The yearly iOS update, for most folks it’s a nuisance “Whatdya mean it couldn’t download overnight?” Every year Apple rolls out an update to their operating system that is meant to do a few things: to make the user experience easier, to simplify features, add new ones, and also tighten up security and privacy measures. With these updates can come new hurdles in the world of digital marketing, some more than others.
iOS 14 is one such update.
iOS14 has brought out a suite of changes to the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) with a focus on privacy that will make things more difficult (and in some cases potentially impossible) for advertisers to accurately track the customer journey.
The Identifier for Advertisers is a random device identifier, made up of letters and numbers, assigned by Apple to a user’s device (an iPhone, iPad, Apple TV). Advertisers are able to use this unique identifier to track data and allow for customized advertising, tracking and identification – all without personal information of course!
Ever since the iPhone debuted, Apple’s mobile ecosystem has allowed some degree of cross-app tracking. This was shared as the Identifier for Advertisers data so that advertisers could see if for example, someone saw an ad, let’s say in Instagram, clicked it and installed a new app. All of that data in the process could be provided to the original advertiser to help them dial in their marketing etc.
That’s just one specific example but you get the idea.
In the past, the IDFA allowed for iOS and the web browser Safari to use similar tools to keep the data consistent and flowing.
The IDFA used to be on by default, or an opt-in by default, program. Users could opt out of having their data tracked but they had to go into settings and tools and make changes there and for the most part users didn’t care about their data being tracked, again this is all without personal info! But, given the immediate chance to opt-in instead of opting out later, a large portion of users will choose not to opt-in.
This means that marketers are going to lose the ability to track customers on the journey – leaving last-click attribution as one of the last options available. Sites won’t be able to distinguish between new users and repeat traffic.
With these changes, as well as the general loss of third-party cookies, businesses and app developers that don’t have their own solutions are going to have a harder time in growing their ad sales. As more and more users opt out of sharing their information, reach and frequency tactics are going to hit new hurdles.
Advertisers who have first-party data are going to have an advantage. But what about the rest? With the currently available tools there are a few options to help keep things moving. Geofencing and geotargeting can help replicate some of the contextual data that IDFA used to provide, allowing for consumer segmentation.
Businesses are going to need to start working to solidify their relationships with their audiences and consumers to encourage them to opt-in to the tracking, for the user to receive a better experience or more customized suggestions – and for advertisers to get the crucial data they need to fine-tune campaign performance.
The iOS 14 changes don’t affect Android devices, as Google uses their own tools and settings (in this case the Google Advertising Identifier (GAID), so developers and marketers will still be able to rely on that data.
It’s the job of digital advertisers like us to work within these changing fields to maximize the potential of all advertising avenues. And this isn’t the end of the road! Apple has already begun announcing the features of iOS15 and it looks like there are some more challenges for email marketers coming.
The takeaway is this – the digital landscape changes constantly for better or worse. But with every new challenge, there will be new workarounds, fixes, and entirely new opportunities presenting themselves too!