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3 Key iOS 7 Features Marketers Should Care About

Aaron Strout on
  • Categories: Apple, Apple: iOS, Channel: Mobile Marketing, Mobile Marketing Column
  • Tags: , , , , ,
  • Image via Apple

    On September 18, Apple rolled out its new mobile operating system, iOS 7. Described by Apple SVP of Design Jony Ive as the “most significant change to the mobile operating system since our first iOS platform,” iOS 7 has applied the addition by subtraction principle.

    For starters, Apple’s “reductive design” approach features flatter icons (versus trying to make icons look three dimensional). Interestingly, this is an approach that Google rolled out with its Android platform a couple of years back.

    While this new design evolution is important, there are three new features of iOS 7 that marketers should really care about. Of course, all three have some tie-in to mobile/location-based functionality.


    The ability to share files over Wi-Fi has been a feature of Apple’s desktop operating systems for a while. Now, iOS7 adds AirDrop for mobile users, as well (available from the new Control Center). In addition to making it much easier to share pictures, songs and documents with friends and colleagues, the ability to easily share only with select contacts helps keep sensitive content safe.

    For those instances where you want to share with a large group that you aren’t connected to (think speaker at an event that wants to share a PDF of their presentation with the audience), you can also choose to share with “everyone.”

    The reason why this new feature is key for marketers is that in store locations and at events or temporary kiosks, brands now have a frictionless way to distribute content to customers and prospects alike.

    In the case of a company like Michaels Stores [client], it’s now possible for store associates to share lists for crafts projects, in-store maps, coupons or even light, “how to” videos. Restaurant chains like McDonald’s or Applebee’s can offer virtual games to kids, nutritional guides to parents or even run in-location surveys (customers would just need to share back upon completion).

    One other use that retailers might consider is the ability to snap photos of patrons (at their request) in dressing rooms, flip them the photo in their new outfit but tag the image with a discount code so that when the patron decides to paste the pic of them in their skinny jeans, new blouse or denim jacket, friends in their network might be encouraged to buy the same item at the markdown.

    Of course, this will require that patrons log onto a company’s Wi-Fi. But, given the increasing ubiquity of Wi-Fi in stores, this shouldn’t be a problem long term. And the benefit here is that with the customer being logged into the local Wi-Fi, the store can gain a little extra insight about that customer, including their exact whereabouts in the store and which devices they are using (iPhone vs. iPad vs. Android phone).


    While iBeacon has also been around prior to the launch of iOS 7, Apple’s decision to support it with the new OS allows mobile apps to communicate with sensors (like Estimotes) via Bluetooth low energy (BLE).

    While I’ve discussed the power of enabling physical locations with Bluetooth low energy beacons, the fact that iOS 7 will now allow multiple apps to communicate with in-store devices makes installing them significantly more appealing to retailers.

    If you missed my earlier post discussing the power of brands using BLE beacons, the three key benefits to marketers are:

    1. Locate and help customers in need: How nice would it be to know when your customers are having trouble finding something (or are showing great interest in a particular area)? Now, businesses can do this by looking for customers who are lingering in one location for longer than average. What a great opportunity for the Targets, Home Depots and Lowes of the world to alert an associate so they know exactly where to go and whom to help.
    2. Match the right offer with the right customer: During a project we did with a large, East Coast-based consumer packaged goods company, their biggest complaint about using mobile offers was the inability to target the right customers. More specifically, they wanted to avoid giving extreme coupon-ers any kind of discount. With beacons and apps using iBeacon, companies (brands and retailers) can now connect real-time offers to loyalty programs and thus provide different offers to customers based on value. Think of CVS offering a target customer an on-the-spot “buy one get one free” discount on razor blades while the non-target customer gets a link to a video of 5 ways to avoid razor rash.
    3. Forget the QR code, push the right content or action directly to the customer. One of the biggest problems I have with QR codes is that not only is it clunky to find the right application to read them, but they also require the user to take an action — one which usually results in disappointment. Turn things around and think about brands having the ability to proactively push reminders (last time you were on our website, you said to remind you to buy printer ink next time you are in a store that sells our product), how-to videos or “this goes with that” recommendations.

    Enhanced Camera/Photo Functionality

    For many brands, an increasing headache is the inability to generate enough of the “right” content. This means interesting content that customers on Facebook not only want to like and comment on but also share.

    One place marketers are finding this type of content is on photo sharing sites like Instagram and Pinterest. While both of these platforms are wildly popular with different audiences (Millennials and primarily women of all ages), neither allow for two-way sharing of photos.

    This might seem like a foreign concept, and you might be asking yourself, “Why would I ever share a photo with a brand?” But brands need content. They can always run contests or some such promotion to obtain this content — but what if a simpler way was to just ask their customers to donate a picture or do a photo swap? With new shared albums (and AirDrop), this concept becomes easier and could become near frictionless.

    While some level of moderation would be needed, think of the opportunities for a customer using some of the in-camera filters to take and share brand photos (shoes, food, employees, decor) with the brand. In exchange, they could have access to other users’ photos or brand-created pics of wardrobe recommendations (this goes with that), decorating ideas, food and wine pairings, etc.

    That’s Not All

    While these three new iOS 7 features give marketers new opportunities, there are lots of other cool aspects of Apple’s new mobile operating system. With updates to Siri, Safari, multi-tasking and iTunes and vehicle syncing, there should be no shortage of people downloading the new operating system.

    Unfortunately, older devices — like iPhone 3G and below, 1st generation iPads and earlier iTouches — won’t support this new operating system. So if you’ve been thinking about upgrading to a new device, now might be the time to do that!

    One important note for any of you that have built mobile apps for iOS 6 or lower: make sure you don’t get caught with your pants down. Due to the new use of transparency and the flatter approach to icons, apps optimized for lower iOS versions could look clunky or out of place on the new operating system.

    Unfortunately, just recompiling your app for the new iOS also may not work as many developers have seen this lead to multiple crashes among other issues. More details for developers here on a post by John Koetsier of Venturebeat.

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    About The Author

    Aaron Strout
    Aaron Strout is Chief Marketing Officer at integrated marketing and communications firm, W2O Group. During his tenure with the company, he has served as President of WCG and head of W2O's technology practice. Aaron has 20 plus years of social media, mobile, online marketing and advertising experience, with a strong background in integrated marketing. Prior to joining W2O, Aaron spent time as the CMO of Powered Inc. (now part of Dachis Group), VP of social media at online community provider, Mzinga, and as director of digital marketing at Fidelity Investments. Aaron is the co-author of Location Based Marketing for Dummies (Wiley) and writes a monthly mobile/location-based marketing column on He also recently launched the What 2 Know podcast (iTunes) which features industry leaders talking about innovation and best practices.