What does the Apple iOS 14.5 update actually mean?

Sush Labs

Apple iOS 14.5 update

In April of this year, at the Apple Spring event, Apple rolled out a number of new hardware and software announcements, including the launch of iOS 14.5 complete with a new privacy policy. 

The latest iOS update prioritises consumer privacy, and in doing so brings a significant change for marketers who rely on third party apps such as Facebook to reach their audience and personalise interactions. It’s not all bad news, though, and there are actions we can be taking to mitigate the impact.

What is the iOS 14.5 update and why does it matter? 

Every iPhone application requires users to adopt Apple’s AppTrackingTransparency (ATT) framework. All apps that collect data about end users and share it with other companies must use the framework. Essentially it requires user authorisation to access app-related data for tracking the user or the device. This includes tracking other applications and websites such as Instagram, LinkedIn or Facebook. If the user chooses to opt out or doesn’t actively allow tracking, it will by default exclude the user. 

Previously, Apple users had to go into their settings to turn off data sharing functions. Now they are directly asked and have the ability to block the sharing of what’s being tracked of them at an app level. The biggest impact of this is arguably at a marketing level, as information gathered from the likes of Facebook and Instagram can no longer be used in the same way to serve personalised and targeted ads.

At present we’re still understanding the short and long term impacts of this change. It’s hard to say whether users will choose to block or not, however some estimates predict up to 80% of users will choose to stop tracking, which will dramatically reduce the information available on user’s interests, actions and preferences.

What does it mean for Facebook campaigns and marketing?

At present, many marketing campaigns and ecommerce sites rely heavily on Facebook. This is especially true for New Zealand as the lower price point - with the average cost per click ad about 33 cents - enabling smaller businesses with limited budgets to have an entry point to interact with a large pool of users. Facebook’s ad platform has become known for providing reliable information for greater optimisation and the ability to ensure hyper-relevant targeting, also making it a top choice. 

However, the latest changes by Apple makes Facebook much more limited in its tracking abilities, namely that the platform will no longer have access to data about iOS users’ ‘click or search’ outside of the social media site. As a result, Facebook pixel will no longer be able to store information or reveal users that have opted out of tracking, and Facebook reporting will no longer be able to include off-platform actions. This has a knock on impact on Facebook’s dynamic ad units and means the site will have less accurate information on the impact of ad campaigns and eventual conversions. 

For marketers, it means audience sizes are decreasing, making it more difficult to target tailor made or hyper specific audiences - such as high earners with an interest in home renovations. Less tracking also makes it more difficult to follow conversions, which adversely impacts sales and leads teams. Finally, lower opt-in rates makes thorough reporting on campaigns or customer engagement much more difficult. Highlighting these changes, we have already seen Facebook begin to phase out certain advertising and marketing products, implying marketers will have to find other options.

How can you prepare for the update?

Apple’s increasing focus on consumer privacy doesn’t have to spell the end of personalised and targeted customer engagement. Moving forward you can continue to find success with a product or service by finding new solutions for web and app optimisation, investing more effectively in first-party data and conversions, and engaging with expert partners.

When it comes to Facebook, there are various measures you can take, such as verifying your domain and prioritising the most important eight events you’d like to track through your pixel. You can also use additional data sources in addition to Facebook to achieve required optimisations and reach business decisions.

In a new era where consumer privacy is top, first party data is gold. The last few years have seen privacy laws and consumer regulations become more prolific, with many government agencies and tech giants restricting the selling and sharing of user data to outside parties. Investing in first party data will ensure there is a continued flow of information between a website or app and users, which is increasingly crucial for effective marketing strategies and meeting business objectives.

Finally, in our modern world you must have a strong brand message. Whether you choose to run a bold, multi-channel advertising campaign or work with an expert partner to deliver a stronger, more cohesive omni-channel experience, strong branding will help users to find you and invest in your product or service regardless of whether they see an ad or not. The pandemic has only heightened our need to maintain a brand presence, and how vital this is for businesses.

The future: moving away from third-party data

Apple’s latest update is a reflection of a broader trend which sees power returning to users and consumers. In fact, Google has also made the move towards privacy-first and away from third-party tracking. On the whole, we see a real need for businesses to be investing in other options and understanding how to make use of first party data - for instance utilising audience modelling or collaboration datasets.

With ongoing changes to privacy policies, tracking and transparency, and greater demand on suppliers to offer excellent experiences that keep data safe, this is the time we need to be rethinking how we reach our target market, engage with users and inspire long term loyalty.

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