We’ve lived in a world where data tracking has become the norm for quite a while. You gather information about your customer’s behaviors based on data you’re able to compile from the internet and their mobile devices as they walk through their buyers’ journeys. If you’re like many small business owners, you find many of your new customers by way of paid ads and strategic retargeting. But, this may all be about to change.
iOS 14.5 changes the way data is collected from devices that are made by Apple, and it could impact the way your marketing works.
How? Well, to begin with, this isn’t just any update. What many people don’t realize is that Apple makes updates to its software all the time. Most of the time, those updates go unnoticed because they’re just squashing bugs and making improvements. Every now and then, however, a major update comes along that completely changes the way businesses interact with their consumers. We’re on the advent of one of those occasions now, with the release of iOS 14.5.
With Apple’s new iOS 14.5 release, the update doesn’t just impact the operating system itself; it changes the company’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) Framework that is basically the foundation from which it allows data to be shared and oversees privacy policies. Apple will now force all advertisers who utilize mobile applications to acquire permission to opt-in from their audiences to approve tracking and web activity. Apps that don’t accept Apple’s new Tracking Transparency Prompt will be blocked from the App Store.
The purpose of this update is to protect consumers with optimal privacy and control regarding the advertisements they see on their devices, but this change could make things harder for companies that have gotten used to sending targeted ads to their audiences. That’s because it’s expected that many users of Apple’s products will choose to opt-out of advertisements. Once the update is released, Apple users will be given a prompt, which asks them if they’re okay with being tracked.
Mind you, this is a huge pivot, but Apple isn’t the first technology giant to put consumer privacy at the forefront of its strategies. Recently, Google announced that cookies administered by third-parties will be phased out on Chrome, with replacement options being offered after 2022.
What’s Really Changing?
While your audience will see changes when they use certain apps, such as Facebook, the real change is going to happen under the hood. The App Tracking Transparency feature of Apple’s devices has previously allowed advertisers to track clicks, downloads, and purchases within mobile apps. Marketers can then use this information to personalize ads within the apps the users are on most. This helps businesses know if their advertising efforts are worth the money they’re spending to get their names out there and whether or not the money they’re paying to put their brand before new eyeballs is effectively driving clicks and ultimately resulting in sales.
Over time, there’s been some controversy over the mobile-level of tracking that’s become so common with today’s technology. Many advocates for change have argued that this sort of tracking is unethical, violating people’s rights because it was put in place without consent. Previously, Apple users were able to disable tracking functions by going into their Settings, then exploring the Privacy menu to turn off tracking. However, the iOS 14.5 update will turn this all on its head, forcing people to ‘Allow’ tracking by way of opt-in messages when they’re given the choice, rather than just thrusting tracking upon them.
Apple’s on the lookout for ways companies may try to get around this update. The company anticipates developers may look for ways to skirt restrictions and use alternative identifiers, but it has policies in place that specifically say developers can’t hold people at ransom. In other words, if people opt-out of tracking, apps are not allowed to function any differently or in limited ways than if they had opted-in to the tracking options.
All apps, even those created by Apple itself, will soon ask users if they want to share their identifier with other apps and data brokers. Developers can add their own messages to the pop-ups that explain the situation and help users understand why they might want to be tracked. However, when people turn off the tracking, advertisers won’t see anything but a string of zeros, which means no information is available to use for marketing purposes.
How Does This Impact Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA)?
The Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) is a random identifier that’s assigned to each of Apple’s users. This identifier allows marketers to develop personalized ads that go straight to the people who will be most likely to pay attention to the advertisements. It’s also used for tracking and attribution.
Prior to this update, the IDFA enabled advertisers to retarget consumers. Now after this update, it will only be provided to marketers if users give permission to track their usage across apps. To prepare app owners, Apple has stipulated that businesses must prompt users to opt-in to this type of tracking and explain what the data will be used for. If you don’t receive permission from users, Apple’s devices will zero-out all advertising identifier values so you’re not able to track them.
iOS 14.5 Update on Small Businesses: What You Can Do to Prepare
Although this change will likely have an impact on your future ad campaigns, it’s important to remember that the breadth of the anticipated aftermath is still quite unknown. There are still some things you can do to optimize your footprint as you approach new audiences and build brand awareness within your marketing campaigns.
1. Don’t Ignore Android Users
Yes, Apple is a major piece of the pie, but that’s not the only operating system in use. Apple’s iOS 14.5 update will only affect customers who use Apple products, which means you’re still able to break your lists into segmented audiences, target, and retarget Android users just as you always have.
2. Utilize Your Website’s Tracking Abilities
Although Apple’s tracking might be turned off, you can still utilize your website’s tracking capabilities and other tools that give you insights into your analytics to see where people are originating from and how they’ve found you. Use this information to get to know your audiences so you can create content based on the behavior of those users.
3. Bolster Your Organic Efforts
Have you checked in with your social media accounts lately? How is your content strategy working out? If you’ve neglected these organic SEO elements in the past, this is a great time to amp up your efforts and use the information you glean from your analytical tools to nourish your brand.
Is This a Big Deal?
In short, yes. For the first time ever, a smartphone operating system is opting to turn off tracking by default and let consumers choose whether they want to be tracked or not. This move follows a larger trend of privacy-enhancing technologies that are starting to become commonplace by users. In recent years, plenty of messaging services and popular web browsers have stopped allowing the use of third-party cookies. Even Chrome, the world’s largest browser, is currently in the process of abandoning third-party cookies.
Although controversial with advertisers, Apple’s privacy shift is likely to gain traction with users. Advertisers and ad platforms have expressed concerns that they simply don’t know how many people will opt into (or out of) this new measure. Of course, when it comes to big contenders, nobody is making a louder noise than Facebook, which has regularly clashed over Apple’s policies in recent years.
Is your company isn’t sure how Apple’s upcoming changes will impact your marketing strategies? This is the time to onboard our team so we can help you navigate these uncharted cyber waters. We have the skills and experience necessary to help you put your advertisement game on point. Our goal is to ensure you have the ability to target your customers in ways that make sense for your audience, and we have the know-how to get the job done.
Partner with the Industry Leading Local Marketing Software
If you’re scared about the uncertainty, you shouldn’t go through these changes alone. Our team at Surefire local is well-versed in everything related to Apple’s iOS 14.5 update on small businesses, and we’re here to help. Reach out to us today so we can start building a team that works for your needs!