One year on: analysing the impact of Apple’s landmark iOS 14 privacy update, by AppsFlyer’s Samer Saad

By Samer Saad, regional manager, AppsFlyer Middle East.

In April 2021, the mobile marketing landscape underwent a significant change, as Apple brought out new privacy features as part of iOS 14.5 — users now have to proactively opt-in to sharing device identifiers, such as Apple’s Identifier for Advertisers, with apps. While this is a positive move from a privacy perspective, it has introduced challenges for marketers that previously relied on access to IDFA to measure the success of their campaigns and understand the ROI of their marketing spend.

As of December 2021, the opt-in rate for consumers in the UAE, that were shown a prompt to share their IDFA, was 55 per cent. While this is higher than the global average of 46 per cent, it’s still significantly lower than the figures marketers would have been used to. And with a recent AppsFlyer study finding that 96 per cent of businesses in the UAE intend to increase their spending on mobile marketing, and a quarter expecting this rise to be “very large”, it’s evident that being able to understand the impact of that spend will be crucial.

So, as we come up to one year since enforcement, how have marketers adapted? And where do we go from here?

The move towards aggregated data

Data exchange between brands and partners has traditionally been the basis for accurate and actionable measurement and creating strong user experiences. Up until now, this exchange has primarily been done with user-level data — such as cookies on the web, and identifiers on mobile.

But this has also introduced the privacy concerns that have come to the forefront in the last few years. What’s clear, however, is that measurement doesn’t have to be based on user-level data. Feedback in a certain level of aggregation is enough, and this is something that more and more marketers are embracing.

Predictive measurement

With marketers having access to a more restricted set of data, predictive measurement — which allows them to accurately evaluate how a campaign will perform based on early insights — is becoming more important.

Although it has been in the works for some time now, predictive measurement has gained greater prominence following iOS 14.5 and the introduction of Apple’s own deterministic attribution solution for measuring campaigns, SKAdNetwork.

This is because SKAdNetwork runs on a timer mechanism that limits measurement to activity that happens within a short time frame, such as 24 hours. Predictive measurement allows marketers to leverage these early signals, and predict long-term campaign performance.

Data clean rooms

Data clean rooms, in a very general way, are secure environments where multiple parties can collaborate on sensitive and restricted data sets. Applications can be found in various industries where sensitive data needs to be shared, such as healthcare, insurance and finance, and are now making their way into the marketing space.

Data clean rooms will allow brands and partners to share data and gain mutual insights while still preserving the privacy of their users by not sharing any personally identifiable information or raw data with one another. Advances in cryptographic solutions, such as Homomorphic Encryption, will also make it possible to generate aggregated insights about encrypted data without ever decrypting it.

Owned media

Marketers have also been embracing owned media channels more, whether that’s different mobile apps in their brand, their website, email campaigns, owned social media channels and more. From a privacy perspective, IDFA does not need to be collected, and brands can rely on first-party data collected by consent. It also enables marketers to create better onboarding experiences, which are intimately linked to better conversion rates.

Looking forward

Since iOS 14.5, the ecosystem is continuing to prioritise user privacy. Google recently announced the deployment of Privacy Sandbox on Android, and there have been numerous technological innovations that ensure marketers can still run and measure campaigns in a privacy-preserving way. At the beginning of this year, the UAE also introduced its landmark Data Protection Law, a further signal that consumer privacy is being taken seriously.

When it comes to running and measuring campaigns in a privacy-first world, it’s clear that there isn’t one solution that fits all. There are many different approaches marketers can take, as well as new measurement models that have their own advantages and disadvantages. Marketers that are able to understand what works best for them, and also have the mentality to adapt and deal with any future uncertainties or changes, will be best placed to win.