Impact of iOS 14 on Digital Advertising for Shopify Stores

Impact of iOS 14 on Digital Advertising
Discover the importance of iOS 14, its impact on digital advertising, and how it's irreversibly changing Facebook Ads.

Updated June 2021

The introduction of iOS 14 has been a hot topic in 2021, but what does it really mean for your Shopify store?

Why would an Apple update affect your Facebook Ads? And what has any of this got to do with privacy?

This update, which may shock the digital marketing industry, follows the ever-growing trend toward user privacy. In 2018, the introduction of GDPR affected European advertising, last year the CCPA changed ads in California, and now iOS 14 is affecting worldwide advertising. These may be the first of many changes in the digital advertising world.

In this article, we will demystify iOS 14 and explain exactly what it means for you and your business. We will also share some Optily Expert advice on how you can strategically plan a response to the iOS changes and continue to grow your advertising!

What is iOS 14?

iOS 14 is the fourteenth release of the iOS mobile operating system developed by Apple Inc. for its iPhone line of products. It succeeds iOS 13, and it was initially released to the public on September 16, 2020. It is one of Apple’s biggest iOS updates to date and incorporates new features such as:

  • Home screen design changes
  • Updates for existing apps
  • Siri improvements
  • Privacy changes
  • And many other subtle tweaks that streamline the iOS interface

The main changes come in the privacy section, with the new update providing features to improve user transparency and control over how apps access your location, photos, microphone, and camera.

We have already seen an updated iOS 14.5 released since the original writing of this blog. While this update tackled some minor bugs, it showed advertisers who rely on targeted advertising that their worst fears are coming through. Research by Flurry Analytics showed that 96% of iPhone users with iOS 14.5 have opted out, deciding not to enable tracking.

Not being able to track people’s internet activity and buying habits means fewer data to link advertisers to potential customers. This is a major advertising challenge for companies like Facebook, which makes money primarily through ads.

Thankfully on a worldwide scale, the story is slightly more encouraging for advertisers. 15% of iPhone users across the globe have opted into tracking.

How iOS 14 relates to Facebook Ads?

This update will have a large impact on the way in which Facebook is able to receive and process conversion events from tools like the Facebook Pixel. It will affect also any other business that advertises mobile apps, in addition to those that optimize, target, and report on web conversion events.

The update mandates that all apps in the App Store ask the user’s permission for the app to track them outside the platform in various different ways. Essentially, this will allow users to block cross-platform tracking and may have a large impact on the effectiveness and accuracy of digital advertising. To boil it down, the big change is now users need to explicitly opt in, whereas before, they had to opt out to not be tracked.

Of course, if users opted to allow tracking, then advertising will function the same as it always will have. However, in the new world of digital privacy, this seems quite an uncommon scenario for most users.

How does this affect Facebook Ads?

So what happens if a user decides to opt-out of tracking?

If Facebook is unable to track user behavior, the effectiveness of the tracking pixel and all of its implications is greatly decreased. The accuracy of its conversion reports will plummet and become largely redundant.

For Facebook advertisers targeting options will be severely diminished. The ability to create hyper-personalized ads to attract your ideal customers will no longer be an option.

All in all, this will lead to more expensive and less accurate advertising.

Facebook released a statement last week about how they believe Apple’s iOS 14 release may affect your ads and reporting.

How to strategically plan for the impact of iOS 14?

iOS 14 will undoubtedly have an impact on your online business, but as always, our experts here at Optily have come up with some insightful solutions to work around the disruption.

Change Your Facebook Ad Campaign Objective

As Pixel events such as conversions will be most affected, you should consider adjusting your campaign objective to a different category. “Awareness” and “Consideration” both offer effective advertising goals and are likely to be less disrupted by the iOS update. You could also consider opting for a lead ad campaign. These strategies won’t fully negate the impact on retargeting audiences but will help your ability to drive results from prospecting campaigns.
A less favorable option may be to fully remove iOS devices from your Facebook ad campaigns. Although this may not be a permanent or desired solution, it could help you from wasting ad spend on areas that won’t provide returns on investment. Yes, this will remove a large chunk of your audience (25% of mobile users are on iOS devices), but it will allow you to fully optimize your Facebook Ad campaigns towards the remaining 75%.

Will Android follow suit someday and release a similar update? Quite possibly. But for now, if you can save more and increase your return on ad spend, that’s all that matters.

Use the Facebook Conversion API

The Facebook Conversions API is a tool in the Facebook Business Suite. The service allows the user to share key web and offline events, or customer actions, directly from your business server to Facebook’s server. It essentially allows advertisers to view their customer’s conversion path from wherever they found the ad on the internet to the end conversion. If you want to learn more about iOS 14 and Facebook Ads, check out our blog Mastering the Facebook Conversions API with Shopify.

Changes to Facebook Attribution Window

The attribution window is the timeframe in which conversions can be related to your advertisements. However, partly due to iOS 14, Facebook has had to respond by changing the attribution window timeframe.

Rather than read more of my writing, why not watch this Optily Short Video with Klayvann Camargo explaining the Post-iOS 14 Facebook Attribution Window Changes!

The uncertain future of Facebook Ads

Listening to the words of Tim Cook, CEO of Apple Inc. it would seem that Facebook Ads is all but dead. I don’t believe that is the case, and I am optimistic that Facebook will rebound from this blow. Facebook is one of the largest companies to ever exist and I’m sure they will strategize for this iOS update in the near future and release new workarounds.

As Pixel events such as conversions will be most affected, you should consider adjusting your campaign objective to a different category. “Awareness” and “Consideration” both offer effective advertising goals and are likely to be less disrupted by the iOS update. You could also consider opting for a lead ad campaign. These strategies won’t fully negate the impact on retargeting audiences but will help your ability to drive results from prospecting campaigns.

As both a user and a marketer, I can see both sides of the argument. Digital privacy is a fantastic thing and an issue that has been struggling to keep up with the technological revolution. On the other hand, data tracking is an essential operator in one of the biggest industries in the world, and cutting it off completely may cause a catastrophic domino effect for the industry.

One thing that’s for sure is that as advertisers we must adapt quickly and decisively.

Is there an easy way to secure and optimize your digital ads for Shopify?

Luckily, there is.

If you are reading this article and think you’re facing a daunting task with the iOS 14 update, don’t worry we’re here to help. The easiest and smartest way to optimize and improve your ad spend is with the only eCommerce single-click ad spend optimizer, Optily.

Our intelligent and innovative technology connects all your online ad accounts and, with just a single click, helps you make the most of your advertising budget. No more wasting time or money!

We’d be more than happy to help you further with any queries you may have about iOS 14, just get in touch.

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