Apple iOS 14.5 Update: Impact on Digital Marketing & Ecommerce Brands [April 2021]

Published February 3, 2021
Updated April 8, 2021
Sarah Davis Content AuthorDoug Cameron Social Media Strategist Author


David Stone Content Marketing Manager Author



With iOS 14, Apple will require users to provide explicit permission for apps to collect and share data. To collect permission, Apple is enforcing a Tracking Transparency Prompt (ATT) in the App Store. Apps that do not adopt the prompt will be blocked from the App Store. Long-term impacts will include reduced tracking capabilities and reduced personalization for users.

This major privacy initiative means that the percentage of iPhone users sharing their unique Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) with apps will drop from 70% to as low as 10%.

The Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) is a random identifier assigned to each iOS user that advertisers use to deliver personalized ads. It is also used for tracking and attribution.

Apple has yet to announce exactly when the prompt will start being enforced as a result of changes created by Apple’s iOS 14 requirements, but advertisers can expect an early spring 2021 date. You can count on this blog article to be your resource as brands everywhere prepare for the changes and aim to minimize disruptions to their advertising efforts.

Ecommerce has surpassed levels not expected until 2025 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, expected to bring in over $843 billion in sales this year.

With the rapid shifts that took place last year, 2021 will be about finding ways to reach wary consumers and filling your marketing toolbox with innovative strategies to stand out. How can your brand capitalize on new opportunities despite the uncertainty to exceed your goals this year?

Download our 2021 Ecommerce Tech + Trends Report to uncover strategies & insights that will propel your brand forward in 2021. Claim your copy!

April 8 update

iOS 14.5 updates for ecommerce brands: 1-day vs. 7-day clicks

In June 2020, Apple announced that Facebook (and other Apple App Store apps) would be required to ask users for permission to track them across third-party websites and apps. That’s what’s coming with the iOS 14.5 update and Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) prompt, which will require iPhone users to opt into such tracking.

For users who opt out of tracking, data will only be gathered around their highest-priority event using a one-day click attribution model (seven-day click reporting won’t include opt-out data). Your Ads Manager reporting totals will only include this data if your campaign is optimized for one-day clicks.

Additionally, at least four of your eight conversion events must be configured as value optimization for a purchase in order for your ROAS data to include users who opt out.

What does this mean for you? If you optimize your campaigns for one-day clicks in order to be able to receive more data for opt-out customers, you won’t be able to get data for opt-in users beyond one day. In order to receive ROAS data for opt-out customers, you’ll also have to configure the value for the Purchase event.

Conversely, if you optimize your campaigns for seven-day clicks, you’ll receive all available data for users who opt in but none for those who opt out.

Before iOS 14.5 is implemented, looking at the Comparing Attribution Windows feature in Facebook Ads Manager to see how many purchases come through within one day of clicking versus seven could help your brand figure out which direction to go in.

Apple has yet to announce when iOS 14.5 will go into effect, but many are expecting the update to roll out this month. Stay tuned to this blog for the latest on how Apple’s iOS 14.5 update impacts digital marketing and ecommerce brands.

March 31 update

The latest iOS 14.5 updates

Last week, we shared security updates that the iOS 14.5 update will bring along with new privacy measures. That’s not the only new feature coming with 14.5 – Apple has also adapted to COVID-19 with a simple way to unlock your iPhone while wearing a mask through facial recognition.

Apple has not confirmed the release date of iOS 14.5. While some are speculating that the update will roll out along with new iPad hardware by the end of April, others speculate that it could come with the launch of Apple’s new AirTags, which use augmented reality to help users track the location of their Apple devices and are also slated for an undefined spring launch date.

Many users are already looking forward to iOS 15, which is rumored for a September 2021 release along with the iPhone 13. This update is expected to come with more options to switch default app preferences, more functionality in home screen widgets, and updates to support new features that will be available with the iPhone 13.

Stay tuned to this blog as we get closer to the imminent release of iOS 14.5 and uncover its impact on digital marketing and ecommerce brands.

March 25 update

iOS 14.5 on the Horizon: What We Know Now

Apple has yet to provide a date for the release of iOS 14.5, but we can expect a spring timeline. Some are speculating that the update will roll out along with new iPad hardware by the end of April.

iOS updates have been known to cause issues like app instability and UI lag, so brands that rely heavily on advertising on apps should be aware that these issues may crop up within hours of the update.

The update will likely include security upgrades along with its privacy measures. iOS 14.4.1, which is available now, featured an important security patch. Other features available to users now include a Privacy Report button in Safari to help users understand a website’s privacy handling, a privacy information section in the App Store featuring a summary of an app’s privacy practices, and a recording indicator when an app is using the phone’s microphone or camera.

March 19 update

How Apple’s iOS Update Will Impact Attribution for Facebook

In addition to drastically reduced data collection and targeting capabilities, brands that advertise on Facebook are also about to face major changes to the way they’re able to measure ad campaign performance.

Apple’s iOS 14 update is requiring Facebook to make additional privacy-related updates, including that certain A/B testing capabilities will no longer be available and mobile app installs will likely no longer be measurable once the update is rolled out.

Additionally, as of April 1, store visits optimization and reporting will be disabled.

With less information about user activity off the app available, Facebook and Instagram are looking toward social commerce to keep users on the app through initiatives like Facebook Shops and Instagram’s new Shopping tab.

March 11 update

Consumer Privacy Concerns on the Rise: Other Privacy-Related News

As we move forward in an age where brand trust will only increase in importance, adhering to consumer data privacy regulations and being transparent about what you do with consumer data aren’t just choices anymore – they’re necessary.

In fact, 84% of shoppers want more control over how their data is being used and 54% of shoppers say that companies don’t use data in a way that benefits them.

Apple’s iOS 14 update is far from being the only mandated initiative related to consumer privacy. Last week, Google announced that they will not be exploring a third-party cookie alternative with the deprecation of cookies next year.

The search giant says that it will not replace third-party cookies with individual identifiers for user tracking once third-party cookies are phased out in 2022. Instead, interest-based advertising cohorts and privacy-preserving APIs will “prevent individual tracking while still delivering results for advertisers.”

Trade Desk also recently made an announcement on how it will respond to the phasing out of third-party cookies. It will use Unified ID 2.0 for email-based tracking as an alternative to cookies. With the absence of third-party cookies, Trade Desk will give consumers the choice to consent to using their email as an ID for ad targeting.

Google does not plan to support email-based identifiers, stating in its announcement that email identifiers “aren’t a sustainable long-term investment,” taking into consideration consumers’ privacy concerns on top of mandated regulations as well as the fact that privacy initiatives are constantly changing.

New data privacy regulations will continue emerging as consumer data continues to be utilized in new ways for targeting and personalization. While this may introduce new roadblocks or concerns for brands in the short-term, the long-term benefits shouldn’t be forgotten.

The enforcement of these rules will make it easier for consumers to trust brands, which will be crucial for brands that want to thrive in 2021 and beyond.

March 3 Update

IDFAs and the Impact on Amazon Ads

With the launch of the iOS 14 update, Apple is planning to completely remove IDFAs (Identifiers for Advertisers). What impact will this have on Amazon?

For traffic directly on Amazon’s website or mobile app, advertisers won’t notice any difference. Since Amazon owns their website and app, they are aggregating and storing all of the first-party audience and customer data themselves. This will continue unabated. So for Amazon Sponsored Products, Sponsored Brands, and Sponsored Display ads, there will be no noticeable impact.

However, Amazon DSP (Demand Side Platform) is a different matter. Since ads on this platform can be launched to non-Amazon websites and apps, the removal of IDFAs will have a direct impact on DSP advertisers. For any Apple user who opts out of tracking (it’s estimated that more than 95% of Apple users will do so), they will no longer be served ads on non-Amazon websites and apps.

Amazon will still retain and leverage all of their first-party data, so the impact on advertisers will not be all-encompassing. It’s estimated that roughly 8% of all Amazon DSP traffic will be affected by this change, so while it is not impacting a majority of users, it is still something to be mindful of as you are looking to invest or increase investment on the demand-side platform.

February 25 Update

How Advertisers Should Prepare for Apple’s iOS 14 Update

As the impacts of Apple’s iOS 14 update draw ever nearer, advertisers are learning more about what to expect and how to prepare. Some changes are inevitable, like the deprecation of Facebook’s 28 day-click attribution model. Other impacts can be mediated with the right actions.

To preserve as much tracking as possible, verify your domain with Facebook and rank your most important Facebook Pixel events. This will allow you to track more of the user journey before the purchase when Apple’s updates go into effect.

To continue monitoring seasonal trends, download your historical data on the new default attribution model. Having apples-to-apples data to compare will be paramount in tracking year-over-year success.

To hit your targets and KPIs, set new benchmarks under your new attribution model. Even though you will have less sales volume according to the interface, your backend numbers shouldn’t change if your account is structured correctly.

The digital landscape is evolving and advertisers should evolve with it or be left behind. Check back next week for more updates and tips on Apple’s iOS 14 update.

February 18 Update

New With iOS 14: What Ecommerce Brands & Retailers Need to Know

iOS Privacy PopupWith Apple’s new privacy initiatives (likely coming out with iOS 14.5 in March), all apps will be required to follow the AppTracking Transparency (ATT) framework by displaying a prompt that allows users to opt out of tracking across apps and websites.

Apps will also be required by the App Store to provide a “Data Nutrition Label” for all apps explaining how and why the app collects and uses user data.

Private Click Measurement (PCM) is a new web attribution protocol that will provide apps with tools for adhering to ATT. As part of the iOS 14.5 beta, PCM can help brands measure ad clicks from their iOS app to their website.

If a user doesn’t opt into tracking:

  • Their IDFA is no longer accessible by apps and websites
  • The ads they click on are only remembered for seven days
  • Only one conversion event can be attributed to a click
  • No user information is provided for conversions, which limits demographics and retargeting
  • Conversion events will be randomly delayed for up to 48 hours

On the other hand, if a user opts into tracking, there will be no change to that user’s data collection. However, due to PCM, Facebook is having to make significant changes to both App and Web advertising flows, which will impact optimization, targeting, and measurement for every advertiser, regardless of how many users in their target audience opt into tracking.

February 11 Update

Facebook’s Case to Users; Twitter + Snapchat’s Stance

As 2021 quickly unfolds, many advertisers are scrambling to prepare their ad accounts for Apple’s looming iOS 14 update, which is expected in early spring. Facebook has been busy hosting webinars and publishing articles to guide businesses through these substantial changes, but Facebook also has a message for its users.

In early February, Facebook actually started showing its own prompt to users that explains why they track user activity. Their case is to offer users a more personalized experience on their app and to support businesses who rely on ads to reach customers.

This prompt will be displayed prior to Apple’s prompt, following the latter’s eventual launch.

Facebook is clearly trying to understand how it can successfully make its case to users to opt in to tracking, but it should be known that regardless of how a user responds to Facebook’s prompt, if a user opts out of Apple’s prompt, it will overrule Facebook’s and that user’s data will be protected.

While Facebook is hustling to adapt to Apple’s update, other online advertising giants seem less concerned. Twitter forecasted a “modest impact” from the iOS 14 update-to-come, anticipating revenue to continue to outpace growth in expenses in 2021.

Meanwhile, Snap has admitted to a “risk of interruption to demand” by advertisers, but supported Apple’s “high integrity” and stance on privacy. The two platforms have less to lose than Facebook when it comes to overall ad revenue, but we will continue to monitor their reactions and responses for advertisers as this update approaches.

February 3 update

Facebook + iOS 14 Update FAQs

If your brand advertises on Facebook, you can expect to face changes as a result of the iOS 14 update. Facebook is being forced to adopt Apple’s ATT prompt, but will be implementing Aggregated Event Measurement (AEM), a prompt that will show up before the Apple prompt. This solution satisfies the data-sharing requirements of Apple’s PCM but allows you to track beyond your most important action.

However, AEM does come with several limitations:

  • Facebook will be limiting event tracking to 8 events per domain.
  • Those 8 events must be ranked based on importance. For example, if a Purchase is more valuable to you than an Add to Cart, it should be ranked higher.
  • The default attribution model will change from 28-day click, 1-day view to 7-day click (limited), no view.
  • Custom Audience sizes will be reduced.

Here are some frequently asked questions that many Facebook advertisers have as we await the update.

Q: When is the Apple ATT prompt shown? What about for users who already have the app(s) downloaded? Will the prompt be shown every time the app updates?

A: We know that the ATT prompt will be shown to users who are downloading apps for the first time. We assume that the prompt will be shown to existing app users the first time they open the app following the update; however, Apple has not made this clear. More information is available at Apple’s User Privacy and Data Use documentation.

Q: Does Facebook have an estimate on how many or what percentage of users will opt out?

A: No, Facebook has not shared an estimate, as this happens in real-time on users’ devices.

Q: Will Facebook and Instagram Shops alleviate any attribution concerns since it’s an end-to-end marketplace? Are there any plans to expedite the development of Shops?

A: Facebook is branding Shops as an organic solution, but not related to paid attribution concerns. However, ROI believes Shops could be a very useful tool for businesses to buoy their ecommerce sales from Facebook. Facebook has not broadcasted that Shops are being expedited, but the development of tool and its associated features (i.e. IG Checkout) seem to be a substantial focus for the platform.

Q: If someone opts out of the Apple prompt, will the Facebook prompt still show?

A: Facebook’s prompt will show before Apple’s prompt with the ability to give additional context to users ahead of Apple’s prompt.

Q: If someone opts out of the Apple prompt and the Facebook prompt, will standard events still be tracked for that user?

A: Not entirely. When a user opts out of tracking through the Apple prompt, Facebook will limit attribution in a way that supports a user’s preference for privacy while still enabling businesses to do aggregated campaign measurement. One such limit on attribution is only allowing for one event (the highest priority event) to be attributed to an ad click. Another is the attribution window; businesses may only be able to report on events driven within 24 hours of a click.

Q: Through AEM, how many ranked events can advertisers optimize toward?

A: Advertisers can only use 8 events for optimization. Events not configured as one of the 8 conversion events for a domain can still be used for partial reporting in Ads Manager and Website Custom Audience creation.

Q: Will demographic breakdowns be deprecated for reporting and targeting?

A: Breakdowns on age, gender, and location will not be supported when reporting event volume. However, advertisers will still be able to set up demographic targeting at the set level.

Q: What changes can we expect Aggregated Event Measurement to bring to measurement and attribution?

A: There are several changes Aggregated Event Measurement brings to measurement and attribution. Key changes include:

  • Attribution window deprecations: 28-day click-through, 28-day view-through, and 7-day view-through attribution windows will not be supported
  • Number of conversion events for tracking and optimization: Will be limited to 8 per domain.
  • Default to conversion time reporting: Offsite conversion events will be reported based on the time the conversions occur and not the time of ad impressions.
  • Attribution window selection will move to ad set. The following windows will be supported under the new attribution setting:
    • 1-day click-through
    • 7-day click-through (default)
    • 1-day click-through 1-day view-through
    • 7-day click-through 1-day view-through
  • Breakdowns no longer supported for offsite conversion events.

Q: What are the differences between partial and modeled reporting?

A: Partial reporting means that limited data is reported. Advertisers can only use 8 events for optimization. While not usable for optimization, events not configured as one of the 8 conversion events for a domain can still be used for partial reporting in Ads Manager and Website Custom Audience creation.

Modeled reporting means that the metrics use statistical modeling. The new default attribution window, 7-day click-through, and 1-day view-through attribution windows are not modeled at this time. 1-day click-through is modeled at this time to estimate conversions from iOS 14 users.

Q: Is there a campaign/ad set/ad limit for advertisers?

A: Facebook is not enforcing additional campaign or ad set limits for web campaigns beyond the current ad limits per page that apply to all advertisers on our platform.

Q: How is verifying the domain related to the ATT updates?

A: In order for Facebook to address the impacts of Apple’s Private Click measurement, advertisers need to verify their domains to optimize for your selected priority events. This allows them to leverage AEM, which restricts, aggregates, and delays data but also supports App-Web attribution and enables flexibility for other platform privacy positions.

Q: Will Conversion Lift tests continue to be available?

A: Yes, self-serve Conversion Lift tests will not be deprecated. However, Facebook will no longer be able to measure all the app events from iOS 14 users and will limit the self-serve Conversion Lift test creation from ad sources that include iOS 14 app install campaigns.

Q: If a user opts into both prompts, will advertisers be able to track all events as they are today?

A: Apple’s PCM update is separate from their ATT prompt and Facebook’s AEM prompt. So, even if a user opts into tracking on both prompts, advertisers will still be limited to tracking 8 events for that user and reporting on the highest event generated on that list.

Q: Is the API totally changing or will the metrics that are no longer available just be removed?

A: Changes to Facebook’s APIs have not gone into effect and cannot be implemented at this time. Developers can review Facebook’s Developer Blog that outlines actions they can take now to prepare for Apple’s requirements.

Read more on our blog: How Coronavirus (COVID-190 Is Impacting Ecommerce [February 2021]

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