How iOS 14 release affects eCommerce advertisement

When Apple first announced iOS 14 and its App Tracking Transparency (ATT) framework in 2020, the advertisement industry was shaken. The second wave of shock has been sparked by the 14.5 release on April 26, when the ATT framework finally took effect. 

How will iOS 14 impact eCommerce and what can merchants do to be prepared? In this article, we will take closer a look at what changes iOS 14 brings, whom exactly the updates will affect, and what should be done to minimize the business risks.

If you’re a Facebook advertiser looking for specific steps to make your advertising effective on iOS 14, jump to The checklist to be prepared for iOS 14 update for Facebook & Instagram advertisers.

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What is the iOS 14 release?

iOS 14 is the latest Apple mobile operating system released in September 2020.  The new iOS brought a range of updates to features like Siri and messaging experience. However, what concerned eCommerce store owners was the new standards for user data tracking. The company emphasized that in iOS 14, privacy and transparency were among the top priorities. That is why Apple updated ad tracking on iOS 14. The main change is the App Tracking Transparency (ATT) framework, under which all apps that want to track users’ activity will have to ask for permission to do so in a prompt. If a user opts out, the app will not be able to track their data anymore.

What does the iOS 14 release mean for eCommerce marketing?

One of the iOS 14 issues is that, if a user decides to opt out from the app tracking, Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) becomes inaccessible. IDFA is important for: 

  • Targeting and retargeting;
  • Ad reporting; 
  • Frequency capping;
  • Advertising fraud detection.

Without access to IDFA, advertising for eCommerce businesses that run ads on giant platforms becomes rather limited. If before brands could target consumers based on behavioral insights, now context is the only knowledge they can build their targeting on. For example: 

  • before the update, advertisers could target people who were checking or sharing content related to hiking;
  • now can target Nike lovers who’ve expressed their interest in the brand by joining Nike Run Club.

When a user chooses “Ask App Not to Track”, business owners and marketers cannot access iOS 14 advertising ID to retarget people based on their device-level data. Also, advertisers will receive conversion reports without breakdowns to dig into the detailed data about users or their devices.

What advertisers will be affected by iOS 14 update?

iOS 14 updates affect the measurement of advertisement clicks within iOS and iPadOS apps that navigate to a website. It will impact digital marketers that:

  • advertise mobile apps; 
  • run campaigns with specific conversion goals (e.g. lead, purchase, etc);
  • use Facebook Pixel, Google Tags, LinkedIn Insight Tag, etc. to measure conversions;
  • run retargeting campaigns or target lookalike audiences; 
  • have a purchase cycle longer than seven days.

When does the update take place?

Initially, Apple was going to implement the changes together with the release of iOS 14. However, after the pressure from app developers and advertisers, the company announced that the ATT framework would be implemented in early 2021 with the iOS 14.5 release. Experts predicted the iOS 14.5 to take effect in the end of April – and so it did on April, 26th.

How does iOS 14 release affect Facebook & Instagram advertisers?

Right since the announcement of iOS 14, Facebook has been very vocal about the ATT updates. In its statement, the social network informed advertisers that the new privacy policy will have a great impact on both advertising practices and measuring performance. 

According to Facebook, advertisers should brace themselves for:

  • possible limitations when delivering ads to people who previously engaged with their business;;
  • increase in Cost per Action and difficulties with budget distribution;
  • inability to measure conversions from customers that decide to opt out from activity tracking;
  • difficulty delivering ads to the most relevant audiences;
  • drop in publisher revenue from Facebook Audience Network on iOS 14.

Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri said, “It’s going to be much, much more problematic for all the small businesses. There are millions of them out there that rely on us to target customers and to reach those customers. Particularly during a pandemic when they’re hurting.”

However, not everything is so bad with iOS 14 and Facebook ads. There still is a silver lining: Facebook Shops and Instagram Shopping. While the new rules will affect the catalog sales that encourage people to visit the website, shops on Facebook and Instagram will still track visits and clicks, as users remain on the platform. 

The checklist for iOS 14 update for Facebook & Instagram advertisers

The changes in advertising on iOS 14 and Facebook tracking may seem confusing and intimidating, but it doesn’t mean that advertisers cannot do anything about it. Here are five things you can do to get the most out of your Facebook ads on iOS 14:

Domain verification with Facebook

The first thing Facebook asks advertisers to do is verify their domain by following these steps. This is important because there will be only 8 events per each domain that can be tracked and optimized. Verifying your domain is necessary for being able to select optimization events and using pixels by multiple Business Managers and ad accounts. 

Check out this article in RetargetApp Help Center – in it, we offer our customers a guide to adapt to iOS 14-related Facebook advertising changes. Also, all RetargetApp users can reach out to our Customer Support team for more information and guidance about the updates.

8 events for conversions to track

As we’ve already mentioned, only 8 events can be prioritized for each Facebook pixel. Thus, you will need to choose 8 conversion events for each domain and define which conversions on iOS 14 Facebook will be tracking in the Event Manager. 

Why is it important? Because when a customer takes several actions during the website session, Facebook will report only one — the event you set the highest priority for. Some events to prioritize are Purchase, Initiate Checkout, Add to Cart, and Content View depending on your business needs. For example, at RetargetApp we make Purchase events the highest priority for e-commerce businesses.

If you don’t decide on the priorities of such 8 events, Facebook will automatically do this for you based on the previous data of your ad account. The possible problem here is that if your events and campaign goals are not aligned, Facebook ad changes may impair the efficiency of your advertising.

Note that ad sets optimized for non-supported conversion events, such as custom Events and Page view events, will be paused. Facebook explains more about configuring events here.

We at RetargetApp strongly encourage our customers to verify their domains and prioritize 8 events – it is a pretty straightforward process.

However, if you run ads with 3rd party services, you may have several pixels. In this case, we recommend verifying the domain and selecting one pixel to prioritize events in. Once you do this, you will need to share the pixel with all the 3rd party services that run the ads for you. For step-by-step instructions on how to prioritize Facebook pixel events, check our Help Center article.

28-day vs 7-day attribution

Back in the day, Facebook reported conversions that happened up to 28 days after a person clicked on the ad. In January, the reporting window in the Ads Manager was updated: now in the Optimization for Ad Delivery, you can choose between 1-day click and 7-day click attribution.

Businesses with short sales funnels shouldn’t feel the changes. However, it will be difficult to attribute conversions to Facebook ads for businesses with a sales cycle longer than one week. The solution here may be tracking micro-conversions — for example, users that added a product to cart.

Data sharing through value-exchange strategies

ECommerce marketers can curtail the effect of iOS 14 by collecting data directly. For example, you can target people by using their email addresses or phone numbers that they have provided to your business. That is why it is important to encourage your website visitors to log in to your website. You can motivate people to create accounts on your web store to participate in loyalty programs and enjoy a personalized user experience. 

Historical & seasonal benchmarks for attribution

You might want to save your pre-iOS 14.5 ad performance data to compare it with the results after the ATT implementation. Look into your data from 1-day click + view, 7-day click + view and 28-day attribution from previous campaigns for future reference. You can export the reports right in the Ad Manager — check our step-by-step guide on how to download the results of your Facebook ads. Also, monitor your data from sources that haven’t been subjected to changes in the iOS 14 and Facebook reporting — for example, Google Analytics.

Will iOS 14 update affect advertising on Google?

Google has not been as outspoken about iOS 14 updates as Facebook. One of the consequences of such silence is advertisers being in the dark about the ATT impact on Google Ads. Here is what is clear so far: 

Google Search Campaigns

These campaigns will remain mostly unaffected as they are based on a search and an immediate conversion. However, if you have a longer sales cycle, you will not be able to access data about the user interaction from previous searches. Also, the change will affect the reporting of remarketing campaigns as there will be less data available to track the conversions. 

Google Ad Display and YouTube Campaigns

ECommerce merchants should not see significant differences here since these campaigns do not offer robust targeting. It is based only on the information on the page where the ad appears. However, if a person clicks on the ad on YouTube that takes them to a web page, an advertiser will receive data only from the website session. 

Google Automated Bidding

This is where the biggest change happens. For automated bidding, Google algorithms analyze user data including history and conversions, and automatically decide whom to target. As most of this data will be unavailable on iOS 14 devices, the performance of Google Automated Bidding is expected to decline. 

Digital marketing solutions for eCommerce to implement after iOS 14 update

iOS 14 advertising impact is not the only change that the marketing industry will see. Just like GDPR gave way to other data privacy regulations, Apple’s ATT will be only the first of the initiatives to reinvent data tracking on mobile devices. That is why eCommerce marketers need to adopt ways that will help embrace not only iOS updates but also further changes in digital advertising.

Advanced data analytics

Google Analytics remains a valuable source of information about website statistics on iOS 14. That is why it is recommended to connect Google Analytics to Facebook. By checking the stats from the Facebook ads in All Campaigns, you can view such acquisition data as conversion rate, bounce rate, etc. Also, you can check Shopping Behavior reports to track conversions and product views.

To get richer insights into ad performance after the updates, you can add a secondary dimensions of Operating System Version and use Advanced filter to select “14.5.” If you want to see both operating systems and operating system versions, create Custom report and add Campaign, Operating System, and Operating System Version dimensions.

New traffic sources

Managers of online stores need to stop putting all their eggs in one basket and start diversifying their marketing efforts. You will have to research different traffic sources. Consider scaling up CRM campaigns, collaborative projects with influences, sponsorships, and affiliate programs. Also, explore alternative channels — Google, Pinterest, TikTok, or marketplaces — that fit your business and audience. Broaden your advertising approaches and evaluate results to understand what works for your business.

Optimizing landing & product pages for conversions

There is always room for improvement when it comes to website conversion. Revamping your landing and product pages will help you decrease acquisition cost and boost conversions. Study the analytics of your current pages carefully to understand what is missing. For example, reconsider your Call-To-Action button size, position, and text on it. Also, see which information to expand and which to cut out. Once you come up with the ideas for optimization, run A/B tests to know which updates are actually effective for increasing conversions. Use tools, such as heatmaps, to track users’ interaction with a web page.

Additionally, seek professional feedback. Don’t shy away from asking potential customers and business partners to check your website and share their opinion. This way, you will understand which features and elements are missing and make sure your online store looks trustworthy.

Final thoughts

With the complicated relationship between Facebook and iOS 14, the landscape of the advertising world has changed once again. Yes, the updates may seem overwhelming, but the good news is that you’re not alone.

RetargetApp is there to help eCommerce store managers adapt to the new normal in digital marketing. Our Product and Customer Success teams have been actively studying what has changed with the iOS 14 updates and have already outlined the procedures that will help you get ready. 

To run fully automated campaigns on Facebook, Instagram, and Google, try RetargetApp today.

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