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What will Apple’s iOS 14 update mean for eCommerce businesses?

For many eCommerce businesses, Facebook Ads are a low-cost way of generating sales. However, Apple’s new iOS 14 update has raised fears that these campaigns could be about to become a lot less effective. Is this true? Let’s find out.

Since Apple’s announcement in June of last year, the arrival of the iOS 14 update has been widely anticipated, especially among digital retailers.

This is because iOS powers many of Apple’s popular devices, including the iPhone, so any changes made will impact an enormous audience – roughly 20% of all mobile users.

The introduction of the iOS 14 is no different. But this time, there are worries that this could land a particularly serious blow to eCommerce businesses by restricting access to one of the most crucial parts of any strategy – user data.

What does the update include?

Among a number of display and functionality changes, the iOS 14 update gives users more control over how apps track and share their personal information.

When users update their phones to iOS 14, they’ll now be prompted to either opt in or out of apps that use what Apple outlines as “tracking.” Opt out, and portions of their data will no longer be available to third-party apps.

As a result, data surrounding performance and personalisation gleaned from ad platforms like Facebook, TikTok, Snapchat, Amazon, Instagram and more could be significantly altered or lost altogether.

How will this affect my Facebook Ads?

For most eCommerce businesses, this update will most heavily impact their Facebook Ad campaigns. A dent in available user data will potentially shrink the amount businesses see as a return on their current spend, as well as restrict the opportunity to deliver tailored content to target customers.

In fact, Facebook has predicted a staggering 50% of revenue gained by third-party publishers in its audience network will be lost.

But what specifically will the update restrict in terms of Facebook Ads?

  • Businesses can only optimise a maximum of eight conversion events per domain
  • No real-time reporting (and data being made available up to three days later)
  • Tracking results might be estimated rather than reported accurately
  • No delivery breakdowns
  • Reduction in ability to segment and access granular user data insights

As a result, making quick changes to Facebook Ads will get trickier, as real-time reporting will no longer be available. On top of this, as more people opt out of data tracking, this will likely result in smaller audience sizes, which will also impact targeting and retargeting efforts.

Fortunately, Facebook has pre-empted the disruption the iOS 14 update is slated to cause to its ad functionality with alterations to Facebook Pixel and special Aggregated Event Measurement tools that will help businesses ensure they’re complying with Apple’s new terms.

Equally, Facebook has promised their measurement tools will continue evolving along with changing browsers.

What impact will the update have in the long term?

What will this mean for the future of Facebook Ads in particular? Some people have gone so far as to wonder if this change will render Facebook Ads obsolete:

Our answer: it won’t for a while, if ever. Businesses will still be able to tell who purchased what product and from which campaign through their reporting software. Most of the initial concerns we’ve seen—that by restricting the conversion data fed back to Facebook, the Facebook algorithm will be less efficient in targeting users—haven’t come to fruition yet, and might never do so.

As eCommerce businesses continue to navigate the minefield that can be the ever-changing world of digital marketing, there’s still a lot to be gained from paid advertising post-iOS 14.

Plus, businesses largely won’t feel the changes as a result of iOS 14 until enough users have made the update, or upgraded their iPhones, where the new software will be standard. This isn’t expected until at least mid-2021.

But in the long term, it would be naïve to assume we’ll always have the same access to user data as before. Users are becoming both savvier to and more sceptical of their data being tracked and used, which means these restrictions will likely only get tighter.

For this reason, we expect some of the focus that has been so heavily placed on Facebook Ads in the last few years to swing back toward other channels, such as SEO. But the key takeaway here is that, as ever, businesses shouldn’t ever rely on just one channel. The digital landscape sees changes made on a near-constant basis, which means businesses will need to diversify their marketing to make sure their strategy isn’t one big game of catch-up.

It’s also important to remember that, especially in the digital marketing world, where there’s a will, there’s a way. Like with any good digital marketing strategy, with less user data at the ready, businesses will need to stay savvy and adapt to changes in the landscape, and they’ll find new ways to thrive.

We know the above likely sounds complicated, but that’s why we’re here – if you have any questions on how this might impact your digital marketing strategy, or would like to see how we can help your business navigate the changes made by the iOS 14 update, get in touch.

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