Navigating Apple’s App-Tracking Transparency (And What It Means For Your Business)

Spencer Hadelman, CEO at Advantage Marketing.

Finding support when starting a small business is easier than ever before. There are many digital platforms to help small business owners with website buildouts, invoicing, project management and more. Available support for business owners also includes assistance with marketing functions, such as help with digital ad campaigns that can scale your business with customer acquisition strategies. I’ve dedicated my career to helping businesses, both big and small, utilize digital ad campaigns effectively to reach these new potential customers. Platforms like Facebook make it easy for small business owners to do this work on their own if an agency partner doesn’t fit within their budget.

However, business leaders using Facebook to target customers will need to more carefully navigate their personalized advertising strategy in order to continue their success.

Apple’s new policy for app tracking, which will begin rolling out with iOS 14.5, aims to help increase data transparency and user privacy, prohibiting certain data collection and sharing that’s used by apps like Facebook and tools like Facebook pixel.

A pixel tracks the activity of an IP address, showing the advertiser what actions that IP address has taken on the business website from clicking on the ad. For example, if a user clicks on a golf course ad and then books a tee time, the pixel allows the advertiser to track that the user went to the business website, the “book a tee time” page, and then made a purchase.

Under Apple’s new policy, a prompt will be issued to each iPhone user, who will need to opt in to allow their device’s data to be collected from their downloaded apps in the App Store. This means that if a user does not opt in, it will prohibit their data — the data used for targeted advertising — from being collected by companies.

In response to this policy update, Facebook will start processing pixel conversions from iOS 14 devices using Aggregated Event Measurement (AEM), supporting efforts to preserve user privacy while still allowing the opportunity for successful ad campaigns. 

The Facebook pixel is the same as before — you are still able to place specific event codes for actions that consumers take on a website (i.e., add to cart, purchase, complete registration, etc.). AEM is a new Facebook feature with the iOS 14 rollout, and what it does is rank different events that a user takes (i.e., going to the “book a tee time” page, making a purchase, etc.). The feature allows you to set up specific events that are important to your business and rank them accordingly. The difference is that with the addition of AEM, you now have to rank the top eight conversion events that you could potentially use to optimize a campaign toward, whereas before there was no ranking system in place. This change encourages a business to focus more on the top events that they want to track. Ideally, this is something that you should have already been doing internally, but now you have to take the added step to rank them through Facebook’s AEM.

So, what does this mean for your small business’s targeted ads, and what steps should you be taking to ensure a successful campaign?

While the new rollout creates a few more hurdles for advertisers, you can continue to advertise and access data successfully as long as you take additional steps laid out by Facebook, including: 

• Updating to Facebook’s SDK for iOS 14 version 8.1 to enable measurement for app install ads.

• Verifying your business and domain in the backend of Facebook. Once you claim ownership of your business domain, you can then go in to rank conversion events. This is important, as it allows you to claim ownership over your business and your website, allowing you to manage editing permissions over your links and content in order to help prevent misuse of your domain.

While adhering to these new user privacy guidelines, small businesses need to focus on creating a compelling ad campaign that will still reach their effective target market. After implementing the above steps, a few tips that I advise my clients on include:

• Make sure that you’re optimizing toward the events that matter to you and your business, whether that’s specific page views, add to cart, purchase or otherwise. 

• Consistently test out different creative messaging, photos and videos to see what resonates most with your consumer. 

• You can also test out different landing pages on your website to determine which landing pages might move the needle with page view to purchaser conversion rates.

With all of these tips, it’s important to not pull the plug too soon on a certain ad, messaging or landing page. Give the technology a chance to work, and give yourself enough time to track the results, good or bad, before you start making changes. 

User privacy is a hot-button topic that is necessary but can also make things more challenging, especially if you’re not an expert in ad campaigns to begin with. There are a lot of moving parts to consider when familiarizing yourself with these new policy updates. The best way to stay informed is to continuously be checking for policy rollout information via both Facebook and Apple.

Forbes Agency Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?