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How to survive the upcoming FB vs iOS war - four takeouts for businesses right now

As users become more intelligent and aware of how their data is being used, they are less than enthusiastic for big technology companies to use it for corporate gain.

By now, you would’ve heard that Apple is introducing some new updates in the upcoming IOS 14 release. If you’ve brushed off the news because you think it’s just for app developers, I have some bad news for you. 

These changes will have a direct impact on targeting, optimisation, reporting and measurement. Everything that makes Facebook’s advertising platform valuable to businesses everywhere. 

So take a deep breath, grab a strong drink, and find somewhere comfortable to sit. Let me take you through the key changes that any business advertising on Facebook’s ecosystem needs to know.

What's changing?

Apple’s latest change is around privacy and data usage. It comes as no surprise considering users are becoming more aware of how their data is being used. 

Firstly, any apps that are part of the App Store will be forced to provide detail on how they are using customer’s data. Dubbed the “privacy nutrition panel”, this details exactly what data will be shared with the app, along with their privacy policy. So far, so logical. 

The change that is causing headaches is the introduction of the Tracking Transparency Prompt. This prompt is mandatory for all Apple Store Apps, including Facebook, and explicitly asks users for permission to track across third party apps and websites. By making this data tracking explicit, industry experts are predicting that up to 80% of users will opt out of the tracking.

As you may already know, Facebook’s power is in its ability to use customer data to drive results for advertisers and build highly-targeted custom audiences. Facebook as a platform, is only as valuable as the detailed data provided by its users. So you can imagine, once they were made aware of these changes, they saw millions of dollars in yearly ad spend slip through their fingers.

So how will this impact advertisers? Here are a few take-outs to be aware of.

Business Tool and Events Setup

The first change relates to the conversion events setup on your website. To compensate for the reduced tracking abilities, Facebook has introduced its own solution called Aggregated Event Measurement. This protocol will limit users to a maximum of eight events per domain. 

To most small businesses that only use a handful of events, this has minimal impact. However, to large multinational companies that have multiple Facebook pixels implemented on their site, this raises alarm bells. These companies will need to decide, on a global level, which events take priority. 

This brings me to my next point. Not only will there be a maximum of eight events, but only one event will be tracked per session. For example, if a user purchases a pair of shoes from your website, only this “purchase” action will be tracked - nothing before that. 

“So what”? I can hear you say. Well, this update will be detrimental to businesses who rely on Facebook to build out their marketing funnel and understand their customer’s journey. With less website signals available marketers will only be able to understand that a conversion has taken place, not the steps the user took to get there.

More importantly, savvy marketers know that lookalike audiences are gold. In the new world, there will be less signals to help build accurate “add to cart” lookalikes or other lower-funnel conversion targeting. That’s right. Expect more shooting in the dark and higher CPAs on your campaigns. Have I got your attention yet?

As a result of these changes, businesses will be forced to start building long-term relationships and collecting more 1st party data. This is not necessarily a bad thing as we have seen the digital landscape move in this direction for years. 

As users become more intelligent and aware of how their data is being used, they are less than enthusiastic for big technology companies to use it for corporate gain. If this change means that businesses will have to work harder to collect data from customers and actually build customer loyalty, then this may be just what the industry needs. The ones with the most 1st party data, will end up winning and customers will be the ones who end up benefiting.

Optimisation

This is an important one. With limited, restricted, and delayed data available, Facebook is setting the expectation that this could lead to a decline in campaign performance. Facebook’s strength as a business is in its algorithm.

The algorithm is only as effective as the amount of data it is being fed. The more data the algorithm is fed, the better the results as it learns more about the type of users who will complete a certain action. Hence, if Facebook has less data to guide the algorithm, this will have a direct impact on performance. 

Targeting

The reduction in data will also have a direct impact on your custom audience size. It’s the same thought process as above. The less data provided by customers, the harder it will be to build custom audiences. 

For example, audiences created for retargeting purposes such as ‘website visitors’ or ‘app installs’ will be limited, as more users opt out from the prompt provided. This potentially is the biggest impact as it will change the way businesses use Facebook’s business manager platform. Retargeting campaigns tend to be the most fruitful, as the audience has already shown an interest in your business.

With less users populating these retargeting lists, this will lead to less revenue generated from these campaigns. It’s definitely not all doom and gloom though, as retargeting will still exist. But businesses will just have to become more creative in how they are collecting data. This could include running promotions that increase newsletter sign-ups or publishing on-page content or adverts, for the purpose of capturing audiences via video views or engagement. In other words, businesses will have to earn the right to collect your data, rather than relying on cookies. 

This change won’t just have an impact on your targeting, but it also will effect your exclusions. For example, if you’ve created a list of existing customers using the Facebook pixel, less users will populate this list. This means if you’re using this audience as an exclusion, this tactic will be less precise and chances are more existing customers will appear on prospecting lists.

Measurement

There will also be a reduction in the amount of conversions that are visible through the business manager tool. With less capability to track users across apps and websites, it will become increasingly difficult for Facebook to report all the conversions completed on a website. Also, the ability to see a demographic breakdown of your conversions will no longer be available. In other words, for those that love to see whether you’re getting more conversions from male than female, this functionality will no longer exist.

The final impact will be on your attribution. Facebook will be removing the ability to see results over a 28-day attribution period or a 7-day view, due to limitations around view-through signals. However, we will still have the ability to use the 7-day click and 1-day attribution. But out of this provided attribution, the data passed on will be partial, as less data is being provided to the platform.

Considering a lot of users take Facebook conversion results with a pinch of salt, due to such large attribution windows, this impact will have less concern. However, because we live in an age where multiple touchpoints (view and click) are needed to drive a conversion, this change will mean that we have less visibility of Facebook adverts influence on a period greater than 7-days. This will predominantly impact businesses that feel their buying cycle takes longer than 7 days.

So what are your next steps? The only change you can make for the moment is to set up and verify your domain within Facebook business manager. Verifying this now will avoid any future disruptions of your website campaigns and will enable you to configure pixel conversion events once Aggregated Event Measurement becomes available.

The following steps should also be considered to ensure your business is prepared for what’s coming:

  1. Prepare to operate and define the priority of eight pixel events per domain. The sooner you identify these, the better prepared you’ll be for the change.
  2. Anticipate changes to attribution windows, as it will have an impact on optimisation and reporting. This change will impact each business differently based on the service/product you provide. To fully understand how this will impact your business, we recommend doing an export of the last six months of Facebook advertising activity and compare your page’s results within the two different attribution windows (28-day view vs 7-day click). This will help you fully understand the differences in purchase totals, when comparing both windows. 
  3. Identify campaign optimisation strategies that may require testing such as alternative audience options or different bidding strategies, as what has worked in the past may not in the future.

Unfortunately, Apple has given no indication of when this change is happening, so we suggest you keep your eyes peeled. Also, other large tech companies that will be impacted such as Google and Amazon have been very quiet since the announcement. We expect to see some sort of announcement from these players in the coming weeks.

For the moment, we recommend considering other ways to capture data, so once these changes are live, your business will be less impacted. 

Hope you’re not too overwhelmed with all these changes and please rest assured that this was always coming, in some shape or form. But use this time before the changes roll out to think about how you can collect more 1st party data from customers.

Remember, customers will always be happy to provide data, but you need to prove your worth before. So think about how you can build better relationships with customers and prove your value. As the brands that prioritise this will be less impacted by these changes.

Words by Gidon Jacobs, Senior Social & Digital Specialist

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As users become more intelligent and aware of how their data is being used, they are less than enthusiastic for big technology companies to use it for corporate gain.