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If you’re feeling overwhelmed and confused by all the activity surrounding Apple’s iOS updates, you’re not alone. While it’s exciting that Apple users can now unlock their iPhones with their Apple Watches while wearing a face mask, or report accidents they see on the road with Apple Maps, many marketers are (understandably) concerned about what the iOS 14.5 update for new privacy features mean for their brand. 

We’re not going to sugarcoat it: Apple’s flurry of consumer-first updates in the last few years has rattled the digital advertising space. Good thing we’re here to explain — in layman’s terms! — what exactly is going on, why you don’t need to freak out, and what you can do now to future-proof your marketing efforts. 

What’s Happening With Apple’s iOS Updates?

Apple has been busy in the last few months, starting from iOS 14 in September 2020, which paved the way for the iOS 14.5 update in April 2021. Now, with iOS 15 on the horizon, Apple’s privacy-related updates feel like a never-ending tide that keeps crashing on marketers’ heads. 

iOS 14.5 came with privacy-first features that, at first glance, seemingly had the potential to wreak havoc on marketing strategies and budgets everywhere — but in reality, that was not the case.

Users can now easily opt out of tracking

The main marketing-related feature included in the iOS 14.5 update was the new App Tracking Transparency (ATT) policy — this was slated for the iOS 14 update but was pushed to iOS 14.5 instead. 

Long story short, apps now need to ask for permission when using information from other apps or sites to “track” users for marketing purposes. iPhone users who download an app now see a pop-up asking whether they want to opt in or opt out of sharing their Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA), a random identifier assigned to each iOS user that supports targeting, tracking, and attribution capabilities. Previously, users would have had to navigate through settings and privacy pages to toggle data sharing. 

What the ATT prompt looks like. 
What the ATT prompt looks like.

What does this mean for marketers and advertisers?

By allowing users to opt out of tracking, the ATT policy makes it more difficult for marketers to:

  • Measure the effectiveness of ad campaigns on platforms with a large mobile app presence, such as Facebook. (98.3 percent of Facebook users access the platform via their phones!) 
  • Target certain audience segments
  • Deliver personalized marketing

In other words, Apple has made it more challenging for brands to reach their target audience, deliver relevant ads, and convert shoppers using the same strategies and budgets they had previously enjoyed. 

Initial numbers coming out of the iOS 14.5 update were not great. Prior to the iOS 14.5 update, approximately 70% of iPhone users shared their IDFA with app providers. The latest figures show that over 75% of iPhone users have opted out of being tracked. 

Why there’s no need to freak out

With major ad platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, facing major impacts from the iOS 14.5 update, they’ve taken active steps to minimize the disruption to their business:

Plus, it’s important to remember that:

  • While tracking on third-party properties has become more challenging following the update, Facebook still has a treasure trove of users’ historical data for targeting purposes. 
  • There are still Android users. You can segment and target them with campaigns just like you used to with iPhone audiences. 
  • Marketing has always evolved with the times. Platforms like Facebook are now being forced to rethink their business model — it’s likely just a matter of time before they offer advertising opportunities that are more consumer friendly and privacy focused. 
Facebook is encouraging users to allow tracking in order to keep its apps free of charge.
Facebook is encouraging users to allow tracking in order to keep its apps free of charge.

New Challenges = New Opportunities

Even though it’s been several months since Apple launched its iOS 14.5 update, there hasn’t been much information on the size of its impact. However, there are some actions brands can take to minimize the likely impact from additional updates that Apple has in store:

  • Invest in your website. Your website has tracking capabilities and analytics tools that can help you understand where your visitors are coming from. Armed with this information, you can create audience segments based on these visitors. 
  • Experiment with how your mobile app requests consent. A huge part of all these conversations about user privacy revolves around the idea of trust — do consumers trust your brand with their data? Brands with mobile apps will have to get creative in the ways they encourage consent or generate trust with their users that eventually lead to consent. This might mean explaining how saying “yes” to tracking will improve consumers’ shopping experience dramatically — communicated in layman’s terms, of course. 
  • Boost your organic marketing efforts, including social media and content marketing. These don’t rely on targeting yet can lead to huge returns. 
  • Be more creative and experiment with digital events, podcasts, and even user-generated videos. The key is diversifying your marketing channels rather than relying solely on, say, Facebook ads. You want to be able to reach different audience segments who have unique preferences and digital behaviors. 
  • Build your first-party data, such as email addresses and phone numbers. These “owned” pieces of information will go a long way if you’re looking to amp up your SMS and email marketing efforts. 

With the right prep, there’s no need to worry about Apple’s iOS updates causing problems for your marketing, sales, and growth strategies. Here at AdRoll, we’ll be looking out for you by paying close attention to all marketing- and privacy-related changes — stay tuned for more updates by checking in regularly to our Marketing Resource Library

Author

Angie is the Content Marketing Manager at AdRoll. Prior to AdRoll, she was a Content Writer at various digital marketing agencies. A writer by day and a reader by night, Angie’s other hobbies include cooking and learning useless movie trivia.