At Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June, the company made an announcement heard ‘round the advertising world - explaining big changes to their products and policies that affect privacy (aka data sharing) across iOS.

While it was a long-promised change, it still caused a scramble among app and website advertisers who rely on the user data that is now being restricted.

The new Apple feature is called AppTrackingTransparency. A seemingly innocuous Tracking Transparency Prompt (ATT) now pops up in any Apple iPhones, iPads and tvOS running iOS 14, iPadOS 14, and tvOS 14 (or later OS versions) with this message for Facebook users: “Allow ‘Facebook’ to track your activity across other companies’ apps and websites?” It’s really asking, “Can we share your Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) for advertising purposes?” The IDFA helps advertisers personalize, track, and attribute ads.

The Answer Is No

As you may imagine, with today’s consumers often extremely concerned about digital privacy, many people are opting out. Of the 75% of Apple users that have responded thus far, just 25% consent to the tracking. This has huge ramifications for the apps and sites that are requesting this data - and for the advertisers who ultimately pay them for it.

What the Apple iOS Update Means for Facebook Advertisers

The ramifications can be huge. Apple’s 2020 Q1 report notes that there are 1.4 billion active Apple devices worldwide, and 900 million of them are iPhones. Since the U.S. claims over 45% of all smartphones, the data from around 405,000,000 people is hanging in the balance.

This update affects Facebook campaigns with app placements the most. In the past, with a pixel placed on Apple devices, Facebook was able to receive very specific demographic information from Apple regarding any Apple users that clicked on Facebook ads (and purchased products) through their app or website. Facebook could offer their advertisers highly personalized ads that are generally more effective, as well as robust performance reporting.

Related: Using Personalization Without Being Creepy

Advertisers could dig into valuable, granular information like age, gender, geographic location, pages viewed, buying behavior, purchases, and much more. They could target highly specific audiences, track conversions, calculate business engagement, deliver ads to the right people at the right frequency, predict and optimize cost per action, and count on some very reliable results. All of that might be changing…

What Exactly Are Apple’s Changes?

In a nutshell, there are five big changes that can affect conversions, domain verification, ads reporting, and targeting. These changes affect any app or site accessed through Apple devices, but for our purposes, we’ll focus on Facebook since it’s the one most affected:

1. The Business Manager Interface Gets a Facelift

The tool for ad delivery, optimizing, and tracking, the Facebook Business Manager, has a new interface, so it may take a little time to get to know the new nuances.

2. Apps Privacy is Amped Up

Apple first introduced the ‘SKAdNetwork’ API concept in May 2018 to increase the privacy of those installing mobile apps by restricting, aggregating or delaying all app event data. “Event data” means any action that the app performs to determine “who” (demographics like name, email, geolocation) “what” (behavior) and “when” (timing). It includes information about signups and new users, how people are consuming content, the creation of content, and users’ interactions with the app.

With the Apple changes, that privacy plays out in three important ways for Facebook:

  • Campaign Management: Event data is capped at a maximum of nine campaigns and five ad sets per campaign for every Facebook Ads account.
  • Lift Measurement: This metric determines the percent increase or decrease in engagement, in-app spend, conversion, and other metrics from a new campaign. It’s not available for iOS 14 (or later) App Install and App Events campaigns.
  • Delayed Reporting: Events Reports will be delayed for up to three days after an app is installed.

3. Website Conversions Lose Clarity

Apple’s adoption of PCM (Private Click Measurement) protocol for web attribution means that companies can’t see certain conversions. A user that clicks on a Facebook ad and makes a purchase does not have that event attributed to Facebook. This works geographically too. A UK user making a U.S. purchase through Facebook will not have their purchase tracked accurately either. The conversions reported will lack the previous robust details as well, with no conversion breakdowns to view and optimize.

4. Measuring Gets Murkier

With a new default attribution window mandated by PCM (that three-day delay in reporting), measurement capabilities will change too. You won’t see breakdowns like age, gender, and location. You’ll see under-reporting on organic and paid channels. Since ad reporting data is now delayed three days, keeping up in real time will be a little trickier.

5. Targeting and Optimizing Options Shrink

When it comes to targeting and optimizing your campaign, you’ll only be allowed to track eight conversion events per domain—so you’ll have to pick your top eight. But you can still track more events for reporting and audience creation purposes. A smaller number of data points will make it more difficult to optimize, so this may adversely affect smaller companies with smaller numbers of data points. As more people make the update and opt out, retargeting audiences will decrease too.

What Do These Changes Ultimately Mean for Advertisers?

They certainly hamstring Facebook and other companies from delivering the characteristically valuable audience information they’ve been able to provide to advertisers thus far. One of Facebook’s advantages, which was advertising to “lookalikes,” or other people that match the demographic profiles of good customers, will look different. Re-targeting campaigns, which are shown to be highly effective with a .7% CTR versus .07% for regular display ads, will no longer be viable. This loss of information means that the ads are not as personalized or effective—and not nearly as measurable.

However, there is good news too!

How to Leverage the Apple Update for Facebook and Beyond

Where some see problems, others see opportunities. We all need to recognize that Facebook and other apps can still provide excellent ad campaigns. They have a trove of user information already, and are still accessed by desktops and other phones that are unaffected by this Apple update.

Additionally, this is a great chance to think more creatively about the best ways to reach customers and prospects. You can work around the Apple update to respect peoples’ privacy wishes and also deliver advertising that is relevant and timely. That’s a win for all. Here’s how to do it:

1. Make Sure Your Domains Are Verified and Your Settings Are Set

You can verify your domain so that the update won’t interfere with your ability to configure conversion events:

  • Add a DNS TXT entry to your DNS record and confirm that you’re the owner of that domain.
  • Or, upload a Facebook-provided HTML file to your web directory.
  • Or, add a meta tag to the <head> section of your domain home page.

Also, make sure to:

  1. Update to Facebook’s (SDK) Software Development Kit for iOS 14 version 8.1 to personalize your ads and receive app conversion events reporting.
  2. Enable the conversions API so that events are relayed to Facebook directly from the server (not just from the pixel).
  3. Turn on Auto-Advanced Matching in Events Manager and understand how targeting and optimization changes will affect your campaigns.

2. Prioritize Your Top Eight Conversions

With the eight event limit, you’ll need to select your top eight events and rank them in the Events Manager for tracking and optimization. Look at Facebook’s Aggregated Event Measurement protocol, which measures web events from iOS 14 or later devices. This tool can help you pick the top eight.

3. Know the Impact of the Attribution Window Change

Make sure you understand how the attribution window change affects your business. Attribution setting has replaced conversion windows. If you can review your prior sales from days 8-28, you can compare them to what’s happening in the 7-day post click and 1-day post click reports, then analyze the relationship between the two.

4. Rethink Where You’re Advertising and How

If you take the “big picture” view, you can stop depending as much on the Facebook pixel and instead use UTMs (urchin tracking modules) to generate Google Analytics data. Many advertising solutions offer privacy and safe access to user data by linking events to user IDs. Facebook Advanced Analytics, Google Ads Data Hub, and Amazon Marketing Cloud are all good examples of these “clean rooms.” 

Related: Meet BERT

Additionally, you can refocus your targeting to a broader audience or targeting expansion on Facebook, two strategies designed to help find qualified leads.

5. Ditch the Cookies Entirely

Fear not! Even though retargeting won’t work with Apple, there are still other ways to retarget. Leave the cookies behind and leverage emails and phone numbers. To collect this data, you can have sign-ins for videos, webinars, or podcasts. You can even set up personalized landing pages. Then use the information you gather and retarget through Facebook - or even emails and texts. Email and text marketing are particularly low in cost and effective ways to retarget your audiences. You can welcome customers, help them recover an abandoned cart, provide promotions, ask for reviews, and build strong relationships. The beauty is that you own the data this time.

6. Give to Get

This marketing strategy is one of the earliest, and it involves a give for a get. If you give value to customers through content, discounts, or other promotions in exchange for their data, you can collect quality information, and everyone will feel good about the swap. You’ll be able to accurately attribute page visits and conversions as well.

7. Survey Post Purchase

To measure the effectiveness of your Facebook ads, you can use a post-purchase attribution survey tool asking if the ad was persuasive. This can be as simple as a pop-up or receipt email after the purchase.

Looking Beyond the Update

These solutions turn challenges into opportunities. Above all, we need to respect that people are requesting more privacy. So as savvy and sensitive marketers, we need to focus on being good stewards of data, from its collection to its implementation.

Zachary Dulla, CEO at Indoor Drone Tours, explains it like this, “The changes push the real estate industry to adapt and find new strategies once again. It will be difficult to rely less on the Facebook Pixel for retargeting and ad measurement, but there will still be many ways to use the platform efficiently.”

It’s an invitation to evolve. In the end, you can build a better and stronger relationship with your customers, one that’s built on transparency and trust. At Ironmark, we can help you navigate these changes and continue to optimize your campaigns with Facebook, other apps, and beyond - to ensure that they’re reaching the right customers at the right times. We stay one step ahead of the digital advertising curve so you can too. Join us, and we’ll turn these challenges into nothing but opportunity!

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Written by Miguel Hernandez

Miguel is an experienced SEO specialist with a strong background in digital marketing, web content creation and management, and analytics. With a BA in English, Miguel is a skilled and detail-oriented writer who has written, edited, and published hundreds of web pages, blogs, and articles in the legal sector. Combined with a Masters in Science of Business Analysis, Miguel is also adept in data analytics and is able to generate valuable insights using both quantitative and qualitative research. He takes pride in his reputation as both a talented strategist and a roll-your-sleeves-up person willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done.

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