How Apple’s latest move will hurt your business


With the release of iOS 14 for iPhones, Apple is cranking up its war on personalised advertising. The result is likely to hurt your business, along with millions of businesses around the world.

Apple’s recently released iOS 14 requires that any app that wants to track users’ activity when clicking on links, gets explicit permission to do so.

A popup appears asking for permission to track activity across other sites and then gives the options of “Ask app not to track” or “Allow”.

The changes are being made to increase the privacy of iPhone users, but there are downsides for users, publishers and businesses.

Downsides for users

I’ll admit, it’s a bit mind-boggling to think about how much Facebook and Google knows about us. Nearly everything we do online is tracked.  The key reason these companies track this data is to provide personalised advertising to us.

The ads I see when scrolling through Facebook or Instagram will be different from the ads you see.  They are based on my interests and things I’ve responded to in the past.

This is the biggest downside users will experience if they opt-out of tracking. Personalised advertising means the ads in your news feed feel useful – they are generally about things that you’re likely to be interested in.

Personally, I enjoy having advertising that is personalised to the things I’m interested in. I have found numerous books, software, articles and products while browsing Facebook and Instagram that I wouldn’t have found without personalised advertising. Opting out of tracking would stop me from discovering a lot of these.   

But there’s another aspect of personalised advertising that is just as important – that is, to know when to STOP showing ads to people. 

You may have noticed when viewing a product online, if you don’t purchase it, you’re likely to start seeing adverts for that product.  That’s called “remarketing”.  If you then purchase that product, those ads should stop being shown to you.

For users who opt out of tracking, the advertiser won’t have any tracking data to show that you have purchased the item.  So that product will keep being shown to you again and again.

I personally prefer to have ads that are personalised to things I’m interested in, so am happy to tap “Allow” for Facebook to track my activity.

Downsides for publishers

App and website publishers who rely on advertising to monetise their business are likely to have their income severely impacted by these changes.  With ads being less personalised, users are far less likely to click on them.

Experiments have shown that publishers experienced more than 50 percent drop in revenue when personalisation was removed from campaigns.

Downsides for businesses

The huge downside for businesses is that online advertising is likely to become more expensive to get the same results, due to ads being less targeted.

Not all targeting will disappear. Users who opt out will still be shown ads based on their activity inside of Facebook. But the ability of Facebook to find the users most likely to respond to your ad will be impacted.

For example, if you were a start-up business launching a photography-related product, Facebook and Instagram ads are a great way to get in front of people interested in photography. 

But with a limited ads budget for launching your product, do you want to show your ads to everyone that is interested in photography, or would you prefer to show you ads to people who are interested in photography AND have a history of purchasing photography products? Which would give you the best chance of success? Definitely the latter.

Likewise, if you had a campaign promoting a free ebook do you want to show your ad to people who click on lots of ads but never download the offer? Or would you prefer to show it to people who have a history of clicking and then downloading?

That’s what Facebook tracking enables. It means businesses around the world can reach people who are most likely to be interested AND take action.

The way tracking currently works is that Facebook tracks what happens after users click on an ad. Do they download the ebook or purchase a product? Using this data Facebook can match ads with the users most likely to be interested.

Then once users have purchased, we can stop showing the ads to them – or better yet, show them an ad for another product they might like.

Or, for longer sales cycles, show them content for the next step in the sales journey with you.

But with the new restrictions in iOS, businesses are going to end up with a lot more wasted ad spend. Whether your business sells products online or generates customer enquiries, if you use Facebook ads, you’re likely to see a significant reduction in the performance of your ad campaigns. 

This means if you used to get a certain amount of sales or leads by showing your ads to 10,000 people, you’re likely to need to show those ads to 25,000 people to get the same result.

It is also going to make it much harder to know the performance of the ad campaigns. At the moment there is clear measurement of the numbers of leads or the amount of sales revenue that comes from each ad and campaign.

With iOS blocking a lot of this data, businesses are going to have to estimate a lot more about the actual return on investment their campaign has produced. 

Facebook’s response to Apple’s changes with iOS is still a fast developing subject. The full consequences and impact of these changes are not yet clear, but you can guarantee that the team at Facebook are working very hard to keep their platform as one of the most powerful forms of advertising available, helping connect businesses with potential customers. 

In the meantime, if you like seeing ads you’re interested in, when you see the popup just click “Allow”.


About Author

Josh Moore

Josh Moore is the managing director at Duoplus - a Hamilton-based digital marketing agency that specialises in helping businesses get more leads and sales by getting found online through SEO, Google Ads and Facebook campaigns. www.duoplus.nz