Apple’s iOS 14 Impact on Advertising | What Businesses Can Do Right Now  

April 21, 2021

Whenever Apple issues a new iOS software update, iPhone owners get excited. They can’t wait to see what’s new on their phones. This time around, though, the impact goes far beyond the typical iPhone user. The newest iOS update — iOS 14.5 — will include one feature that users have long clamored for, one they’ll quickly embrace. Unfortunately for marketers, it’s an update that has the potential to make advertising a complete nightmare.

Opting Out of Tracking

The major change coming the way of iPhone users in the new iOS update is one that affects both consumers and advertisers alike. With this new update, iPhone users will be notified about the tracking properties of the apps they download. Those individuals will now have the option to opt-out of those tracking efforts.

This change has the potential to dramatically affect countless businesses. But no company would be more impacted than Facebook, a platform that has made billions through the tracking and selling of user data. What’s more, 80 percent of Facebook users only access the site through their mobile devices, making that population the ultimate test audience for this new functionality.

The ability to opt-out of tracking from Facebook and all other downloaded apps comes at a critical time for users. Smartphone users, already wary of privacy concerns, are more educated on such matters than ever before, particularly in light of The Social Dilemma documentary on Netflix. When a significant number of users choose to opt-out of Facebook tracking and other types of tracking, the impact on the advertising industry could be tremendous. And based on prevailing consumer trends, marketers should begin preparing for the worst-case scenario.

What’s Changing for Marketers?

It won’t take long for the trickle-down effect of these opt-outs to affect businesses worldwide. The most notable immediate departure they’ll see is that their Facebook advertising options will change. Businesses will have to verify their domains with Facebook in order to keep their marketing intact. Marketers will now be limited to eight trackable conversion metrics per domain. The conversions themselves will remain customizable, but Facebook’s ability to track other previous trackable aspects of campaigns will be limited. Facebook is eliminating in-person store tracking ad optimizations, as well as some forms of A/B testing.

The real impact as it relates to Facebook — as well as any other type of marketing that relies on consumer tracking — is the potential loss of a large number of data points. Currently, Facebook tracks users in ways that most site members aren’t even aware of. Once they’re able to opt-out of such tracking measures, Facebook and its ilk stand to lose a lot of data. That makes it much harder for them to appeal to advertisers the way they’ve historically been able to. That would lead to declining ad effectiveness, reduced ad income for Facebook and ineffective remarketing and targeted marketing for advertisers worldwide.

In short, the game is about to change. Serious marketers would do well to start preparing themselves for these changes that are just around the corner.

Preparing for Change

Just as it always has in the past, marketing will adapt to the changes set forth by iOS 14. However, those that are proactive in preparing for these changes will find themselves ahead of the curve.

Verify Your Domain

Validating your website domain on Facebook’s site will ensure that your business will function smoothly with the new Facebook marketing rules. Even if Facebook isn’t a huge part of your marketing strategy, this is still well worth your time. After all, properties like Instagram and WhatsApp fall under the Facebook umbrella.

Identify Your Facebook Conversion Events

You should already know what conversion events matter most for your business, whether they be from Facebook or other platforms. However, with Facebook’s new limitations, it’s important to make sure you’re tracking the right conversions. Although the end result of this analysis will only impact Facebook in the short term, this review will help all aspects of your marketing.

Encourage User Logins

With awareness of tracking methods from Facebook and website cookies becoming more of an issue, marketers should investigate other tracking methodologies. One such way would be to encourage users to log into your website. This will help you to keep track of user activity without relying on outside tracking sources — ensuring that you won’t have to once again change your strategy on a dime because an outside agency changed their rules.

Revitalize Your Landing Pages

Paid search ads do a great job of getting traffic to your site. Instead of relying on outside information, try to convert those users earlier by incentivizing them to provide their contact information at a more immediate stage of their path to purchase. You can do this by providing discounts, white papers or other goodies.

The Future

Apple’s influence over the world is massive, and the company’s decision to allow tracking opt-outs is a true paradigm shift. Therefore, it’s wise to consider the implications of this move in other areas of marketing.

For one thing, you can expect Android to follow suit with their own version of opting out of tracking. Google Play already lets individuals know about the permissions they give apps at the time of download, but they don’t have the ability to opt-out of those permissions. Instead, they either choose to download the app or they don’t. This ability to customize permissions could be a game-changer on the Android side of the equation. If nothing else, Google would be happy to take more of the paid search pie for themselves.

As we mentioned earlier, consumer awareness of cookies is at an all-time high, especially with so many sites being forced to inform users about their cookie policies. The day of reckoning for cookies might not be too far down the road. Therefore, this is a good time for businesses to begin focusing more on their own methods of tracking and targeting, as opposed to relying on others for this data.

At the end of the day, marketing is an industry of data and change. Customers have the right to know what’s happening with their data, and as a marketer, it’s your responsibility to play within those rules. The iOS update is a huge step towards data privacy — and if done right, it could be a major leap for your company’s ability to market effectively and responsibly.

To learn more about how to navigate these ever changing-waters, contact us today.