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iOS Marketing and Attribution

iOS Marketing and Attribution

Written by enCOMPASS Agency

The launch of iOS 14 has proven to be a watershed event in the world of digital marketing. From the initial announcement through the release of iOS 14.5 in April 2021, this iteration of Apple’s operating system has played a pivotal role in shaping user privacy considerations. As a result, it has forced marketing professionals to work overtime, reevaluating their own approach to user privacy and to digital advertising in general.

Now, nearly two years since the initial announcement of iOS 14, it’s a good time for us to take stock of just how much has changed within the digital advertising landscape.

How Has iOS 14 Changed Mobile Marketing?

It’s no secret that, over the past few years, mobile marketing in particular and digital marketing more generally have shifted toward a privacy-centric model. This has caused no small amount of anxiety among marketers, but how has the move toward privacy actually affected digital campaigns? And where does iOS 14 fit into these broader trends?

Keep in mind that, before the announcement of iOS 14, Apple allowed each of its devices to have a unique and resettable identifier. That identifier was accessible to all apps that were downloaded to the device. While there were always opt-in features to limit the amount of information shared with these apps, most Apple users either didn’t realize it or didn’t seem to care.

The ID, known as the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA), provided an important way for marketers to measure clicks, installs, and other core metrics. But when Apple announced the launch of iOS 14, it took marketers by surprise with the announcement that IDFA would be totally contingent on the user’s consent, gained via pop-up window.

Many in the digital world assumed that this would be catastrophic. That turned out to be an overreaction, but nevertheless, it led many marketers and advertisers to begin rethinking their views on user privacy.

Attribution and iOS 14

Essentially, the rollout of iOS 14 meant that attribution, as it had long been understood by advertisers and app marketers, was about to change considerably. The tried-and-true methods of measuring attribution could no longer be guaranteed.

Currently, there are two main attribution and ad measurement approaches that can be used on iOS. The first is the AppTracking Transparency, or ATT framework, which manages IDFA via user consent. The second is StoreKit Ad Network, or SKAdNetwork, which helps advertisers measure ad activity (including clicks and impressions) at a more aggregated level.

While Apple’s commitment to protecting user privacy is commendable, it has come with some trade-offs. While IDFA once provided precise, individualized data points for advertisers to use in their targeting, it’s not the reliable information source it once was, simply because so many users now opt out of it. Meanwhile, SKAdNetwork provides a cruder, less-precise form of data, which is more complicated to manage and to measure.

The good news is that advertisers can still build efficient, scalable campaigns, even within the iOS ecosystem. Some advertisers may get higher levels of opt-ins, allowing them access to valuable metrics and data points. And for those who don’t, there are some basic tips and guidelines that may prove helpful.

Best Practices for Our Privacy-Centric Era

Three of the most important tips include:

  1. Develop an opt-in strategy to convert users into consented users. Maximizing user consent will give you more access to accurate data. To do this, you’ll need to communicate with your users, letting them know the benefits they will glean when they opt in. Provide clear and concise messaging, explaining how an opt-in can enhance the user experience.
  2. Keep collecting data. Developing an opt-in strategy will provide you with access to a larger pool of data. At the same time, your mobile measurement partner can help you garner data from SKAdNetwork and turn it into actionable insights. Combining this aggregate data with your opt-in data, even if the latter is a relatively small data set, can be highly beneficial.
  3. Rethink your conversion models. Finally, be advised that excelling in today’s landscape may require you to change the way you think about conversion. Find a model that computes your consented data points, accurately predicting performance among non-consenting users. Remember that no matter how good your opt-in strategy is, you’ll still have a decent population of users who choose not to consent, which makes this data extrapolation vital.

The New World of User Privacy

Ultimately, the shift toward a privacy-centered model has impacted everything in the digital marketing world. The changes to iOS attribution are simply one evidence of that. As such, it’s important to have a strategy in place to help navigate the changing landscape.

If you have any questions about iOS attribution, or about user privacy concerns in general, we’d love to chat. Reach out to the enCOMPASS team any time.