App Tracking 101 for Marketers

Apple’s recent 14.5 iOS update has marketers worried about their future ability to serve ads to potential buyers. With the update, Apple device users can choose if they want the apps they use to be able to track their usage and activity across other company’s apps and websites. What concerns marketers the most is that tracking is turned off by default. That means someone must take deliberate action to opt in, and marketers fear that given the choice, few will choose to be tracked.

Apps that sell ad inventory inside their platforms rely on data collected from tracking to be able to serve relevant advertising to people based on what they look at, articles they read, ads they click on, etc. Without this data, the ads they’re able to serve have a higher chance of reaching eyes that don’t buy.

In the United States, so far only about 4% of iOS users who have upgraded to iOS 14.5 have opted into being tracked. This might sound bad, but keep in mind that iOS represents only about 13% of the global market share for smartphone operating systems. The Android operating system, created by Google, has 87% of the market share. Google also owns a majority of ad inventory on the internet, so it’s highly unlikely that they would go the route of Apple as it’s not in their best interest or their shareholders.

Facebook and Instagram aren’t taking this lightly though. They are informing users that this change might impact their ability to offer the apps for free if users choose to stay opted out of tracking. There is also an emotional appeal to opt-in because it helps small businesses.

Let’s be real for a second. Facebook and Instagram are ad serving platforms at the end of the day. Yes, they’re “social” but like news websites and other sites that sell ad space, they make most of their revenue from ad sales. They are going to serve you ads regardless of whether you have opted in. So the ads will be either hyper relevant to you because of what you did on other apps and websites or only slightly relevant because they have enough data collected about your usage on their app alone.

Another ramification is that restaurants close to me can still serve me Facebook ads because Facebook still knows my location via my profile and usage, but they maybe can no longer serve me an ad with floor lamps because I was browsing for one on furniture websites. The ads are still relevant, but perhaps not as relevant as they could be if tracked.

But marketers may not need to be overly concerned. Of the 13% iOS user market share only 9% of those get slightly less relevant ads, I would say marketers have nothing to worry about, because they will still be able to serve relevant ads to potential customers.

If you need help layering on social ads with your next direct marketing campaign, let’s talk.

Jenny Lassi • May 14, 2021

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