Last updated: March 12, 2022 Face the music: Apple privacy changes hit e-commerce marketing

Face the music: Apple privacy changes hit e-commerce marketing


The day marketers have dreaded for months is almost here. Next week, Apple plans to release iOS 14.5, rolling out new privacy changes that could have profound ramifications for brands that rely on mobile Facebook ads.

Apple’s new AppTrackingTransparency (ATT) framework requires all apps to ask for permission for tracking. Users will see a pop up on their device asking if they allow an app or website to track their activity. The assumption is that most iPhone and iPad users will not opt into tracking.

This privacy prompt may be good for consumers, but for brands that depend on apps like Facebook’s audience tracking to reach customers, it’s ominous. Social selling is huge for brands today, reportedly generating more than 50% of revenue across more than a dozen industries. Facebook claims more than 7 million active advertisers.

Apple privacy changes could be especially disastrous for small and midsize e-commerce companies, who rely on Facebook pixel to personalize their mobile ads. Without the ability to optimize ads and reach customers who are truly interested in their products and services, it could be much harder for them to compete with big brands.

Always on the leading-edge of innovation, Apple is not backing down, despite blowback from major commerce players.

Apple privacy changes: The Facebook fallout

Brands large and small have used Apple’s Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) to track consumer behavior and understand their interests and preferences.

With Apple’s privacy changes, any app that wants to access the unique device ID will have to get explicit permission from the user.

Tracking has allowed marketers to cost-effectively zero in on specific consumers on Facebook and customize ads for the most success. Without access to IDFA, marketers will have a limited view of the consumer, restricting their ability to personalize ads.

Facebook has waged a public battle with Apple over its privacy changes since they were announced last summer, even taking out full-page ads in national newspapers. The social media giant claims the iOS privacy prompt will damage small businesses and argues that it’s self-serving.

Apple has punched back, of course. Apple CEO Tim Cook lobbed veiled criticism of Facebook’s advertising model and last week told a Canadian newspaper that the company isn’t against digital marketing, but reiterated Apple’s privacy stance.

Facebook says its testing has shown a more than 50% drop in Audience Network publisher revenue when personalization was removed from mobile app install ad campaigns.

A survey of smartphone users conducted earlier this year showed that more than 60% of consumers will not allow apps to track them in iOS. That’s estimated to lower ad personalization by 44% globally.

Apple’s privacy changes force Facebook advertisers to adapt

Facebook has told its business partners that it’s responding to Apple’s new privacy policy with Aggregated Event Measurement, which will support measurement of web events from iOS 14 users.

“It is designed to help you measure campaign performance in a way that’s consistent with consumer’s decisions about their data,” Facebook said.

The company’s guidance outlines a number of steps advertisers need to take, including:

  1. Domain verification to avoid disruption in the ability to configure conversion events. Facebook says this is critical for businesses with pixels used by multiple business managers or personal ad accounts.

  2. Plan for eight conversion events per domain

  3. Prepare for attribution window changes (deprecation of 28-day click-through, 28-day view-through, and 7-day view-through windows)

Waiting, watching, branching out

Hopefully most marketers have are already prepared, or are preparing for Apple’s privacy changes by following Facebook’s guidance and adjusting their efforts as we watch how Apple’s privacy changes play out.

Whether this ends up being a watershed for digital marketing remains to be seen. Without a doubt, Apple’s alternative ad tracker, SKADNetwork, will become something for marketers to consider despite its limitations. Companies can also investigate other ways to digitally market themselves, including other platforms that offer ad management.

Could good old email make a comeback and rise from the ashes? We shall see.

Think it’s time to dig into privacy and data? We can help and we’re only few clicks away!

What are the data privacy issues keeping execs awake at night?
We’ve got them – and the solutions – HERE.

Share this:
Marcia Savage

Subscribe to our newsletter for the most up-to-date e-commerce insights.

Search by Topic beginning with