Last week, 9to5Mac pointed out that Apple had changed its App Store guidelines to allow push notifications to be used for marketing and advertising. This is a reversal of a policy that prohibited notifications for being used for direct marketing purposes.
The relevant language reads as follows (emphasis added):
Push Notifications must not be required for the app to function, and should not be used to send sensitive personal or confidential information. Push Notifications should not be used for promotions or direct marketing purposes unless customers have explicitly opted in to receive them via consent language displayed in your app’s UI, and you provide a method in your app for a user to opt out from receiving such messages. Abuse of these services may result in revocation of your privileges.App Store Review Guidelines 4.5.4
If users are spammed, winbacks will be very hard. Consumers must already consent to push notifications. The App Store guidelines don’t say anything about a second opt-in for marketing messages or ads. Accordingly, publishers should thus be able to send direct marketing messages if users consent to notifications, without any specific ads-related opt-in.
The new guidelines also require app developers “provide a method in [the] app for a user to opt-out from receiving such messages.” (Apple’s settings allow users to block notifications for any app.) This creates something of a dilemma for mobile marketers. If ads and “informational” notifications are co-mingled, and a user opts-out because of too many or irrelevant ads, that will kill the publisher’s ability to send any notifications.
I haven’t seen data on what percentage of users will opt back in to receive notifications after an opt out, but I would imagine it’s very small. According to multiple data sources, the general iPhone notifications opt-in rate is between 40% and roughly 45%.
Why we care. Ads or marketing notifications could work well for retailers, for example, who could personalize promotional notifications when items go on sale — as with email marketing. It might also work for streaming and entertainment apps, to promote upcoming shows or other content that users have expressed interest in. It could work for real estate, jobs, restaurants, sports and a few other categories where the promotion is closely tied to the content of the app.
Ultimately marketers will need to be careful about the promotional notifications they push. Developers and mobile publishers should be transparent about introducing ads into push notifications. If the publisher is clear and takes care to only deliver relevant or personalized ads, the new capability might work extremely well. But sloppy or thoughtless execution, or spam, will guarantee failure.