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Why iOS 9?s search, notification updates are good news for brands

The impending arrival of iOS 9 is signaling brands to think ahead and develop strategies in line with the most significant new features for marketers, such as notification centers within applications and a new search API.

Brands will likely pinpoint several marketing-friendly tools in the iOS 9 beta, which foreshadows Apple?s expected rollout in fall 2015. Marketers must ensure that their push notifications contain relevant information and optimal sending times, while those with apps can tap the deep-linking feature to have their products or content become more searchable.

?One of the biggest things marketers need to think about with iOS 9 is the changes to notification centers within the apps; it was not formally announce this at WWDC, but, it will have a big impact from a brand perspective,? said Mark Ghermezian, CEO and co-founder of Appboy, New York. ?With iOS 9 shifting from grouping notification center correspondences by app to presenting communications in chronological order - and Android Lollipop allowing apps to set notification delivery priorities - there?s an increased need to get in front of users at the right time.

?As these platforms enable customers to find relevant notifications more easily, the more accurately you can predict ideal times of engagement, the more likely your brand communications will have the intended effect.?

Notification central
One of the most talked-about upgrades to the iOS operating system is the reorganization of the Notification Center. Previously, users would find their notifications grouped by app, but iOS 9 is taking into account customer feedback and ordering them by recency instead.

Consumers will now have more control over sorting their messages and ensuring they have not missed any important updates. This also appeals to marketers who rely on push notifications to alert fans of sales, particularly those with time-sensitive promotions.

?Right now, we've seen that many iOS users are frustrated because notifications are currently grouped by app instead of recency or in chronological order,? Mr. Ghermezian said. ?Going forward, push notifications sent to Apple customers will appear much like an email inbox, and notifications will be sent at a time closer to when that particular user checks the notification center.

IOS 9 claims to offer more organized spots for app notifications

?If a user typically checks notifications during her morning commute at 9 a.m., a push notification sent at 8:50 a.m. will be among this customer?s most recent notifications at the top,? he said.

?To remain competitive not just today, but tomorrow and the years to come, brands need to find a holistic marketing automation solution that allows them to leverage intelligent predictive technology - whether you?re currently ready for it or not - to address the who, what, when, where, why, how of engaging with their audiences.?

An excellent solution to tap prior to the iOS 9 rollout would be to A/B test segmented user groups with different types of push notifications, sent at varying peak times.

Search enhancements
Brands may also find additional marketing support in another one of iOS 9?s latest features.

?In iOS 9, there is a new search functionality,? said Scott Michaels, executive vice president at Atimi, Vancouver. ?To me, it?s not even exactly right to call it search, when it has such a big impact to marketers, in order to raise awareness of your app and your products.

In layman's terms, your app can now surface results to users that don?t have your app installed,? he said. ?These results can appear as part of a search initiated by the end user, or if they used Siri.?

For example, if a brand?s app sells camping gear, the iOS 9 functionality will ensure that users who do not have that specific app but search for ?places to buy a tent? will be led to the marketer?s offerings.  Therefore, it creates a new mcommerce flow and attracts end users who may not have heard of a particular brand before.

Marketers must target the end user and work together with the development team to identify what app features they would prefer to be indexed by Apple. If the app serves as a good source of information, it will frequently appear with search queries and reach a wider audience.

This can be undertaken by taking care to segment target users and provide content that is directly relevant to the kind of material they are likely to search for on their smartphones.

?With 3.65 billion mobile users worldwide, it is extremely important to be able to segment your user base to send messages in the right time zones,? Appboy?s Mr. Ghermezian said. ?If you rely on instinct to schedule your messages to your wide audience, or deliver them immediately once the campaign is ready, you?re most likely going to miss out on some key members of your customer base.

?Second, Apple released a new search API that makes the mobile world one of indexable apps for search with deep-linking,? he said. ?This development makes content a core focus for any brand that engages with customers in mobile apps.

?Brands must continue to focus on building solid relationships with their users, and content is going to take on even greater importance in helping apps be discovered through search, especially when you consider that a consumer uses only 27 apps on average (Nielsen). Marketers should ensure each action they take and the content they serve within the app has the ability to strengthen the relationship with the user.?

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York