Tough Medicine for Church Mobile Apps
Remember that yucky medicine your mom made you take as a kid? The kind that made you gag?
You hated the taste, but at the end of the day you felt better.
That’s the message we’ve been delivering to you about the new Apple App Store changes that will impact your church in the coming months. Your church has grown accustomed to a standalone mobile app. And as we’ve mentioned already, all apps will eventually be required to come into compliance with Apple’s App Store changes (no grandfathering). It stinks right now, but we know your custom app experience will get better because of this change.
But we have to take the medicine first.
Your App Is Safe for Now
As the fifth largest app producer in the world (with more than 5,000 apps live in the App Store), we are heavily invested in standalone apps, but we’ve had to come to terms with this transition. We have worked hard to have an excellent relationship with the Apple App Store review team. This is a big deal, and it’s important for us to tell the truth. Apple’s own rules state —“apps generated from a commercialized template or app generation service will be rejected” (Rule 4.2.6). Anyone telling you something different isn’t being upfront.
We could continue selling standalone apps right now and pretend nothing is changing, but that would not be the truth you need to hear. The truth is, your app is safe right now. But now is not forever, and that’s why this conversation is important.
Now Doesn’t Mean Forever
Every app publisher, including echurch, has been (or will be) given a date when Apple will no longer approve templated and generated apps they’ve published. Many app publishers are small and may have not been notified yet, but Apple will apply the rules consistently across all industries.
Now doesn’t mean forever. The clear and unambiguous message the major app publishers have received from Apple is that the days for templated apps are numbered…and that the app publishing industry must migrate to some kind of consolidated app. We’ve not only confirmed the same with Apple, but we’ve also spoken with the other top app publishers in the world who are in the same boat (e.g., restaurant apps, fitness studio apps).
Your church will either make the transition to a consolidated app now or be forced to make it later. For two significant reasons, we believe it’s in your church’s best interest to make the transition now.
First, your custom church app experience will be better after this transition. As we’ve previously said, this is where church apps should have been five years ago. Thanks to our innovative discovery, fingerprinting, and onboarding solution, your app will be easier to find for your community. It’ll also allow us to provide innovations more quickly for your app in the future.
Second, making this change now gives churches a head start. If you’re going to make the transition to a consolidated app eventually, you’re better off getting started now. Your current app will need to be replaced. You don’t want to leave your users with an orphaned app on their smartphones. You want to take care of this issue as soon as possible—so you can move forward with building your community.
We believe churches deserve clear communication about this shift. Whether you’re an echurch customer or not, we hope you’re having candid conversations with your app provider about what this shift means for your church. Here are some of the top questions we’ve been asked and how we respond to them.
The Top 7 Questions We’re Getting about Apple’s App Store Changes
1. What are you saying publicly about Apple’s rule changes and what they mean for us as a customer?
This is echurch’s third blog post about this transition and what it means for your church. The first post described the new App Store guideline and what it means for your custom church app experience. The second dug a bit deeper into what this change means for your church’s app.
2. How long can you maintain existing apps?
Apple has affirmed we can continue to maintain our apps “for now.” That said, they have also emphasized that, all publishers will be required to bring their apps into compliance with App Store rules. For now is not forever.
3. When has Apple said you need to stop publishing new individual apps?
We can continue to sell individual apps until spring of 2018. After that, all new apps will need to be within our new consolidated mobile app.
4. If you are still able to publish standalone apps, why are you transitioning customers over to the new consolidated app now?
We believe in partnering with our customers for their long-term success, and we’ve worked with the Apple Store Review Board long enough to know they aren’t going to back down from this. It would be misleading for us to sell our customers something today which we know they’ll need to replace sometime in the near future (whether six, twelve, or eighteen months from now). Our customers trust us to help them deliver an exceptional mobile experience to their users. We don’t want your senior pastor to have to stand in front of your church again next year and ask your community to download a new app if that experience can be avoided.
5. What does the migration path from an existing app to the new consolidated app look like?
Customers who transition from an existing standalone app to a consolidated app will get the exact same mobile experience as they did previously. Our administrative tools will look identical. Our existing App Connect and App Link features will continue to drive mobile engagement. Your community will be able to use App Link or visit our mobile app promo page to be fingerprinted and download the app seamlessly.
6. What is your product going to look like when you can’t sell individual apps anymore?
As we described in last week’s post, our new consolidated app will provide the best custom church app experience yet. Users will be able to find our app in many of the same ways they do now. Through our App Link feature, they can download their app via a text message. The new app will automatically load their church’s custom app experience. If users download the app from the App Store, they will be able to use their church’s keyword to locate the corresponding custom experience.. Once the church has been identified, the app will function in much of the same way it does today.
7. How are you going to support us as a customer in this transition?
Our Customer Success team will be contacting each of our existing customers to walk them through how we’ll be transitioning them to the new consolidated apps. We’re investing heavily in a new-and-improved customer experience that will help churches through this transition.
We Got This
As a church, you know well what it’s like to deliver hard truths that people don’t want to hear. But you also understand how necessary that process is. We believe your custom church app experience will be better because of the changes instituted by Apple.
So let’s take our medicine now. Then let’s work together to take your church’s mobile engagement to new heights.