In light of growing concerns around consumer privacy in big tech, Apple is releasing an iOS 14 update in the spring that will come with some significant changes to permissions for tracking Apple users across websites, devices, and apps. Specifically, iOS 14 users will have to opt in to allow apps like Facebook to track them across websites and apps owned by Facebook advertisers.
It should be noted that Facebook is not expecting a large percentage of its users to opt in to this kind of tracking. Accounts that advertise their mobile apps will definitely be affected, as well as any that use web conversion events from a Facebook pixel.
How to prepare for the iOS 14 update
To prepare for these changes, we’d recommend Facebook advertisers do the following two things:
- Verify your website’s domain with Facebook. This will help you avoid any interruption in conversion tracking.
- Work with your team to prioritize the conversion events most important to your business. Once a domain has been verified, Facebook will limit the domain to eight conversion events, which Facebook will continue to track. Ad sets optimized for an event that is not one of the eight active conversion events will be turned off. Facebook Events Manager will allow you to order your conversion events in order of importance.
If an iOS 14 user were to opt out of tracking, and then go on to complete a conversion, only the highest ranking conversion that occurs after that click will be counted. So, if the user triggered a page view, add-to-cart, and purchase event, only a purchase event would be recorded, as it’s the highest ranking event.
This means that if a user does not make it through one of your eight conversion events after one click, then nothing will be reported. This also means tracking something like an abandoned cart may not be possible, or at the very least will be more difficult. For this reason, Facebook is recommending that conversion events be set up to catch multiple conversions along your sales funnel.
Consequences for Facebook campaigns and audiences
All accounts will be affected in the following ways as users opt out of tracking and ad sets are given less data to optimize delivery and performance:
- With less data, ad sets will likely have a harder time performing efficiently.
- Ad sets may take longer to exit the learning phase, due to having fewer events to optimize with.
- Retargeting campaigns may be less effective with fewer people to target and less data to optimize delivery of the ad sets.
- Lookalike generation may be less effective, as there will be fewer people to use as a seed audience (as well as less data on what makes the seed audience unique).
- Custom audiences based on app data or Facebook pixel conversion data will be smaller. Note: It is not clear at this time whether or not someone who opts out of tracking will still be targetable using a custom audience.
Consequences for Facebook reporting
As for reporting, there will be repercussions here as well, most of which have to do with the immediacy and accuracy of reporting:
- Reporting for conversions will be less accurate and may include a statistical component to account for how iOS 14 users might have converted (which will be noted if used).
- Reporting for some conversion events will no longer be in real time and may be delayed for up to three days due to new restrictions.
- Breakdowns of ad sets by demographic, location, and ad placement will no longer be available to marketers, limiting the insights they have into delivery and performance.
- Attribution windows will now be limited to seven-day click, one-day view windows. Marketers who rely on conversion reporting for products with longer sales cycles will see fewer conversions as Facebook can no longer count conversions as far as 28 days out.
- As discussed above, Facebook will now limit marketers to tracking just eight conversion events for each pixel.
There’s no doubt that these changes will have noticeable consequences for Facebook advertisers across the board. Those who take the time to prepare now will be able to avoid a breakdown in conversion reporting and mitigate fluctuations in campaign performance. But in the long run, creativity is going to be the real key. Marketers will need to find alternative solutions to the Facebook pixel — solutions that protect consumers’ privacy while allowing ads to be as relevant, useful, and timely as they’ve come to expect.