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Apple iOS 14 & Facebook – How healthcare marketers can prepare

Written by Bethan

Apple iOS is the operating system used for its iPhones, iPads, iPod Touches and Home Pods. Since its release alongside the first iPhone back in 2007, iOS has been through many iterations, the latest of which was released in September 2020. 

Apple’s iOS 14 update and what it means for digital marketing

The latest version of the iOS operating system includes a brand new privacy feature. Labelled as App Tracking Transparency (ATT), this new feature will require apps such as Facebook to request explicit permission from app users in order to track activity such as what websites they visit. While the feature was initially expected to launch with the release of iOS 14 in September, it was delayed after pushback from many firms including Facebook. Although it was also available on beta versions recently, on April 26th 2021 Apple officially released the latest update iOS 14.5 which includes this controversial feature.

Facebook has been especially vocal in speaking out against ATT due to the impact the update will have on ad revenue. Surveys suggest that 80% of users will opt out of tracking when prompted. Without user consent for tracking, personalisation of ads based on a user’s viewing history, accuracy of reporting, and potential for optimisation based on conversions is limited. Based on this, Facebook has claimed the new feature could cut ad revenue through its network by half, warning the implications will be hardest for small businesses. 

As professionals of the healthcare industry though, we know that privacy is paramount. We are entering a new era of digital advertising, and rules are being rewritten everywhere to address growing concerns about privacy, not just at Apple. Google also announced last year that they will be removing support for third-party cookies from Chrome. The important thing is to know how the updates will affect your marketing campaigns, and what you can do to offset any negative implications.

Will Apple’s iOS 14 release affect your Facebook ad campaigns?

The new update, while revolutionary for privacy-concerned users, could have detrimental effects for advertisers on Facebook including healthcare marketers. In essence, it will impact how we process and receive conversion events from tools like the Facebook pixel. If you are currently using Facebook for retargeting, or running campaigns based on web conversion events it’s likely your campaigns will be affected. As more people decide to opt-out of tracking on devices with iOS 14, it may become harder to track your results and see how well your campaigns are performing. It will also make it trickier to target your ads based on their viewing history in the future.

iOS 14 release date – when will ATT start affecting campaigns?

The iOS 14.5 update is available to download now, so the changes to your campaigns will occur as more people download it and then choose to opt out of tracking when prompted by their device. 

What are the implications of iOS 14 for healthcare marketing?

Due to their inherently sensitive nature, many healthcare categories are restricted as interest targeting options on Facebook. As such the healthcare industry can be more reliant upon retargeting audiences than other industries. Using sequential messaging or lookalike audiences based on retargeting audiences often give marketing campaigns a much better chance of higher conversion rates. But this is likely to become more challenging as more people opt-out of tracking.

The new update will also have an impact on performance reporting when it comes to tracking conversions like contact form submissions, telephone clicks and email clicks, as they rely on tracking a user’s activity on a website or app. If you’ve been using the ads platform recently you may have noticed the following announcement appearing next to your conversion events, 

‘These results may not include conversions from people who have opted out of tracking on iOS 14. In some cases, statistical modelling may be used to account for some conversions.’ 

You may also find that the attribution window becomes longer, especially for app activity, making it more difficult to track patient enquiries as a result of advertising in a timely manner. 

If your campaigns are optimising based on conversion events that rely on user tracking, Facebook has also warned that it’s worth considering optimisation for ads based on more upper-funnel objectives instead. If you begin to see a drastic change in the performance of campaigns, try switching this to landing page views or link clicks which are easier for Facebook to track accurately.

Best practice tips to prepare for iOS 14’s impact on your healthcare ad campaigns

Let’s get practical, there’s no point in ditching Facebook from your marketing mix altogether just yet. While the full impact of the update remains to be seen as it hasn’t yet hit all devices, there are a few changes you can make in preparation. While these changes might not completely offset the impacts of ATT, at least you’ll know you’re no worse off than your competitors. 

  1. Make sure that your domain is verified 

Domain verification is a process which allows you to configure and prioritise conversion events for a given domain. You can configure up to 8 pixel events or custom conversions per domain. Domains can only be registered to one Business Manager, but partner access can be shared to others in the settings.

  1. Prioritise top pixel events and use Aggregated Event Measurement

Facebook has introduced Aggregated Event Measurement to support measurement of web events from iOS 14 users, now that Apple will be requiring the ATT prompt. It is designed to help you measure campaign performance in a way that is consistent with consumers’ decisions about their data, and limits the number of conversion events that can be optimised for.

If you are currently tracking more than 8 unique conversion events, you will need to think about which will be the most effective events to continue tracking. Facebook will make initial assumptions about the conversion events that are most important for your business, and will automatically pause additional ones. Make sure you consolidate or prioritise the events you feel will have the biggest impact and assign these in events manager.

  1. Use the Facebook pixel and Conversions API together

The Conversions API enables you to share data for web events directly from your server, rather than through the browser, and can safeguard against data loss in the case that data is dropped by the browser. Although events tracked using Conversions API will also be impacted by iOS 14, it can work with the pixel to improve performance and measurement of Facebook ad campaigns. Conversions API can be set up manually using code to develop a direct integration with your server, or using a partner integration. 

  1. Enable advanced matching

Advanced matching means you can send hashed customer information to Facebook alongside pixel events. This can help to attribute more conversions and reach wider audiences, as well as reduce the cost per conversion. 

  1. Create custom audiences

Remember you can also use sources like customer lists or engagement on Facebook, to create custom audiences of people who already know your business, and lookalike audiences from those for prospecting.

  1. Keep an eye on your campaigns

Finally, make sure you keep a close eye on campaigns over the next few weeks and months and compare to historical performance so you can get a sense of how your campaigns are being impacted, and make decisions about your level of investment in this channel.

We hope that this article has given you a clearer understanding of the upcoming changes as part of iOS 14, the implications for Facebook advertising in the healthcare industry, and what can be done to prepare for them. If you’re not already familiar with our paid search and SEO services, we’d love to talk to you about how you can offset a potential loss of traffic from Facebook in the short and long term by focusing on high intent traffic from search.

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