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What the arrival of iOS 14 means for marketers

(Image credit: Image Credit: Pio3 / Shutterstock)

Apple recently unveiled the iPhone 12, along with the latest iteration of its iOS software, iOS 14. The new iOS allows users to personalize their screens and includes features like App Clips amongst other benefits – but it also tightens rules around user location and data sharing. That’s because these new updates are part of ongoing efforts by Apple to give end users more control of their personal data, reflecting a larger trend toward greater privacy protections for users and demands for increased transparency from businesses.

It’s a great move for consumer privacy, these changes are frankly long overdue. As a result of them, marketers will need to gain more user permission and be prepared to be more transparent about what data they collect. For marketers who have been relying on cross-device advertising tracking and precise location a switch-up in operations may be required. To use the new rules to their advantage, they will need to shift to building experiences using first-party data and emphasize their owned channels such as email, mobile push and in-app messages. They should see it not as a challenge, but as an opportunity. With the right strategy, brands will be able to offer more personalized, human and transparent communications, ultimately building trust and strengthening their relationship with customers.

The new Apple privacy landscape

The first big change we are seeing in the transition from iOS 13 to iOS 14 is that setting IDFA will require explicit permission from users. Apple’s Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) was launched back in 2012 to create an individual user ID that could support cross-device data tracking for advertising by third-parties. Brands could leverage IDFA from the moment a user installed their app, as there were no permissions required and no notification informing the user an IDFA had been set. With iOS 14, Apple now requires apps to ask their users if they want to share their IDFA with a given brand. What’s more, the system prompt associated with that request includes transparent language informing users of what IDFA is and how it is used.

Another key change in iOS 14 is in location sharing. iOS 14 now enables users to choose whether they want to share their precise location (as in the past), or a broader, less precise radius.

The two updates will impact marketing strategies that have previously relied on these features. Marketers now have to convince customers to opt-in to sharing these elements of their data with them, which they can achieve by being completely transparent with customers. This includes being ready to answer any consumer question and clarifying to consumers what their data will be used for, and why it will be beneficial for them. Marketers also need to ensure they have the capabilities to continue offering memorable communications and experience, with or without the access to data they have enjoyed until now.

In dealing with customer data, caring is an advantage

The main goal for marketers now is to ensure that their customer engagement rates don’t drop with the new iOS. Being ready to comply with the new privacy system is the first step in achieving this; tidying up their data collection and usage strategies to fit the new privacy requirements is the second.

To ensure they are prepared for the new IDFA rules, there are three main steps marketers must complete. First, checking that they support the new IDFA prompt and are requiring users to explicitly opt-in to sharing their data. Otherwise, they risk being unable to collect IDFAs from any users, which will make it harder to power advertising and attribution use cases. Second, if a brand was using IDFA for general identification purposes, they should implement a new primary unique identifier system.

Finally, communicate value, explain to users why they should consider opting in, perhaps advertising maintains a service and keeps it free to use for the consumer. The same applies to precise location tracking, brands that wish to maintain precise tracking should be ready to explain its value to consumers. 

Once this is done, marketers need to work on their overall customer engagement strategy. They will need to prioritize the continued delivery of personalized and engaging communications on the right channel and at the right time, while offering customers greater transparency in how their information is being used. This will likely make customers more trusting of a brand’s app, and by extension, the brand itself.

A good example of adapting a strategy to the new privacy requirement is reframing location-based campaigns to make the most of approximate location. Highlighting stores in a given neighborhood a user is, rather than bombarding them with messages as soon as they enter a brick-and-mortar store, is a great example of how brands can maintain engagement and personalization, and even offer a better experience. Respecting how customers want to use their own data will help brands appear more human, without compromising on delivering personalized communications.

Beyond this, now that the new iOS is in place, it’s important for companies to invest more in first-party data and only collect what they need to create the right customer engagement strategies and experience. This will ensure not only that they are protecting customers and putting them first, which builds brand loyalty and trust; but also that they can weather future changes that tighten rules around consumer privacy, essentially future-proofing their customer engagement strategies.

Looking ahead

Apple may have a lot of control over the way brands leverage their mobile platforms, but it does not determine all marketing strategies. Brands that focus on building a strong and sustainable relationship with their customers will see better business results in the long-term, no matter what new changes Google, Apple, Facebook, or Amazon (GAFA) announce. Brands must create holistic marketing and customer engagement strategies, and ensure they don’t rely on any one technology or platform. This will ensure long-term success, even if they have to react or change course to keep pace with announcements and privacy changes from big tech players such as Apple.

James Manderson, EMEA General Manager, Braze

James Manderson, GM Braze EMEA, the customer engagement platform.