Once again two of tech’s biggest players had their annual developer conferences – Google after a one-year hiatus and Apple had an extremely well-produced, socially-distanced event. There were a lot of new technologies, new versions of key platforms introduced, as is usual for the annual release cadence – iOS, iPadOS, macOS, Tensor Flow, Firebase, Android 12 (they gave up the dessert themed names!). But through all these announcements there were only a handful that caught my eye from an Enterprise perspective.
1. Marketers Pay Attention
It may be a slight overstatement to say “Trouble Ahead”, but marketers better at least understand some of the changes that are coming and be prepared. At Anexinet we spend a lot of time talking about building Connected Customer Experiences, that is designing an omni-channel strategy that ties together marketing, sales and service touchpoints with customers across the web, mobile devices voice and IRL experiences. Elements of that strategy are going to have to be revisited.
Both Google and Apple have announced changes to limit cross-site tracking which is often at the center of these digital marketing strategies. Google recently decided to delay its “cookie execution deadline” to 2023, but Apple continues making changes to reduce the various ways that marketers and aggregators can build detailed user profiles and re-target users with advertising across sites. Building off the introduction of Intelligent Tracking Prevention, launched in iOS 14.5, there are 3 announcements digital marketing strategists should take note of:
Mail Privacy Protection
Apple has extended the ability to obfuscate the user’s email that they provided in Sign-In with Apple and extended it to the rest of the platform. Any time that a user wants in Safari, in Mail, they can choose to hide the email address from the other party. Mail Privacy Protection goes one step further.
Many marketing teams want to create rich, nicely designed emails which can deeply engage the user. But in doing so, that often uses remote images, invisible pixels and unique image URLs. That doesn’t allow us to deliver those rich, engaging messages, but provides marketers with valuable information such as when, where and on what device did the user open that message.
But with Mail Privacy Protection (only available to subscribers of iCloud+), those emails are opened privately, without revealing the user’s IP address and full device headers, marketers won’t know the where and what device was used. Further, all emails will look to have an open rate of 100%. So, if that’s a metric you were using to monitor campaign effectiveness, well you might need to find a new metric. Of course, the users affected are only those that are iCloud+ subscribers and have the feature turned on. But if you think this is the end, and not the beginning of such changes, you’re likely going to be greatly disappointed.
iCloud Private Relay
Another feature for iCloud+ subscribers that helps protect the user’s privacy but will frustrate marketers is iCloud Private Relay. In short what it does, is separate “Who is the User” and “What Sites Did They Visit” to ensure that neither the network provider nor the sites they visit know both pieces of information. And that prevents networks and data brokers from developing very detailed profiles of individual users and cuts down on the ability for cross-site targeting. So bye-bye to “stalker” ads that follow you from site to site. Perhaps good for user privacy, but not so much for marketers that have grown accustomed to having that data at their disposal. But long term, I think that it can help build back trust that consumers have in brands and that’s good.
Image Source: Apple
Apple’s Focus Mode
Last one on this topic for you marketers, I promise. Another method of engagement that marketers and product managers count on for deepening engagement with their customers is app notifications. But that’s about to change a little. In the past, users did have the ability to set their phone to DND to suppress notifications and interruptions, but that was in a time-based method. Apple’s “Focus” mode now helps set the boundaries of what notifications or calls can come through based on times they define by a type of activity such as working, driving, sleeping, or just personal time. This way if I’m in a work Focus, I may not receive personal alerts from apps like Target or The New York Times. And conversely if I’m in “family time” Focus, apps like Slack or Outlook will be muted.
Mike Herrick, SVP of technology at customer experience leader Airship sums up the way brands need to adapt to this changes pretty well: “The benefits of Apple providing users fine-grained control to manage and balance notifications as mobile’s critical, real-time channel could be massive as brands must adapt to changing user behaviors and genuine, user-centric engagement becomes the focal point with less than worthwhile interruptions fading to the background.”
Taken alone, none of these changes, perhaps mitigated by the fact that many require a subscription to Apple’s iCloud+, may significantly impact brands immediately. But remember two things: 1) While Android has the dominant smartphone market share, Apple typically owns the majority of the more valuable customers from a spend perspective; and 2) Privacy, Security, and Control of their data are growing in importance with consumers. Apple is spending a lot of advertising funding to get that message out and making it a touchstone of their brand and products. But Google also is moving in this direction. Much of the messaging at I/O for Android 12 revolved around these topics. So, I would advise against sticking your head in the ground and hoping this goes away. Start working now on devising strategies to adapt to these changes and those that I’m sure will follow.
2. Moving to a Password-less Future
Both Google and Apple talked about this trend. The reason behind it is pretty evident – the current regime of usernames and passwords has been a cornerstone of computing for decades. But bad passwords, re-used passwords, and the rise of phishing attempts have shown that passwords are a major factor in data breaches for individuals and organizations. According to Verizon research, 81% of hacking-related breaches stem from stolen or weak passwords. So, we need a better solution.
Improvements to its Password Manager was the focus of Google’s announcements at I/O. Apple went a little further, introducing its implementation of the WebAuthn standard integrated into iCloud Keychain. The crux of WebAuthn is that passwords are replaced by Private/Public key pairs. The device creates the Private key which is never shared with the server and ensures that secrets are not shared across the network. Now the magic here is that through iCloud Keychain, once that Private/Public key pair is created, the authentication method now works across all your Apple devices and across websites and apps alike.
Now with the caveat that Passkey for iCloud Keychain (the official name of the feature) is only under Technology Preview and should be used for testing purposes and not yet production, I have high hopes that this approach to do away with the remembering/managing passwords is in our near-term future (I’m heartened that WebAuthn is an open standard), and will greatly reduce the threat surface area available to hackers and keep our customer’s personal and our own corporate data safer.
Image Source: Apple
3. Apple’s LiveText
This seems like a small feature in iOS and iPadOS, but oh my God I think this is huge. The number of meetings that we’ve collectively been at where people take pictures of a whiteboard and attach it to a document or save it to a folder as an artifact (that almost never gets looked at again) may equal the number of stars in the sky. So the ability to magically pull out text from images, convert it into notes, and copy/paste text and search? Fantastic.
4. Google Workspace
Google really stepped up their game with all the changes to Google Workspace. It seems a compelling alternative to the Microsoft Office monopoly on the enterprise as well as taking on Slack and Zoom. But fighting a 2-front war is never easy. I still think that it’s a long shot to get enterprises to give up Office because of muscle memory and FUD about sharing documents across customers and partners. Luckily for Google, Teams needs improvements. The demo Google showed of how remote teams can work together on documents live in the workspace was impressive and really showed how the Future of Work can come alive. Is it better than Slack or Zoom? Maybe not, but it the deeper integration is there. Will it create converts? We’ll see, but it does seem worthy of evaluation at the least. If nothing else it can be a good stalking horse to negotiate with your Microsoft, Zoom, and Slack reps.
5. Apple’s Digital Keys
Last year Apple introduced digital car keys, but the new capabilities in iOS 15 and watchOS 8 bring the concept of digital keys and identity to the workplace, hotels, and many other locations using NFC and UWB technologies. It’s use in hotels or giving me the ability to use my Apple Watch instead of paying for a Magic Band at Disney is great, and I think opens a lot of new possibilities within the travel and hospitality sector. But perhaps bringing Apple Wallet to the enterprise to act as a corporate badge to unlock doors via an iPhone or an Apple Watch would be amazing. From a company perspective, the ability to control security goes up a notch while making the process of managing and provisioning access control a whole lot easier. On a personal note, I for one would welcome not to have to wear a lanyard around my neck or attached to my belt buckle again. It’s bad enough to look like a nerd at work but walking around in the real world is even more embarrassing.
6. Vertex AI
Everybody wants to make machine learning a key part of the how we deliver innovation to the corporation and create differentiated products and services. But it can be a lot easier said than done. Enter Vertex AI, Google’s new ML Model Management platform to help build, deploy, and maintain ML models in production. The promise of reducing the number of lines of code required to train model by 80%, and making ML accessible to engineers at all levels sounds great. But MLOps is one area where many companies struggle, and Vertex looks like it can greatly simply the process. And who better to draw on the learning of the past decades of ML than Google?
I almost included Google’s release of Flutter 2.2 in the list. The idea of a single quality platform to easily develop apps for Android, iOS, web and desktop is enticing. But I just can’t get over the fact that the programming language for Flutter is Dart. Dart sits just outside the Top 20 programming languages according to RedMonk’s January 2021 Programming Languages ranking, but it seems it would be a hard sell to decide to introduce a brand new language into an organization just for a tool like Flutter. So as Ted Allen might say: Flutter, for that reason, you’ve been Chopped.
Well almost 2,000 words later, that’s a lot to chew on, but that also means there’s a lot for us to do. My favorite part of being in the technology sector is that it’s always changing, always providing us new things to learn, new ways to work and new challenges to take on. Try to take on at least 1 thing from this list…and have fun while doing it!
Mobile leader, speaker, blogger