Apple’s iOS update: How will this affect my e-commerce business?

Mitchell Tessier
Mitchell Tessier
young woman on phone

You may have heard rumblings regarding Apple’s iOS 14.4 update, but its impact as it relates to your e-commerce advertising may only just be coming to light. Privacy tweaks are nothing new in the tech industry, so why are giants like Facebook up in arms about the imminent slew of changes? 

The update has brought significant changes; perhaps most notably, it includes a pivotal change in how Apple addresses and monitors personal privacy. Apple’s new feature zooms in on one aspect of data collection called web tracking. Dubbed App Tracking Transparency, the update now allows users to opt-out of tracking across other companies’ apps and websites. 

So what does this mean for e-commerce? 

With the iOS 14 update, users are given the option to opt-out of sharing their data every time they download an app. This means advertisers who rely on this data cannot easily target (or exclude) users like before. Audience sizes have shrunk on Facebook. The Facebook pixel is no longer able to store information about these opted-out users for tracking purposes. As well, Facebook reporting won’t include off-platform (e.g. website events) actions from users who have opted-out, but rather only track a small number of objectives because of pixel restrictions, so in-platform reporting is less reliable.

"There’s a lot less information relevant to advertisers in terms of understanding how consumers are behaving online."

- Michael Cronin, founder fates.ai & Acquire Agency

Many advertisers believe this new update is inherently at odds with most brands’ current business model, particularly as it limits targeting, measuring, and optimizing online ads. For products in which there may be a long path to purchase, businesses will have a much harder time attributing revenue to specific advertising, like Facebook ads. “You’re going to have a lot less data being passed through to Facebook, meaning there’s a lot less information relevant to advertisers in terms of understanding how consumers are behaving online, particularly with regards to attribution,” explains Michael Cronin, founder of fates.ai and Acquire Agency.

Not sure what this means for your business? Here are the nuts and bolts of what you need to know to stay competitive despite the iOS updates as they relate to Facebook advertising. 

Conversion lift update

For those using self-serve conversion lift to measure ads against each other, Facebook Ads will no longer be able to measure all app events from iOS 14 users. The self-serve conversion lift test creation for ad sources that include iOS 14 will now be limited; holdout tests in the Experiments tool are no longer available.

Attribution setting changes

Facebook has replaced the account-level attribution window with a new attribution setting that will be accessible during campaign creation at the ad set level. The setting defaults to a 7-day and 1-day click attribution view, meaning a potential decrease in the number of reported conversions. “Businesses, where Facebook is the number one place they advertise, should expect a significant drop in attributable revenue in the short term”, says Michael. To prepare for these attribution window changes, we suggest referring to the Attribution Setting feature in Ads Manager to monitor performance across all existing windows.

Set up and test event flows

Within the ad creation flow, app advertisers can set up and test SKAdNetwork-based app install campaigns in Facebook Ads Manager or via API. For web events, advertisers will also be able to view, edit, and prioritize the 8 conversion events allowed for a given domain. 

An apt undertaking here is to become very familiar with Facebook’s Marketing API and Ad Insights API, and all the data that can be accessed from there. You won’t need to make changes to the pixel or Conversions API implementation since event confirmation is done in Events Manager. 

How to navigate the Apple iOS release

If you currently use web events for Facebook advertising, you should first verify your domain within Facebook Business Manager. Next, prioritize the eight most important conversion events you want to track through your pixel. 

Set up the conversion API between Facebook and your marketing data (i.e. website events, offline conversions, CRM) to help Facebook discover and direct ads towards its users. Be sure to use additional data sources like conversion API and Google Analytics instead of just in-platform results on Facebook to draw conclusions on targeting, measuring, and how you should optimize your campaigns.

Considering these changes, it’s worth strengthening remarketing strategies, as only a small percentage of users convert the first time they interact with your business. Look at strengthening nurturing prospects' post-ad experiences through additional touchpoints like email or SMS

Think about other ways to win long term, like shifting to a subscription model to increase customer retention. Spend time on bottom-of-the-funnel tactics and retargeting, to re-engage with existing customers for repeat purchases that can increase the length of customer lifetime value (LTV). Identify alternative marketing tactics that make sense for your company, whether that be direct mail campaigns, email marketing, or using organic content like newsletters that sell more “indirectly”. Look to alternative platforms to advertise like LinkedIn, Pinterest, Reddit, or even podcasts to advertise and get the word out about your business.

For more resources on navigating Apple iOS 14 release, visit:

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