How brands can leverage Apple’s Live Activities feature
In recent years, Apple has made the task of engaging with consumers much more contingent on third parties on its platform a number of updates and additional features this year has at least given brands a better chance of getting noticed. The tech giant’s iOS 16.1 Live Activities update is the latest example, giving brands the ability to be pinned to an iPhone user’s lock screen for 12 hours at a time — but such prime real estate isn’t just a given.
Live Activities launched at the end of October and allows third-party apps that track real-time activities to attach to the lock screen for eight hours of live tracking and four hours of idle use. The new feature has the potential to offer brands a big boost in terms of visibility and ease of access, Mike Herrick, senior vice president of technology at mobile app consultancy Airship, said in an email to Marketing Dive. Whether it’s food delivery apps that update consumers on their order status, fitness apps that highlight live fitness stats, ride-sharing platforms that share precise location information about drivers, or even news sites that share election results—all before consumers even unlock their iPhones.
“Live Activities arguably offers third-party apps the most visible user experience ever on iPhones. That’s especially true given the minimal — sometimes zero — effort required of app-toting customers to take advantage of them,” Herrick wrote in a blog post.
The feature appears to be the combination of push notifications and the Widgets feature, a tool that offers a continuous presence on consumers’ home and lock screens. Live Activities feed on push notifications to stay up to date, and while live on the lock screen, the tool will only last for a limited time after the allotted usage window. Perhaps a welcome upgrade from push notifications themselves, which create a new track on the lock screen per update, Live Activities will maintain all updates through a pin.
The Live Activities addition follows other announcements by Apple that show similar investments in easy visibility, such as the tech giant’s September unveiled its latest generation of iPhones which is equipped with options for an always-on display as well as a Dynamic Island, an interactive notification and activity tab located near the phone’s front camera that can also integrate Live Activities.
The new features could help boost the positive sentiment brands are experiencing at a time when many are trying to recoup losses stemming from Apple’s App Tracking Transparency integration last year that gave iPhone users the ability to opt out of certain data collection measures. Live Activities can give brands a new opportunity to make consumers swoon, which in turn can lead to increased access. A global survey by Airship of 9,000 consumers found that 36% are willing to allow tracking across apps and websites in pursuit of personalized interactions, despite the data collection method being the type of information they are least likely to share, Herrick told MarketingDive.
“The more useful an app is to a user, the more likely they can be convinced with proper onboarding to provide tracking permissions,” he said. Since the launch of Live Activities, Apple has reportedly already made plans to improve the tool with its next update to allow shorter intervals between updates to keep consumers engaged.
Some mobile marketers have already explored Live Activities for themselves, including Airship client Fotmob, a sports-focused app that delivers live scores and statistics for soccer games globally. Sports have the potential to be among the most loyal to the new feature, especially with the rise of legalized sports betting, offering fans a chance to see live score updates spanning multiple games that can happen simultaneously.
There appears to be no maximum number of apps that can be pinned to the lock screen with Live Activities, although each app can only have five simultaneous Live Activities running at a time, Herrick said. For brands using the tool, Apple encourages them to avoid displaying ads or promotions and only displays information related to the Live activity function. There hasn’t yet been a clearly defined line for what marketing efforts will be seen as too much, Herrick said, but the deciding factor is likely not in the hands of Apple, but instead in the hands of consumers.
“Brands must ensure that customers find these new front-and-center experiences rewarding and valuable,” he said. “Without that respectful focus, brands risk low usage and perhaps even deletion as customers search for apps that focus on better serving their needs.