Poq experts discuss Apple’s recent announcements, and what might be rolling next off of the global tech titan’s innovation conveyer belt.
By Ben Sillitoe
Retailers are putting mobile apps at the centre of their digital and customer strategies, and using the technology to help make consumers’ lives easier and personalise shopping experiences.
Keeping on top of Apple developments and understanding how to incorporate new features into app commerce strategy is not a straightforward task – there is so much for retailers and brands to think about, and updates come thick and fast.
Step forward the expert duo from Poq – Sheenu Aggarwal, AppGrowth Marketing Partner, and Joshua White, iOS Tech Lead – who helped make sense of it all during a roundtable discussion at the Poq Apprising 2021 event on 11 February.
The top issues Aggarwal and White tackled included privacy, new potentially-overlooked appcommerce features and what Apple could have in store for mobile shopping apps next.
Privacy certainly promises to be a strong focus for Apple in 2021, with the hotly anticipated introduction of users being given the option to block its Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) at app level.
The IDFA change will require apps to ask users for permission to collect and share data, giving consumers more ability to opt-out of any type of targeting or tracking.
It’s a move that has caused significant controversy across the tech community, not least within the digital advertising world, which bases so much of its activity on the ability to tailor messaging to users based on data trails
“The IDFA was created by Apple with some user control – they could turn a toggle off for limited ad tracking – but not many would know about it,” explained Aggarwal. “Apple wanted to give that control back to the user and allow them to opt in rather than opt out.”
Lots of question marks remain about how advertisers will measure and attribute campaigns, and Aggarwal said retailers must get to grips with their customer data flow and understand which of their partners are affected by IDFA changes.
The IDFA switch effectively means instead of having to opt out, consumers need to opt in to it.
“When it comes to retargeting, what are you using first-party data for because IDFA won’t impact that,” Aggarwal noted.
“But are you taking that data and putting it somewhere else to retarget in a different app ecosystem? That’s where the IDFA will impact you.”
New iOS 14 features and functionality Apple unveiled in 2020 included App Clips, Widgets and Portable Apps.
App Clips are described by Apple as a “small part” of the app designed to be discovered the moment it is needed. For retailers, that means giving customers the ability to sign in with Apple and use Apple Pay to quickly make purchases on the go, for example, or it may be a case of using them to access QR codes for product information in a store.
“It means you can really engage with users in-store and think about the journey,” White explained.
The use of Widgets – which display a small bit of information from an app and are now available on the mobile home screen – are currently under-utilised, he added. App owners could place information here that keeps shoppers coming back to their platform.
“It could be trending products or product recommendations on a daily basis, or even exposing things like App Stories or look books,” White remarked, adding many of these lightweight versions of apps are designed to engage and encourage full app sign-up.
Portable Apps, meanwhile, now makes it easier for developers to create shopping apps and deploy them to all devices, and this will have user experience benefits, according to White.
“Apple has always been great at offering quite easy API for developers,” he said.
“In this case they have gone above and beyond – simplifying how you can build iOS apps for a Mac. If, as a retailer, you’re building your apps specifically for iOS, you should really try and do it for iPad first and then the whole shift is a lot quicker.”
A slightly mysterious change of role for veteran Apple product and hardware engineering boss, Dan Riccio, has got the Apple rumour mill turning again this month. Many reports suggest this is part of a major virtual and augmented reality play underway at Apple.
Perhaps that will be one for the app commerce community to comprehend in the future, but right now it is the changes to IDFA that are central to retailer and brand thinking.
The advice from the Poq team is to take time to check data and understand what is currently tracked, but to find clever ways of using these privacy changes to improve how to message and interact with customers.
Consumers typically want to allow companies to use their data if they get something of value in return and their information is treated securely and sensitively. “You have to know and be on the same level as your audience,” said White.
“You could pop up a message saying ‘Love our trainers and sick of those un-personalised ads? Get our fancy ads for the latest products’. I would opt into that!”
The bottom line, though, is Apple continues to launch plenty of tools that if used wisely can help retailers and brands drive more shoppers to their platforms in the first place. The future is bright for app commerce. Comments were taken from the Poq Apprising 2021 AppDev roundtable discussion, ‘What Will Apple do Next?’ which was hosted by freelance retail journalist, Ben Sillitoe.