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Automatic app updates are one of the many new Apple App Store changes being introduced in Apple’s new operating system iOS 7.

For the consumers who hate the red badges it’s your lucky day. With automatic updates you will never see the pesky red badge on the App Store icon again.

For companies with mobile apps, these automatic app updates are a mixed bag. From the positive perspective, you no longer need to worry about whether or not customers have updated to the latest version of their app. No more complaints or bad reviews about bugs that have been fixed in a newer available version.

Automatic Updates iOS 7

Apps now automatically update each day.

As great as it is to have your software update automatically, it comes at a costly price. The automatic updates take away one of the only touch points that companies have with their entire mobile customer base.

Communication

Since the beginning of the Apple App Store, communicating with mobile customers has been difficult. In the Apple App Store you are not able to respond to reviews, negative or positive. In a marketplace where customer communication and customer support are paramount to success, not having access to your customers is incredibly detrimental.

Even with the barrier that is inherit in the Apple App Store, companies were able to, until now, have a micro connection with their customers through manual app updates. A badge would alert the customer that an app had a newer version available to be installed. Navigating to the app store you actively saw what app(s) were going to be updated. Even if it was only for a second you thought about that particular app, and for many people that would lead them back for at least one more session.

Since Apple doesn’t otherwise provide developers with a way to communicate directly with their customers that indirect mechanism [manual updates] served an important role – Matt Henderson

You are still able to see the updates with iOS 7 if you navigate to the app store to look, but after using iOS 7 for  a couple months now, I have never looked. It just doesn’t occur to me to look after being consistently reminded for the past 5 years, and I strongly believe most customers will behave the same.

These updates provided valuable notifications that an app had been updated. It showed the customer that the app was being improved, that there was a team somewhere spending time and effort into improving the experience.

But why is this a problem?

Retention

Retention is one of the most difficult problems facing every mobile app. 60% of apps are deleted only ONE MONTH after being downloaded. At 6 months, 90% of apps get deleted, and only 4% of customers will be using an app they installed a year ago.

Churn rates are incredibly high and taking away a notification that serves as a reminder will only increase these numbers.

The best way to improve retention is through communication.

Losing a key mechanism to reminding your audience that your app exists somewhere on their phone will have two outcomes.

  1. Nothing will be done and customer retention will plummet even further.
  2. Customer communication will become a higher priority for app developers. If you’re looking for a great way to communicate with your customers, inside your app, take a look at this post about Message Center.

Many companies do not place much importance on communication and developing customer relationships, but it can’t be ignored. Without automatic updates you need to be more proactive in connecting with your mobile customers than ever before.

We are a few short months away from having the majority of the iOS population on iOS 7. If you haven’t thought about how to better communicate with your app customers now is the time to begin.

For those out there facing this new dilemma, do you have plans to find a new touch point with your customers? If not, why not? Share your thoughts below.


Ezra Siegel Updated: August 1st, 2013