Apple’s new App Clip technology lets people load transient mini-apps without installing through the App Store. Users don’t have to authenticate or authorize the mini-app. It just downloads and works. Whether scanning a code (think QR code) or detecting an NFC tag, iOS users can download and run these pre-vetted packages that represent a light, typically transactional, view of a larger app experience. I went through some writeups and video today and thought I’d share a mental dump of my thoughts.
All App Clips are accessed via URLs and limited to 10MB or less in size. Their job is to move a user through a quick transaction and then either return control to the user or solicit the user to download the full application. So if you’re selling cupcakes, you can “upsell” the experience from a single purchase to a loyalty program app.
App Clips are designed for transaction. As an app, rather than a web page, they integrate seamlessly with the store ecosystem, allowing users to purchase goods and services from an instant menu and integrate with features like Apple Pay.
You can also use App Clips to decorate a museum or a city with points of interests or a bus stop with upcoming travel information. You can also do this with the phone’s built-in QR recognition for URLs to land on a web page instead but you’d miss the charm of the Apple “concierge” guiding you through the process.
Honestly, there’s nothing an App Clip can do (maybe other than something like Apple Pay) that a reasonably designed web page cannot but it’s that charm and an eye towards lowering the transaction barrier that makes the Clips so compelling. With Clips, end-users can point, pick, and pay with an absolute minimum of effort. If this works as promised, many of the typical web hurdles (I speak as someone who has ordered a lot of MadGreens pick-up food over the last few days) disappear.
A Clip’s transient data only is transient if it is not transferred to a client app. Since the Clip must be developed in tandem with that app, an impulse purchase can be applied directly to loyalty points, putting the user on the path of a redemption reward. The side-by-side development and the tandem review (which takes place together) plus the ability to share assets and re-use code makes this a promising area for developing commercial transaction apps that don’t stand between the user’s desire and impatience and the need for a more traditional app.
I use the Safeway app regularly and I utterly loathe it. Safeway has three tiers of user prices: general rip-off, loyalty-program, and expensive-but-you-can-live-with-it Just4U. Swiping a card only gets you to the middle tier. To get the Just4U prices, you must spend a half-hour before each visit entering all the coupons you think you might need or try to scan the teeny-tiny, often folded, ripped, or dirty QR codes on the shelves and then hope that the store’s remarkably bad WiFi and cell service doesn’t give you dozens of error alerts (which must each be manually dismissed) keeping you from actually being awarded those better prices (and the occasional $5 or $10 off a $100 purchase).
If the App Clip experience shows how to smooth the pathway from desire to acquisition, then Safeway’s approach shows how to tick off its customers and actively convince them not to purchase certain items as the coupons are not working.
However, I’m not only excited about the transactional nature of App Clip, I can easily see how a well-backed municipal or organizational effort can provide “more information”, “deeper information”, “found facts”, and “inspiration” using the same technology. Again, the key lies in reducing turbulence, steering the user, and completing the goal in the shortest period of time.
In terms of designing your own apps for App Clips, remember that simple is always better. The more choices, options, and features in your Clip you present, the more work the user must do. Instead, consider pushing your top sellers as “Quick Buys”. That doesn’t mean you can’t offer the deeper choices but if you do, remember the people queuing up in line, impatiently waiting for your customer to pick their deep-menthe chocolate-macchiato with half-skim/half-soy, two-and-three-quarters squirts of Pumpkin Spice, with low-fat whipped cream.
I’d imagine that the best transactional clips will not only capitalize on desire but also on the flow and customer-to-customer dynamics that might also exist within the store experience.
For App Clips out of the sphere of purchase, keep the same kind of locational awareness. A visitor who has just discovered the fascinating history of your city’s belltower probably shouldn’t step back into traffic to better look up and view the little dancing people on the clockface.
When I first saw this feature, I wasn’t all that excited. Now that I’ve dived in a little more I’m much more impressed by the thought care and clever delivery mechanism Apple. has put together.
What do you think? Too clever for its own good or a tech we’ll be seeing for years to come?