How can Middle East marketers prepare for a post-IDFA world, by AppsFlyer’s Paul Wright

By Paul Wright, managing director UK, FR, ME & Turkey at AppsFlyer.

The mobile marketing landscape is set to undergo a significant change, with Apple rolling out new privacy features that will restrict how mobile apps gather data about users. As part of the changes, users will be required to proactively opt-in to sharing device identifiers such as Apple’s Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) and it’s expected that the vast majority of users will not opt-in, rendering IDFA obsolete. Indeed, recent research, conducted by AppsFlyer and the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) found that marketers expected to lose identifying information on 50 per cent of consumers under the new opt-in rules.

While this is a move in the right direction for consumer privacy, there’s no doubt that these changes will present challenges for many marketers and app developers. While Apple has developed its own solution for privacy-first deterministic attribution, SKAdNetwork, which will be a huge advantage, it does carry some limitations. As such, it’s still expected that measuring and analysing campaign performance, app monetisation and the ability to provide a personalised user experience will all be impacted. In addition, 74 per cent of marketers expect a negative financial impact of the changes.

So clearly, there’s uncertainty and even a bit of trepidation. But given that our research shows that the Middle East saw a 55 per cent year-on-year app install growth rate in 2020 compared to 2019, there’s a good reason for mobile marketers to take proactive steps to adapt to the changes and continue delivering exceptional experiences on mobile, in a privacy-first world.

Evolving mobile marketing strategies

The good news is that there are affirmative actions that all marketers can take to prepare for the future and lay the groundwork for continued success in mobile advertising without compromising user privacy.

For example, one of the biggest challenges advertisers will face with SKAdNetwork is the timer mechanism, whereby measurement will be limited to specific activity occurring in the first 24-72 hours. How can advertisers make critical campaign decisions based on such limited data? The answer lies in predictive technologies that will enable marketers to leverage early signals of engagement within the first 24-72 hours, and as such, predict long-term campaign performance. This game-changing development is set to be a powerful tool in any marketer’s arsenal.

Another development is around incrementality-based solutions. Whereas traditional models “match” an ad-click of impression with a conversion, incrementality-based solutions use test and control groups to isolate many affected variables and help marketers optimise the incremental lift from remarketing campaigns. As a result, marketers will be able to understand the real impact of their investments by uncovering which conversions are a result of marketing efforts, and which would have happened organically.

Rethinking the user experience

Marketers should also use these changes as an opportunity to reevaluate how they engage with users, and as part of this, place a greater emphasis on web-to-app user acquisition. For starters, web-to-app journeys enable marketers to create better onboarding experiences that are intimately linked to better conversion rates. Another bonus is that acquiring users on the web is generally more cost-effective than relying exclusively on mobile.

From a privacy perspective, because the journey includes ad networks and/or owned channels, IDFA does not need to be collected for attribution purposes, and first-party data can be leveraged to optimise the experience.

Educating consumers

It’s important to remember that if consumers want to share their IDFA with advertisers they can continue to do so. However, to encourage opt-in rates and ensure users are able to make an informed decision, a broader strategy is needed that emphasises the benefits that come with sharing IDFA, such as personalised app experiences and content. Part of this education should also involve improving data literacy. For example, while marketers understand the difference between personalised and anonymised data, most consumers don’t, and this in turn impacts what they’re willing to share with brands.

Thriving in a post-IDFA world

While Apple’s seismic shift may seem daunting to some at first, we’re confident it’s the right thing for the industry. The upcoming iOS 14 privacy guidelines can drive adoption of the mindset that mobile marketing can still be highly effective even when user-level data is not available or permitted without proper user consent. Ultimately, we must subscribe to the belief that great user privacy and great user experience can in fact co-exist — it’s just up to us as marketers to evolve and adapt.