Recently, Apple announced some significant changes with the latest iOS 14 update that will affect how we receive and process conversion events from tools such as the Facebook pixel. Businesses that advertise, optimise, target and report on web conversion events from any of our business tools will be affected. In this post, we'll be breaking down what this update means as you move forward in creating Facebook Ads, and what you can do about it.
What's actually happening?
There are plenty of resources outlining the situation with iOS 14, particularly from Facebook itself. To summarize, Apple announced changes with iOS 14 that will impact the way in which Facebook is able to receive and process conversion events from tools like the Facebook pixel. So in essence, any business that advertises mobile apps, in addition to those who optimize, target, and report on web conversion events will be affected.
In short, Apple is requiring that all apps in the App Store show a prompt to its users on iOS devices essentially asking the user for permission for the app to track them outside the platform in different ways. This new iOS 14 policy will prohibit certain data collection and sharing unless people opt into tracking on iOS 14 via this prompt.
Before being tracked you will receive a notification saying, “x would like permission to track you across apps and websites owned by other companies. Your data will be used to deliver personalized ads to you.” Apple will allow you to choose between “Allow Tracking” or “Ask App Not To Track.” Facebook says this will have a negative impact on businesses’ ability to market themselves and monetize through ads.
What this means for Facebook...
It’s clear through Facebook’s reaction to these updates that they are very worried, some might even say they’re panicking. This update has the potential to be extremely detrimental to their revenue.
According to Statista.com, 79.9% of users on Facebook only use the application on their mobile phone compared to 1.7% only using it on desktop or laptop computers. Out of that 79.9%, there will be a large portion who will be using an iOS device with the iOS 14 update. From that number of users, there will be a percentage who will actually allow the app to track their data but how many of them will be is unknown and not likely to be a large fraction of the overall. With popular documentaries such as “The Social Dilemma” in addition to years of user data scandals, It can be assumed that a majority of iOS users will opt-out of Facebook’s tracking.
Facebook has responded by attacking Apple’s decision, stating that it is going to negatively affect small businesses looking to advertise on the platform. Like many things these days, this sentiment is true but somewhat misleading and manipulating. Facebook benefits the most from large corporations advertising on their platform, and although small businesses add to that revenue, they certainly aren’t the primary players in Facebook’s advertising business model. When large corporations with millions of dollars to spend on advertising decide that it’s no longer worth spending that money on Facebook and decide to go elsewhere, that is where the panic sets in.
How it affects you and your ads...
If iOS users elect to opt-out of Facebook’s tracking, the domino effect that will result from this will be as follows:
If Facebook is not able to track user behaviour, the effectiveness of the tracking pixel and all of its implications is severely diminished. This results in inaccurate reporting for conversions all the way down to ineffective retargeting efforts.
Options for audience targeting will be weakened. That means your ability to create hyper-personalized ads to audiences may be hindered greatly.
Less targeting options means more ineffective ad spend and less personalization of ad copy.
Businesses will be forced to turn to in-app purchases and subscriptions and will see fewer website sales from advertising.
Greater difficulty, overall, for small businesses to reach their ideal audience, limiting growth
With that being said, these changes will 100% affect small businesses. In fact, it will have a massive impact on all businesses advertising on the platform. The update hurts small businesses’ ability to target, which is very true, as small businesses have lower budgets and need as many targeting options as possible to reach their target market on the platform.
In order to still achieve quality results from your Facebook advertising efforts, here are some tips you can take to plan around this Apple update:
Exclude iOS devices from campaigns with conversion objectives: This certainly isn’t a permanent solution to running paid advertising on Facebook in the future, but doing so may give you insight into what you can expect when the update takes effect.
Create campaigns outside of the conversion objective: This would mean running web visit campaigns or others and using your website’s internal tracking to determine if a sale or conversion occurred as a result of the ads. You can also turn your focus to growing your social media profiles, or email list instead.
Create an extra layer or break down your conversion flow on your landing pages: What I mean by this is to require that users give you information about themselves earlier in the conversion process. First name, last name, or email addresses can be manually uploaded back into Facebook to generate custom audiebces for retargeting purposes. This is a very roundabout way of approaching the issue but may allow you to rely more on folks who are willing to give you some information rather than the pixel fires from simple page views. This same process can also be implemented with existing mailing lists or social media follower lists.
To summarise all of this, I don’t believe this is going to be the complete end of Facebook advertising and I’m cautiously optimistic that it will have less of an impact than expected. Facebook is at a point now where they are nearly regarded as a “too big to fail” company. I believe that there will be several workarounds in the coming months to help advertisers weather the storm. In the meantime, there are a few things that you can do to prepare yourself for the changes in order to put your business in the best possible position to succeed from an advertising perspective.
As mentioned, beginning testing and attempting to rely less on the Facebook pixel is step one. You can also explore ways to get more out of other advertising channels like Google, Bing, and Linkedin and build remarketing audiences through those platforms. If history has taught us anything it's that humans are highly adaptable, and that goes for tech corporations as well.