Every so often, Apple releases a new iOS update and developers, marketers, and business owners have to figure out how it will fit into their digital strategies. It is no secret that Apple and Facebook have been feuding over privacy issues and the iOS 14.5 update is the latest step in the game. For businesses who use the Facebook Pixel to manage event tracking, this latest change could present a challenge.
HOW FACEBOOK TRACKING HAS TRADITIONALLY WORKED
Marketers and developers have been tracking user actions for a long time. This has helped to serve a more personalized (and more persuasive) selection of ads to users. Many marketers take advantage of the Facebook targeting tools to serve customers with more relevant ads.
Conventionally, Facebook and other online advertising platforms have gathered data about users’ behaviors using the Facebook Pixel (for web tracking) and Facebook SDK (for mobile tracking). These two client-side systems send information about user actions back to Facebook directly from the user’s browser. Such actions, or “events,” can include viewing certain content, adding products to shopping carts, making purchases, and a variety of other commercial activities.
That data is then used by Facebook and marketers on the platform to better target consumers with relevant ads. Often, it is used to retarget ads for products that users have previously viewed. If you’ve ever looked at a product page then suddenly received lots of ads about that product, you are familiar with this system.
Similarly, the data can be used to measure the efficacy of ads. By associating later actions with ad views, marketers can determine if they have effectively caused the desired behavior. Without this individual tracking data, marketers would largely be in the dark about whether their campaigns are effective except at the highest level and simplest metrics.
Modern advertising and a lot of commerce are fueled by the data collected by Facebook. Nearly all marketers using the Facebook Ads Manager are benefitting from these data collection methods. So, any changes to how that data can be collected can have big impacts.
HOW THE APPLE IOS 14.5 UPDATE IMPACTS TRACKING
iOS 14 has brought about a variety of new features and changes. However, the most impactful for marketers are the changes to Facebook’s tracking. Most specifically, Apple iOS 14.5 tracking now requires users to approve app access to their advertising IDs, the feature used to power the Facebook SDK on iOS devices.
The previous major version of iOS, version 13, brought similar changes to location tracking. These prompts reduced opt-in rates for location tracking by half on average. The Apple iOS 14.5 tracking changes are likely to bring about a similar drop in advertising ID access.
Using the conventional system for tracking mobile user activity, Facebook marketers would be blind to the efficacy of their campaigns on about half of their iPhone and iPad audience. That is a really serious drop in data access.
It is also important to note that mobile traffic accounts for a large portion of all online activity today. Many consumers are using their mobile devices as their primary screens. So, it is important for marketers to have a way to effectively access usage data for iPhones and iPads.
HOW THE FACEBOOK CONVERSIONS API CAN HELP
The good news is that Facebook already has a solution, although it may require some changes to your website and app. The Facebook Conversions API is an updated version of a tool that has been around for a while, the Facebook Server-Side API.
This API changes the model for how users are tracked for Facebook Ads. Rather than collecting data via a client-side tracker (i.e. on the browser), the API does everything on your server. Therefore, you can track various user events without having to rely on the iOS advertising ID. So, even if users deny access at the app level, you can still gather useful analytics.
There are limitations to what can be tracked client-side. However, the Facebook Conversion API is more advanced than many similar systems and is an increasing point of focus for the social media giant. These are some of the events that you can track and associate with ad views:
- Affiliate payments
- Email subscriptions
- Form submissions
- Phone calls
- Subscription changes
The API does more than just overcome Apple iOS 14.5 tracking limitations. It can also help with tracking failures due to bad connections, long page load times and ad-blocking software.
Furthermore, the Facebook Conversions API approach can be used outside of your website and app. It can be integrated with other business systems so that you can track events such as in-person purchases, and inbound phone calls.
WHAT MARKETERS NEED TO CONSIDER MOVING FORWARD
Currently, marketers can still get useful information from the Facebook Pixel in browsers and the Facebook SDK on mobile devices. However, it is likely that opt-in rates on iOS devices will fall significantly with this update. Therefore, it is almost essential to implement the Facebook Conversions API alongside the client-side tracking methods to ensure a fairly comprehensive data set. It is important to ensure that you are not double-tracking activities; however, Facebook designed the systems to work together.
Moving forward, it is almost certain that Apple will continue to crack down on how its users can be tracked. For marketers, it is important to stay abreast of all the latest changes and to adjust strategies accordingly.
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