s likely that before Apple results appeared, it was faster for a user to type the whole search query and search than for the user to type part of the search query (but far enough through that Google would know what they meant), read the autocomplete suggestions, and click on the right one. If a user types the whole query and searches without pausing, it is likely that many people will have missed this feature altogether.
One area that does have true potential for the use and advancement of Apple search (and therefore for mobile marketing) is Siri. This would tie in nicely with the rumoured and much-anticipated Siri SDK, allowing 3rd party apps to get involved. In this case, Apple’s push for universal linking with iOS 9.2 would also be explained. The automatic routing of the user would make more sense with voice search, where the user typically looks for one answer, rather than a number of results over different platforms they choose from.
The mobile marketing opportunities within Apple search would open up massively were an SDK to be released, although the limitations Apple is bound to put on these capabilities are yet to be seen, as are the necessary tracking tools that may (or may not) come with this.
We’ve all been waiting years for improvements to Siri to no avail – the possibilities the team originally imagined have recently been demonstrated in the form of Viv. Siri, meanwhile, has for years continued to show us what it’s found on the web. But the time could finally be here: the Apple takeover of VocalIQ, a car-focused intelligent assistant, in October could enable a massive leap forward in mobile marketing capabilities. We can only hope!
App Store Improvements at WWDC?
Another hot topic this year has been the capabilities of the App Store search. In fact you could say it’s been a hot topic for many years in mobile marketing (namely ASO), as its longstanding problems persist.
As was announced yesterday in a Verge interview with Phil Schiller, Apple is introducing paid search- a quick and uninventive solution which is unlikely to placate the masses. In fact, it’s questionable whether this would change much at all. Currently the store is a difficult place to gain visibility, as the number of apps within the store continues to grow at an ever-increasing rate – there’s an app for everything. Apps often resort to boost campaigns, where they buy large numbers of downloads at a low cost, to push the app to the top of the charts. The app gets a high number of organic downloads over a few days due to the increased visibility – and that’s that.
Would paid search results be much different for mobile marketing as a whole, or simply change the recipient of the money? Indeed, do Apple care if it doesn’t really change anything?
Having said that, Apple have also announced that they will be taking a cut in their share of app revenue for subscription based apps- for users who have been subscribed for over a year, Apple’s revenue share will go from 30% to 15%. This does suggest a move in the right direction- Apple are trying to reward those apps which are nurturing long term users. Maybe we’ll see a shift towards more subscription based apps.
However, in the name of all those non-subscription based apps out there, we hope to see genuine improvements to the search algorithm announced at WWDC that will aid the organic search results and enable the user to see more accurate and relevant search results.
More granular permissions for apps at WWDC?
In a year where ad blockers were allowed on iOS 9 and Apple fought the US government to protect user privacy, you could say security is more front of mind than ever. The trust between a brand and a user is so important in cultivating a customer relationship – a violated customer will likely never return. As tools learn to pull more information to aid their mobile marketing, however, and apps find ways to use this information more creatively, is anyone taking notice? Is this being properly governed?
The amount of information brands can take from us, and how that is used, is cause for concern. In some cases, we may not know the impact, such as the automatic suggestion from Facebook to share the link that was last copied to the clipboard. Is Facebook scraping that potentially sensitive data? There are even further and more obvious concerns with the Deep Text AI Facebook is using to build its capabilities within Messenger.
In other cases, it has come out that a brand is using information in a manipulative way – for example, the recent allegation that Uber increases the surge charge if your battery is low. How do I turn off the ability for Uber to pull that information and use it against me?
Apple could address this with much more granular permission capabilities that limit the information an app can pull from you. We’d love to see this announced at this year’s WWDC, but it is unlikely that this is Apple’s main area of focus at the moment.
Next week the waiting and the guessing for WWDC will be over, and we in the world of mobile marketing will be left with a whole lot to think about and prepare for. Are you ready?
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Read more from Megan: A Merging of Worlds: Discovering App and Web Content and Deep-Linking is Getting Even Smarter