What Does the iOS 14.5 Update Mean For Marketers?

If you’ve been keeping a finger on the pulse of the digital marketing space over the past few months, you’ve likely heard whispers about Apple’s latest iOS update.

In fact, you’ve probably heard quite a bit more than whispers — this new release has caused quite a stir in the marketing and tech world, and it’s even prompted Facebook to run a months-long campaign fighting against the proposed update.

Well, it’s a few months after the initial announcement, and iOS 14.5 is finally here. So, has iOS 14.5 brought about the marketing apocalypse that Facebook said it will? Or is this a bunch of media hype leading up to business as usual?

Let’s find out.

What’s New in iOS 14.5?

The new iOS 14.5 update comes with a bunch of features, like the ability to unlock your iPhone with your Apple Watch, several new emojis, and different voices for Siri.

But that’s not what’s caused all the hubbub. The change that’s sent shockwaves through the marketing world is that Apple is adopting an opt-in model for data tracking.

Currently, iOS apps use what’s called an Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) to track user actions across apps and devices. This data is then used by advertisers to provide personalized ads to those users.

Since the birth of the IDFA, users could configure their privacy settings and what apps can collect data in their device settings. However, they had to actively seek these settings out, leading most people to leave them in the default position, which allowed for data collection.

But that changed with iOS 14.5. Now, every time a user downloads a new app, they will receive a pop-up asking whether they want to allow the app to collect their data or not. This new feature is called App Tracking Transparency.

Naturally, it’s expected that for most people, the answer will be a hard no — very few people are going to willingly consent to be tracked.

This is a big win for privacy advocates, but it has the potential to harm advertisers and businesses. The latter is the focus of Facebook’s Speak Up For Small Business campaign, which argues that these changes will severely hurt small businesses during what’s already a very tough time economically. However, Facebook’s sympathetic concerns should be taken with a grain of salt as it’s very clear that iOS 14.5 will be a major blow to its business model — it’s less clear how it will end up affecting small businesses.

Additionally, real-time reporting is no more. Data can now be delayed by up to three days.

At first glance, these may seem like pretty minor changes, but they can have some pretty profound and far-reaching effects on how advertising is conducted.

How Will iOS 14.5 Affect Marketers?

America runs on Dunkin’, but digital marketing runs on data.

By making it easier than ever for iOS users to opt-out of data tracking, it’s more than likely that the data streams digital marketers rely on will severely dry up.

In fact, the number of users that allow tracking has dropped from approximately 70% down to just 5% in the US. Worldwide, opt-in rates are a little higher at 13% as of May 7, 2021.

That’s an astounding drop. To compensate, many advertisers and marketers are going to need to drastically change their advertising strategies.

Of course, such a massive change will lead to other indirect effects. Advertising platforms, like Facebook, will begin implementing changes that align with Apple’s new requirements.

For example, Facebook Pixels will now only track a maximum of eight conversion events per domain. This is part of a major overhaul that Facebook is giving its ads platform in response to the new update.

Other major platforms, like Google, LinkedIn, etc., will also likely start implementing changes to their advertising policies, but Facebook has been the most forward and vocal of all.

How Can Marketers Mitigate the Effects of iOS 14.5?

It’s important to remember that the recent update only affects iOS users. While the update will indirectly cause some changes in other platforms, Android and web experiences are less implicated.

Because of this, it’s a good idea to segment your iOS and Android users into different groups. This way, you won’t have to apply the same strategies to both segments.

If you run Facebook ads, you’ll want to start implementing changes to your campaigns that take Facebook’s changes into account.

You can start by prioritizing the 8 conversion events that are most valuable to you. Facebook will do this for you automatically, but you can set your own preferences as well.

Next, make sure your domain is verified by Facebook. Then, enable Value Optimization (VO) and update your Facebook SDK to version 8.1 or higher.

Outside of that, marketers may want to consider putting a greater emphasis on organic content than they did before.

Key Takeaways: iOS 14.5

The recent iOS update has marketers and business owners understandably nervous. Unfortunately, it’s too early to accurately gauge the effects and what it all means for business.

What we can say for sure is that marketers will have a more difficult time procuring data. If the recent report that only 5% of iOS users are opting into tracking is to be believed, then businesses are going to need to come up with some creative solutions to this problem.

However, all is not lost. There are still many strategies that won’t be affected in the slightest. While this is being sorted out, marketers may want to refocus their attention on creating great organic content, running influencer campaigns, and redirecting energy towards SEO and search engine marketing.

For now, marketers will need to keep an eye on this evolving situation. It seems that this isn’t going to be business as usual, but times of great change can also turn into times of great opportunity.