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How iOS 14 Will Dramatically Affect Ecommerce (And What You Can Do About It)

Facebook has been at the forefront of online advertising since 2007 and is no stranger to change. For years, it reigned supreme, providing a platform for ecommerce brands to market their goods and services online.

But come early spring, both advertising and social media could be facing one of the biggest changes seen in the last decade ― iOS 14.

Announced during the annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple stated that the update will drastically alter the way apps ask for and collect user data. 

Still, this doesn’t mean your sales numbers have to suffer. With some careful planning, you can find creative ways to face the changes to come. So let’s take a look at the privacy updates in iOS 14, how they’ll impact ecommerce advertising and how you can prepare for tomorrow’s challenges.

What Is Apple’s iOS Privacy Update?

To comply with Apple’s new privacy regulations, Facebook will have to make drastic improvements to its iOS App and site advertisement flows. This will affect optimization, targeting, and measurement for every advertiser, no exceptions.

Since the launch of iOS 14, all apps that collect user data and share it with other companies will need to follow the AppTracking Transparency (ATT) framework. 

Another pending change comes in the form of Private Click Calculation, or PCM, a modern web attribution protocol that will provide users with resources for adhering to ATT. If a user decides to opt out of tracking:

If a user decides to opt in, there will be no changes to their data collection. They’ll continue providing data to ecommerce brands and app developers alike.

While these are all major changes, they’re not the most controversial adjustments advertisers, app developers, or ecommerce brands will have to make. The 3 biggest update changes are the following:

1. IDFA. 

IDFA (Identifier for Advertisers) is the unique Apple ID assigned to every existing divide in a user’s applications. You might know it as Google Play Services ID (GPS ADID) on Android. 

They’re similar to cookies-to-browsers in terms of user-to-app communication. IDFAs track, target and personalize in-app advertising.

With iOS 14, Apple will require users to give iOS apps permission to collect and share data. They will automatically remove apps that do not comply with the AppTracking Transparency Prompt (ATT). Of course, this will restrict tracking options and personalization for users.

2. SKAd network.

Software Development Kit (SKAd) is a collection of tools that governs how Apple apps are developed, run, handled and used in ads. As iOS 14’s privacy changes go into effect, all of this will change. Essentially, apps used for advertising will go through Apple’s SKAd network.

This network will include detailed information, such as click-through attribution for Publisher ID, Campaign ID and Conversion Value, which you, the advertiser, set. For browser, email, and non-in-app advertising, the network will also provide click-through attribution.

Although this seems like plenty of information, Facebook won’t provide as much insight into audience app installs and uses anymore.

3. ATT. 

App Tracking Transparency (ATT) is a new prompt that everyone will see across all Apple apps. It will require users to give explicit consent for apps to collect and share their data. Apple will block apps that do not include this prompt.

As a result, limited tracking features are the new normal. Advertisers will collect less data overall, and consumers will get reduced personalization.

Perhaps this is why many ecommerce businesses with apps, including Burrow and Di Bruno Bros, are waiting to update their privacy policies until the update launches. Moving forward, every ecommerce brand, developer, or digital marketer will have to decide whether the collected data is worth it or whether they need to prioritize another means of tracking, such as email or browser.

Examples of tracking according to Apple.

Tracking examples include (but are not limited to):

  • Displaying targeted ads based on user data owned by other companies in your app.

  • Sharing device location data with data brokers.

  • Sharing email lists with data brokers.

  • Using a third-party SDK that combines user data from your app and other developers’ apps for any reason. Apple heavily wants to discourage using SDKs to manage advertising (targeting or measuring).

  • Sharing email lists, advertising IDs or any other ID with third-party advertising networks that use that information for retargeting purposes.

The following examples do not require user permission since they are not tracking:

  • User and device data from your app is linked to third-party data on the user’s device and does not identify the user or device.

  • The data broker you provide data to uses that data for fraud detection, prevention, or other security purposes on your behalf (e.g., credit card fraud).

Why Is the iOS 14 Update Happening? 

Apple’s stricter privacy pivot is in line with new concerns over election interference, political polarization, and social media responsibility on public opinion.

Most recently, Apple has:

  • Begun using Privacy Labels, forcing companies and developers to disclose how they intend to use data.

  • Added pop-ups to the iOS 13 update so users know when they’re being tracked by an app and gives them an option to allow or deny access.

  • Restricted third-party cookies while limiting the use of first-party cookies in Safari (advertisers and websites cannot, by default, track users anymore).

In their iOS 14 announcement, Apple stated:

“Privacy is a fundamental human right and at the core of everything we do. That’s why with iOS 14, we’re giving you more control over the data you share and more transparency into how it’s used.”

Who Will be Impacted by the iOS 14 Update? 

The iOS 14 update will impact app developers, digital marketers and small online businesses. Anyone who relies on paid online advertising, data collection, or retargeting will need to adapt to privacy regulation changes, and adopt more creative advertising approaches.

1. App developers. 

The update will impact mobile apps that rely on advertising. For years, Facebook has been the digital advertising go-to, generating $21.2 billion in Q3 of 2020 alone.

2. Digital marketers. 

About 70% of Apple users share data with app publishers. This number may decline once the iOS 14 update goes live, increasing over time as developers improve their opt-in messages, rethink their strategies, and pivot their marketing strategies.

3. Small online businesses. 

Businesses that rely on Facebook paid digital advertising may find it harder to reach their audiences and revenue goals, but if they pivot in time, they may find themselves avoiding tricky financial situations.

How Will the iOS 14 Update Impact Ecommerce Marketing?

Many ecommerce companies have relied on Facebook for their advertising needs for years. Aside from being more affordable than most alternatives, like Google Ads, it offers plenty of filtering and customization options.

Compare that to newer platforms like Snapchat or TikTok, and you can see the difference. Facebook has been handling online advertising for far longer, being one of the oldest platforms on the scene and the original advertising social platform. They’ve optimized processes over the years and prioritized data collection and hyper-relevant targeting.

With iOS 14’s update, Facebook needs to adapt to a new way of handling ads, data, permissions and targeting. 

This reduction in available data will affect just about everything, including dynamic ad units (specific products users have shown interest in). 

In other words, iOS 14’s new update is going to force online advertisers to get creative. With tech fast approaching a new, privacy-centric future, they’ll have to find new ways to not only reach audiences but do so in a way that does not violate privacy laws.

How Can Ecommerce Stores Prepare for the Update?

Although there is uncertainty around iOS 14’s new update and its impact on brands that rely on digital advertising, many creative solutions are available. Here are a few ideas that could help strengthen your campaign strategy and minimize the impact to your bottom line.

1. Test out new marketing strategies. 

Since digital advertising will change drastically, brands that pivot and adopt new marketing strategies may fare better overall.

Here are four ways to go about it:

Invest in email marketing

This valuable marketing tool rose to popularity in 1978, after the first email blast. It has always been low-cost and efficient. With this new update, email is now one of the most crucial tools available to digital marketers, small business owners and app developers

More brands will likely rely on email marketing to bypass privacy concerns and generate revenue. They’ll just need to be careful about data collection permissions before adding anyone to an email list.

The standard flow is:

  • Welcome email – “Welcome to our community.”

  • Encouragement email – “Flash sale! Check it out now.”

  • Abandoned cart email – “Your cart misses you.”

  • About us email – “This is our mission. These are our values.”

  • Exclusive discount email – “Use this code to save 40%.”

  • Review request email – “Tell us how we’re doing.”

  • Product tutorial email – “Click here to view the demo.”

  • Follow-up email – “How did we do?”

Develop SEO

Search engine optimization, or SEO, makes your site trackable online. The better your SEO score is, the higher your links display on result pages. 

The whole idea is you’re there to greet your ideal audience whenever they make a related search. This increases organic traffic, giving you more views, potentially more engagement, and of course, more opportunities to convert.

Here is a list of steps to follow:

  • Create a list of strategic keywords.

  • Analyze Google’s first page of results.

  • Create something with a competitive edge.

  • Capture people’s attention with a hook.

  • Optimize for SEO.

  • Optimize for search intent.

  • Make your content eye-catching.

  • Add links to your page.

  • Keep your content updated.

If you’re still unsure of what good SEO looks like, read Bon Bon Bon’s blog. Not only are the posts beautiful, eye-catching, and fun to read, they’re full of keywords related to the brand.

Referral marketing

This marketing tactic uses recommendations and general word-of-mouth to grow your business. If you do it right, you can increase your customer base using existing customer networks (their friends and family).

It can take many forms, including giving customers $50 off their next order when they refer a friend. 

Affiliate marketing

This popular tactic drives sales and generates online revenue by distributing a commission to affiliates for marketing your products or services. They earn a piece of the profit from each sale they influence. 

Once you’re committed to affiliate marketing, you can track sales using an affiliate link from one site to another. Everything gets fed into an affiliate network that records the purchase and transaction details before confirming it and allocating funds to your bank account. 

2. Verify your Facebook domain. 

Aside from generally testing out new marketing strategies as soon as possible, brands would be wise to adhere to Facebook’s own warning: verify your domain in Business Manager. 

This is critical for every brand currently using Facebook ads, but more so if you have pixels used by several Business Managers. Send customers post-purchase surveys. 

With so many changes occurring, attributing conversions will be tricky for the first few weeks after the iOS 14 update. 

The good news is that Google Analytics is working to comply with Apple’s ATT. This means you can still review the metrics and develop post-purchase surveys (e.g., pop-ups on the checkout page). It will help you understand whether Facebook ads persuaded people to check out.

3. If you have an app, prepare it to comply with new regulations. 

If you have a branded app, there should now be a privacy disclosure in your app description explaining what user data you collect and how you use it. 

For instance, Skullcandy’s app privacy information explicitly states that they do not collect data from the app, but they have an entire page dedicated to data collection details on their browser.

To better manage the opt-ins and outs, run A/B tests. Each version should present the information differently, explaining the benefits of opting-in.

Wrapping Up 

All in all, ecommerce, Facebook, and online advertising will need to evolve to market effectively while respecting users’ increased demand for privacy. It will change ecommerce marketing strategies, favoring end users, positively.

So it’s no surprise that online advertisers are calling it the end of an era. Only time will tell just how ecommerce’s reliance on social media ads will fare.

What we can say is that these changes don’t have to tank your sales numbers. Your customer acquisition strategy doesn’t require an overhaul. As long as you pivot with the steps listed here, you’ll be able to stay agile and creative despite it all.

Daniel Doan avatar

Daniel "Banana" Doan is a direct-response copywriter with over a decade of expertise writing words that bridge the gap between what you want to say and what your customers want to read.