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As a consumer, no one can blame you for not knowing how Apple’s recent iOS 14.5 update is any different from previous versions. As a marketing professional, however, you’ve probably been exposed to countless tweets, headlines, explainers, and insider takes on what the update’s privacy changes will mean for our industry.

So what are the implications for brands with a digital presence? Three of DKY’s subject matter experts weigh in from their respective disciplines.

Tim Karlberg, Director of Digital Marketing:

On the highway of digital marketing, the impact of Apple’s iOS 14.5 update will be a significant detour for some brands, and only a mile marker for others.

How this privacy update impacts various businesses comes down to their reliance on iOS app tracking. Those who heavily depend on customer data harvested from iPhone or iPad apps will feel the impact almost immediately. Some experts are predicting a drop in customer-shared data from 10% – 70%.

Why such a huge decrease in shared data? Users will have full visibility and control over where their data is tracked and shared. One of the biggest decisions—to be tracked or not—is being shown front and center through an in-app notification.

If you’re a brand that lives and dies by customer behavior tracking in your iOS app, this update has already started changing your world.

But even businesses with no iOS apps of their own will feel the pinch when it comes to advertising on platforms like Facebook. Fewer opted-in users could mean smaller personalized audiences to target.

Either way, the impact of Apple’s iOS 14.5 update has created ripples across the digital marketing industry. Advertisers will have to find new ways to serve up personalized ads. At a minimum, they’ll need to start by earning more trust from users and demonstrate the value of opting-in to data sharing.

Some brands—those without an app in the iOS store—will watch this unfold from the sidelines, while other brands will inevitably try to resist or ignore these changes, making it hard to compete in the long term. The best approach for brands is to adapt to privacy updates like these and learn to thrive despite temporary setbacks.

This isn’t an isolated event, it’s just further proof that Apple (mostly) sides with consumers when it comes to privacy. And with ownership of more than half the phone market, we can be sure that where Apple goes, many will follow…whether they want to or not.

Grace Skogen, Social Media Partner:

The Apple iOS 14.5 update is a hot topic in social media marketing as it relates to Facebook advertising. With this update, Apple prohibits certain data collection and sharing unless users opt into tracking on iOS 14 devices via a message prompt. This primarily impacts Facebook’s pixel feature, which tracks website conversations from Facebook and is typically used for retargeting advertisements. The impact will reduce the audience size for ads due to users opting out of Facebook tracking.

This change is a barrier for marketers who are used to accessing user data for targeted ad campaigns and related measurement on Facebook. In response, a “workaround” has been created called Aggravated Events Measuring, which allows the measurement of web events directly from iOS 14 devices. Therefore, companies that need to verify their domain in business manager will now track those who visit the domain rather than from their iOS 14 device.

In general, this update is an important reminder to make sure your advertising strategy isn’t one-dimensional. Social media is shared space—the changes that Apple or social media platforms make are out of our control. Brands need to continually adapt and diversify. Make sure you have a well-established email list and explore other social advertising options such as YouTube, LinkedIn, and Pinterest to build an omni-channel approach.

Despite tighter privacy controls, many people will continue to opt in to share their data since it offers a more personalized experience on Facebook and on other apps. There are about 2.8 billion Facebook users worldwide. Even if half of the users decide they don’t want their data shared with Facebook, there’s still more than a billion people who can be targeted. We won’t really know the full impact of this update until companies report back on their recent Facebook advertising campaigns compared to previous campaign results.

Donnie Potter, Vice President of Digital:

With the introduction of iOS 14.5, Apple is forcing a global debate about who owns and controls user data. It’s a battle of the titans—pitting Apple, as a consumer privacy advocate, up against Facebook, whose profits rely heavily on user data from the company’s online advertising platform.

Apple isn’t the first organization to champion data privacy. There have been parallel initiatives underway for several years now, starting with the GDPR and later adopted by California’s CCPA, both of which require companies to gain consumer consent to share their information online for marketing purposes, as well as the rights to have their data downloaded or deleted as they desire.

Another looming change is the disablement of third-party cookies or tracking pixels. First-party cookies are specific to websites that you browse and the web forms you complete to share your information. Third-party cookies track visitors outside of their own domain and are traditionally aligned with drip-marketing campaigns and programmatic marketing where automation is used to buy and sell ads.

Companies that depend on consumer data, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Google, rely heavily on third-party cookies and are concerned this shakeup may greatly impact their current business models. With the fear of losing critical ad revenue, some of these companies are threating to charge for services that are currently free.

With a growing movement to keep data private, there will be less data for digital platforms and advertisers to mine. But within this smaller pool of data, there will likely be a more engaged and dedicated base of consumers who will come along for the customer journey and become brand advocates.

New protections in the iOS 14.5 update will shift control back to consumers. This requires brands to shift their marketing strategies from buying lists and mining user data, to focusing on building trusted relationships with their customers. Brands who prioritize transparency, provide rich information and value, and present solutions to real-world problems will be rewarded by consumer loyalty, brand advocacy, and increased revenue.

DKY has always promoted the foundational idea that a customer-centric brand wins. And market disruptors like the iOS 14.5 update underscore this truth. Instead of getting lost in the details of tracking pixels and cookies, go back to a focus on building an easier, more rewarding experience for your customers.

When customers have full control of their data, their experiences, and their decisions, we all win. And that’s the most worthwhile investment you can make.