iOS14: The Impact to Digital Marketing and How to Prepare

KLIK Staff

February 8, 2021

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A note to our readers: KLIK primarily provides marketing for web-based companies, not iOS application providers. As such, the below advice does not cover impacts to the tracking or marketing of applications.

Apple’s iOS 14 includes a new feature that requires apps in the App Store to ask users for permission to collect and share their data. While this will impact all digital channels in some capacity, the biggest impact is expected for Facebook.

The rollout is expected for early spring (exact date unannounced)

What is the impact for Facebook?

  • 28-day attribution windows are sunset and the 7-day click window will be the new default.
  • For users who opt out of tracking, only one event will be tracked post-click.
  • Each domain is limited to 8 conversion events.
  • Subdomains are considered the same as domains (ie. klik.media and careers.klik.media would share the same 8 conversion events).
  • A single account will own the setup of domain verification, and be able to define what the 8 conversion events are.
  • All conversion events must be tied to a domain. This will need to be done by your company within the Facebook ad manager.

How can companies prepare?

  • Plan ahead for a dip in Facebook performance & diversify your mix.
  • Map out which 8 conversion events your domain will utilize, and keep in mind potential need for future conversion events.
  • Switch from URL conversion rules to web based event codes.
  • Ensure all pixels are verified across domain.

Implementation- The Best Guides KLIK Has Found:

Configure Events to Use Aggregated Event Measurement: Facebook

How to Handle Domain Verification & Solve Issues: Jon Loomer

What is iOS 14 – A Detailed Overview:

Apple’s iOS 14 includes a new feature that requires apps in the App Store to ask users for permission to collect and share their data, which has been the basis for ad targeting for years. Apple is providing users with the ability to opt-out of targeting, following the trend of GDPR & CCPA in putting more data ownership in the hands of consumers.

What Will Happen: Apple will require applications to ask permission from users to track and use their data. Per Apple, the following is covered:

Examples of tracking include, but are not limited to:

  • Displaying targeted advertisements in your app based on user data collected from apps and websites owned by other companies.
  • Sharing device location data or email lists with a data broker.
  • Sharing a list of emails, advertising IDs, or other IDs with a third-party advertising network that uses that information to retarget those users in other developers’ apps or to find similar users.
  • Placing a third-party SDK in your app that combines user data from your app with user data from other developers’ apps to target advertising or measure advertising efficiency, even if you don’t use the SDK for these purposes. For example, using an analytics SDK that repurposes the data it collects from your app to enable targeted advertising in other developers’ apps.

The following use cases are not considered tracking, and do not require user permission through the AppTrackingTransparency framework:

  • When user or device data from your app is linked to third-party data solely on the user’s device and is not sent off the device in a way that can identify the user or device.
  • When the data broker with whom you share data uses the data solely for fraud detection, fraud prevention, or security purposes, and solely on your behalf. For example, using a data broker solely to prevent credit card fraud.

Source: Apple.com

What Application Providers Can Do: Apps such as Facebook will have the ability to provide a pre-permission prompt, with the sole goal of convincing users to opt into tracking. Facebook is rolling out a small test of this- here’s what this could look like:

Source: 9to5Mac.com

Impact to Advertisers: Facebook’s response is telling- this has a major impact on their infrastructure, and they are concerned about the impact to their business. In KLIK’s opinion, the digital marketing impact to platforms such as LinkedIn and Google should be minimal, and in talks with both, they aren’t overly concerned.

Facebook has built an advertising infrastructure highly reliant on an individual user’s actions and data, and both this iOS change and any future changes to pixel tracking will have an outsized impact.

In terms of where Facebook advertisers will be impacted, here are the main issues:

Attribution windows are changing- 28-day windows are being deprecated entirely. Only the following attribution windows will be used going forward:

  • 7-day click (default after Apple prompt enforcement)
  • 7-day click and 1-day view (initial default)
  • 1-day click and 1-day view
  • 1-day click

If a user decides to opt out of tracking, only 1 event after a click will be reported that is marked as highest priority. It is unclear what % of users will opt out of Facebook tracking:

Facebook Conversion Events Are Limited to 8 Events

  • The 8 events are limited at a domain level
  • Multiple ad accounts using the same domain will need to use the same events

If one of the pixel events is changed, there will be a 3-day delay until they can run campaigns against the new event to allow for correct attribution.

  • Each Facebook conversion event requires domain verification
  • Domains include subdomains automatically
  • Domain verification status is inherited by subdomains. For example, verifying “domain.com” will also verify “m.domain.com”. You will need to complete a separate verification process for different top level domains. For example, verifying “domain.com” will not also verify “domain.com.tr”. Source: Facebook.com

Age, Gender, Region, & Placement breakdowns will no longer be supported Source: Facebook.com

KLIK’s Take:

There will likely be a substantial impact to e-commerce performance, where advertisers are heavily reliant on multiple conversion events providing Facebook with strong signals (page views, add to cart, checkouts, and purchases). Lead gen or single-event based businesses should see less severe of an impact, however, coupling the changes in tracking with requiring domain verification presents a major headache.

Attribution Windows:

This largely impacts businesses heavily reliant on Facebook’s own attribution tools. For example, an e-commerce company using video views to create awareness- sales may come in over a longer period of time as a user flows through the funnel. Limiting the conversion window greatly reduces the visibility marketers have into longer funnels.

Tracking Users Who Decline Tracking:

Users will opt out of tracking at an unknown rate, and Facebook is only providing a single event to track for these users. Our recommendation is to plan on leveraging 3rd party tools, such as Google Analytics, that can provide a more holistic view of your traffic, actions, and performance.

Clean and consistent UTM tracking is critical- so long as UTM parameters are properly applied to an ad, advertisers will still be able to see the result of their investment decisions.

Companies that rely heavily on actions such as adding a product to a cart will still see site behavior 3rd party tools, and with properly tracked UTM parameters, will be able to see whether campaign a or campaign b is taking better mid-funnel steps.

Conversion Event Limitations:

Expanding on conversion limitations further, advertisers will need to decide which single event they want to fire for users who opt out of tracking.

KLIK’s recommendation is to set up the highest priority event as the one closest to what success looks like for the business. In direct response lead gen, that is a successful lead form fill-out. In ecommerce, that would be a purchase.

The remaining conversion events will need to be mapped out to ensure the business is able to track all important events within the 8 conversion limit across domains.

Domain Limitations:

This will present a concern for advertisers who work on a shared domain- largely portfolio businesses and those with multiple product lines. To understand the potential impact, KLIK outlined an example scenario below.

Let’s take for example Harvard University, which has the domain hbs.edu. Harvard wants to advertise across a portfolio of products:

  • Certificates
  • In-Person MBAs
  • Online MBAs
  • HarvardX
  • Harvard Business Review

In our example, Harvard retains an agency for each product line. Each agency now must use the same events to register a conversion, which is a problem because all of the websites are setup differently.

Historically, agencies have been able to limit the need for a partner to set up conversion events by adding the Facebook pixel to their website holistically, and the agency or advertiser could then define a conversion event based on a URL. So in this example, the following URL’s could all fire a unique conversion event, all without requiring additional code or standardization:

hbs.edu/certificates-start-now

hbs.edu/mba/thank-you

hbs.edu/hbr

Going forward, KLIK’s recommendation is for the domain owner to set and define the 8 conversion events they think could be used holistically, and implement via event code.

For portfolios with multiple agencies or complex product lines, this means that pixel implementation should no longer be based on URL logic, rather, via website based event code.

This is a major change for domain owners, and will necessitate the use of a web developer to implement properly.

Subdomain Strategy

Facebook considers a subdomain as part of the domain:

Domain verification status is inherited by subdomains. For example, verifying “domain.com” will also verify “m.domain.com”. You will need to complete a separate verification process for different top level domains. For example, verifying “domain.com” will not also verify “domain.com.tr”. Source: Facebook.com

KLIK believes this is a major problem for organizations that rely on using another party’s website, and for complex organizations that have a robust subdomain strategy.

Taking our Harvard example, if KLIK partnered with Harvard, we could request the subdomain klik.harvard.edu. When standing up advertising, this domain would be limited to the 8 conversion event limit that is being applied to the harvard.edu domain.

This is a major problem because we are likely not going to be the first advertiser to request domain verification, meaning we will be powerless to set up our definition of what a conversion event is.

KLIK’s recommendation is to move away from leveraging 3rd party domains or subdomains if possible, and create new first party domains instead. For example, we could purchase the domain harvard.org in place of using klik.harvard.edu.

If this is not possible, we highly recommend meeting with the leadership of the domain owner as soon as possible, and coordinating how to define the 8 conversion events.

Offline API Uploads

Facebook offers two ways to track a conversion event- the first being the pixel, the second being an offline API upload. Unfortunately, the offline API upload still has the 8 event limitation. This means that an advertiser can’t just skip the Facebook pixel entirely in order to work around the new tracking limitations. KLIK’s recommendation is to first, treat the 8 conversion events as the limit without worrying about the source of the conversion, and second, determine how to best track the conversion events- either via offline API, or the pixel.

Demographic Limitations

Facebook is removing the ability to split out different demographics from reporting such as age, geography, and gender.

This is a major blow to ecommerce and other organizations that have been reliant on data from Facebook to inform their mix. For example, advertisers and brands could currently look into demographic breakdowns to see that users 18-24 drive 90% of sales, and then use that information to set up a new campaign that only targets that age range.

Our recommendation is to take a step back and look at what information you are currently gathering first hand. For example, if age is critical to your business, figure out how to track this via 1st party data rather than relying on a platform. An easy solution would be to collect a user’s birthday during checkout or as a lead form question.

Data points to consider adding to your forms or checkout flows include:

  • Age (using birthday, graduation year, etc)
  • Zip code (provides the ability to figure out city, state, dma, and country)
  • Phone number (can use area codes to define geography, although this is less accurate)

Other Considerations:

Plan ahead for a dip in performance on Facebook and plan alternatives

  • Re-evaluate current cost thresholds and goals in Facebook as top funnel KPIs will be harder to track in-platform and fewer leads will show in the platform as a result of a shorter attribution window and reduced tracking.
  • Discuss shifts in monthly investment to other platforms as Facebook performance changes.

Plan to Diversify Investment Mix

  • Despite not being front and center, check in on any changes to LinkedIn, Snapchat, Google, and other platforms.
  • Be prepared to re-allocate media quickly, particularly out of mobile

Test a revised audience strategy

  • Lookalike & remarketing audiences may decrease in size and have more fluid performance. Consider testing larger audiences that aren’t as reliant on tracking user actions (interest targeting, etc.)

Outside of our technical recommendations, our biggest recommendation is to focus on diversification. Outside of iOS14, future browser and tracking changes in the coming years will make it all the more important to decrease reliance on a single channel.

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