Among some of the greatest changes that impacted how we conducted business in 2020, companies and marketers were confronted by the announcement of Apple’s iOS14 update. Rolling out in the fall, Apple users found out their data would no longer be collected by many apps or shared without their consent. It promised to impose restrictions on how much personal information advertisers would have access to. It was launched in response to privacy concerns from users and to greater developments like the GDPR, which prevents users from seeing ads without opting in and allows them to disable precise location tracking. If you were in the position of a business owner whose new customers find you online, you knew this meant trouble.

The iOS14 announcement was a disruption to the ever-increasing automation that has been available through Google and Facebook Advertising in recent years, and resulted in almost immediate changes to the way we look at customer data. Marketers are now having to rethink their digital marketing strategies and reimagine what the future holds. To some of us in the field, it felt almost apocalyptic. We needed to figure out how we were going to keep customer leads flowing at the same level, while rethinking our entire approach to campaign strategies. Here’s our guide into how to navigate the iOS14 update, some opportunities for your future campaigns, and more.

What’s the Deal

Beginning in early 2021, the full impact of the iOS14 began to make itself evident to us at 829 Studios, our clients, and to the greater marketing landscape. The first thing that happened was that conversion metrics plummeted, especially on Facebook. Paid advertising campaigns across Google and Facebook saw notable, and in some cases dramatic, disruptions in performance as they were forced to re-enter the learning phase with strikingly less data to rely on. Among our clients at 829, one saw a 56% decrease in Facebook leads in the weeks following the rollout, as well as a 25% decrease in ad traffic. Attribution windows were reduced for Facebook conversions, and new limits were imposed on the number of conversion events that could be tracked in the engine.

Aside from the losses in overall conversion performance, remarketing audiences slowed significantly as users largely chose not to opt into the data sharing feature of iOS14. Advertisers also lost access to a large amount of data insights, such as performance metrics by demographic and by device. Certain campaign types, particularly Facebook campaigns and Google Universal App campaigns, were most affected in the wake of iOS14. Marketers are still now in the process of recovering through re-strategizing, restructuring, and hard work.

What We Can Do

In the months since iOS14 first rolled out, businesses have been working closely with their digital marketing teams to ensure their campaigns were in a good place to continue growing. All Facebook ad accounts required domain verification and conversion prioritization processes to be completed in order for accounts to be able to continue making significant changes. Any Facebook accounts that, for whatever reason, have not done this yet will want to complete their domain verification as soon as possible.

Google and Facebook advertisers have also been focusing on how to start leveraging first-party data as much as possible, more so than they have ever needed to. Customer match lists are now the most valuable source of strong remarketing data for ad campaigns; they provide a reliable data source for marketers to nurture prospective leads and to build lookalike audiences. Our paid search team at 829 Studios has been recommending that all of our clients refresh any current audience lists and double down on the first-party data that they still have access to. It will be the key to targeting high-quality users in areas where we will no longer be able to rely on search engine data alone. And while some businesses may have been tempted to roll back their ad spend, it has been shown to be more important than ever now that paid traffic continues to help build up first-party data pools that can be used to benefit digital performance across all channels.

Modeling

One of the biggest question marks hanging over the post iOS14 landscape is how Google proposes utilizing statistical modeling to supplement the loss of Apple’s user data. The gist is that Google will apply the user data that it still has to the pool of undefined audiences to come to relatively accurate conclusions and predict attributed conversions. It will be a way of filling in the gap that iOS14 has created in the campaign algorithms that marketers have been wielding in past years. Similarly, Google’s recent rollout of enhanced conversions also promises to help bridge the gap between inaccessible user data and our conversion points.

Data modeling also underlines why bulking up your first-party data now will be so crucial when adapting to the new way of doing things. The more concrete data that Google has, the more inferences it can make to the audiences that are starting to become indefinable. Skeptical marketers and businesses are going to have to start learning to trust Google’s estimates, which are going to help start answering some of the questions that have resulted from the iOS14 rollout.

What’s Next

Even now as we are rethinking how we conduct business in the digital landscape following the rollout of iOS14, the 829 Digital Marketing Team is already looking ahead to what’s next. User opt-in rates have slowly increased from the sharp dropoff that occurred with the initial update, and we have started to regain some visibility into certain Facebook demographics like age and gender.

There have also been several findings over the past few years that user concerns over privacy have actually decreased following similar large-scale changes, like the GDPR in European markets. That, along with the ever-important reliance on the internet in navigating challenges like the pandemic, indicates that we may see an increase in confidence from American users too, which would likely result in higher opt-in rates over time.

That being said, iOS14 has also proved that it is going to be more important than ever to rely on the human touch that comes from advertisers and their business partners. Cross collaboration will be essential in interpreting the missing pieces of data, and will be key in making critical business decisions and strategic moves.

More and more platforms are limiting the amount of data available to advertisers, including Safari, Duckduckgo, and soon- to- be Google Chrome. While we may have gotten a two-year extension on the Google Chrome update, businesses are still going to need to rethink their approach to digital advertising and prepare to take more active approaches in new marketing campaigns.

If you’re looking for a creative partner to help revisit strategies across paid search and social, organic social, ecommerce advertising, and more, contact 829 Studios for a consultation.

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