Helpful Ways of Preparing for the IDFA Changes

Nadav Pesti Nadav Pesti | 7.9.20

At long last, the release of iOS 14 has arrived, and with it what was expected to be a major shakeup for app developers and advertisers.  In case you’ve been off the mobile marketing grid for the past three months the de facto elimination of the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) is what we’re talking about.  While iOS 14 is loaded with lots of great new features for users and interesting ASO opportunities for analysts, for those looking to advertise their app the IDFA “phase-out” has been a major source of uncertainty and concern.  Even before the changes to the IDFA were announced the release of iOS 14 was already a big deal.  However, with more strict privacy rules and regulations as part of the package, the new operating system was set to send shockwaves throughout the industry regarding changes in the way app marketers choose to spend their ad budgets.  

Fortunately though in a much welcome stroke of good luck Apple has decided to delay the changes to the IDFA until next year.  While this is great news for app marketers who have been scrambling to figure out what to do in the absence of the highly popular unique identifier, the change is inevitably coming and there’s no way around it.  So, in the interest of setting yourself up for the best chance of success, we’ve put together some suggestions to help you take advantage of your new-found gift of time.

IDFA Privacy Enhancements

First things first, let’s define exactly what the IDFA is and why it’s perceived numbered days are garnering so much attention.  In short, the IDFA tracks user data across apps and websites, and not just ones not necessarily owned by the company doing the tracking, in order to provide targeted advertising.  Its technology is similar to a cookie, but even more powerful because it allows for full mobile attribution tracking of individual users from install to usage.  

Previously an active IDFA on an app installed by an iOS user was the default, buried deep away in the app’s Settings and hard to find (provided you even knew about it to look for in the first place).  However, as part of the iOS 14 shakeup, the new policy will require users to consent permission to be tracked.

Apple iOS 14 Privacy Settings
Source: Apple

The New Order of Business

The way in which this process will play out will be as an opt-in delivered in the form of a pop-up notification with messaging to the effect of “[App Name] would like permission to track you across apps and websites owned by other companies.”  Not surprisingly, expectations are slim at best of a high conversion rate for gaining users’ permission.  In fact, the general sentiment around the industry is that even just a 10% opt-in rate would be borderline wildly optimistic.  Clearly this development is going to have far and wide-ranging implications on the entire $80 billion industry, so needless to say this is hardly small potatoes and one that not even the most cleverly worded opt-in message alone will miraculously solve the problem.

So How To Prepare Your Business For the New IDFA Rules

Now, while automatic access to the IDFA may be going away, the good news is it doesn’t have to be the end of the world.  Yes the IDFA gets the lion share of the attention, but it’s important to keep in mind that it isn’t the only game in town.  Apple announced its own attribution framework called SKAdNetwork providing an, albeit limited, alternative:

Apple SKAdNetwork
Source: Apple

Most of the MMPs already have bundled the SKAdNetwork into the SDK that enables advertisers to control the data flow from the MMP’s UI without needing to implement another SDK. 

Moreover, the MMPs are also offering data enrichment that should provide some level of attribution.  To what extent we’ll probably never know before the IDFA deprecation part of iOS 14 is fully rolled out. Besides that, publishers with many apps could leverage IDFV and there are already talks in the industry regarding the next big identifier (email / credit card are 2 big and obvious ones which Apple is already taking on with their sign-in with Apple/ Apple Pay products).

Even beyond these efforts though you can also prepare on your own end if you’re willing to put in the work and get creative.  The following are a few different solutions and workarounds you may want to consider depending on your team size, budget, and more.

What Is Your Data Modeling Structure?

If you have a Business Intelligence team and the resources to support it, this could be the option for you.  First things first is to assess how you are currently measuring user data.  Is your business relying solely on IDFA?  If so, that’s going to be a problem.  Are your data gatherers working off of raw data or aggregated reports?  If the answer is raw data then switching to aggregated reports that rely on multiple identifiers could provide a good hedge and something you want to do.

AppsFlyer’s Aggregated Attribution Solution

AppsFlyer’s Aggregated Attribution Solution

Be aware though that while this may sound simple, changing the way you model your data is quite an involved process.  Yes it can definitely be effective, but we’re talking about a pretty big fundamental shift in your BI’s modus operandi, and the time, manpower, and financial costs to implement such a change can add up in a hurry.

How Are You Pulling Your Data?

If you don’t have the resources to change your BI operations (or don’t have a dedicated BI team at all) then looking into your MMP and its capabilities must be high on your priority list.  It’s important to remember that not all MMPs are created equal. Some were devised mobile-first while others trace their origins back to web attribution.  Do you know the backstory behind the one you’re using?  

If your MMP is on top of its game then they are probably hard at work with solutions already in beta.  Without naming names there are definitely two MMPs we know of, albeit in the more expensive price tier, that have already made great strides in this area since the IDFA news broke back in June.  Unfortunately, others of the slightly lesser expensive variety who typically don’t trace their roots back to mobile attribution are somewhat behind the curve with getting solutions into beta. 

While they may be excellent products in their own rights, you truly do “get what you pay for” and with a development as disruptive as the required IDFA opt-in, the end may justify the means when it comes to spending a little bit more.  However, and this is important, don’t jump without looking first – as we mentioned above every MMP is its own creature, so don’t assume you can or can’t get what you need from yours based solely on its size or price tag.

Rethinking User Acquisition

If you’re a small agency or publisher without a high level of technical experience the first two suggestions probably aren’t the right fit for you.  However, even if you don’t have a BI team or aren’t using an MMP there are still some tactics available to you if you’re willing to put in the work.

Think Outside the Box

First things first you will need to get users to opt-in to allow you access to their IDFA.  As we mentioned above and with an expected conversion rate of 10-20% tops, the outlook is rather bleak.  While that intrusive consent pop-up that users are going to be presented with is the same for everyone, the messaging inside that pop-up doesn’t have to be.  

With developers free to get creative with words it still provides one last shot (albeit a long one at that) to stand out, show a little brand personality, and entice users to opt-in. Even if you’re successful with converting just a small percentage of users into IDFA consenters you’re ahead of the game and have now set yourself up to target them with their own unique campaigns featuring different messaging.  It isn’t exactly a retargeting campaign, but rather a separate step in your user acquisition. Obviously it’s going to be a far smaller audience that you’ll be targeting, but one that’s composed of quality over quantity, and even more important, one that’s trackable and attributable.

Higher Learning

In addition to giving your creative team a new assignment with your opt-in messaging, you’re also going to need to put your UA manager to work in getting more statistically oriented when it comes to analysis of upper-funnel analysis.  Up until now for performance marketers, the focus has been all about down funnel and mapping in-app events.  However, with the IDFA no longer a given, conducting deeper analysis on metrics like impressions, CTR, CVR, and clicks are more important than ever before.

Key Takeaways

  • IDFA may be going away, but not all is lost.  It certainly won’t be an easy change, but with the right planning it doesn’t have to be a catastrophe.
  • If you have a data team and the resources to go with it, a restructuring of how you model your data, including switching to aggregated reporting rather from raw data could reap the dividends that justify the costs of doing it.
  • Take a good hard look into everything your MMP has to offer.  Do they already have solutions already in beta?  If yours doesn’t, does it make sense to possibly spend more and switch to one that does?
  • Treat your opt-in messages like ads.  Make them as enticing as possible.  It would be naive to expect them to move the needle a tremendous amount, but why leave any chips on the table?
  • Change up your focus from down funnel to upper-funnel analysis to help identify trends more quickly.
  • Stay alert. Yes, the changing trends in privacy present a huge challenge for everyone, and it’s not just iOS.  Even Google is eventually expected to make its GAID an opt-in identifier as well.  That said, keep in mind that Facebook relies on the IDFA for a significant percentage of its advertising technologies so they’re on it, as are many of the major MMPs.  It’s a fluid situation that is pretty much guaranteed to change so in addition to doing your legwork make sure to check back with us as we’ll no doubt be keeping our eyes on the situation and sharing updates and insights when we have them.

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