Mobile App Optimisation

iOS9 – What it means for developers and marketers

14th September 2015


Apple’s iOS9 officially launched with the new iPhone 6S, Apple TV and iPad pro on September 9th – and it’s fair to say that WHQ is pretty excited about it’s impact on both users and developers. We were tinkering about with the Beta version (the first time Apple’s allowed a trial on a new version of iOS) since we got our hands on it so we’ve had a bit of time to get used to it, and it’s fair to say there’s been a lot of chat about how it’s going to impact on our work and what it means for App developers and marketers.

Quick overview

From quick fixes such as the redesigned keyboard, extended battery life and ad-blocking, to more meaty updates such as the much enhanced Siri performance, iPad multi-tasking capabilities and Wifi Assist, iOS9 is looking like the most significantly upgraded OS for some time. There are several new sleek features that iOS9 delivers – from 3D Touch – which provides visibility inside apps and features via a variable pressure touch screen – to Siri’s new Proactive Assistant , a contextual ‘smart pro assistant’’ that if permitted to will ‘learn’ your habits over time and deliver relevant shortcuts to apps and functions (including calling contacts) based on the gathered intelligence. So far, so covetable…

Search and ye shall find

Perhaps the most significant enhancements that come with iOS9 however, are the ones around Search – and that’s what we’re most excited about because these improvements have the ability to be real game changers. Enhanced and bolstered by improvements to its drivers, Siri and Spotlight, we’ve now got a more nimble, intuitive search function that makes it easy for users to discover information inside apps by surfacing that content in search results. These new ‘deep-linking’ capabilities mean that users will be able to find the most relevant content within the apps that they already use, that they’ll surface the best apps to download, or that they’ll find the web content they need — all without ever using Google. Poor Google.

So how does that affect my App?

In short, significantly. From this point, instead of trawling the web for results as Spotlight would normally do, it will use Apps as its primary search channel and deliver the results accordingly. So, for example, if I search for ‘Marakessh Hotels’ using Spotlight, it will take me straight to the relevant section within my travel apps. Whoa! This makes your in-app search strategy critical. By optimising your App to rank higher than competitor apps, you’ll have a clear advantage here when it comes to traffic, downloads and ultimately revenues.

Bottom line? You need to adapt your strategy around the marketing of your App because like it or not, there’s a new channel on the block.

Interface: From this point, every screen in your app has the potential to appear in a set of search results. So no more opening an app and trying to recall how to get to where you want to go … users will instead be able to get to where they want via search, and to do it a lot quicker. Perhaps more appealing however is that a spot in search results could result in delivery of useful, relevant content whether or not a user has your app. That’s potentially a new user – provided you identify that ‘relevant and useful content’.

Channel: Getting your App Discovery Optimisation is a massive challenge – you’ll already know that (and how to start addressing it having read our previous blog post about such challenges). With iOS 9, Apple has integrated a public index into search which in short means a new channel for app marketers to grab potential users attention. So that popular App content of yours that people have been talking about? It’s now got the potential to surface in search. Exposure + right content = download.

So what do I need to be doing next?

With these new search capabilities comes new opportunities, many of them still evolving. But you can start to take concrete steps toward revising your strategies around your App marketing. It’s not exhaustive, but here’s where you need to be focused in the first instance :

App Strategy: Start reviewing your app content and screens to identify which should be indexed and then whether that content should be then indexed privately or publically. Be aware – Apple is encouraging developers not to “over-index” content – it will prioritise results that users actually click on (in much the same way as Google currently does). As a guideline, the content you’ll want to keep private will work for existing users that want to jump in quick to your app and engage with it at their favourite point. Public indexing on the other hand will work best for non-users that are searching for valuable, relevant content and are delivered with the opportunity to find out more (and ultimately download).

Marketing Strategy: The first thing you need to be doing here is making sure that deep-linking is enabled. Apple are quite clear here, saying that deep-linking implementation will ensure you see an “increase in the usage of your App” and “improve your app’s discoverability by displaying your content when users search across the system and on the web.” Deep linking is how you’ll communicate what content can be found within your App along with a way to trigger the links and the actions to specific pages or content in your app. Enabling this functionality and strategizing around it means your campaigns and content are directing your potential users to identified content.

Web Strategy: Establish which content on your website can be accessed from your app and make that content available via Search. iOS9 supports universal links which take users either to your website or directly into your app if they already have it installed.

Ongoing, regularly keep an eye on how Search develops (in much the same way that you keep an eye on those pesky but essential-to-know Google algorithm changes) and ensure you’re adjusting your strategies accordingly.

We’re pretty certain that in-App content is about to have its day. iOS9 is presenting a huge opportunity for App developers and marketers to deliver valuable, high-impact in-App experiences and content to a much wider audience. along with these new capabilities comes the battle-cry ‘context is everything’…. and new user expectations around what they want and what they should be able to do just keep getting bigger. The times they are a changin’ and the possibilities are only just emerging, but it’s safe to say we’re in this for the long-haul.

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