In our White Pages Report: The New World Order or eCommerce Marketing we spent a considerable amount of time focused on the new Apple software update (iOS 15). Among many new features and fixes, there are a few standouts. The ones that shine brightest are those which aim to improve iOS functionality for a post-pandemic world.
That is the theme of this update class: repairs and additions to existing applications that reflect pandemic lessons learned. And based on the majority of what we’ve found bouncing around business news media, Facetime and Apple Wallet seem to be the valedictorian and class president, respectively.
Users will now be able to watch movies or listen to music together during a call using FaceTime – a nod to virtual hangouts Americans engaged in during the lockdown. In February and March of 2020, engaging in content as a virtual group required a bit of finesse and a few new, unfamiliar tech tools. The logistics were a bit wonky, but ultimately those who wanted it bad enough found a way to continue peppering their quarantined social life with regular viewing parties and movie dates.
Now though, Apple has extended FaceTime for that specific purpose with Apple SharePlay. Here is the best, most straightforward explanation of what exactly this new FaceTime feature is/does from Pocket Lint.
FROM THE ARTICLE: When you’re on a FaceTime call, SharePlay lets you bring music into your call for a shared listening experience, watch movies and TV shows with your friends in sync while having real-time conversations, and share your screen. At launch, it will work with many third-party apps, including TikTok, so you can bring all sorts of content into your FaceTime calls.
Techcrunch echoed this synopsis of iOS 15 and a new set of FaceTime features “designed for shared experiences — like co-watching TV shows or TikTok videos, listening to music together, screen sharing and more — while on a FaceTime call. The feature, called SharePlay, enables real-time connections with family and friends while you’re hanging out on FaceTime, by integrating access to apps from within the call itself.”
Enabling FaceTime groups to binge their favorite series together may also be a bit strategic.
There’s no doubt Apple operators have had many remote meetings (does Apple use FaceTime instead of Zoom or Meets? They must, right?) over the future of Apple TV and its role among the growing number of content creators and the other streaming services. However, there is evidence Apple may just be further cannibalizing itself with a new lineup of content partners for SharePlay, “including Disney+, Hulu, HBO Max, NBA, Twitch, TikTok, MasterClass, ESPN+, Paramount+ and Pluto TV. It’s also making an API available to developers so they can integrate their own apps with SharePlay. This can include other interactive apps, like collaborative whiteboards, for instance — not just audio or video.”
As far as the Apple TV content goes, it’s just fine-ish, and certainly no Netflix or Amazon Prime (Amazon is already enjoying the benefits of media partnership with many of the content producers listed above), and no Olympian ever trains with the bronze medal in mind. Beyond that, it doesn’t take a business degree to understand how much time and human capital goes into producing and hosting visual media on a dedicated streaming platform. But now, Apple SharePlay’s group viewing functionality stands to give Apple TV the edge it needs to make up a few furlongs in this next stretch of the streaming race.
In addition to the new FaceTime features, Apple is rolling out a grid-view (shout out to Zoom, Google Meets, Teams, and every other video conferencing platform ever for the inspo). What’s more, and this may be a game-changer, Android and Windows users will now also be able to join FaceTime calls much in the same way iMessage supports group messaging between users regardless of their device’s operating system. Let’s all just pray FaceTime doesn’t default the Droid and Windows people to a green background to match the dreaded green bubble non-iPhone users wear like a scarlet letter in group messages.
But there are many who believe Apple’s spin off the conventional video conferencing platforms is sort of a lame effort. One commonly held opinion about updates to FaceTime suggests the announcement at WWDC ’21 “read off like a checklist of Zoom features – background blurring, background noise cancellation, cross-platform support through browsers, ability to use invite links for scheduled meets, a grid view, and more.”
In terms of the mobile wallet, IOS 15 comes with new preferences for the mobile wallet that allow users to create a more centralized hub for the things the absent-minded among us tend to misplace. In a statement to CNN Business, Jennifer Bailey, VP of internet service and Apple Pay said the update “will allow users to unlock everything from their home to their hotel room with digital keys in the app.”
“You can never leave home without your keys, so we are continuing to add keys to your wallet and making them even better.” Bailey cited further nuances to the wallet update, such as car keys to unlock a vehicle from your iPhone. BMW and others will ship cars with this feature starting later this year, she said.
The wallet will also now prompt users with an option to store ID cards. Just scan your driver’s license or passport in the app, and if you live in a participating state, encryption goes into effect, storing the info securely. There’s also talk at Apple about a deal with TSA to use digital IDs at airport security checkpoints, which we think would be the best way to encourage mass adoption of the severely underused/underrated Apple Wallet.
There are a few other, perhaps less monumental changes baked into iOS 15 as well. Focus, for instance, acts as a notification setting similar to “do not disturb,” but with more customizable options. The “work” mode provides a block on all personal calls and messages. When running this setting, only contacts labeled as co-workers and messages from work email accounts or Slack will trigger notifications.
But the biggest Apple update news, at least for our purposes, is advanced privacy measures Apple has taken in the build-out of iOS 15. We dealt with this a bit in our White Pages report, specifically from a marketing perspective.
Ultimately, advanced app privacy will make life considerably more difficult for companies whose most valuable commodity is the data they collect from users. These users had likely not thought much about their privacy online prior to all the chatter around the Apple update. At the very earliest, its possible some consumers began to consider online security in 2018, throughout the string of congressional hearings regarding data privacy, or while watching The Social Dilemma in August of last year.
But the companies featured in the documentary and those that stood before congress – like Google, Facebook, the various other social platforms, and pretty much any landing page that offers something in exchange for sign-up form submission – will be fine. They have a reach. It’s marketers who will hurt the most (think DTC brands, primarily) because they no longer have a highly effective and accessible means of generating new sales/growth through advertising.
And this was the throughline of our White Pages report – platforms like those mentioned above that are both data mines and advertising vehicles. Over time, these platforms grew into tools enabling extreme filtration and demographic targeting. Every product with a logo became a brand with a highly curated content message, and eventually, a committed customer base.
Now, in light of iOS 15, things are already changing. The market has already caught on, and consumers are already starting to play a little hard-to-get.
But there is another nuance to the update’s increased privacy measures that have even further implications for retail and the supply chain. This one was perhaps less obvious. We knew Apple would provide user options to lock down apps, but it was short-sided to focus on tools like Facebook ads and AdWords. We failed to consider that email is an Apple application, and though less sexy, email marketing far predates any other digital advertising format.
It’s also the first and most effective data collector – not because people share more via email or that email servers have amassed such a significant user base. Rather, the reason email is so adept at collecting user info – and thus, so effectiveness as a marketing tool – is because of the nature of the format, which more or less necessitates opt-in as a condition to any email campaign. You can’t email someone who did not, at one point in the not so distant past, provide that email. There are, or course, companies whose business is building contact lists based on demographic categories and selling those lists to marketers, but there is a tight squeeze on the direct mail and telemarketing brokers as well. Not to mention, most CRM’s do not permit users to upload a giant contact list they’ve purchased from a direct mail broker.
MailChimp, for instance, encourages 100% opt-in and gives marketers a few tools like sign-up forms and a social media calendar to help grow lists organically. There are also some interesting ways MailChimp users can further automate customer relationships – templates for new subscribers and those who unsubscribe; notice of a new blog post; reminder messages to customers who’ve left an item in his or her online shopping cart; receipt customization; happy birthday well-wishes, etc.
Opt-in is vital for the sort of obvious reason that people are generally more apt to buy from the brands to which they subscribe. It’s the same principle on social. Arbitrary ad placements are well and good, but pretty much any marketing pro worth considering will first and foremost describe the importance of influencer marketing and the ways in which brands can build unique ad campaigns on social media in order to built, and subsequently sell to followers.
In terms of the Apple update, CNN did a good job summing up how email would be impacted in this article from early June:
The email app on Apple devices will now hide users’ IP addresses and their location, so companies sending emails can’t link that information to users’ other online activity. Additionally, senders can’t see if or when users open their email.
But wait, there’s more. Safari and Siri will also do their part in securing user data by encrypting traffic leaving a device. That way, no third parties can intercept information gleaned from an individual’s browser activity.
That may sound like a no-brainer, and many consumers likely did not realize this was something they had to worry about. Is that even legal? What kind of Orwell novel are we living in, am I right?
In short: yes, it is legal, though the days are numbered for some of the seedier practices in browser traffic mining. In general, third parties that are compiling data from individual internet search traffic are doing so in one of two ways:
- They are using a Pixel on their website or a domain they own. In this way, it is less a hack and more an analysis of website performance.
- They are using a paid SEO tool like Google Adwords.
It is by no means a comfort knowing that companies can trace the unique journey that leads us to a brand’s website or online storefront. Still, we can all agree the examples described above are not nearly as nefarious as the terms “hack” and “intercept” connote. Generally, the update will seriously limit what third parties can learn about the potential consumers who visit their websites or domain.
With the change to Safari, we can all likely expect the other big browsers to follow suit. In the case of Google Chrome, it is only a matter of time before privacy measures sweep across the full scope of company products, similar to the wide breadth of applications secured in the Apple update.
A Google privacy roll-out in the style of iOS 15 is a wild prospect when one considers the sheer number of products in the Google Suite. There’s Gmail, Google Drive/Docs/Slides/Forms, Calendar, Translate, Meets, Voice, the Play Store, Maps, not to mention Youtube. The difference between these applications and the Apple products we’ve talked about thus far is the universality of the Google Suite.
In other words, Apple applications are in many ways more exclusive to Apple devices (iPhone, Macbook, iPad, etc.). There is such a thing as a Google device as well. However, the software services under the Google brand transcend just Android and Chromebook users in a way that Apple software does not and can not (that’s on purpose).
What’s more, while corporate America remains entrenched in the world of Microsoft 365 or Outlook and Teams Video Conferencing, start-up culture thrives on the Google infrastructure for equivalent operations.
Here are some of the other industries primarily built on Google’s infrastructure as per enlyft.com:
- Computer Software Companies
- Information Tech and Services
- Hospital and Health Care
- Marketing and Advertising
- Education Management
- Real Estate
You can get a sense of how that use is distributed across those industries below:
And within those industries, distribution of use by company size. First, using number of employees as the marker for size…
…and again using revenue.
A glance at the first set of data (industries using Google Apps) was the basis of our hypothesis on the start-up world’s affinity towards Google products. The second and third graphics more or less support that assertion. Just think about the type of companies that fall within the Computer
Software/IT/Internet bucket: Pinterest, Facebook, IG, Monday, Slack, Dropbox, Salesforce, Workday.
Retail, of course, encompasses the DTC brands, sub-boxes, and brick n’ mortar stores (from the mom-and-pop to the big box chains). This is our client base.
Also, unless we are talking about Olive Garden or another restaurant group franchise, bars and restaurants are small privately-owned businesses (sort of like start-ups).
Education refers to the education tech firms like Newsela, Coursera, Go Guardian, etc., and pretty much every public and independent school in the country. Just ask the parents about their experiences on Google Classroom over the past year. They’ll tell you.
You get the idea. Long story short, the change to Safari (and soon most other widely used browsers) encrypts all internet activity such that all search engines default to incognito. It’s the same thing achieved through a private VPN if you are tech-savvy enough to subscribe to one. A remote VPN differs from the kind associated with your company’s office Wifi, which will also encrypt your data to the outside world. Still, its primary function is to monitor internet activity within that ecosystem—more big brother than protector.
One more HUGE change that seems more related to email but is actually a function of internet browsing. It’s also perhaps the iOS 15 privacy measure that stands to hurt marketers the most: the “hide my email” feature will let subscribers input a randomly generated email when signing up for an account on a new website that will forward messages to their inbox. According to CCS Insight Chief Analyse Ben Wood, “this will reduce the number of companies that have access to users’ direct email addresses…” and “…cause further consternation among those companies’ dependent on user data for tracking, advertising, and monetization.”