Despite the hype, Apple is merely playing catch-up to Android by rolling out new tools for tuning app notifications. But it’s still good news for the many users of business travel apps on Apple devices.
Apple on Wednesday will debut a variety of products. But travel app marketers and developers may be more interested in the company’s latest mobile software, iOS 12 — expected to become available by the end of next week.
The software update aims to make it easier for iPhone users to manage notifications from their lock screen and to fine-tune the types of messages they want to receive.
Every Apple user and app is affected. But business travelers who are frequently on the road, using corporate travel apps like Concur, TripActions, CWT to Go, TripIt, and TripCase, may find the update especially relevant.
In good news for marketers and developers, Apple is allowing newly installed apps to be pushier. It is enabling apps to push notifications quietly for two weeks before having to obtain consent from the user. Until now, consent was required upfront.
“This is an incredible shift from Apple and a massive opportunity for travel brand marketing departments, as historically opt-in rates for push are much lower on iOS than Android, with over 50 percent currently saying ‘Don’t Allow’ to the standard prompt,” said Glenville Morris, director, consulting and digital insight at Travelport Digital.
The new mechanism rewards apps that are being strategic about their push notifications, said Brett Caine, CEO and president of Urban Airship, a digital customer engagement business that helps power notifications for brands like Alaska Airlines. It gives the apps an opportunity to boost their opt-in rate for push notifications.
On the flip side, Apple is giving consumers a one-click option to shut an app’s notifications off indefinitely right when the user sees the first notification right in that first notification itself.
If notifications aren’t deemed valuable, it’s easier than in the past for consumers to silence them. Up until now on the iPhone, when an irritating notification pops up, a user has to dismiss it, open up settings, find the app, and change the notification settings.
Apple is giving customers more options to fine-tune the notifications they receive. For example, business travelers could opt to have all notifications about, say, flight delays, be pushed to their lock screen and be accompanied by noise or vibration. Alternatively, they could banish marketing messages to the notification center to be looked at another time.
Apple is essentially creating two broad categories of notifications. Prominent notifications interrupt the user and appear on the device’s lock screen. Quiet notifications — meaning no sounds or banners — go to the phone’s notification center, where the user can browse through them or swipe away the next time the user looks.
In other words, new group notifications functionality enables travel companies to categorize alerts based on their relevance to where travelers are during their trips.
“We see this as a huge benefit to travelers,” said Jen Moyse, director of Product for TripIt from Concur. “For instance, if we know you’re headed to the airport and we see your flight is delayed, we can make sure that alert doesn’t get lost.”
Apple’s update will encourage more users to opt into notifications now that they can have more granular control over how they are received, said Caine.
Game of Catch-Up
Apple’s changes are in many ways a move in catching up to rival Android devices, which have made it easier to manage notifications for quite some time. That said, Apple has 1.3 billion active devices worldwide, so any changes it makes still cause ripple effects for mobile app design and marketing strategies.
Apple’s changes also are about competing with Facebook Messenger, however, which for many users is becoming a central default communication and news app. Both notifications center and Messenger are competing to be the daily dashboard people use to
Earlier this month, Dutch airline KLM began using Messenger to automatically rebook passengers and send them their new boarding passes after a flight is canceled. It also began sending to select passengers digital vouchers redeemable for food or beverages at the airport’s outlets when flights are delayed, as an apology.
Leisure travel apps are also affected, of course.
“We’re happy to see that Apple is giving users more control and rewarding companies who are delivering quality push notifications,” said Dakota Smith, head of growth at mobile-only travel booking agency Hopper. Smith said Hopper’s users are requesting push notifications on price changes for specific trips 150,000 times a day on average. “We dedicate a lot of data science resources to managing and optimizing our conversation with users so we see this as a big opportunity,” said Smith.
“The big benefit for users is the ability to interact directly from the lock screen when they’re on the go,” said Iain Griffin, CEO of Seatfrog, a Sydney-based startup whose app lets traveler bid in last-minute auctions on seat upgrades on trains like London North Eastern Railway. “For Seatfrog, there’s the opportunity to make a notification even stronger by allowing people to bid straight from the notification.”
In another new feature, iPhones will now group all notifications from the same app by default. However, developers can create more granular groupings like educational, promotional, or transactional messages.
“We are actively exploring incorporating these functionalities into our mobile products,” said SAP Concur.
For example, a flight can get delayed 10 or 15 minutes at a time, resulting in a series of notifications. But if the airline sent a notification saying the flight is back on and you should go to your gate now, a business travel app could make sure the notification is in a separate, priority group, to help make sure a user would see it.
As another example, Conichi, a mobile app that helps corporate travelers with room booking, said it is looking flagging changes to a guest’s assigned room or key to be pushed through iPhone as a critical alert that can’t be easily missed.
“Overall, the update is the biggest shift in push notifications since Scott Forstall announced APNS (Apple Push Notification Service) 10 years ago,” said Morris, of Travelport. “It’s never been a better time for travel brands to invest in a traveler-centric messaging strategy. If you don’t, expect a lot more of your iPhone users to listen to you more quietly in the future.”