Using Apple’s tvOS to build a new customer experience

Apple just launched orders for their New Apple TV this Monday. Normally — that wouldn’t be a big deal, except that this New Apple TV comes loaded with something special, fun, and frankly — with some amazing potential you should probably pay attention to if you’re a goods business trying to connect with your customers. It’s called tvOS.

tvOS is kind of a big deal. While Video-On-Demand (VOD) services have been steadily rising in popularity over the past few years, most TV apps have been flawed in numerous ways. The experience just never felt right. But with tvOS — there’s the opportunity to create universal standards for large-screen apps — and bring along exciting features like intuitive controls, one-click shopping, and perhaps often overlooked — the fact that this experience is happening on a large, at least semi-public screen.

Here’s how you can take advantage of the opportunities this new environment is going to bring.

Design for more than one user at once

While most apps take place on small, personal-sized screens — tvOS brings a similar experience to a large screen. From an advertising perspective — this creates a higher potential for multiple user reach with one impression. In the past, that type of experience may have needed to be encouraged through prompting the user. Now, there are potentially others sitting with the main user, or even in a surrounding area with eyes on the screen.

There are of course downsides to this change, though. With a test unit in our office, it would have been great to load up Apple Music and blast Hootie & the Blowfish (or any 90s music). However, entering your password happens on the large screen that everyone is looking at. What if you’re like most people — and that password is a similar one to what you use across multiple other services? Privacy comes into play and is a consideration that your app will need to adhere to in order to provide a smooth user experience.

Focusing on building experiences that bring people together in a physical space may yield an additional benefit to connecting brands to customers — both explicitly and implicitly.

Companion apps!

Since tvOS will support using iPhones and certain third-party devices to control an AppleTV — there’s some interesting potential as far as developing companion apps. If you haven’t heard of these before, they’re apps that run on your phone alongside a parent app on another device. They don’t always need to be apps either.

Other than the potential privacy issue, companion apps make inputs a lot easier. YouTube for example, uses a web page ( that once paired with your SmartTV, allows you to enter searches from your phone’s keyboard, instead of the TV. I can’t count the number of times I’ve yelled in frustration when my TV keyboard jumped a letter, forcing me to tap direction keys 8 times to reach the “backspace” to undo it. My phone on the other hand, autocorrects my terrible spelling mistakes and in doing so — actually makes it easier for me to find what I’m looking for.

Customers who have been frustrated with the TV control experience in the past (read: many or most) may find new joys in interacting with large screen content (and your brand!) via a handheld control.

It’s new and sexy

Let’s be honest — there’s something to be said about the AppleTV as a new piece of hardware as well. Hardware considerations aside, tvOS should have probably happened years ago. But now, an updated piece of hardware with slick new features has emphasized just how cool this experience can be. A large, heavy brick of a device just wouldn’t offer the same experience.

With that in mind, there’s buzz around this new piece of hardware. For those brands that haven’t already run into technology fatigue and can adapt their content quickly enough, there’s an opportunity in being quick-to-market on tvOS. Not only will the app space be less crowded for a little while, but users will implicitly associate your brand with traits like “innovation”, “intuitiveness” and “forward-thinking”.

Sure, there’s potential to stumble around creating the best experience — but you can look at that process as the cost of user acquisition. And like what happened when iPad-only apps first started launching — there’s bound to be an entirely unique segmentation that features “tvOS-only” apps. This means your app appears among a smaller group of apps — lowering the cost of putting it in front of users.

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There’s lots of potential with tvOS and the New Apple TV — not just for apps on that platform, but for TV-based experiences overall. Stay tuned through the Holiday season — as we’re bound to see some really interesting advancements in TV-oriented user experiences!

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