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Keeping Up With Facebook: What Apple’s iOS 14.5 Update Means for Retailers Advertising on Facebook

Updated on 4/28/2021

Apple recently announced the framework for the AppTrackingTransparency (ATT) feature, which began rolling out to all iOS users beginning April 26, 2021. The latest update requires developers to ask for permission to gather data and track iPhone and iPad users across mobile apps and websites.

The iOS 14.5 update will send users a push notification prompting them to allow apps like the Facebook family of apps to track activity. This “opt-in” process goes against the grain of past iOS updates, in which iOS users would have to open their privacy settings and opt out of data tracking.

iOS 14.5 will roll out to the general public beginning the week of April 26, 2021. The update will give iPhone and iPad users a clear, seamless way to opt out of data tracking, which may have major implications for retailers using Facebook advertising.

Source: Facebook

According to statista, over 98% of active Facebook users accessed the website via any kind of mobile phone in January 2021. Consider the number of iOS users in this audience of roughly 2.8 billion. Apple’s latest privacy update will give these users a more noticeable way to opt out of data tracking, which could affect the efficacy of Facebook ads and retail marketers’ targeting methods.

Check out our Keeping Up With Google article on how Apple’s iOS 14.5 update will impact retail marketers across Google Ads.

In this installment of Keeping Up With Facebook—a series that highlights the latest news and updates across Facebook Advertising—we have compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions on the ATT update and its impact on Facebook advertising. Additionally, please consult the resources below for the most up-to-date information on iOS 14.5 and its implications for Facebook advertisers.

In layman’s terms, what is Apple releasing?

The most important update for advertisers is the new AppTrackingTransparency (ATT) feature. Developers are now required to ask for user permission to track activity across apps and websites. This will affect how advertisers target ads to specific users, especially on audience-centric advertising platforms like Facebook and Google.

Which channels will the iOS 14.5 update impact the most?

While Google advertisers will face ad targeting challenges, Facebook and Instagram advertisers will likely experience the most impact. This is due to Facebook’s reliance on user-level data for targeting.

When will the ATT update go into effect?

Apple announced that iOS 14.5, which will feature the ATT update, will be released to the general public the week of April 26, 2021.

How is Facebook reacting to the change?

Facebook has publicly disagreed with Apple’s privacy changes. However, it has agreed to show the ATT prompt.

To further help iOS users, Facebook will show its own prompt screen along with Apple’s. This prompt will offer more information on how the company uses personalized ads. Accepting the Facebook and Instagram prompts will allow Facebook to show ads that are more relevant to users. Facebook states that agreeing to these prompts doesn’t mean it will collect new types of data from iOS users.

As a retailer advertising on Facebook, how will the iOS 14.5 update affect my current Facebook ads?

We at Sidecar, as well as Facebook, are continuing to understand the full scope of the impact. Much of the impact will depend on how many users opt out of tracking. That said, a few areas to monitor once iOS 14.5 is released include:

  • Audience size – If many users opt out of data tracking, retargeting audiences will shrink, prospecting targeting will be less granular, and Facebook’s overall algorithm could become weaker.
  • Conversion events – Facebook’s pixel may only optimize for a maximum of eight conversion events for each domain.
  • Reporting – The update will not support real-time reporting, so reporting may be delayed up to three days. 
  • Conversion modeling – Facebook may use statistical modeling to account for conversions from iOS 14.5 users.
  • Demographic insight – Granular breakdowns like age, gender, region, and placement may not be supported.

In addition, related to the potential changes, it is important to be aware that Facebook recently changed the default attribution model. As of Jan. 19, the previous model of 28-day click + 1-day view is now a 7-day click + 1-day view.

Does this mean Facebook users won’t get my Facebook ads at all on their iPhone or iPad?

No. Your ads will still be visible on Facebook and Google, however your targeting capabilities may be limited.

Users who allow tracking permission will continue to receive targeted ads based on their app and website activity. Those who choose not to participate will not receive catered ads based on their activity. Your ads will still show to users who opt in to data tracking

Do app developers have control over what the pop-up says?

Developers can customize the text within the space limitations of the pop-up.

Will Facebook retargeting campaigns be impacted by the iOS 14.5 update? 

It’s likely that retargeting campaigns will be affected by the iOS 14.5 update. Facebook states that several immediate changes will occur to app campaigns, including:

  • Inability to create Mobile App install campaigns targeting users on iOS 14.5 devices if advertisers do not support Apple’s SKAdNetwork (SKAN) API through their business tool integration. Existing campaigns will pause on iOS 14.5 devices.
  • Active iOS 14.5 App Event Optimization (AEO) and Value Optimization (VO) campaigns will trigger a 72-hour reset period to help minimize incorrect attribution.

How will reporting be impacted?

According to Facebook, the following reporting changes will go into effect with iOS 14.5:

  • 1-day click-through opt-out data will be modeled
  • 7-day click-through and 1-day view-through attribution settings will no longer include iOS 14.5 opted-out events
  • Action and demographic breakdowns will be deprecated for offsite events
  • Attribution setting default will change to 7-day click-through for newly created ad sets and web event campaigns
  • 28-day click-through, 7-day view-through, 28-day view-through attribution settings will be fully deprecated along with the Comparing Windows feature
  • Attribution methodology will shift from Impression Time to Conversion Time
  • iOS 14.5+ mobile app install campaigns will use SKAN for attribution

What is SKAN?

SKAN stands for the SKADNetwork. It is Apple’s measurement method that allows app developers to track results like clicks, impressions, and app installs on iOS apps. User- and device-level data is currently unavailable in SKAN, which may limit reporting insights.

How will the ATT and iOS 14.5 update impact Sidecar?

We are remaining in close communication as always with our partners at Facebook, as well as Google and Amazon, to understand how they are reacting to the change. As they continue to develop recommendations and updates to their platforms, we are understanding those changes and providing guidance to our customers to help them prepare for and measure the impact of Apple’s privacy update.

We are also exploring all possibilities for how the update may impact our technology solutions. Despite this, and many other changes to the advertising market over the years, our commitment remains the same. Our goal is to meet our customers’ needs and maintain campaign performance. We, with our customers, will adapt as needed to drive success in today’s retail advertising market.

Should I expect Apple to expand ATT to Mac OS?

It’s plausible that Apple will eventually extend ATT to Mac OS.

Should I stop advertising on Facebook?

No. Facebook’s goal is to ensure a thriving advertising environment on its platform. Apple’s privacy changes are part of an evolution in the advertising market, in which all players involved are adapting to operate within a new normal. It’s important to understand what’s changing and then determine how to adapt, not simply stop, your advertising efforts.

What can I do to prepare for and manage the change?

Facebook has told advertisers to expect a gradual adoption of iOS 14.5. iOS users will likely update their devices over several weeks, so there won’t be an immediate impact to iOS event reporting once Apple enforces the ATT prompt.

We recommend implementing three tasks to prepare for the privacy update on iOS 14.5:

  • Turn on automatic advanced matching. This affects the custom audience size and improves the importance of your ads and campaigns. It can also help you measure the efficacy of your ad campaigns by capturing more attributed conversions and data from the people who matter. (This is a best practice that Sidecar recommends always to our customers.)
  • Verify your domain. Domain verification establishes which Business Manager account has the authority to configure and prioritize the eight available conversion events for a given domain. You can verify your domain in your Facebook Business Manager account.
  • Update Facebook’s SDK for iOS 14 version 8.1. This will continue to deliver personalized ads to iOS 14 users. Additionally, retail marketers will continue to receive app conversion events reporting. You’ll need to be an app administrator to update the Facebook SDK.

Be advised that iOS 14.5 devices will be opted-out by default. Once a user updates to iOS 14.5 and opens the Facebook or Instagram app, they will automatically opt out of activity tracking.

Retail advertisers should also be prepared to experience fluctuations in performance for several weeks following the release of iOS 14.5. As more users adopt iOS 14.5, both Facebook and Sidecar will gain a better understanding of its impact and learn how best to operate moving forward. 

Facebook Advertising Resources

How Apple’s iOS 14 Release May Affect Your Ads
Preparing for Apple’s App Store Data Disclosure Requirements
Preparing our partners for iOS 14: Mobile Web Advertising
Preparing our Partners for iOS 14: Impacts to App Advertisers and Developers
Facebook Domain Verification
About Facebook Domain Verification in Business Manager
Facebook Advanced Matching
About Aggregated Event Measurement
Recent Attribution Changes
Conversions API
Partner Integrations for Conversions API
Conversions API Guided Setup
Using Conversions API
Create Access Token

We will continue to update this post with new information and recommendations.

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