Apple’s IOS 14 impact on Google Analytics

Last Updated: May 24, 2022


In June 2020, Apple introduced changes in IOS 14 that are impacting app tracking for all mobile device users. The major change about Apple’s IOS 14 update is related to third party cookies which are primarily used for remarketing and retargeting. These changes are affecting advertising platforms like Facebook and Google.

With already existing privacy law’s like GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act) being in place, Apple has taken a similar approach for their app store. Any application on the app store should first meet their privacy policy and they believe that nothing is more important than gaining a user’s trust.

In this article let us discuss how the changes made in IOS 14 will impact the tracking for mobile devices.

What is IDFA and how does it affect app tracking?

IDFA is an identifier for advertisers, which is basically a cookie for mobile apps. It will help in identifying when a user revisits the app. This is a unique identifier that is used for targeting and advertising ads to the users.

With the new IOS 14 change, apps will now require permission from the users to use IDFA cookies.

If the user allows tracking, then this cookie is set, however, if the user chooses to opt-out, this cookie will not be set. This change impacts the audience list for the advertisers.

If the user chooses not to opt-in IDFA tracking for your application, then the total number of users getting added to your audience list will decrease. 

Let’s look at an example;

Say within your app you are tracking all users who added a product to the cart but did not make the purchase.

Before this change, all the users who have added the product to the cart but did not make a purchase will be included.

However, after the IOS 14 update is in place, the audience list will now include only users who have opted in for IDFA tracking.

Previously, about 70% of app users shared their IDFA with app publishers, but after the IOS 14 date, this number has dropped down to 10% to 15%.

Privacy changes as part of Apple IOS 14

Apart from the user’s permission to use IDFA cookies, another big change as part of IOS 14 is their privacy policy.

Apple now requests all app developer owners to provide their privacy practices before they are added to the Apple store.

If an app uses any third-party code, then they have to provide detailed information about what data will be collected and how that data will be handled.

With this change, users have a higher level of authority where they can request data deletion. This change is similar to the ‘right to erasure’ and ‘right to be forgotten’ rule of GDPR. 

To understand more about the GDPR, refer to my article- Google Analytics GDPR checklist- Become GDPR compliant using GA

User permission for tracking data

With the new change to IOS 14, Apple has introduced a new app tracking transparency framework. As part of this framework, app owners must request permission from owners to track their data.

This is basically a popup that requests users to allow tracking for apps or opt-out of tracking for an app shown as below.

app tracking popup 1

It is very likely that most users will deny permission to allow tracking for the apps, which makes it difficult for the advertisers to target any personalized ads to the users.

Since we will not be able to capture the user’s interests, advertisers will have to compromise on showing generic ads, which will not be profitable.

While it doesn’t mean that the users who have opted out will not see any ads, it just means that they will be seeing only generic ads and not ones that are personalized or relevant to them.

Retargeting users who have not opted-in to your app is difficult. This change has also affected the attribution window.

With this change, companies like Facebook have removed their 28-day click window and they are now using 1-day click or 7-day click window while optimizing bidding.

How does this change affect the app developers?

With this change, app developers should make changes to their implementation by programming automatic pop-ups to request a user’s permission before capturing their data.

You will have to update your measurement SDK to adapt the changes to the latest version to ensure you are compliant with the IOS 14 update.

This is especially true for apps that are to be included in the app store, they have to first be compliant with the privacy policy and should also provide Apple with detailed information about how user data will be utilized.

Also, they have to program their apps in such a way that if a user doesn’t allow tracking, only generic ads will be shown to them, which in turn affects the revenue model.

One entity that is getting benefited here after this major change is Apple. Currently, Apple takes around 20 to 30% of every payment on the app store as a fee. So, it’s not surprising that advertising companies like Google and Facebook are not happy with this update.

How does this change affect the advertisers?

Although Apple has not released any potential impact of this change to advertisers, companies like Facebook have conducted some tests to understand the impact and came to a conclusion that there is a 50 per cent drop in publisher’s revenue. They are also providing guidelines to their advertisers on how to get ahead of this IOS 14 update.

Since the advertisers will not be able to show the relevant ads to users and have to stick to generic ads as per the privacy policy, this will affect conversion and revenue.

However, for some of the advertisers, like Facebook, it won’t affect them much as the Facebook app requests a login, and this will allow them to identify the users and be able to retarget the ads based on the user’s choice. 

Thus, retargeting users on Facebook will only be partially affected, since they will still be able to identify the users and advertise personalized ads.

How to adapt to the change in IOS 14 update

Solution #1

For mobile apps, if you are able to track the users without setting up IDFA then you can still be able to advertise personalized ads to the users. 

One possible solution to identify users is to request that users log in. 

Make sure to implement the ATT prompt in your apps and update the SDK files to support the app tracking transparency framework.

Solution #2

Additionally, you can use server-side tagging in GTM instead of sending data to Facebook or Google networks. 

To understand and learn how to implement server-side tagging in GTM you refer to my GTM server-side tagging tutorial.

Solution #3

For websites, you only need to consider changes in the Safari browser. In this case, you only have to consider ITP (Intelligent tracking prevention) and its privacy policy.

 Though this update is more applicable only for mobile devices, this will affect user-level reporting for IOS devices in reporting platforms like Google Analytics. 

This means that you will only be able to create an audience list for IOS users only if they have opted in to track IDFA.

Solution #4

Start reviewing what data is collected about your users. Make changes in your app that will gain the user’s trust and encourage users to provide some information to you. This is basically trying to gain a user’s trust and loyalty.

However, it is best practice to get user consent before collecting any data. 

Related Article: The impact of Apple IOS 14.5 update on Facebook Ads

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