Posted: Tuesday 2nd February 2021 in Industry News.

It’s all kicking off in Silicon Valley as Apple prepare to roll out IOS 14 and Facebook does everything in its power to keep a hold of all that tasty personal data that powers its advertising platform. But what exactly is going on and what does it mean for retailers trying to use Facebook for paid media campaigns?

What’s Changed?

The IOS 14 update has got Facebook up in arms because of its brand-new AppTracking Transparency Framework. Put simply, this new update will allow users to decide what apps have permission to track activity (both on app and outside of the app). Before the new update, advertising platforms like Facebook could easily track what Apple users do across platforms, gathering very specific data at an individual level. Allowing advertisers to run highly targeted campaigns.

Corporate shots have been fired from both sides. On Facebook’s quarterly earnings call in January, CEO Mark Zuckerberg is said to have called out Apple, claiming that their framing of the update as a privacy service for its customers is nothing more than Apple protecting its own anti-competitive interests. The next day it was reported that Facebook was preparing an antitrust lawsuit against Apple over its App Store rules (which includes a clear display of the tracking capabilities of an app).

Apple CEO Tim Cook then spoke at a conference on privacy and data protection saying, “Technology does not need vast troves of personal data, stitched together across dozens of websites and apps, in order to succeed …. If a business is built on misleading users, on data exploitation, on choices that are not choices at all, then it does not deserve our praise. It deserves reform.” Whilst Cook didn’t single out Facebook as one of these businesses, they have been the most vocal opponents to Apple’s changes. The likes of Snapchat, Twitter and TikTok have been relatively quiet about the matter, possibly waiting to see the true impact of the roll out before picking sides.

At the moment, the true impact of the new update has yet to be seen. There are still a lot of unknowns especially around the number of Apple users who will opt out of Facebook tracking completely. Facebook has been as proactive as ever attempting to mitigate against any impact of the roll out, announcing a few key changes that have been popping up in advertiser’s business accounts for the last few weeks. These changes currently include:

  • A necessary update for Retailers using Facebook’s SDK to convert users via an app
  • Aggregated Event Measurement will limit website domains to 8 conversion events
  • Retailers looking to run app campaigns will need to build separate campaigns targeting IOS 14 users (this is limited to 9 campaigns at once)
  • There will be delayed reporting, with Facebook saying data may be delayed by up to 3 days. Web conversion events will be reported based on the time the conversions occur and not at the time of the impression
  • Statistical modelling may be used to calculate results at an ad set level for app install campaigns or for web campaigns where IOS 14 app users are included
  • For both web and app conversions, demographic breakdowns such as age and gender will no longer be supported
  • The Facebook attribution window will now be shorter, by default they will be set to a 7-day click window, with the highest view through window being just one day

What does this mean for retailers trying to use Facebook’s advertising platform? Well for one, the number of conversions seen in the platform is likely to go down significantly. Agencies that for years have gotten away with claiming millions in post view sales thanks to the long attribution window are going to be in for a big shock. Retailers are going to find it harder to pull any insights from their activity about their shoppers and if they are using the platform to report then data delays will mean real time reporting is no longer possible.

What can retailers do to prepare?

This may sound silly to many seasoned retailers but now more than ever UTM tracking will play a pivotal role in assessing the success of a campaign, so get yourselves a tracking partner! No one should be measuring success only via Facebook (their track record of falsifying metrics should be reason enough). The second thing to do to prepare is to find out how many of your customers are using an Apple product, this should be done on both your website and on Facebook.

Retailers should also look to export any historical attribution data they can, allowing for best-guess calculations into the 28-day impact of your new ads. If your website domain has yet to be verified, get it done ASAP! The verification is especially important as it will verify who owns the 8 aggregated events that will soon be required.

As I’ve already mentioned, the long-term impact for Retailers has yet to be seen. What we do know is that retailers are building out their customer databases ahead of the roll out, with 1st party consensual data gaining even more value in the coming months. 1st party data will be crucial to understanding performance and unlocking the power of 1st party data will be a key discussion point in the months to come. Some retailers are also looking to mitigate against a conversion shortfall on Facebook by trialling new channels and new ways to leverage personal data.

The IOS update won’t just impact Facebook. What may happen as a large chunk of customers decide to stop sharing data with advertising platforms is the platforms themselves become cheaper to account for the reduced effectiveness. If this happens many agencies and retailers will see the cheaper cost per reach without thinking of the wasted ad spend that comes with not using an audience-centric approach.

If you want to know more about what you should be doing to prepare for this update, get in touch with us today at [email protected].