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Digital Marketing

The impact of iOS 14 on Facebook marketing (so far)

If you’re unaware, Apple released their iOS 14 update in September 2020, shaking up the digital marketing scene with new privacy measures that made tracking users more difficult. Users now have to opt in to tracking, as opposed to opting out. And, when your phone asks you ‘do you want to be tracked?’, it’s no surprise that 96% of US users have decided against that option.

If you’re unaware, Apple released their iOS 14 update in September 2020, shaking up the digital marketing scene with new privacy measures that made tracking users more difficult. Users now have to opt in to tracking, as opposed to opting out. And, when your phone asks you ‘do you want to be tracked?’, it’s no surprise that 96% of US users have decided against that option.

Facebook & Instagram users may be unaware that being tracked will improve their online experience and tailor their content for them, despite the ethical and moral conversations this may uncover. There are myriad opinions on such a change, but for small business (and marketing professionals) it has become more difficult to retarget website users.

As it is now July 2021, we don’t need to speculate anymore and can say definitively how this change has affected marketing strategies, including:

Higher cost-per-click (CPC)
Shrinking audiences
Attribution issues
Conversion tracking
Higher cost-per-click (CPC)

The most noticeable impact we’ve seen is a significant increase in CPC across Facebook ads. As Facebook’s algorithm now has to work twice as hard to find the right audiences, we’ve found that this process has become increasingly costly.

Having seen this change consistently across a large range of Ad Accounts, we’d hope that Facebook has a masterplan on how they are going to address this. However, until that happens, here are some changes you can make which we’ve seen counter the increase in CPC:

1. Stronger creative

The simplest way to increase clickthrough rate (CTR) is to develop really great creative, especially for cold audiences who will be more interested in content than your brand (to begin with). Once CTR improves, CPC will start to level out with numbers we’re more used to.

2. Reduce audience overlap

Facebook Ads are set-up to pay per impression. That means that in order to find the right audiences, Facebook will trial a wide range of users until they find the right ones for you! With the iOS 14 changes, this process has become more difficult, meaning that Facebook’s algorithm has to work harder to find those audiences.

We don’t want to make them do it twice! If two audiences contain the same users, Facebook will be doubling-up its effort unnecessarily.

3.Keep an eye on placements

We’ve seen a huge difference between CPC in different places. To keep it simple, the more likely users are to be on that placement, the cheaper the CPC. Therefore, sticking to feeds and stories seems to significantly improve the CPC issues we have started to see.

Shrinking audiences

Not only is it now more time consuming for Facebook to find those cold audiences, we have also seen audience sizes changing—some slightly, some drastically, but also some not at all.

The inconsistency here can feel a bit baffling, but overall we’re constantly seeing warnings from Facebook when setting up our audiences:

Despite these messages, and multiple ‘advice’ messages (like trying campaigns that target a landing page view objective), we’re still seeing good results from ads with audience and conversion objectives.

Facebook may be trying to cover its back in case you see a significant drop in performance, however, even if small optimisations must be made to ensure you navigate shrinking audiences, don’t panic, and stick to the plan!

Attribution issues

In response to iOS 14’s release, Facebook switched its default attribution window from 28-day click or 1-day view to 7-day click or 1-day view.

To break it down, 28-day click or 1-day view means that Facebook will attribute an event to all users who have seen your ad in the last 1 day, or clicked your ad in the last 28 days, and then proceed to trigger an event.

7-day click or 1-day view was available prior to this change, but the majority of marketers used 28 day as it allowed for collection of more data. Now that the original default setting is no longer available, moving over to the new attribution window was a no-brainer.

However, this has caused an interesting glitch in Facebook’s reporting dashboard where totals/averages aren’t showing:

The simplest way to rectify this is to add ‘Attribution setting’ to your columns and filter out old campaigns with 28-day view or 1-day click attribution.

To fix this in the long term, the attribution window will need to be changed in all campaigns that are in the account (or if you’re feeling particularly bold, these campaigns could be deleted).

Conversion tracking

In order to track your events, there are three options:

Good: Facebook pixel
Better: 3rd party conversion API
Best: Native conversion API

Facebook’s Pixel is a great start for tracking conversions as it is so easy to install, however, it isn’t quite as reliable as they may want you to believe.

With the iOS 14 changes, and the limited tracking that came with it, the industry saw a major issue with event duplication. When an event is triggered, both the browser and the server would pick that up and it would be logged twice. This results in incorrect data, and will therefore be attributing double the “add to cart” events, double the “checkout” events, etc.

If, like us, you run Facebook rules based on performance in order to manage and scale your budgets, this can be detrimental if not picked up as your budgets may sky-rocket.

Therefore, it may be wise to step up your conversion game by looking into third-party conversion API services. Introducing ‘middle-men’ may seem unnecessary, but improving your data accuracy is vital to being able to track your conversions and retarget effectively. This will only need to be set up once, so after testing this can be a really quick fix for what might be a real issue. The only real down-side is any fees that may come from your chosen third-party service.

Finally, if possible, the best option is direct conversion API integration. Installing a dedicated conversion API through the back-end of your site will track events through the server, as opposed to both server and browser.

What does the future hold?

The next installment of Apple’s operating system is on the horizon, with iOS 15 set to release this autumn.

Alongside some really cool features that are clearly inspired by user behaviour over 2020 (watching synced movies, listening to synced music, and sharing your screen on Facetime), there will be further updates to privacy features.

For Facebook, they will have to adhere to increased visibility with how they are using the permissions granted to them. Facebook has already made a statement on how these changes are affecting small business’ marketing practices, but this is most likely smoke and mirrors for having to change their ways—and I’m sure they won’t be happy about having to be more open, either.

Whatever the future holds, we’d hope that Apple and Facebook agree to a compromise where users are happy with a tailored online experience, without feeling that their data is being taken advantage of.

Think you might need help making the most of Facebook Advertising with the iOS 14 updates? Send us a message and maybe bring Cake into the mix.

Headshot of Sam Bacon

Sam Bacon

Performance Marketing Executive

Working with Cake has been an absolute pleasure. Based on our initial conversation it was clear that they were exactly who and what we needed to evolve our business. The foundations that Cake have created have given us the opportunity to become the number 1 brand in our category starting with D2C. I cannot wait to grow this business with them and gain the benefit of their expertise!

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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.