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What Apple's iOS 14 update means for your business

What Apple's iOS 14 update means for your business

There are many ways that the upcoming change to Apple's iOS 14 is being described: 

  • An attack on corporations.
  • A long overdue victory for consumers.
  • Something that will greatly affect the websites you love.
  • A way for users to take back control of their digital footprint.

It may sound like a lot of fuss about an internal operating system, but it's true - it really is as groundbreaking and polarizing as it's made out to be.
And when it comes to groundbreaking and polarizing technological changes, we know that as a marketer just trying to keep customers, you often don't know what really matters and applies directly to you.
Note: This is really important, and it affects you directly.
That's why we've broken down the basics of this change - what's actually happening, why, and what you need to do about it.

What happens with the IOS 14 update ?

In the coming weeks, Apple will roll out an update to its iOS 14 (the latest operating system for iPhones and iPads) that will allow users to control how they share their data, as well as who and what they share it with. This change comes just weeks after Apple began requiring privacy labels that force companies and developers to share how your data will be used before downloading a new app. Once implemented, the "opt-out" will be the most significant change ever made to an operating system - privacy-wise.

What Apple's iOS 14 update means for your business 1

Soon, your apps like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter (to name a few) will be required to ask users for permission to track data about them. And there are many differing opinions on what impact this change will have and who it will affect the most.
This change comes not after months, but years of debate over privacy concerns. From election meddling to congressional investigations to polarization and general public distrust of tech companies, privacy has been at the center of a national discussion about the power that tech and social media companies hold. Many feel that this new digital world has led to a lack or even loss of control over one's personal data. This is Apple's solution to that problem.

Selection IOS14

While most people, both consumers and tech giants, would agree that the increase and focus on personal data security is a good thing, it has a very massive impact on one thing in particular: ad personalization.

What does this mean for advertising

The expectation is that some, if not most, people will choose not to share their data through apps. This means they will receive much less relevant ad recommendations, which could lead to an overall degradation of the user experience. The ads will still be there, they just might not match the user's interests at all.
Simply put, it could become more difficult for advertisers to reach their target audience the way they currently do. This means that online advertising, at least on iOS devices, could become significantly less effective.
Google and Facebook, the two largest ad networks in the world, have vehemently opposed this upcoming change. And Facebook argues that the change will hurt small businesses that use its advertising platform.
Facebook is by far the most effective and cost-efficient way for small businesses to advertise and draw attention to their products. By reducing the audience size, it will become more difficult to reach a large number of people. Advertisers may also become less data-driven in figuring out what works and what doesn't. There will likely be a lot more guesswork when optimizing campaigns.
Whether you're a small vendor using Facebook ads to sell products, or an app or content-based platform running ads to make money. Facebook argues that this change to iOS will have a significant and negative impact on your business.
Here's why:
First of all, Facebook expects that this change will immediately change the effectiveness of the Audience Network. Without the ability for publishers to share data and information with advertisers, businesses won't be able to access their own user data to spend their advertising dollars efficiently. And with the shrinking pool of consumers, Facebook expects that using the Audience Network will be much less popular for advertisers.
All things considered, Facebook could eventually remove the Audience Network from iOS. This means that by implementing ads, you will only be able to reach users from non-Apple devices. But that remains to be seen, and it will take some time to judge if that's really what they want to do.
To be fair, we've always had doubts about the effectiveness of AN. While it works for some, it typically resulted in a large number of accidental clicks and bot interactions. For us at Focus Internet, this will change very little.
Facebook also believes that this will greatly impact the effectiveness of advertising to primarily mobile users. If someone is using Facebook and clicks on a link that directs them to their mobile browser, Facebook won't be able to track any of that information. Because of this, things like conversion tracking and retargeting campaigns will suffer.
Last but not least, Facebook is introducing Aggregated Event Management to do some tracking without collecting specific, personal data. We have limited information on this, but we do know this: Facebook is limiting itself to 8 conversion events ("Buy Now", "Add to Cart", "Checkout", etc.) per domain. And the advertiser will be able to prioritize which conversion events they want to pursue. This gives advertisers some sort of information about the effectiveness of their advertising and sales process.
Note that this is per domain. This could really impact ecommerce companies that sell a lot of products and therefore have a lot of products on their site. It's possible that this will change or only certain events will be considered for tracking, but there's really no way to know until it's rolled out.

What you need to do now

The best thing you can do right now, according to Facebook, is to verify your domain. This is especially important for businesses with pixels used by multiple business managers or personal ad accounts. Domain verification ensures that there are no immediate or future interruptions in the configuration of conversion events.
Next, you should plan to use only 8 conversion events. This means that you need to rank the conversion events that are most important to you. Because once you prioritize them, ad sets that don't use these 8 events will automatically pause.
After that, continue to prepare. 28-day click-through, 28-day view-through, and 7-day view-through attribution windows are no longer supported. Historical data for these windows will still be accessible through the Ads Insights API. But be aware that the way many of them measured results will change, so the way you quantify ad success will need to change as well.
You should also use the Comparing Windows feature to see how conversions attributed to ads compare across different attribution windows. This way, you can better anticipate the impact on reported conversions due to upcoming attribution window changes.

Final considerations

This change has probably made your marketing plan a lot more complicated. These are admittedly massive changes, but the best thing you can do is prepare to be flexible. Things change for everyone. With that in mind, here are some immediate thoughts and questions.

First of all, how can you really tell if a campaign was effective or not? That's going to be a million dollar question for the near future. As this update changes the way we measure effectiveness and our metrics, those who figure out how to measure success will be the ones leading the way in this new paradigm.

Second, how can we reach all those Apple users who opt out? Currently, there are 264 million people among Facebook's iOS users. And most of those users are in the US. If half of them decide to unsubscribe, in what way can we reach them?

IOS users on Facebook

At the end of the day, you need to get creative. And we suspect that organic ad campaigns might suddenly become more popular.

Facebook may be right - this will impact small businesses the most, and the least savvy. Don't panic, but be prepared to change your approach. Right now there is a lot of ambiguity that will clear up over time. Once those changes are put in place, we can begin to shift. Prepare as best you can...but for now, it's a wait and see. This is merely a dress rehearsal for what is inevitable. The focus on data sharing and privacy is not going away anytime soon.

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