Unless you’ve been living under a rock - you’ve no doubt heard about the digital marketers’ doom and gloom that is the iOS 14.5 update. While Apple can pat themselves on the back for their response to the ever-growing concern over data and privacy, it’s brands and marketers who are more significantly affected by this change - losing valuable insights into audience targeting, conversion reporting and attribution.
Now iOS 14.5 is here – what is it exactly that’s happened?
The major change with iOS 14.5 is that it allows users to control how they share their data across apps on their devices. When users open an app (e.g. Facebook), they’ll get a notification from the ‘App Tracking Transparency’ tool asking if they want to continue to allow that app to track their activity across these other apps and sites.
Enabling an ‘opt-in’ mechanism means a large majority of users will choose to ‘opt-out’, which means that data won’t be shared with advertisers, and more importantly, will not exist for ad targeting. This, in turn, will result in much less relevant ad recommendations for users and decreased overall user experience. It also means that Facebook advertising could become less effective and efficient, at least on iOS devices.
With iOS occupying a 54.5% share of mobile operating systems in Australia, this is something that is definitely a cause for concern for brands and marketers.
How will it affect my business?
Apart from reduced ad personalisation and less relevant audience targets, the update’s biggest impact comes in the form of conversion tracking, reporting and attribution. As users opt-out, Facebook can no longer accurately track user behaviour across other apps and websites, so the Facebook Pixel becomes less accurate to rely on (e.g. for conversion optimisation, insights and reporting).
So, what can you expect to see across your Facebook campaigns?
Less Reporting Data
As more users opt-out of tracking, social media advertisers can expect to see the data collected by their Facebook Pixel diminish – instead offering less complete and more representative data. This underreporting of on-site events produced by paid audiences will need to be taken into consideration when reviewing or comparing digital campaign performances.
Difficulty Optimising Audiences & Ads
What’s more, the loss of tracking and underreporting means campaign optimisation becomes more difficult. Without access to the complete data on your audience’s on-site behaviour, it becomes difficult to effectively optimise and prioritise different campaign components. Further, as the Facebook Pixel will no longer ‘learn’ as much as it used to, it means brands are likely to see less effective automated learnings, insights and optimisations.
Loss of Remarketing & Lookalike Audiences
The inability to track social media visitors to your website will also have a significant impact on remarketing capabilities. As users opt-out, brands can expect to see remarketing audiences become markedly smaller. This becomes even more problematic when we consider the inability to exclude certain audiences (e.g. users that have already converted) – raising further issues around delivery efficiency and audience relevance.
Additionally, without sufficient tracking across on-site conversion events, the effectiveness of ‘Lookalike’ remarketing audiences will also be reduced. Instead, brands will need to start exploring how they can better leverage their first-party data for suitable replacements.
Reduced Conversion Performance
As reporting data depletes, there will be fallout across the conversion performance on iOS devices. Facebook’s attempt to combat this is through Aggregated Event Measurement. This enables marketers, in Facebook’s words, to “help measure campaign performance in a way that is consistent with consumers’ decisions about their data”.
In this framework, marketers are limited to eight conversion events per domain – as either pixel-based or custom conversions. These conversion events are then ranked based on priority for reporting.
This means eCommerce businesses could set ‘Add to Cart’ as the lowest priority event and ‘Purchase’ as the highest – if a user completes both events, only the ‘Purchase’ event will be recorded as a conversion.
Events not configured as one of the chosen eight conversion events for a website domain can’t be used for conversion optimisation campaigns. While Facebook’s Aggregated Event Measurement helps to minimise the effect iOS 14.5 will have on conversion performance, it’s still expected to be measurably lower, and marketers will lose insights across other events users make across their website.
Loss of reporting insight and campaign optimisation inevitably leads to more expensive delivery costs. As offsite interaction becomes underreported, both across engagement and conversion events, this means cost-per-interaction will rise in comparison to previous performance. This is especially the case for small businesses, as Facebook targeting capabilities made it a highly efficient platform for advertising to smaller and niche audiences.
What do you need to do?
While all of this information may feel a bit negative, and will undoubtedly impact Facebook campaign performance, it does force marketers to change strategies and try new avenues for advertising priorities. But how can you best prepare yourself for the new state of play across Facebook?
Setup Conversion Events & Domain Verification
If your Facebook campaigns are optimised towards conversions, you’re going to need to follow the necessary steps outlined by Facebook to mitigate the impact of the iOS 14.5 update. This includes:
- Domain Verification: All businesses are required to verify their domain with Facebook, and this is particularly important for businesses who have an agency (or multiple agencies) with separate ad accounts and pixels operating advertising campaigns on your behalf. Domain verification will ensure no immediate or future disruption in the ability to configure conversion events.
- Eight Conversion Events: Evaluate your most important on-site conversions and their order of priority, as this will be your limit across your Facebook campaigns, and set these up in Events Manager. Any campaigns optimising towards conversion events that aren’t set up through Aggregated Event Measurement cannot be used, and existing campaigns using these will be paused
Prioritise first-party data
The aim of iOS 14.5’s privacy update is to help empower users with more control over their personal data. Facebook enables advertisers to target users through their expansive collection of third-party data. While the loss of this type of targeting will have a significant impact on the overall reach of Facebook campaigns, it’s forcing marketers to pay greater attention to higher quality audiences.
This is why businesses need to change their marketing strategies to more effectively prioritise and leverage first-party data. First-party data is owned by the business, collected directly from their own customers (e.g. customer email database).
Brands don’t need to just get better at using their own first-party data, in many cases, they need to focus on how they can generate it. Whether it’s marketing automation, softer lead generation or the optimisation of existing data collection processes – the value of first-party data is growing at an incredible rate.
The digital marketing landscape is constantly changing, and can often be hard to keep up with. While iOS 14.5 presents numerous challenges for marketers and businesses alike, it also provides new opportunities to reach customers in new ways, and prioritise higher quality audiences for advertising campaigns.