How will the iOS14 Update affect my Facebook Ads?

The Apple iOS14 update rolled out this week. I have not written about the impact of the update until now as I have told myself that it’s too late to add anything new to the discussion. 
However, I am still having conversations with business owners who are anxious and upset about not understanding what it is, why it means such a big change for Facebook Ads and what steps need to be taken to safeguard their business (as much as they can!). 

I have tried to find an article or blog which talks about it in plain English to forward to business owners who contact me, and I’ve struggled. So here is my iOS14 101.

What is the iOS14 Update?

In late 2020, Apple made an announcement that they would be making an update to apps in their app store. 

The update would mean apps would now show a pop-up notification to users, giving them the option to ‘opt-out’ of having their data tracked for advertising purposes. 

This is the big change worrying advertisers about the iOS14.5 update that started to roll out this week.

Why is Facebook Advertising affected by the iOS14 update?

The ‘pixel’ is the bit of code Facebook uses to track peoples’ activities on the internet. This code tracks what websites you visit, which posts you like, who your friends are and what your friends like. This data is then used to target you with ads that are relevant to your online behaviour or to retarget you with advertising once you have visited a website or Facebook/ Instagram accounts. 

The algorithm and technology Facebook have developed to do this have made them the second most powerful advertising platform on Earth (after Google).

With public trust at an all time low for Facebook at the moment, it is likely a high percentage of Apple iPhone users will opt-out of having their data tracked once the option pops up on their screen for the first time.

Most people believe by opting out of having their data tracked, they won’t be served ads. What it actually means is they will receive a lot of random advertising which has no relevance to their life or interests.

Facebook have been working furiously behind the scenes to make sure they are ready and to minimise the impact this update has on their data and the results their advertisers are able to achieve.  This will prove difficult however because:

The Facebook attribution window changing from 28 to 7 days on 19th January 2021.

The attribution window is the number of days Facebook tracks your activity from clicking on or viewing an ad. 

Previously, if you clicked on an ad and bought the product within 28 days, Facebook would ‘attribute’ this or count this as a sale from their ads. They are now no longer able to track your activity for longer than 7 days. 

That means, if someone buys a product 8 days after clicking your ad, the sale will not appear in Facebook Ads Manager.

Who will be affected by the iOS14?

If you are a business with products that require longer ‘thinking time’, i.e. your customers will go away and research you, your competitors, price comparison sites or need to wait for payday (over 7 days away), (so usually higher value items), their purchases will not appear in Ads Manager. This will make you think your ads have been unsuccessful, which is untrue.

Since the attribution window changed, there have also been reports of delays between 3-7 days of sales appearing in Ads Manager (I have noticed this personally in my clients’ accounts).

What’s the solution? 

You need to be looking at the whole picture to measure the success of your Facebook Ads.  

What sales are showing on your website dashboard? Do you have Google Analytics set up to track ecommerce conversions?

What is a Facebook Ads ‘Event’? And why are these more important than ever after the iOS14 update?

An ‘event’ when you run ads on Facebook is an action you want Facebook to track such as ‘purchase’, ‘add to cart’, ‘page view’, etc. You use the Facebook pixel to track these and you set these up before you start running your ads.

Common misconception about the iOS14 update: once you opt-out of having your data tracked, Facebook won’t be able to track any of your activity after clicking an ad. This is untrue. They will be able to track one ‘event’, the last one you take on a website. As an advertiser, you want to capture this information as you will be able to see if people made a purchase or just viewed a certain page.

In order to capture these events, you need to list the events in order of importance for Facebook, so they can report back to you in Ads Manager.  Each advertiser is able to list up to 8 events (4 if you use value events).

If you are an eCommerce business, your events may be listed like this:

  1. Purchase
  2. Initiate Checkout
  3. Add Payment Info
  4. Add to Cart
  5. View Content
  6. Page View

What can I do to protect my business from the iOS14 update?

There are a few steps advised by Facebook to prepare for the iOS14 Update:

  1. Verify your domain. You can find steps on how to do this here.
  2. Aggregate your events in Events Manager (as listed above). You can find the steps here.
  3. Switch on Automatic Advanced Matching within Settings of Events Manager. Steps from Facebook here.
  4. Enable CAPI. Conversions API is a Facebook Business Tool that lets you share key web and offline events, or customer actions, directly from your server to Facebook’s. Conversions API works with your Facebook pixel to help improve the performance and measurement of your Facebook ad campaigns. You can read more detail on this here.

If you use Shopify for your store, the integration is very straightforward.  Please find their steps on it here.

If in doubt, invest in a developer to enable this for you. Without the correct support, the performance of your website could be impacted.

My thoughts:

First of all don’t panic.

No one is immune to this update.  The Coca Colas of the world as well as the small business community will be affected.  Facebook relies on user data to run its business. It is unlikely they are not taking measures internally to minimise the impact.

The impact of people opting out will be gradual rather than everyone opting out on the same day.  Performance is set to be rocky for the next few months as Facebook’s algorithm adapts and there may be a drop in advertising costs as some businesses decide to advertise on other platforms temporarily rather than weather the storm.

Advertisers will need to pay greater attention to their creative and copy ie they need to make better ads! For a long time, advertisers have become slightly complacent, safe in the knowledge that Facebook will find their people.  Now, your ads will need to stand out on their own.

I am personally sad to hear of small business owners in tears over this, worried how they will carry on without the revenue they generate from Facebook advertising. Now is the time to review your whole marketing strategy. It is never wise to rely solely on one avenue to generate your revenue. How is your organic social media strategy? Have you considered Pinterest ads if you run an eCommerce business? Have you got a plan in place to build and nurture an email list?

With Google also removing third-party cookies by the end of the year, now is the time to start building the data for your own business to future proof yourself and ensure you are still remaining visible, if not just for the upcoming months, then for the years to come.

If you’re finding this overwhelming, follow me on Instagram as I keep you updated.

I also offer consultations on Facebook advertising. If your Facebook Ads have you concerned, check out if my consultations are what you need to get your confidence back and a strategy in place. Learn from me.