Three Steps Every Marketer Needs to Take Post-iOS 14.5

By Alex Mansell on 29th July 2021

Apple’s “app tracking transparency” update prompted a collective sigh from marketers across the country. The update gives Apple users on iOS 14.5 or above the choice to opt out of digital platforms tracking their online activity. It means applications such as Facebook are required to ask for users’ consent before their data can be monitored and used across a number of applications – the most important of which is advertising.

In this Reading Room blog, WPR senior social media strategy director Alex Mansell explains why it is essential to understand the effect this change is having on social media metrics and sets out the three steps marketers should now take to minimise the impact of this much-lamented update.

  1. What Has Changed and Why?

Firstly, we need to understand what has changed and why. All Apple devices have a unique number which, when combined with other personal information, has made it possible for app developers, marketers and advertisers to segment, refine and personalise how they target potential customers.

Against a backdrop of increasing demands for privacy and transparency surrounding how personal data is used, Apple’s move is intended to give users a greater sense that their data is being respected. The update requires all apps to specifically request permission to track, giving users the ability to opt out at the touch of a screen.

The early predictions of users declining en masse have been realised to some extent. Since the launch of the update, the opt-in rate has gradually crept up from a low starting point. But with it currently standing at only 20%, it is inevitable brands will see an impact on the social media evaluations previously reliant on this information. Given that Apple holds 49.88% market share in the UK’s mobile device sector, the significant scale of this is clear.

When Apple proposed the update, protests came from across the industry, including a spirited rebuttal from Facebook. Press conferences, newspaper ads and even a hashtag (#SpeakUpForSmall) focused on what small business in particular stand to lose from the change.

Facebook claims these companies have relied on such data to keep their businesses alive, citing a potential 60% reduction in website sales from ads for small businesses. There is little room for manoeuvre, as platforms refusing to include Apple’s prompt will swiftly be ejected from the App Store on all iOS devices.

  1. Four Reasons This Is a Problem

As marketers, we use tracked data to assist our social media campaigns. The changes cause problems in several key areas:

  1. Personalisation: A crucial part of social media advertising is targeting people precisely, understanding their interests and needs, and serving them ads that are as likely to generate a response as possible. Without the ability to personalise content in this way, Apple users can expect to see more ads that aren’t relevant to them. Businesses will suffer the fallout with higher costs per result on their ads.
  2. Retargeting: Being able to target people based on whether they have visited a brand’s website or engaged with their Facebook page or posts means we can understand a customer’s position in the buying cycle and segment audiences more effectively. When you know someone is a warmer prospect, you can align content accordingly, deploying ads with a more commercial tone and increasing the chance of conversion. The new update severely limits the information marketers have on users, making custom audiences smaller and ad costs per result higher.
  3. Actions tracking: Tracking pixels play a crucial role in telling us what a user does once they’ve clicked onto a landing page from a social media post. We can see if someone makes a purchase, downloads a report or completes a contact form, as well as a myriad of other conversion-led actions. Prior to the update, we could measure any number of conversion events on Facebook, but marketers are now limited to setting up a maximum of eight for Apple users.
  4. Loss of data on LinkedIn: LinkedIn enables anyone using a tracking pixel to see useful firmographic data about their website visitors (regardless of whether they have come from LinkedIn). This includes the job titles, industries and even companies of their web visitors – something many businesses use for their sales pipeline. The new update will count Apple users out of these metrics, making a once useful tool less so.
  5. Three Things You Need to Do

Everybody who works in marketing knows that the landscape in which we operate is continuously shifting. The challenge is to play with what we’re dealt, just as we do with the ever-changing (and punishing) algorithm updates that cause organic reach to dwindle.

As we adapt to this latest change, here are some practical steps to take:

  • Check your web pixel: First of all, you’ll need to ensure that your tracking pixel is still working properly. Facebook advises that all businesses using them verify the domain for their website. This means inserting a meta tag into the back-end of the website, and is something that we at WPR can guide our clients through.
  • Set up your events: With the number of conversion events reduced to eight for Apple users, you’ll need to discuss priorities with your team before commencing.
  • Understand your evaluations: The next step is a less tangible one, and that is simply to be aware that you are likely to see your metrics dip over the coming months. Remembering that almost half of the UK’s mobile phone owners use Apple, and with a good proportion likely to opt out of tracking, retargeting audiences are expected to become significantly smaller. Personalisation will be less precise and that means reaching fewer of those highly marketable individuals. Consequently, costs per result will increase, offering brands less bang for their buck.

If you’d like to find out more about what the iOS update means for your brand, feel free to reach out via LinkedIn.

The author: Alex Mansell is a senior social media strategy director at WPR, who specialises in using LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to keep clients ahead of the curve when it comes to social media marketing.