The digital industry is anxiously awaiting the biggest iOS change in years. To the average consumer Apple’s announcement of iOS 14 changes looked a lot like all of the others. A few new emojis, updates to their maps and translation apps to try and compete with Google, and yet another attempt to pretend Siri will ever understand what we’re asking her to do. To a business owner, app developer, or marketer however there is one piece of this update that will change the way we strategize our online marketing efforts: the privacy updates.
Apple is making one big change that will impact the way that apps can use data—asking for permission first. The tech giant is making a mandatory pop-up appear on all eligible App Store apps when they want to use tracking across apps or websites owned by other companies, or want to share your information with data brokers. This feature was rolled out by some apps in advance of enforcement to be prepared for when it officially launches.
- App Tracking Transparency Policy (ATT): Users will be asked permission before apps can use their unique Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) for third party ad tracking. Developers are required to ask permission to use certain information from other apps and websites for advertising purposes to comply with ATT.
- SKAdNetwork (SKA): This removes user-level data as well as more granular data, both of which advertisers of all kinds depend on.
The update will add a new section to the App Store with information about each app’s privacy, tracking data, and linked data.
In addition an in-app prompt will appear to notify mobile users on iPhones that they can select one of two options. Sharing their phone activity and data with the app or to opt out of sharing this information. Like an “Accept Cookies” button, but only for apps.
Apple is making users aware of what data an app will track before they install it, and give them the choice to opt-in to tracking when an app is installed. This includes apps of all sizes, from Facebook to a niche software app. Even if a user opts out of sharing their information, apps will still be able to track some data. But a lot of granular-level tracking abilities would be lost. It is important to get advertisers, app developers, and data analysts aware and prepared for the changes as they are said to come into effect soon in Spring 2021.
How Will iOS 14 Changes Affect Businesses?
Many users likely don’t even know that their data is being tracked and shared in the background when they use Apps from the App Store. So you might think, this is a good change, allowing the user to have better control over their data privacy? But there’s two sides to that coin. We wouldn’t encourage doing anything malicious or sneaky with users’ data, but many tech industry employees need access to that data to do their jobs well. What we do with that data often benefits the consumer in the end.
The impacts of this change will be felt by all app developers and advertisers. Including small business owners, who rely on affordable, and available tracking information to create effective and cost efficient marketing plans. Many users won’t understand how this tracking plays a role in many touchpoints of their day-to-day online experience. They see the word “data” and will likely immediately reject the tracking without taking the time to get more information. This may end up negatively impacting their own online experience in the process.
Why does this matter?
As of February 2021, more than 55% of all web traffic comes through mobile phones. We know the importance of optimizing your site function, creative and content, as well as marketing and advertising efforts for mobile, but what will happen when mobile targeting, and app’s first- and third-party data sources become limited? Less user behavioural knowledge, less targeting abilities, less personalized advertising, and less efficient marketing. As more people opt out of tracking on iOS 14 devices, ads personalization and performance reporting will be limited for both app and web conversion events.
This change doesn’t come as a surprise with the privacy scandals from top app creators in recent years like Facebook, and TikTok. With increased privacy laws and regulations, and skeptical user base many organizations and apps have started adopting the opt-in method. The opt-in vs. opt-out debate has come to a close for Apple, and they’re letting us know that asking for forgiveness, not permission, is a way of the past.
How Will iOS 14 Changes Affect Advertisers?
The update means that users now have to expressly give consent to be tracked. Marketers anticipate that a significant number of users will choose to opt out. Without the information normally collected from these users’ paid media stands to be negatively impacted. The exact impact will only become known after the rollout as advertisers begin to see and share trends and changes to their performance. The two areas that will be most impacted are ad platforms that utilize off-site behavior and assisted metrics. Ad platforms like Facebook or Display networks need to understand what a user is doing off-site to create targeting segments. The metrics most affected for Facebook and Display networks will be ones that indicate the performance of that channel, including conversions, conversion rate, cost per lead, and assisted metrics which will be discussed below.
Some ways we know this will impact advertisers include:
More Expensive Advertising
Third-party apps, and parts of online ecosystems that are outside of the direct platform infrastructure (like the Facebook Audience Network) likely will lose some targeting abilities. This means advertisers will be working with smaller, and less powerful platforms for marketing, impacting overall conversions and revenue most. With fewer slots for ads, especially when trying to reach a very specific group, CPM, CPC, and CPA will all get higher.
Reduced Control Over Frequency Capping
As programmatic placements in particular will be hit by these changes, we will see inefficiencies like difficulty controlling frequency capping, or inaccurate frequency reporting. Many programmatic vendors have switched their focus to investing in cross-device tracking by using multiple identifiers outside of the IDFA to still be able to link users and devices together.
Loss of Attribution Windows
With the iOS 14 changes there will no longer be attribution window options for some advertising platforms, Facebook in particular. If you were previously using data based on longer attribution windows and view-through attribution you will no longer be able to, and will likely notice a decrease in conversions as that data is lost.
Loss of Demographic Breakdown
Limitations of the SKAd Network will also include decreased access to attributes such as age or gender.
Facebook in particular has been voicing their displeasure at the news since day one. Openly criticizing these changes in any communication they share about it. Stating:
“In June, at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple announced product and policy changes that will impact data sharing across iOS. The policy and the limits it places on advertising will harm the growth of businesses and the free internet. We believe that free, ad-supported businesses have been essential to the growth and vitality of the internet, and that personalized ads and user privacy can coexist. We support proactive privacy measures and data transparency, but we don’t agree with Apple’s policy changes.”
Facebook has gone so far as to start an emotional campaign Speak Up For Small Businesses in response to the changes. You can read more about that here. The platform has been the quickest to form a response and action plan for advertisers.
For Facebook Advertisers
Facebook has officially outlined the changes advertisers expect to see on their platform. To try and minimize the impact of any data loss from the iOS 14 changes, Facebook has created “Aggregated Event Measurement” which they have designed to “help you measure campaign performance in a way that is consistent with consumers’ decisions about their data.”
Key changes Facebook Ads Manager users can expect:
Advertisers will be limited to eight conversion events per domain (eight pixel-based events, or eight custom conversion events). This change will happen automatically to any existing accounts, and any that have more than 8 Facebook will select 8 to keep on and the rest will be turned off. You can change these after the fact, but anytime a change to the conversions is made the ads will be paused for 72 hours so keep that in mind if you have ads that are live or will need to be live before then to make changes early when possible.
Facebook is moving pixels over to domain-based ownership. If you use pixels, they recommend that you verify your domain with Facebook to minimize any disruption to your data. Verifying your domain is especially important if your pixel is managed by multiple people, or organizations like agencies.
The 28-day attribution and view-through attribution will no longer be supported. Historical data for these will only be available via the API. If you want to have this historical data we recommend that you download your historic data now for both view-through windows plus 28-day clickthrough. If you use the 28-day window currently, compare 28-day and 7-day click conversions on past campaigns to estimate how much your reported conversions for future campaigns may be impacted.
As people stand to opt out of tracking after the iOS 14 changes, the number of app connections and custom audiences for app and web activity will likely decrease. To account for this, Facebook recommends that you broaden your audience to capture more potential customers.
Changes to App Install Campaigns
For app install advertising Facebook has implemented limitations to only allow them to be created within Ads Manager, have one iOS 14 ad account per app, have nine published campaigns at any given time, and have one ad set per campaign, but no limit to the number of ads.
Facebook has recently also released a Checklist for Advertisers that you can download here.
For Google Advertisers
Google has also put out literature to help prepare partners for these upcoming changes. They state:
“We’re working with the industry to give Apple feedback on how to further improve SKAdNetwork so advertisers can measure their campaign results accurately on iOS 14. In the meantime, we encourage app advertisers to upgrade to the latest version of Google Analytics for Firebase for new features like SKAdNetwork support. We also encourage advertisers to monitor the performance and delivery of all iOS App campaigns closely and, if necessary, make adjustments to budgets and bids to achieve their goals.”
They encourage Advertisers running Display, Video and other campaigns promoting web-based conversion goals may see performance fluctuations as Apple’s ATT policies go into effect. During this time, they will be expanding modeled conversions to more iOS 14 traffic.
They are complying with ATT by no longer using the IDFA any longer, and will not be showing the prompt on their handful or iOS apps that currently use it for advertising.
How Will iOS 14 Changes Affect App Developers?
It’s most important for App Developers to take the time to thoroughly read the new requirements from Apple, and implement any necessary iOS 14 changes as soon as possible. Google has also released a guide to help app developers prepare for these policy updates so that is worth a read.
Some ways we know this will impact app developers include:
Requirement of AppTrackingTransparency
On January 28, Apple released an updated announcement for developers on the upcoming requirement of AppTrackingTransparency, saying that this will now go into effect beginning with the upcoming beta update, and will roll out to everyone in early spring with an upcoming release of iOS 14, iPadOS 14, and tvOS 14. They encourage developers to make the necessary changes to verify their app’s implementation of AppTrackingTransparency as soon as possible. Without the user’s permission, you will not be allowed to track them and the device’s advertising identifier value will be all zeros.
Privacy Practices in App Store Connect
In order to submit new apps and app updates, you must provide information about your privacy practices in App Store Connect. If you use third-party code (such as advertising or analytics SDKs) you’ll also need to describe what data the third-party code collects, how the data may be used, and whether the data is used to track users.
Potential Creation of Prompt
While you can display the AppTrackingTransparency prompt whenever you choose, the device’s advertising identifier value will only be returned once you present the prompt and the user grants permission. Use the purpose string to explain what this data will be used for to help the user understand what they’re agreeing to share.
Update SDK for iOS 14 version 8.1
If you plan to deliver ads optimized for conversion events that occur in your business’s app, update to Facebook’s SDK for iOS 14 version 8.1 to help personalize ads delivered to iOS 14 users, and continue to receive app conversion events reporting. If you are an app admin you can do this from Events Manager. Facebook’s SDK for iOS 14 version 8.1 currently supports Apple’s SKAdNetwork API and enables measurement for app install ads. If you don’t have the latest version of our SDK installed, you may want to install it to get prepared for these upcoming changes.
Facebook has recently also released a Checklist for App Developers that you can download here.
How Will iOS 14 Changes Affect Data Analysts
Depending on whether you are a freelance analyst, a part of a large agency, a member of a client side team or otherwise, your involvement with preparing for these changes will be different.
Some ways we know this will impact web developers include:
Disappearance of Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA)
IDFA is similar to advertising cookies, but for mobile apps. It helps to identify a user when that user revisits an app. This will make identifying returning visitors and new visitors difficult, and less accurate.
Difficulty Attributing Sources
Without the IDFA it becomes much more difficult to identify users and track them across the web, so it will be harder to put your finger on the exact marketing efforts that are working most effectively. You will not have as deep insight into the users journey across marketing touchpoints. There will likely be an increase in referral source traffic, as well as items labelled as “not set”.
Drops in performance are to be expected as we lose ability to attribute some traffic and conversions from users who have opted-out.
Due to the impacts on data collection that cannot be predicted by many industry benchmarks, and your brand’s own historical data will be difficult to compare to. New benchmarks will emerge some time after the rollout, so try not to focus too much on the ones you can’t control and continue refreshing your internal benchmarks as you see changes in performance. For 2021-22 try to focus on quarter-over-quarter or period-over-period comparisons rather than year-over-year.
Educating Peers on UTM Parameters
Now would be a great time to sit down with your greater teams, or partner agencies and brands to educate them on how UTMs work, what they’re used for, and best practices to create the most effective ones.
Changes to Pixel Setup
If you’re managing pixels that are coded onto your website you’ll need to review the changes to conversion tracking for Facebook, and keep an eye out for changes to pixels from other platforms.
How We Can Help
At Klatch we’re here to help you make the connection, and with upcoming privacy changes, that connection is more important than ever. We can help you get ahead of these changes, reach your target audience, and minimize lost data and reporting by:
- Ensuring ads are directed to an external website with UTM parameters.
- Setting up detailed tracking and reporting through Google Analytics to get you the most accurate data possible in one easy to access source.
- Creating a measurement strategy that will still get you the data you need to set and meet goals, report on KPIs, and make informed budget decisions.
- Identify and choose the most important conversions for any online campaign.
- Helping you clean up, set up, and manage pixels across your website.
- Planning marketing tactics that will help you build a list of email addresses and leads as the value of addresses will grow as other IDs become less reliable.
- Working with you to find unique ways to reach your audience (no matter how hyper-targeted and small) that don’t rely heavily on platforms with restricted targeting.
- Keeping you up to date on changes and best practices as they roll out so you can be proactive, instead of reactive.
Anything else? Just ask!