iOS 10 Rich Notifications: Mobile Marketers’ FAQs

by Melissa Manser

The release of iOS 10 means a wealth of new mobile messaging and mobile app engagement opportunities. In this post, we share answers to some of the top questions mobile marketers are asking about leveraging rich push notifications.

What are rich notifications?

Rich notifications are essentially push notifications that support photos, videos, gifs and even audio. They can also include interactive buttons.

Related: How to Create Rich Push Notifications: 7 Simple Steps

What are the differences between rich notifications in iOS and Android?

As is the case with push notifications, there are a few platform-specific differences when using rich notifications.

At this time, Android only allows images. Apple’s iOS 10 allows images as well as non-picture media such as gifs, video and sound — and allows image cropping for thumbnails.

iOS 10 notifications also allow you to provide alternative text. That means that users who cannot receive rich push notifications will receive a message that does not reference the rich media (i.e. “Check out our sale on patio furniture!”) while those who can receive rich media will get a message that does reference it (“Check out the patio table you see here!”)

Example of a rich notification with interactive buttons. Including buttons increases the likelihood a user will act on your messaging.

What media types can I send in rich notifications?

Each platform supports different types of media:

- Image (JPEG, GIF, PNG) — Audio (AIFF, WAV, MP3, M4A)
- Video (MPEG, MPEG2, MP4, AVI)

- Image (JPEG, PNG)

In terms of size and video length limits, the theoretical maximum file sizes are 5MB for image, 10MB for audio and 50MB for video. Because iOS 10 is still new, we recommend clients plan a bit more conservatively.

How much of a boost in response rates can I expect if I use rich push notifications?

It’s too early to tell quite yet. But data from our August 2016 study of Android users revealed that rich notifications with images have a 56% higher direct open rate on average than notifications without images.

There’s been another change with iOS 10 notifications that may impact response rates. Historically, iOS users didn’t have to actively dismiss notifications; notifications either timed out from the home screen or were removed from the notification center after a period of time. With iOS 10, notifications are flagged as missed, and more user interaction is required to respond or dismiss.

In contrast, Android users have to actively dismiss notifications.

Because the level of interaction required is now roughly equal between Android and iOS, we expect that metrics for direct response rates to notifications will be more similar across the two platforms in the future.

How should I handle the possibility that a user won’t be able to see the image in a rich notification?

Good user experience is at the core of successful mobile messaging strategy. If a user can’t understand your message because they can’t see the related image, that’s a bad user experience.

This could happen for a few reasons. Maybe a user hasn’t downloaded the latest version of your app. Maybe they haven’t upgraded to iOS 10. Or maybe they had a network connectivity drop, or a server was busy, so the image didn’t download.

Whatever the reason, bake in a strategy to make sure your users can understand your message — whether they can see the related image. Here are a few tips:

  • Craft your messages carefully: Write your notification in a way that doesn’t reference the media you’re sending so that it will still work even if the media download fails. For example, “Breaking News: Michael Phelps wins 23rd Gold Medal” may be a better choice than “Michael Phelps wins 23rd Gold Medal. Re-watch the moment: [with GIF]”
  • Segment your users: Use our out-of-the-box segmentation to target only users mostly likely to be able to receive rich notifications — for example, those with the latest version of your app.
  • Use alternate text: Take advantage of the safety net of alternate text. Provide two options for text: one option that gets displayed when the image downloads successfully, and the other to preserve readability when it doesn’t.

And rest assured, that when all else fails, iOS 10 has a built-in backup plan when images fail to download.

Once iOS receives a rich notification, it gives the app 10 seconds to download the image. If download fails for any reason (e.g. server is busy, network connectivity drops, etc. it simply doesn’t display the image) the text of your message will still come across, loud and clear.

What mobile analytics can Urban Airship collect from rich push notifications?

We can measure user behaviors within a rich notification, such as:

  • Direct and influenced opens
  • Message response: did they interact with any part of the notification?
  • Button/Interactive button response: if you include an interactive button pair we can track which

Each of these responses can be tagged to trigger conditional follow-on messaging to create more personalized, targeted messaging.

Ready to get started using rich notifications?

To deploy rich notifications on Urban Airship’s platforms, for Android you’ll need SDK 5.1.0+ and iOS 10 requires SDK iOS 8.0+.

Have more questions about rich notifications in iOS 10? Get in touch any time.

We’ve got plenty of ideas to spark your imagination. Check out our Rich Notifications Inspiration Guide for use cases across a variety of verticals.

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Urban Airship is now Airship! Leading brands trust us to help them achieve digital growth. We make mobile moments magic.