What the iOS 14.5 Tracking Update Means for Businesses

IGNITE® - 27 April 2021

Overview

In June 2020, Apple announced sweeping changes to the way the Apple mobile devices interact with third party tracking practices. The release of Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS 14.5, this week will shift to an Opt-In method of capturing user consent, impacting iPhones and iPads running iOS 14.5 and onwards.

The digital marketing industry relies heavily on the ability to track user behaviour across owned digital properties in order to understand how key audience segments behave and convert.

IGNITE, along with the majority of the industry, rely on short lines of code planted in the header of a website (where important technical information about a site is stored but not visible to standard users). These short lines of code, often referred to as snippets, tags, or pixels, are responsible for collecting and sharing important anonymised user data between a business’ website, mobile and desktop apps, CRM platforms, and a number of other platforms.

These tags rely on a user giving permission to have their behaviour and data tracked and recorded. Previously, permission to track was implied when a user navigated to a website. Often, a small popup banner will appear notifying users that their behaviour may be tracked via a cookie, and a comprehensive data collection policy can be found on many websites. 

via GIPHY

The update announced by Apple will require iOS users to give explicit permission for a website or other platform to track certain behaviours and collate data. For users on devices running iOS 14.5, this appears as a pop-up notification when using a web browser or App on their device that notifies the user that the app wants to track behaviour, and will offer an overview of what data is collected and shared with the third party.

An iPhone showing an Opt-In notification
An iPhone showing an Opt-In notification

 

Some users may opt-in for third party data collection on their devices, often persuaded to do so by the pop-up notification letting users know that enabling data tracking will create a more personalised ad experience for users.

It is expected that the majority of users will opt-out to some degree, which will likely have an impact on the way that many businesses track behavior on their digital assets. As more people opt out of tracking on iOS 14.5 devices, ads personalization and performance reporting will be limited for both app and web conversion events.

 

Digital Marketing Impact

Broadly speaking, the greatest impact of these changes will impact Facebook and LinkedIn’s ability to track conversions, build remarketing and lookalike audiences, and collate some advertising campaign results.

As more users opt-out of social tracking, the size of Pixel Based remarketing audiences will decrease. Fortunately, we will still be able to create ID Based remarketing audiences, using collected customer data like emails or phone numbers to create remarketing and lookalike audiences.

With reduced insight into converting users, campaigns that are set to automatically optimise for conversion will be less effective, and any remarketing lists that are built from Facebook converters using the pixel (as opposed to website converters using Google Analytics) will be less accurate. On a broader marketing level, the strength of the Facebook Advertising Network will be diminished.

 

What Won’t Be Impacted

Google Analytics will not be impacted by the changes. We recommend that businesses use GA, or another analytics platform, as the primary source of truth for all website and campaign activity so as to not rely on the reporting available from Facebook, which is expected to be impacted by the new iOS changes. Businesses will continue to be able to use GA and Google Ads to track user behavior, track conversion events, and build remarketing lists for Google Search and the Display Network.

 

How to Prepare

To limit the impact of these upcoming changes, we recommend that businesses review their current digital marketing mix, analytics, social channels and website with the following steps:

 

Digital Marketing Mix:

Review current allocations of digital spends and ensure that your platform approach is diversified to minimise any potential loss of revenue if Facebook and LinkedIn become weaker performing channels.

Develop a content marketing strategy to support both SEO activity, and promote on-platform conversion/improved incentive to convert to offset potential challenges in remarketing.

 

Google Analytics:

Conduct a review of all existing goal and event tracking to ensure that the platform is generating the necessary insights to make up for the loss of insights from other platforms.

Link Google Analytics to Google Search Console and Google Ads to ensure as much data as possible is shared between these platforms.

Build remarketing and lookalike audiences using Google Analytics audiences, rather than the Google Ads remarketing tag.

Ensure that Demographic and Interest reporting are activated, as some user data will no longer be available on Facebook and LinkedIn

 

Facebook & LinkedIn:

Verify all of your owned website domains with Facebook to facilitate as much data collection as possible.

Limit the number of web conversion events on Facebook to 8, as directed by Facebook Advertising support.

Factor into your reporting practices that there may be a delay in results tracking, particularly for any conversions Facebook and Linkedin record on opt-in and non-iOS 14.5 devices.

Consider excluding iOS devices from Facebook and LinkedIn conversion campaigns 

For campaigns that do include iOS 14.5 devices:

  • Do not use Dynamic Ads
  • Do not use Facebook Audience Network 
  • Do not use Conversions as Campaign Objective

 

Website:

Ensure all key landing pages have a lead generation form to capture at least email address to offset the impact of weaker Facebook pixel remarketing.

Ensure that Google Analytics tags are firing on all pages, particularly any pages that include a conversion opportunity.

 

The Takeaway

As a practice, Digital Marketing is a continuously evolving beast, and it’s important to keep across changes in the industry. By auditing your marketing, analytics and website, you can safeguard your business against not only the impacts of the new iOS 14.5 tracking updates, but also against future changes or updates that could impact your marketing efforts.

Get in touch with the team at IGNITE to see how we can help your Digital Marketing activities.

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