What email marketers should know about iOS 11
Just a few weeks after the official release of Apple's iOS 11, columnist Kyle Henderick discusses how marketers should respond to changes the new mobile operating system brings to the Mail app.
Apple released iOS 11 last month, bringing quite a few changes to Apple Mail. Because there are currently more iPhone users in the US than ever before — representing 46% of US smartphone subscribers, according to comScore stats from earlier this year — it’s important for email marketers to understand how the new operating system might impact their ability to reach subscribers.
As with any release, marketers need to monitor all of their metrics to truly understand the repercussions of new or changing features. With the release of iOS 10 last year, unsubscribe rate became an easy-to-pinpoint metric with the addition of the baked-in unsubscribe button. The iOS 11 release will be a bit trickier, and marketers need to be sure they are watching their KPIs closely.
iOS 11 brings some notable changes that marketers should be aware of, as many of these are likely to have an impact on engagement and conversion rate metrics among iPhone users.
So, what changes are we seeing this time around, and what do they mean for marketers?
‘Small’ changes with big implications
Among many subtle design changes, like bolder fonts, app redesigns and a new look and feel for the lock screen, iOS 11 and the new iPhones bring interesting features that will enable email marketers and creative teams to enhance their iPhone users’ experience, including:
• iPhone width remains the same: OK, so this first one isn’t exactly a “change,” but you may see designers jumping for joy if they haven’t already heard this news. The width of both new iPhones remains the same, which means there’s not a huge need for marketers to execute responsive design overhauls.
Reworking email templates to fit with new sizes can be a large undertaking. But this becomes a much simpler CSS switch, allowing marketers and designers to feel a bit more at ease.
• Longer screen for the iPhone 8 Plus: While the iPhone 8 hasn’t changed much, the iPhone 8 Plus has a longer screen, reinforcing the trend toward more scrollable mobile email. Until recently, marketers were forced to condense content to ensure the call to action remained “above the fold.” With a longer screen, that “fold” is a bit longer, giving marketers more room to play with.
Email marketers should use this to their advantage by working in more compelling and personalized content. However, be careful to make sure your call to action is still clear and intuitive.
• Improved display resolution: The new iPhones and the new iOS come with better display resolutions, which creative teams will LOVE. This means images are crisper and can be even more retina-ready, ultimately leading to more accurate product images, engaging content and, ideally, conversions. Marketers should take advantage of this by getting creative and experimenting with unique imagery.
• Redesigned Apple Mail interface: The iOS 11 Mail redesign is cleaner, leaving space for eight emails to appear on the screen at once, rather than just seven. This means there is more potential for email marketers to secure a top spot in users’ inboxes and gain those crucial views right when a user opens the app.
But with great power comes great responsibility — make sure your email subject lines still follow best practices to maximize open rates.
Video remains a major player
Perhaps the biggest trend with the launch of iOS 11 is that Apple Mail still supports video. The feature enables videos to play directly from email, without forcing users to click a link to view a video on a separate site. In the past, Apple toggled between enabling and disabling this feature, so it’s good to see it made the cut again this year.
The use of video has been rising among marketers and across all channels this year. Apple’s feature allows email marketers to get more creative with their email layouts by incorporating rich, engaging content that ultimately drives more clicks and conversions. And it gives users a better experience by allowing them to remain in the app while consuming more relatable, interesting content.
But while the functionality is cool, if executed incorrectly, it can have a negative impact on your marketing program. One example is videos that play sound within email.
Best practice is to have videos play automatically. However, if the sound isn’t muted, it can annoy or frustrate users. Marketers should enable videos to automatically play on mute, to ensure the user is in control of the option to turn the sound on.
Second, if videos contain too much crucial information, you run the risk of subscribers never making it to your website. Currently, users cannot easily click through to a website from a video. Apple’s video support in Mail two releases in a row leads me to believe this functionality is coming.
In the meantime, stay brief and focused on reinforcing the website visit. If subscribers get all the information they need while watching that video, they lose motivation or the need to continue the story on your website.
Instead, video content should be complementary to the promotion offered or whatever purpose the email serves. Additionally, it should portray a message that static images or GIFs can’t get across.
For instance, videos shouldn’t just reiterate information about a product or promotion; instead, they should tell a rich and interesting story that motivates subscribers to click through the email to find out more.
Kate Spade’s #Missadventure series is a great video use case. The videos feature notable celebrities such as Anna Kendrick and Zosia Mamet and showcase the comedic and unexpected inconveniences the characters experience. The videos rarely offer promotions or discuss new products. Instead, products are subtly featured, while the videos aim to spark interest and drive loyalty among key audiences.
Know your audience
The video features in both iOS 10 and 11 present marketers with an exciting opportunity to drive engagement and conversion in new ways. Before diving into video, always conduct research among your key audiences and test strategies to make sure video is truly what’s best for your brand or campaign.
Lastly, be sure you are coding all fallback options for non-iPhone users to ensure you’re not alienating subscribers. They subscribed and want to see your content, too!
As more iPhone users adopt iOS 11, marketers will be smart to understand the changes the new operating system brings to the Mail app and determine how they can best incorporate these features into their strategies. Marketers that lead the pack when it comes to making subtle changes in response to the new operating system will reap the benefits long-term — especially as video makes its way into Google and Android devices.
But, as always, it’s imperative that email marketers continue following best practices to reach mobile users. This means targeting appropriately, personalizing content, understanding frequency preferences, using triggers and, of course, adhering to subject line standards.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.