How Apple’s privacy updates hit marketing.

A peek into how the iOS14 update has changed the game.

Reading time: 4 minutes

Our digital partner, SonarGroup, has shared some of the most recent privacy changes sweeping through the industry for iPhone users.

At the end of January, Apple announced that App Tracking Transparency (ATT), which was foreshadowed back in 2020, would be part of an iOS 14 update to land early Q1 ’21. So now that it’s landed with iOS 14.4 - what does it all mean for marketers? “The new policies will impact targeting, optimisation and measurement across digital channels,” Tiffany Husin said, Performance Consultant at SonarGroup.

Here’s the rundown of what’s new in the most recent iOS update:

Users on iOS 14.4 will be prompted with options to either “Allow Tracking” or “Ask App not to Track” before launching apps. While this isn’t necessarily a new setting – it’s always been there, buried in previous setting options – it’s never been an up-front step when launching an app.

Sonar believes that it will result in a significant increase in users opting out. “That’s a mammoth change when you consider audience targeting is a key value proposition for publisher portfolios.” They also pointed out that social platforms like Facebook are primarily being accessed via the app and relies heavily on these data points to target, optimise and report brand efforts.

So exactly how is this going to impact your digital advertising strategy?

Reporting – As users opt out of being tracked, behaviour data gets patchy and the reporting numbers become fragmented.

Optimisation – Fragmented reporting impacts the magical algorithmic system that marketers have come to know and love. That system relies on rich data points and when it’s starved of this data, it means marketers can’t rely on it to help them make smart decisions.

Targeting – The data fragmentation is going to directly impact retargeting, exclusion targeting, segmentation and lookalike audiences because all these rely on accurate audience tracking.

Which channels will get hit hardest? “The ones that users engage primarily via apps,” said Husin. “Think Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, LinkedIn, Messenger and TikTok.” When you consider that 80%of all social media activity is via smartphones, there are major implications here for marketers.

But before you do anything, let’s take a look at how platforms are adapting. Facebook is getting itself ready for the new changes by enforcing platform-wide updates that will impact the interface and reporting metrics onAds Manager. For those users that opt out, Facebook will limit data use with conversion events restricted, aggregated and delayed. If users opt in, there is no change to data use. To cover the loss of data, Facebook then has to make significant changes to the way advertising flows in both the app and the web interface. So with Facebook ads in future, there will be an impact on targeting and optimisation. The reduction in website custom audience sizes will seriously impinge on targeting and re-prospecting.

There will also be a significant impact on how we measure the metrics of Facebook ads - where there is no ability to breakdown conversion events, key information like age and gender data will be out of reach. Similarly, as more people opt out, statistical modelling will be limited and we can expect reporting delays on conversion events.

So what can you do to minimise the impact? “There are some technical and strategic shifts that marketers will need to make,” said Husin. “First, verify your domain on Business Manager – depending on how domains are defined, Facebook tracking may be limited to 8 events globally.”

The second technical shift is to set up a Conversion API

This effectively allows you to send web events from your server, direct to Facebook. Note that this may depend on your web platform.

The third thing to do is to start thinking about what tracking matters to your business and prioritise the top 8 events. When users opt out, Facebook will only receive information on one event completed after an ad click. Facebook is going to roll out the interface above to allow you to prioritise 8 events, which you can arrange in priority order. For now, though, there are complications if a customer makes multiple actions during a conversion window, subsequent events following the first may report lower numbers than expected, even if they fall within your top 8.

Beyond these technical tweaks, XXX suggests a shift in the way you’re thinking about digital advertising. “You need to adopt a multi-channel strategy – in other words, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” He also suggests that you explore multiple touch points online to cover as many bases as possible in the ecosystem. “With restrictions on tracking, it’s more important than ever to adopt multiple channels to paint as accurate a picture of the user experience possible.” Furthermore, Husin suggests that you ramp up your audience capture activity – start shifting audiences to your database so you maintain minimal data loss. Finally, think laterally. A restriction like this opens up opportunity for savvy marketers. Remember that the whole market is being impacted equally, so the more you can shore up your position and understand your customer behaviour, the better off you’ll be.

Social platforms are rightly concerned about the changes – there’s a high likelihood that iPhone users will opt out in droves. Only recently Facebook announced it would take steps to avoid the opt in/opt out message popping up on iPhones. As Kate O’Flaherty points out less data means apps will have to fund their business model in other ways, “We all need reminding sometimes that if we are not paying for the product, we are the product.”

Learn more about the MyAdbox brand and content platform.

Apple logo® is a trademark of Apple Inc.