Web App Pushing Is Finally Coming to iOS

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by Michelle Lawrence | Last Updated: Mar 2, 2023

It’s been a long time coming -  Apple has decided to play nice with web apps. FINALLY. 🙌

For what feels like a decade, Apple has said “Let’s circle back” on the idea of allowing web apps to send push notifications. But with its newest iOS Beta, the tides are turning on a long history of Apple’s reluctance to invest resources into supporting web apps.  

Apple’s Latest Release 

Apple’s new iOS and iPadOS 16.4 Betas will now allow  Safari web apps saved on a user’s home screen to send push notifications. 

Prior to this software release,  a user could install a web app or a website for that matter onto their home screen, they just couldn’t receive any timely push notifications from them. 

Surprised this is just now becoming a thing? Us too. 

But when you learn more about the complex history of Apple and web apps, you’ll soon understand why the tech giant doesn’t actually have a vendetta against web apps...they’re just afraid of the fallout once people get wind of the benefits tied to them. 

Apple vs. Web Apps 

Fun fact: Apple’s app store is home to more than 2 million applications. That’s more than some countries' populations. 

If you recall the scandal that happened in 2020 that spooked teenagers (and some adults), Fortnite got slapped on the wrist by the tech giant. 

Apple's policy allows them to take a 30 percent cut in the revenue an app drives. To add insult to injury, all in-app purchases are required to be made through the app store to “increase the security of the purchase”.  AKA Apple makes sure they get their slice of the pie.  

Fortnite decided it didn’t need to be a rule-follower and tried bypassing this policy by adding in-app purchases made directly to Epic Games, the company that created Fortnite. Apple caught this and instantly removed Fortnite from the app store. 

When building a native app and releasing it within the app store, a brand or individual does not own that app. . The app store does, which is why Apple had the ability to remove Fortnite without warning. (FYI - The same thing applies to Twitter. Your Twitter handle doesn’t belong to you and can be taken away by Twitter at any time to give to someone else.)

Apple is focused on driving revenue through this 30 percent fee and through in-app purchases. Because web apps do not need to be accessed through the app store, Apple loses a ton of potential revenue to web apps and therefore has intentionally chosen not to invest the resources to further support web apps…until now. Apple has also been notoriously behind the times on overall web functionality compared to other browsers too. 

Marketers need to be aware of this harsh reality. Creating native mobile apps is anything but cheap and quick to build - it is very likely your brand’s native mobile app could be removed if one of the items in the long list of requirements is not followed. 

For this reason, brands should stop building native mobile apps and instead harness the power of web apps to engage with customers on mobile.

Web Apps 101

Web apps and native mobile apps differ greatly in terms of what they bring to the table.

Native Mobile Apps

A native mobile app is probably what you are most used to. These are the apps like Facebook, Snapchat, DoorDash, etc. that a user would download from the app store. The pro to native mobile apps is purely in that they have the home-field advantage in terms of familiarity. 

The cons for native mobiles include (but are not limited to): 

Progressive Web Apps

For mobile users, Progressive Web Apps (PWAs)  are more appealing.

PWAs have nearly identical functionality as native mobile apps but are accessed through the Internet, therefore they work across all browsers and devices. They work offline and don’t require an app store download. 

Storage space is another huge benefit of using a PWA - compared to a native mobile app, a PWA takes up a fraction of the space. For example, the Starbucks PWA was .4 percent the size of its native app counterpart, freeing up lots of precious storage space for the brand’s customers.

From a marketing perspective, PWAs are way easier, quicker, and most cost-effective to create when compared to native mobile apps. When using technology like a digital experience platform (DXP), a marketer can actually create and launch a PWA in 30 minutes or less without using development or agency resources. Additionally, marketers can develop a unique activation strategy that makes sense for their brand and not force their customers to visit the bloated app store. 

Why Should Marketers Care

Traditional marketing channels are broken. The average person receives upwards of around 120 emails a day - and that’s just work-related emails. Ad spend continues to rise while consumers’ appetites (and attention spans) for scrolling on social media decreased by 11 percent in the past year. 

With limited resources and broken channels, where are marketers supposed to turn to capture the attention of consumers? 

If you guessed mobile, you’d be correct. 

Mobile is an extremely underutilized channel by marketers. Consumers pick up their phones an average of 58 times a day. On average, push notifications have an average open rate of 7.8 percent

Think about the prime real estate your brand could earn on a customer’s phone if you incorporated PWAs and push notifications strategy into your marketing efforts. If you need further convincing, it’s another mobile channel to utilize in addition to text messaging, which has an average open rate of 98 percent

Best Practices for Push Notifications

Here’s what we recommend for getting started creating push notifications:

1. Personalize the Content 

The ways you can personalize push notifications are seemingly endless. Segment your audience into groups (behaviors, demographics, products purchased, etc.) and send push notifications that way. 

This could look like sending a notification about a new product launch you know a specific group of individuals will care about based on their behavior/purchase history. It could also mean sending push notifications to customers whose products are impacted by a recent recall or sending customers maintenance reminders. 

Making the content you’re sending customers relevant is essential if you want to avoid customers disabling your brand’s notifications.

2. Be Smart About Send Times

Unless it is a true emergency, no one wants a push notification from a brand at 5 in the morning. Schedule your push notifications at a reasonable time for your audience. 

3. Use Sparingly 

Marketers get trigger-happy and end up abusing the technology that enables us to do our jobs. It’s what happened with email and text and it’s what could happen to push notifications if we don’t use them correctly. 

Don’t send more than 10 push notifications a week…and even then that’s pushing it (pun intended). Otherwise, you face the threat of individuals muting your brand. 

PWAs and push notifications hold tremendous return on investment (ROI) potential for brands. Start taking control of your mobile strategy and get started with PWAs

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