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Digital Marketing

How Will The iOS14 Update Affect Your Facebook Ad Account?

Halfway through 2020, amongst the storm of regular bad news, you may or may not have seen an announcement from Apple – The new iOS14 update…

Apple has announced big changes to data tracking permissions on all apps that are being used on an iOS14 device. These changes are set to negatively impact the way advertisers are able to target this audience, in order to protect the user. To put into perspective how big this audience is, a recent survey showed that 45.3% of smartphone users in the U.S have an iPhone. If you were to check the device usage in your Google Analytics account over the last year and filtered by “iPhone”, it is likely you will see a higher percentage of users than the 45%, as we are seeing across our client’s Shopify stores.

So, what does this mean for your business and performance strategy?

How will the iOS14 update impact Facebook advertisers?

To make a very long story short, this update is very likely to leave a sizeable gap in your retargeting strategy. I use the term ‘very likely’ because, much like a Google algorithm update, no-one knows how damaging this will actually be, to their business. To put some context into that statement, Facebook themselves are very open about the fact they do not want this to happen and have said there is no direct solution to prevent loss in data tracking. On top of this, Facebook is not sure how bad this will be, only time and learning will be able to tell. Apple has made it clear that if an app does not comply with the new privacy policy rules that they have set, Apple will not hesitate to remove you from the Apple store. 

This has left everyone involved with using Facebook Ads for business in a very strange situation. There is no step by step guide on how to reduce the impact of this update; however, this does leave every business in the same boat. 

Depending on how you execute your Facebook ad strategy will, of course, dictate how you will be impacted by the update. If you are using a marketing funnel structure, as we do here at Digital Cake, this is how you will be impacted. 

At the top of the funnel, it is very unlikely they much will change for the short/medium term, especially if your lookalike audiences are being sourced by a rich data set. However, in the long term, if you are using pixel data based on an event, then logically, this will include less and fewer iPhone users as time goes on. However, there will be ways around this, depending on what CMS and apps you use to collect customer data.

Now, as we move onto the rest of the funnel, this is where as an advertiser, we will see a difference. The new data policy will mean that Facebook will no longer be able to track events like we previously have been able to. For example, if a user that is using an iOS14 device and has opted out of the data-sharing setting, then the Facebook Pixel will not be able to track any events, including add to carts or purchases. 

If we can’t track add to carts or purchasers, we won’t be able to retarget those users using the Facebook Pixel, through a separate campaign like you would in a funnel strategy. And of course, return on ad spend is typically improved as you look down the funnel of an account. Without being able to retarget a significant number of users, does this mean you should expect a drop in performance? We will cover this question further through the article. Before then, you should be aware of how this is going to impact the user, themselves. 

How will the iOS14 update impact the user?

In one of Facebook’s recent webinars where they addressed the impact of this update and how they plan to react to it, an interesting point was made. If the user did not acknowledge or appreciate the fact that they were being retargeted with an ad, due to their actions. Then these retargeting campaigns would not work? This is a valid point, but Apple has said that it is to protect the user’s data. Over the last few years, a lot of data policy changes have been made. Which have been very beneficial to everyone, such as GDPR. However, this update is impacting non-personal data, such as an add to cart.  

This does beg the question of what is Apple’s real motive behind this update. We aren’t into speculating, but it does make you think. 

The user will now be given the option to opt-in or opt-out to the data-sharing settings by a prompt when entering a new app on their device. For those that have moved over to iOS14, you will have been given this prompt after starting the Facebook app following the update. However. if the user chooses to opt-out, then this will largely impact the way they can be targeted, moving forward. 

Is there a silver lining to the iOS14 update?

There are different ways to look at this update. Of course, the performance marketing industry could do without it. But, now that it is here, it will separate the ‘strong’ from the ‘weak’. By this I mean, every business will need to change their retargeting strategy to accommodate for this change. The ones that don’t, or join the party late, will be at a disadvantage to those that did prepare for this. Which could be seen as a silver lining, if you have a reactive marketing team/agency. 

This update will be a learning curve for everyone, as we all test different ways to make up for this loss in data. It will force us to reevaluate our marketing strategies across all channels and this may not be a bad thing for both the business and their customers as we enter the start of a new year and leave a very challenging year of uncertainty behind us. 

What should you expect from your Facebook ad performance now?

As mentioned earlier in this article, Facebook themselves are not sure how this will impact business as it is too early to see a significant trend. However, in a webinar with Facebook, they did mention that they expect to have enough data to make a change by the end of 2021, which was surprising as that is a long way away.

Our thoughts at Digital Cake are that iPhone users are going to be at a disadvantage when targeting a new audience based on interests. As time goes on, Facebook’s A. I (artificial intelligence) will see the iOS14 audience as low performing because it won’t be able to track events from their session. Even if the user is actually engaging with the website from the ad. Does this mean that if you are using the “Engaged Shopper” behaviour targeting in your campaigns, that the % of iPhone users will drop over time? We hope that Facebook stays open with the industry of how they plan to adapt their A.I. to accommodate for this change so that we can continue to target our ads to such a large audience.

How to reduce the risk of losing quality data?

This is the golden question that Facebook can’t even answer. However, the performance marketing team at Digital Cake have been looking into how we will ensure our clients can benefit from this update by altering the marketing strategies across all channels. 

A big focus moving forward will be enticing users to subscribe to the mailing list so that you can use your chosen email marketing app to integrate with Facebook. As a Shopify e-commerce agency, we favour using Klaviyo. This app allows us to create endless numbers of customer segments, that can then integrate with Facebook. Once connected to Facebook, you can target these segments in a campaign. An example of this would be, if a user that is subscribed to the mailing list, has added to cart but not purchasers, they can then be retargeted using this integration. As opposed to the normal way of using Facebook’s pixel. 

We understand that this update can seem daunting and truth be told, it is defiantly a curveball that will negatively impact a lot of businesses. This is why Facebook is so openly against Apple doing this. However, it does force you to reaccess the way your business is retargeting engaged users back to the website and this is likely to really benefit those businesses that want to be reactive to change. 

Are you looking to improve the performance of your business’s ads on Facebook? We understand the impact the iOS 14 update may have on your strategy and ad performance and can help you to mitigate any issues you may be facing. Get in touch or take a look at our services for more information.

Chris Thomas


Chris Thomas

CEO & Founder

Chris has been at the forefront of eCommerce and a pioneer of online retailing since the early 00s. A 5-time Drapers Award winner, Chris has extensive experience in developing fashion brands online.

Chris founded Cake in 2016. Based in Birmingham, with offices nationwide, Cake specialises in helping fashion brands understand their market online and then helps to develop appropriate strategical direction to achieve their plan, all backed by his 20 years of operating in the retail market.