With iOS 10, Apple Offers Brands A New Ecommerce Path

aliceleData-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Alice Le, vice president of mobile strategy at Ansible.

Apple recently handed brand marketers the keys to a potential consumer gold mine when it made it easier for emojis, GIFs and stickers to appear in iMessage with the rollout of iOS 10.

These newly empowered branded images are but a stepping stone to the potential mother lode: enabling consumers to buy products and services without leaving iMessage.

Although this feature has been available for some time in WeChat, the popular Chinese chat app, this is the first time that a mass messaging platform in the US will have this ability. Luckily, the less-than-robust uptake of iOS 10 by iPhone users is giving brands time to determine how best to own the powerful moments that occur in iMessage and similar platforms around the clock – think hunger, frustration, excitement.

But brands need to act quickly, particularly with possible technology upgrades for their apps.

Fewer Steps, More Conversions

Until iOS 10, it took a powerful connection with a brand, most likely a celebrity, to get people to visit the Apple App Store, download an app and copy it to their keyboard to use emojis. It was a lot of effort, and most didn’t bother. 

But now there is easy access within iMessage to the App Store, where marketers like Fandango have already established a head start. By tapping the Fandango logo, users can suggest movies to friends and then order the tickets within iMessage. They don’t have to download the Fandango app because its open API links to the secure App Store platform for ecommerce.

Early Adopters

The best approach to these new opportunities is the walk-then-run process. In iMessage, advertisers should start by embedding branded emojis, GIFs and stickers. Metrics are available to rank them by user popularity, and they can be shuffled accordingly without constantly re-uploading the app. This feedback will help inform a brand’s presence on other messaging platforms, leading to the more exciting potential of ecommerce.

From a bigger perspective, brands should always research how and why people use the various mobile messaging platforms. Audience data showing demographics and other characteristics can help determine which platforms and moments are most appropriate, along with the right brand voice for each. 

For example, a fashion retailer can use holiday moments to market a new fashion range, enabling friends to help each other construct the perfect holiday outfit in iMessage – and giving the user the ability to purchase it without leaving iMessage. A pizza chain could allow people to express their topping preferences in iMessage and then order a pizza for home delivery. It doesn’t take much imagination to see the potential for seamless branded utility that consumers desire today, particularly those in younger age categories.

The data gained from these in-app purchases can inform product and marketing strategy. Apart from aiding brands operationally with stock and inventory, there is massive opportunity to use these data insights to identify interests and activate a personalization strategy. This has the potential to extend across mobile media via device targeting to amplify the insights and increase conversation. For example, if a user purchases several boho-styled items, a retailer can retarget the user with personalized recommendations for boho-styled outfits.

Dynamic Brands Evolve At The Pace Of Consumers

With iOS 10, Apple has made it very easy for brands to leverage iMessage to earn social currency and tap directly into consumer emotion. These two key elements drive contagion and, in turn, loyalty.

IPhone users are now in the discovery phase of the newest iMessage features. Brands should be actively experimenting with branding and, where appropriate, looking ahead to the ecommerce potential. For the latter, some might need to update their apps to include an open API connecting to the Apple platform.

With more than 60 million iPhones in the United States, branded images and ecommerce are about to take a big leap forward. At the very least, the traditional sticker no longer has to be a useless artifact. At the most, the sky’s the limit to drive conversions in one of the most popular messaging platforms.

Follow Ansible (@ansible) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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