The iPhone’s move to iOS 14 promises “user transparency and control over how apps access your location, photos, microphone, and camera.” But what does this mean in practice? How do these changes impact consumers — and brands hoping to engage with and market themselves to these audiences?
According to Chase Carraro, Director of Paid Social for Movement Strategy, the iOS 14 update drastically curtails the ability of brands to track user activity across other apps and websites and share that data with third parties, particularly Facebook and Google. These third parties have immense reach: for example, nearly 90% of Facebook’s 2.8 billion monthly average users access Facebook on mobile, spending nearly an hour per day on the platform. As a result, Facebook and Google have rich datasets about “lookalike” audiences of prospective customers that advertisers are eager to target. The iOS 14 changes upend this dynamic by requiring users to opt into allowing brands to track their activity, making it harder for Facebook and Google to effectively target their advertising.
“All of the data that Facebook can track across websites and apps is being heavily affected,” Chase said. “For brands, your engagement campaigns or a video view campaign is not going to be hurt that much. But when you’re asking Facebook to find people who look like your purchasers, and Facebook can’t track your customers, then your marketing becomes less impactful overall.”
Although Apple’s changes present significant challenges to brands, Chase suggests four steps that marketers can take to help firms thrive in this new environment:
Know Your Baseline
“First and foremost, you need to know your pre-iOS 14 numbers: what percentage of traffic to your website came from mobile, the percentage of purchases or conversions on your website, app installs. You can expect traffic data to be absent or delayed in a lot of ways, so assessing performance now is a whole different ball game,” Chase said.
As Chase puts it, brands need to know how Facebook pixels and software development kits (SDKs) would affect strategy even without the iOS changes. Taken together with the importance of understanding your baseline figures, brands have to get a handle on where they’re coming from before deciding where to go next.
Create Your Own Retargeting System
With Facebook and Google’s pixels and SDKs losing effectiveness, brands should try to create their own proxy of a retargeting system. To do so, marketers should have a firm grasp of their objectives.
“The iOS changes have altered some marketing objectives. Whereas prior campaigns may have sent people off-platform before, website conversions and clicks are huge now since these actions are not tied to Facebook,” Chase said.
In a similar vein, brands need to understand how their audiences are changing in a post-iOS 14 world. “Whenever you create an audience of users for retargeting now, you need to keep them on-platform so that you can create a lookalike audience off that,” said Chase.
Roll With the Punches
For brands adversely affected by the iOS 14 changes, the attitude needs to change from dealing with a problem to trying new solutions.
“It’s a matter of getting into a testing mindset”, Chase said. “It’s about saying, ‘we used to spend all of our budget on the conversion side of the campaign that we can’t track or optimize anymore and the results are showing negatively compared to what we used to see. Instead, let’s test against a whole new bucket of audiences that we don’t normally use to sharpen our interest-based targeting on the platform, which is still present and effective to a large degree.’”
Chase notes that broad targeting has been highly effective lately. “If we back up and just drive as much traffic as possible, we’re balancing the funnel and giving Facebook more data to work from to balance things out when feeding into your conversion campaign.”
Develop a Robust Set of Insights
In an iOS 14 world, repeated testing can not only improve targeting, but also develop best practices more broadly for brand marketing campaigns.
“If you’re only setting up two variables in your test, you’re only going to have maybe one insight from that. And we might feel really good about this one option for the algorithm, but we’re also going to test our own theory and see whether different colors or visuals can really make a pop,” Chase said.
“When you test your best practices that you want to lean into, and test theories and variables against those, you can really drive sales over time.”