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What Does Apple’s New iOS Privacy Update Mean for Marketers?

Apple's new iOS 14.5 update and app tracking transparency feature will change the way marketers can access and use customer data.

For months, Marketers have been hungrily following the ongoing conversation around the decline of third-party cookies and the rise in data privacy legislation and other changes to technology designed to protect customer information. Last year, both Google and Apple announced that they’d be phasing out third-party cookies in the popular Chrome and Safari browsers to enhance user privacy. Apple has recently made another move that will greatly  impact the way marketers and advertisers treat data when they unveiled the latest iPhone update, iOS 14.5 in April 2021.  

The iOS 14.5 update contained a host of new features, including the much-anticipated App Tracking Transparency, a change designed to give iPhone users greater control and visibility into how their data is used and shared. With the App Tracking Transparency feature, Apple now presents information about how a user's data is being used across all of their apps, including major social media sites like Facebook. Companies that want to track users have to ask permission using a prompt, which looks like this:

This new development reflects a growing skepticism and distrust among consumers about how brands leverage their data. Findings indicate that a whopping 96% of users are opting out of allowing apps to track their activity. Selecting this option removes the ability for these companies to use a user’s data to target digital ads and impacts how marketers run paid advertising campaigns.

How Marketers Can Embrace a Cookieless World with a CDP 

The change in Apple’s privacy standards and ability to track third-party cookies is a blow to businesses that profit from selling third-party data to advertisers. However, the move also opens up new opportunities for brands to invest more in a first-party data strategy that grants them more control over their data and could help foster trust among their customers. 

In response to the new iOS 14 update and introduction of App Tracking Transparency, brands are now pivoting to a first-party data model and redistributing their advertising budget to other channels and tactics to reach iOS users. One major factor driving the adoption of a first-party data strategy is the advent of the customer data platform (CDP).

Through unified customer databases, Acquia CDP provides brands a reliable central source of customer data that can be leveraged for multichannel campaigns, including email, SMS, push notifications and even offline channels and events. For example, athletic apparel brand lululemon used a CDP to unify millions of data points across web, wearable devices and in-store events to understand individual customer preferences. 

Tackling Apple’s New Privacy Policies with Data Transparency 

Alongside the changes to how customer behaviour is tracked and used, Apple has announced additional privacy-focused updates that will be included in the new iCloud and iOS 15 operating system expected September 2021:

Mail Privacy Protection: This feature will allow Apple users to block tracking pixels including the ones used to detect email open events. 

We can expect that email open data will become less reliable or even meaningless for Apple Mail users, signalling the potential demise of open rate as a legitimate metric if other operators follow suit. Marketers should look to other more robust metrics such as click rates, conversions and purchases to measure the performance of campaigns and consider using ‘hold-outs’ or control cells to better track program and channel attribution. Acquia CDP customers have a head start in this with access to a reliable central source of online and offline customer data and tools to easily report on campaign attribution and track customer cohorts over time. 

Email marketers will also need to re-think automated journey flows and deliverability management now that excluding non-openers won’t be a reliable way of ensuring an engaged audience. Additionally, tactics such as re-sends to non-openers and relying on open rate as a measure in A/B testing will no longer be effective. 

Hide My Email: This will allow Apple users to create an email alias to disguise their real email addresses when signing up for newsletters or creating an account on a website or app. 

We don't know yet how much adoption this feature will have, but those that use it are effectively “in disguise,” meaning marketers won’t be able to map their email behaviour to an existing customer profile or identify them when they click through to our site from an email. Marketers won’t be notified when these users block email from being forwarded to their real inboxes, and it will make it harder to re-target these users based on email behaviour and via abandon cart and browse campaigns. 

How to counter this? Focus on providing real value to our customers in emails with interesting and relevant content based on first-party data and zero-party data that is provided with customer consent. If you’ve done the work to build a valuable and relevant experience for customers through your content, customers will trust your brand and are less likely to feel the need to sign up with a fake address. 

These changes to Apple’s iOS reflect broader shifts in the industry toward more data transparency and consent. If they want to stay successful, marketers and technology providers must continue to adapt. The quicker brands stop fighting the tide and start prioritising the transparent and ethical collection and use of data, the greater advantage they will have. By investing in a customer data platform, you can unify your data and release it’s potential to drive personalised campaigns by leveraging multiple sources of data and activating it across multiple channels. 

To learn more about how marketers can prepare for a cookieless world, check out: The Marketer’s Glossary for a Cookieless World.

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