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Privacy Vs Tracking – Impact of iOS 14 on Facebook Advertising

Digital privacy has been the subject of discussion for the past several years. Within the continuously evolving digital marketing ecosystem, brands have been able to align with consumer interest better than ever before by offering a more personalised ad experience through targeting and tracking by way of the various ad platforms, such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter. This process has been threatened by Apple’s upcoming iOS 14 update.

iOS 14 impact on Advertising

Basis for Understanding

In June of 2020, Apple announced its latest update – iOS 14. Most notably, this update has a particular feature, namely ‘App Tracking Transparency’ (ATT). This feature is a prompt (see image below) that will appear upon opening an app, iPhone users will be asked to opt-in or out, to allow the app to use Apple’s Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) to track activity.

The latest iOS update feature consists of two parts:

  1. Make the user aware that the app or website will track certain actions
  2. A permission prompt with the option to opt-in for the tracking.

This has incited tremendous backlash from Facebook in particular, who are set to lose out on precious data, as many are expected to opt-out. From a technical standpoint, Apple is changing how advertisers gain access to the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA). The IDFA is a random device identifier assigned by Apple to a user’s device. Advertisers use the data collected by the ID to track consumer data so they can deliver personalized advertising through targeting and tracking.

IDFAs are vital for advertisers as they allow an accurate means to track iOS users without revealing personal information about the user. By choosing to opt-out, the data that Facebook Ads relies on for its targeting is disrupted.

With the new prompt that the iOS 14 update offers, Apple is changing the way advertisers can access the IDFA with the choice to opt-in or opt-out, leading many in the industry to assume the latter.

These changes affect advertising in a whole host of ways creating obstacles going forward.

iOS Facebook Impact on Pixel

Which of the Facebook Ads Tools Will be Affected?

In a report issued by Facebook which outlined that Ads Manager, Ads Reporting, and Ads Insights API will be amongst those affected.

  • Reporting Delays

There will be delays to reporting, as real-time reporting will no longer be supported, and data may be delayed for up to 3 days. Web conversion events will be reported based on the time that they happen and not on the time of the ad impression (when they saw your ad first). This is going to affect businesses who make daily decisions based on the data presented in the Facebook Ads Manager.

The delays in reporting have the potential to create challenges in understanding the purchase consideration cycle of your customers and may lead to making premature decisions on whether to discontinue certain ads or keep them running.

The 28-day attribution of any kind will no longer be supported and historical data for them will only be available through the API. The 7-day view-through attribution will also be gone, however the 7-day click attribution will still be available. With this in mind Facebook will be using statistical models to attempt to combat the lost data from iOS 14 users.

  • Retargeting Audiences

The new parameters in which Apple have laid out have limited the targeting capabilities for advertisers, as users of iOS 14 devices opt-out of tracking, the size and precision of website-based custom audiences (is a targeting option that matches people who visit your website with people on Facebook, with help of the Facebook pixel. You can then create an ad to show to that audience) may decrease.

  • Segment Breakdowns

The delivery and action breakdowns which include age, gender, region, and placement will no longer be available.

This is a potential problem as if you can’t see who and where your ads are resonating, then it may be increasingly more difficult to improve them in the future.

  • Conversion Events

As part of the Aggregated Event Measurement approach, Facebook has created the ‘8 Conversion Limit’in response to the ATT prompt.

When you are delivering ads for conversion events (once the Facebook pixel is installed you can choose from the actions visitors take while on your website and set up an event to track) on your business website, the Facebook Pixel (an analytics tool which allows the user to measure the effectiveness of certain areas of a website or advert by understanding the actions people take) can only optimize for 8 conversion events per domain, previously it you could select from 40 events.

This will cause problems for lookalike audiences, due to the fact of not being able to gather the number of relevant people needed to create said audience. Your custom audience size will shrink as it is essentially missing crucial data from its iOS users, and it will be harder to retarget, affecting the efficacy of your campaigns.

Facebook will then structure the events for each domain, they will also structure these events based on relevance to your business and activity.

In terms of being proactive against smaller custom audiences, you can focus your efforts on gathering email addresses in order to rely less on the pixel for optimization regarding retargeting, this can be done through lead generation.

Facebook’s Response – “Aggregated Event Measurement”

In an attempt to combat the impact proposed by Apple, Facebook is “Aggregated Event Measurement”, an approach designed to support the measurement of web events from iOS 14 once Apple requires the ATT prompt.

In Facebook’s report they detail the fundamentals of their approach by stating “It is designed to help you measure campaign performance in a way that is consistent with consumers’ decisions about their data”.

If you use Facebook pixel to optimize, target or report on mobile and desktop, there are steps put in place to meet these changes.

  • Operating with 8 conversion events per domain: there will be a limit on the number of configurations relating to conversion events, this will be restricted to 8 events per website domain. Ad sets optimizing for a conversion event that’s no longer available will be paused when Facebook implements Apple’s AppTrackingTransparency framework.

In terms of choosing the best 8 events for optimum returns , Fixel have created a framework for utilizing the Facebook pixel to try to overcome some of the iOS 14 restrictions.

Fixel states:

 “While the count of events is limited, a single event can host multiple parameters as the event’s properties. For example, the View Content event holds the properties of the item viewed (id, name, price etc.). Similarly, the Purchase event will hold the transaction’s data (revenue, currency, and items purchased).

This is why, as as a preventive action, we suggest using the following tactic:

Keep one standard event, usually the View Content event, as a customizable event you can reuse to send custom data to your Facebook pixel”.

  • Verifying your domain: Facebook have recommended that users verify their website domains. Facebook has stated that “All businesses should verify their domain as a best practice. However, it’s important to prioritize verifying your domains if your domains have multiple businesses or personal ad accounts that own pixels. Please note that domain verification is not a new process and businesses can complete it from their Business Manager. The key difference is that domain verification needs to be done at the effective top-level domain plus one (eTLD+1), but the process is otherwise the same”.

The video below demonstrates a step by step guide on the process.

Facebook has further recommendations regarding the Software Development Kit (SDK):

  • Update to Facebook SDK for iOS version 9.0 or above for iOS 14 support: SDK version 9.0 provides support for Apple’s SKAdNetwork. If you use the Facebook SDK for iOS but don’t update to version 9.0 or above, you won’t be able to create iOS 14 app install campaigns. Updating to the latest version of the Facebook SDK for iOS will help enable you to:
  • Personalise ads delivered to people using iOS 14 devices.
    • Share app events from iOS 14 devices if the Advertiser Tracking Enabled flag is sent and set to true.
    • Continue to measure for app install ads.
    • Continue to optimize for mobile app installs, app event optimization (AEO) and value optimization (VO).
    • Continue to optimize for app installs and event optimization with Automated App Ads.
    • Send the Advertiser Tracking Enabled flag with app events.

Additionally, with the latest SDK update, Facebook has introduced a Limited Login mode for Facebook Login. Facebook has stated “Limited Login offers a login path that implements steps designed to prevent the fact that a person used Facebook to log in to your app from being used to target advertising or measure advertising effectiveness”.

This new feature allows users of apps to create new accounts or access existing ones while sharing only their names, profile pictures, along with the option of email addresses.

Facebook has given app developers the choice to implement either Limited Login or the traditional Facebook Login uniformly for all users or conditionally.

For further explanations on this, Facebook has a full comprehensive layout.

What Effects Will iOS 14 Have on Advertisers?

iOS 14 has potentially paved the way for future privacy updates with similar/heightened outcomes, moreover, providing the rhetoric for other technological companies to follow suit.

Presently, e-commerce is set to face massive obstacles relating to the limitations imposed on conversion events as they rely on volume. E-commerce giants such as ASOS, Amazon, and Adidas would usually have numerous pixels set up on their websites with many conversion events established.

This provides the ability to track a user’s journey from the landing page all the way through to the sale conversion, while simultaneously discovering and understanding consumers behaviour through their habits and decision making while on your website. This data acts as the playbook towards achieving indefinite optimisation.

By limiting conversion events to 8, advertisers are potentially losing out on this data at key touch points, therefore diminishing their oversight and likely decreasing the ability to retarget.

For example, you select the 8 conversion events on your website, however due to the limitations imposed you can’t create an event for the initial stage of the checkout, so if a consumer clicks into the first stage of the checkout and then decides to leave, the advertiser doesn’t have the tracking data to see this, therefore missing the opportunity to retarget them with an ad relating to their initial purchase, thus lessening the possibility of them returning to finish their purchase.

With Apple’s ‘App Tracking Transparency’ (ATT) prompt, the probability is high that users will choose to opt-out, this then results in a decrease in the size of an audience. With this decrease comes knock on effects relating to lookalike audiences (lookalike audiences let you reach entirely new people who haven’t heard of your business before, but they have similar interests to your current customer base).

With a smaller and less accurate custom audience to retarget, the creation of lookalike audiences will become far less precise. This will impact the ability to optimize campaigns where necessary as the disconnect between sales and data widens, the difficulty of retargeting increases.

What are the Broader Implications?

The debate whether or not tracking and targeting for the purpose of advertising infringes upon a persons’ privacy is still ongoing and will be for the foreseeable future. The mechanisms and intent behind online advertising is purely data driven.

Companies seek to gather information in order to optimize and enhance their decision making in order to deliver campaigns that align with an audience’s interests.

By continually limiting the flow of this data, understanding your audience becomes increasingly more difficult.

It’s true to assume that further regulatory frameworks will begin to be imposed in the coming years. Apple have made the first move in this direction; however, they have done so without establishing a common ground with Facebook first. These changes are significant for Facebook advertisers, and it seems that the platform has been playing catch up since the announcement.

The threat of volatility to industry norms has been the topic of conversation for quite a while, and the unpredictability of future regulations must enable the likes of Google and Facebook to be proactive rather reactive when succumbing to the inevitable redacted landscape that will be digital advertising.

Further Recommendations

Incorporate the New Facebook Conversions API (CAPI):

CAPI is essentially an integration between Facebook and platforms such as WordPress and Shopify that transfer’s information between the two, without the capabilities of the Facebook pixel. CAPI ensures that you are less reliant on the pixel to gather user data on your website.

  • Facebook Conversions API (CAPI) – is two-fold, it assists in preserving data privacy while also delivering personalized ad campaigns to your audience.
  • The Facebook CAPI is an updated version of the previous API that allows advertisers to share conversions events and consumer actions directly from their servers to Facebook servers. CAPI works alongside the Facebook pixel to better refine the level of measurement and implementation of various campaigns. 
  • Facebook CAPI will allow you to share data between Facebook and your online business, whether it’s hosted on Shopify, WordPress, Woocommerce, or any other platform.

CEO of Guide Social, Matt Johnston delves further into this process with a step-by-step guide on the CAPI process, including how to integrate it. He also details other actions you can take in order to prepare for the rollout of Apple’s iOS 14, check out the video below.

Conclusion

The changes that iOS 14 brings will undoubtedly reshape how both advertisers and consumers think about privacy. The update has laid the groundwork for the imminent regulation that looms over the industry. However, this has forced the hand of the tech companies and advertisers to adapt to the changing environment while developing new means to better understand consumer behaviour and align with modern principles.

In summary, the impact of iOS 14 will be felt by business owners and advertisers alike, as the loss of data tracking means less informed, personalized, and optimized ads. The new update signifies them being unable to effectively track app and website actions. This is a huge blow for small businesses who rely on this sort of tracking in order to target and optimize effectively, resulting in negative financial implications.

By being proactive and taking the necessary steps that have been proposed, it is possible to mitigate against the impact and effects.

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