How does Apple’s iOS update affect your advertising strategy?
What has happened, what will the impact be – and what can you do about it?
Starting with their iOS 14 update and continuing with iOS 15 (after the launch of the iPhone 13), Apple are now offering their users the option to opt out of data sharing, every time they download a new app. We don’t need to explain why this is a major problem for marketers. Data sharing has been at the heart of modern advertising strategy, allowing us to make vitally important ad targeting decisions based on behaviours learned through paid search and paid social. But without the ability to gather this data, where do we turn?
It should be noted that this isn’t an entirely unexpected development. In the UK, the new GDPR (General Data Protection Rules) introduced in 2018 switched the onus on data gathering from ‘opt out’ to ‘opt in’ – which was aimed to ensure that customers were fully aware and acquiescent in allowing their data to be stored, used and shared.
The new (and ongoing) changes to Apple’s policy – aka the App Tracking Transparency Framework – means that, whereas Apple users had to previously go into their settings and select ‘Turn Off Data Sharing’, now, whenever they download or open a new app, not only does the app developer have to legally ask them directly if they are happy for third parties to store and access information on their device (‘in order to personalise ads ad content based on your interests’) – they also see a pop-up message from Apple saying‘Allow [the app] to track your activity across other companies’ apps and websites?’. The wording naturally implies that this is a bad thing, whilst the options (‘Ask App Not to Track’ / ‘Allow’) seem weighted towards a negative response.
What does this mean for you?
This is clearly a major deal for anyone involved in marketing and advertising, for whom personalisation is key.Crucially, this includes small businesses, who naturally rely on a localized strategy in order to speak to the most relevant customers. In short, without being allowed to identify and speak to your most likely client base, you risk a potentially devastating drop in sales. While the reasons for data protection are clear, the impact on businesses who are simply trying to provide a better service for their customers (by learning from their habits and avoiding sending them irrelevant, annoying marketing messages) can be catastrophic.
Furthermore, customers are increasingly savvy and wary about being targeted – so a message that warns them, ‘Your data will be used to deliver personalized ads to you’ is often seen as an invasion of privacy rather than a service benefit.
What can you do?
The challenge to all business marketing is how to change the mindset above.
1. Reverse the conversation. When a customer opts out of data sharing, you want them to realise that they are actually opting in to being sent less relevant adverts. Think of it as the usual interaction between the owner of a local grocery store and their loyal customers. What if one day the owner can’t remember their names, what products they prefer, whether they are vegetarian or not or if they have children? This is the equivalent of withholding data – and yet it means for an unsatisfactory (if not downright rude) customer experience.
This means essentially spelling out the advantages to the customer and selling data sharing to them as being part of an exclusive, highly valued club.
2. Close the loop. Offline Conversion Tracking (such as Facebook’s Offline Conversion API) can feed into your wider data ecosystem, helping to ‘re-personalise’ your customer information (by cross-referencing your database with those who clicked on your ads, for example). The good news is that Facebook explicitly disagree with Apple’s approach (which they feel is weighted towards promoting subscription and in-app purchase models for their own profit). Furthermore, are actively trying to find meaningful ways to support small businesses in explaining the benefits of personalised ads to their customers.
3. Keep your data clean. If a customer has just bought a product from you, there’s nothing more annoying for them to then receive an advert for the same product. This is something you can – and must – manage in-house. Rather than trying to sell the same item to the same customer, instead concentrate on selling it to ‘lookalikes’ – those whose profiles and behaviour most closely match your ‘best fans’.
4. Let your loyal customers be your influencers. Good customer marketing is about more than just personalisation. It’s about understanding your customer’s networks of social interaction. If you can learn more about this through a centralised database, you can start to speak to them as part of a wider group of enthusiasts and potential converts – with value added benefits that encourage your customers to do your marketing for you.
This is only the start
There’s no doubt that Apple will continue this cat-and-mouse game with marketers, and new updates will offer new challenges. But the good news is that more businesses – from platforms like Facebook to e-retailers – are finding ever more ingenious ways to speak to their customers. It’s certainly a topic we will be keeping close tabs on and sharing any further insights we find with you…