Support Coming for iOS 8 Interactive Notifications and Widgets

Urban Airship is committed to helping our customers provide a truly exceptional experience for their users. That's one reason why we're incredibly excited about supporting the new the interactive features that are going to be available on iOS. They’re important, and there’s a lot to consider for what these changes mean for both brands and end users.

Mobile devices are the remote controls for our lives. They allow us to interact with services at any time and any place. They also allow services to let us know about relevant information when it's important for us to know about it. And increasingly, those services are not just apps but connected cars, home automation and the Internet of Things where smartphones are the controller and hub to everything around us. Good notification strategies that give users control over what they receive and provide the option to immediately take action are key to meeting mobile users' extremely high expectations.

Now, with iOS 8, Apple is giving us a glimpse at a key enhancement that will reduce friction for bidirectional communication between users and the services they trust with space on their phones and in their lives. Rich Notifications, which Google introduced in Jellybean (and Urban Airship helped demonstrate at Google I/O), and Interactive Notifications, which Apple just announced for iOS 8 during their WWDC 2014 keynote, are something that brands can—and should—quickly adopt. More details are sure to emerge in WWDC sessions today, which we’ll be watching closely.

By enabling immediate actions and feedback within rich and interactive notifications, brands can give their users more immediate and direct control over what is being sent. For instance, a breaking news application can send out the headline and give an option for users to hear more about the story as it develops. Another app might offer options to quickly rate whether the notification is relevant, or if the app should be sending fewer of that type of message. For apps that send messages to an inbox, interactive capabilities could enable immediately marking a message as read, or to make a request for a reminder message to be sent a little while later. The key idea here is that brands are giving their end-users more control over notifications, which is always a good thing. The bar for good notifications just keeps getting higher.

It’s particularly exciting to think about how interactive notifications can be used in combination with our Actions Framework introduced in version 4.0 of our SDK for iOS and Android. Actions allow you to send customized notification payloads that cause interesting things to happen when a notification is received or opened. Easily defined through our UI, Actions can deep-link people opening the notification to a specific page in your app or mobile web site, or, assign or remove user attributes for multi-touch campaigns based on notification opens or in-app message links clicked. Brands can easily create their own Actions with out-of-the-box functionality and execute them from a push, a Landing Page, after encountering an iBeacon, or any other signal.

Combining Urban Airship’s Actions Framework with Apple’s interactive notifications or Android’s rich notifications offer a higher-level of messaging precision, as users’ own clicks and the business’ marketing automation workflows deliver the type of responsive, streamlined experience that mobile end-users are quickly coming to expect. For example, a retailer might send an interactive notification about an upcoming sale with buttons including “View,” “Keep me in mind” and “No thanks.” Users clicking the View button could be directed to an in-app landing page with sales information by product category and specific SKU with each subsequent click setting attributes to their profiles for future messaging campaigns. The “Keep me in Mind” responders could be added to an automated, drip-campaign reminding them to not miss the sale, which could include a coupon for Apple Passbook or Google Wallet powered by Urban Airship Wallet Studio.

The more any of these users interact, whether that’s downloading a wallet pass or clicking within the initial interactive notification or subsequent pushes and in-app messages, the more precise your profile of him or her becomes and the more tailored your app experience and messaging can be. Instead of one app experience to rule them all—and the same message for everyone—users essentially choose-their-own-adventure, optimizing their engagement and your business results.

Another important WWDC announcement was the addition of widgets in Apple’s Notification Center and lock screen, which, similar to widgets on Android home screens, offer users immediate, non-intrusive information. As an example, a retailer can send an interactive notification to inform a user that his or her package has shipped with a button to install the brand’s widget for single-glance access to shipment status, all the way from the warehouse to the doorway. Extremely relevant and dynamic information delivered directly to device home screens can give users exactly what they want without having to open apps, while brands gain traction within mobile’s most visible and easily accessible real estate. The best widget strategies, like the best notification strategies, come down to serving rather than selling.

Both interactive notifications and the option to add widgets are going to quickly become a standard practice for companies that rely on push messaging today. Beyond making sure that the relevant parts of your business can communicate at the right time with your users, having an infrastructure able to handle millions of users interacting in a real-time fashion with interactive notifications and widgets is essential. Mobile experiences should be flexible and adapt quickly to consumer expectations, as well as to a business' growing needs and evolving use cases. For our part, we're working quickly to add iOS 8 support for interactive notifications and widgets to our platform.

Mobile is moving fast. It’s incredibly difficult for brands to meet the fast-moving expectations of consumers, because it requires a deep understanding of their behaviors and context to consistently provide the delightful experiences that they crave. That’s why it’s critical to choose partners that can help you move fast, gain focus on your mobile audiences and help with whatever is required to continually delight them and exceed their expectations.