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Apple has released its much-anticipated privacy update to iOS 14 which allows iPhone and iPad users to block companies, or more specifically apps, from tracking their activity for ad targeting.

If you’ve recently updated your mobile device’s operating system, you are likely already familiar with the update. Changes like the new widgets feature on the home screen of your iPhone or iPad are changing the way users interact with their apps, however, the update is doing more than that, it’s also making targeting more difficult for digital marketers. The change brings new privacy features that Apple states will improve user transparency and control how apps access certain user information. All great features, but what does that mean for the future of marketing?

How Are Digital Advertisers “Riding the Wave”?

Updates and changes happen frequently in the digital marketing landscape, so to ensure ad metrics are still useful and marketing dollars are spent wisely, it’s essential that digital marketers are aware, informed, and work creatively to find new and effective strategies. Since the announcement of Apple’s update earlier this year, marketers have been proactively planning innovative targeting and campaign strategy techniques to avoid running into anticipated ad performance rates and optimization issues.

Once an option that was buried deep within the user’s settings, the “track my data” option is now a feature that will be brought to the forefront when the user opens a downloaded app on their device. In short, iPhone/iPad users will now be presented with an opt-in pop-up window the first time they open one of their downloaded apps. This pop-up will then notify the user that the app is tracking their data for advertising purposes and provide them with an option to block the app from doing so or “opt out.”

This new privacy feature is changing the way performance data is received and bringing about ad targeting challenges for digital marketers and advertisers in the process. The biggest change being noticed with the new iOS 14 update is conversion attribution.  Historically, advertising targeting tools such as the Facebook pixel, relied on specific and defined segment details to ensure ads were being shown to the right audience. Now, metrics for these audiences are being under-reported and are becoming less valuable as more users opt out of device ID tracking. This new opt-out feature has not only limited the ability for ad personalization but also ad performance reporting for both in-app and web conversion events. This leads to poorer targeting options as well as weaker optimization because some channels are no longer able to track certain user behaviors. In other words, if a user opts out of “tracking,” he or she will still see ads in their feeds and stories, but those ads will not be personalized, nor will any post-view/click actions the user makes be attributed back to those ads for the media buyer to analyze.

Another digital ad strategy that is also taking a hit with the update is remarketing. Remarketing has proven to be a successful strategy for conversions, but without accurate and full-circle metrics to help drive the optimization of ad creatives, marketers are having to get creative themselves with new strategies to help the old ones keep working. Lookalike audiences, or a larger pool of interested folks based on “others’” behaviors, are also something that digital marketers rely on to expand their targeting reach. However, remarketing efforts and lookalike audiences are becoming more difficult as users opt-out.

How Does This Affect the Education Sector?

The higher education sector is unique in its own right with challenges not seen by other industries. Couple that with poor ad experiences for users, plus blind spots in the optimization metrics, and you have an even bigger setback. As mentioned, changes from the iOS updates are causing a shift in typical digital targeting strategies for all industries, but we are seeing a significant impact on the higher education space. For example, if your ideal candidate for enrollment has an interest in a Welding career, reaching that group of people is becoming limited and more difficult if those users who fit that audience type have chosen not to have their activity on social platforms or other apps “tracked.” Essentially, all the audience segments you’ve previously identified become nearly invisible to digital marketers; consequently, affecting ad costs.

Another change from the new Apple iOS 14 update that is impacting digital ad strategies is a delay in metric reporting. This is not only negatively impacting campaign optimization but also conversions. The real-time reporting that marketers heavily rely on to ensure marketing dollars are most appropriately and efficiently spent is no longer supported for conversion campaigns. In fact, data may be delayed up to 3 days. This means it will take campaigns longer to optimize around the right audience and also contributes to higher costs.

What is Storylift Doing to Combat These Changes?

Our dedicated education enrollment team is constantly seeking information about the changes that are occurring, as well as making updates to avoid the negative effects. We are proactively fighting rising prices and taking the necessary steps to try to get our Cost Per Lead numbers down. Most importantly, we are diligently prioritizing lead quality and conversions as we strive to ensure we are continually delivering the highest quality leads at the best value to our partners.

We continue to use our proprietary targeting technology with our attitudinal targeting capabilities to ensure we are hitting the highest converting audience segments. However, we are now facing optimization difficulties with the iOS changes. Over the last couple of months, we have taken and are prioritizing the following steps to mitigate the limitations imposed upon us by Apple’s iOS update:

  • Verified that all lead funnels comply with the new policies.
  • Configured a tighter set of events so our campaigns can more easily optimize to the right users.
  • Tracking conversions on a tighter window in order to fight against the delay in reporting so we can optimize our campaigns more effectively.
  • Updating all of our pixels to follow the new guidelines.
  • Constantly crafting new creatives to increase user engagement and grow organic reach.
  • Testing different optimization strategies to work around these limitations to decrease CPL.
  • Working hard to fight and adapt to these changes as they roll out.

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