IOS 15 VS FB: How Should eCommerce Brands Navigate The Privacy War

When Apple decided to tighten its privacy policy, it left brands confused. Ashley from Hawke media explains in detail the latest IOS 15 update and the impact on ECommerce brands that depend on Facebook for a large chunk of their new customer acquisition.

This blog sums up the following: 

1. What are the latest IOS 15 updates and their impact on Facebook users?

2. What are the alternate channels eCommerce brands can make use of?

3. Does it mean more emphasis on nurturing existing customers for repeat sales?

4. What does the future of social commerce hold for eCommerce brands

Revathi: Hey folks, welcome to e-commerce 360. Today we have Ashley Scorpio who is the vice president of partnerships of Hawke Media. Hawke Media helps businesses grow through marketing consultancy. Before we kick this off let’s start by telling us a bit about yourself, your role at Hawke Media, the larger mission, and at Hawke Media what you’re trying to achieve.

Ashley: I am a performance digital marketer with about a dozen years of experience in the industry, I’ve worked at two different agencies now as well as with my consultancy and in-house with several different brands. I started my career originally in Canadian politics so I had very traditional roles as a senior political aide to the prime minister, members of the cabinet, and other public figures and naturally, a lot of politics is communication public relations, and marketing, and then of course as the world continued to evolve and social media platforms became more and more important in everyday life.

 They also became more important in campaigns and order for the government as well as public figures to reach their constituents effectively on social media I spearheaded a lot of those efforts within my political party back in Canada getting our colleagues and our caucus members and our candidates on social platforms and connecting with their constituents and with voters and so that was sort of my initial foray into really seriously full-time professionally. My career in digital marketing and then before leaving Canada I managed a community including all paid social and a lot of email fundraising for the largest political party in Canada and the prime minister and his wife and then I moved here to the United States about five years ago joined another digital marketing agency. 

I have done a few things in between ended up back in the startup ecosystem which is kind of where I used to play in and out of politics and yeah here I am at Hawk Media today and I oversee our partner program and what that means is we build a lot of wonderful relationships with third parties a lot of them are service-based or technology-based partners that have complementary offerings that our clients can leverage to help meet their growth marketing goals. So yeah I’m a marketer my sort of background is primarily in paid media buying in particular on social and I know we’re going to talk about that today so it’s probably pretty timely but yeah day to day we work with many wonderful partners like Shipping Chimp. 

Revathi: That’s a fascinating journey from politics to social media but social media. 

Let’s jump into our topic. I think then you’re the right person to kick it off right. How is this Facebook update going to affect e-commerce brands at large? I know it started because a lot of political parties are misusing that but how is it going to affect the e-commerce brands? 

From your experience with cooperating and coordinating with brands, what do you think are the pros and cons of the update?

Ashley: Definitely! It’s interesting because back in the day there was a lot of resistance and hesitancy for politicians and political parties to get online and it was a big learning curve to get them to that point and of course nowadays especially here in the United States we’ve seen how that has evolved over the years. It started with Obama’s campaign leveraging SMS back in 2008 that was cutting edge and revolutionary at that time and then of course nowadays we’ve seen all of this misinformation and disinformation that occurs across social media and how that can affect the outcomes of elections. 

So yeah to your point it’s been a really interesting vesting journey. So to that end, Apple in particular google have wanted to try and take a privacy focused stance to protect consumers information and so that of course has a trickle-down effect on all of the different marketing and advertising platforms like Facebook so the changes that Facebook has made are in response to Apple’s new requirements so basically as apple rolled out ios 14 ios 14.5 onward Facebook then in order to be compliant with Apple’s new guidelines enabled what’s called the ATT app tracking transparency pop-up in its app and they started in may this year so basically Apple required every single app developer and brand or business that has an app on on the app store to have this ATT pop-up to decide to opt in to tracking or opt out but historically this had always been an opt-out that was kind of buried in the settings that you had to go looking for to opt out now it’s front and center you know it’s popping up when you’re using the app or when it’s going on in the background to double check and confirm that you are opting in to use that.

This tracks their usage of the app and their data overall and the reason this affects Facebook and other advertising platforms is the identifier for advertisers which is called the IDFA, that’s the way that devices assign a unique identifier to an apple device and in turn, a user who has that device to then track them and advertise them advertising them accordingly without really revealing personal information but more and more people are opting out so if let’s say historically there had been nearly a hundred percent let’s say opt-in rate. Experts are predicting that over time it’ll continue to diminish to the point where perhaps only 10 % of users opted in. So, that is a massive delta that brands are going to have to deal with and this affects their Ad campaigns because they won’t be as specific they won’t be as personalized they won’t be as direct.

Facebook use the power of their platform to start advertising to users back in the spring of this year to encourage them to opt-in and they were telling their users that their Ads would be better and more personalized that advertising revenue is what allows them to keep Facebook and Instagram free for users and not have sort of a monthly membership fee and it would help small businesses that rely on Ads so it was really interesting too that as Facebook was preparing to roll out the att pop-up to be compliant with apple, they were simultaneously trying to encourage their specific users to opt in to ensure that their Ads would remain personalized.

This means a lot for brands and businesses and that’s why they should be paying attention to it because it’s probably the biggest shake-up that we’ve seen in the digital marketing industry since GDPR. 

Revathi:  Also, now brands have to worry about their end-users opting in twice right one in the IOS platform and then again in Facebook and it’s going to be such a big downer for them so what are the alternate channels for brands.

Before we get on with that what do we do with the existing Facebook Ads, what do brands do with them how do they improve their targeting with the existing campaigns I know it’s going to not fetch as much result as it used to but how is it going to be now what can they do to improve the targeting within these limitations that we have?

Ashley:  The way that this is affecting Facebook Ads already, it’s creating these extra hurdles for advertisers, it’s created more technical steps for them to set up their Facebook campaigns for soundness and efficacy purposes and then over time the results will continue to diminish against what they have historically been because those audiences will continue shrinking and whatever data they previously had will become stale right over time it’s no longer current. Specifically, there’s going to be targeting limitations that advertisers see on the platforms it’s going to be more difficult to implement that target based advertising there’s going to be a lot of limitations when it comes to personalization and retargeting and then in particular there’s also going to be issued with reporting and attribution so it’ll continue to become vaguer and less specific over time and delayed so previously data was passed through in real-time.

 When an event or conversion event took place on on your site as a brand or business and now it can actually take up to three days after the conversion event took place to receive that information in your Ads manager on Facebook so those are some major limitations one of the other limitations advertisers should be aware of is they are now only going to be able to use a total of eight conversion events per domain so they have to really think about their strategy what the most important conversion events are for their business and their current customer journey and then they’re going to have to go ahead and set up those eight conversion events that they haven’t already and so that’s first and foremost what they need to do to set up their account for success in this new environment and then the other thing that they need to be aware of is the default attribution window has also changed historically it had been a 28-day click and it is moving to a seven day click now that’s just important to note if you are comparing your data month over month quarter recorder year over year etc.

It’s also important to take into account when you think about specifically your customer journey and how long historically you have seen customers move through your conversion funnel and what the timing of their journey looks like so those are all things that brands and advertisers should be paying attention to. 

Revathi: If brands are dependent on acquisition completely on Facebook so what are the alternatives that brands have right now? Is it email, is it SMS or is it other social media channels, and what is the closest to Facebook acquisition that they have currently?

Ashley: So first and foremost I think that brands should continue to use Facebook, Instagram, and other paid acquisition channels at this time until it gets the point where they’re truly not as efficient as they used to be but right now it’s still better than it will be months from now right so they might want to frontload those prospecting top of funnel branding and awareness on these paid platforms, in addition, this is not specific to Facebook we’re talking about the ways that Facebook has handled this but this massive att change was implemented by Apple and it’s affecting all of the different advertising platforms, not just Facebook and Instagram so you’re finding similar effects and fallout on google Ads, on Tiktok, Pinterest Snapchat, etc and all of those different platforms are addressing it in different ways so I think this is why it’s also important to just always think about your marketing and channel mix and experimenting with different channels.

TikTok is obviously really up and coming virality is a big thing on the platform so you might even want to think about organic social again in that sense and not just the paid efforts and Snapchat you know has seen a massive uptick in users in the past year, in the past quarter and so that might be a channel that is often at times overlooked that advertisers and brands might want to reconsider at this time but that’s just on the paid side.

 I would say outside of paid owned and earned channels are basically more important than ever, so brands should definitely be thinking about their existing email database and how can they grow that database right now maybe they’ll do specific acquisition campaigns to grow that database right now maybe they’ll do a giveaway to just build out that list segment it and really focus on engagement and retention of those existing subscribers and customers because that’s going to be essential because all this hyper pixel segmentation that we used to have is gone so you also might want to think about zero party and first party data if you have this great subscriber list or customer list why don’t you survey them or quiz them or send them engaging and interesting content to hear from them what they want to see from you do they want discounts do they want a sale do they want a giveaway do they want to see a collaboration do they want to see a new product line do they want to see variety in in the colors or the you know something in your product that you haven’t done before listen to your customer and and cater to those needs.

On that same front of life cycle marketing, I would say SMS so many brands still haven’t made that leap into SMS and of course, there have been some changes in SMS this year too with the shaft guidelines at least here in the united states but that only applies to very specific segments so the average e-commerce brand it’s a no-brainer they should be getting into SMS and engaging with their customers there and you know during this pandemic we’ve seen even though a lot of people have been at home a lot more than they would be than on the go we’ve still seen mobile phone usage including I guess just whilst people are around their own homes continue to increase so you know people are often more likely to look at an SMS on their phone than open up their email on their phone let’s say so I would say own and earn channels email and SMS like I said organic social don’t overlook the potential virality especially on platforms like Tiktok.

 I just think you know content is is queen content is queen it’s important to think about what interesting intriguing content can you put out there how can you drive awareness or education of would-be new customers and just continue to iterate you know rather than perfect continue to iterate well is better than perfect otherwise you’ll never get anything out the door you’ll never publish anything if you’re waiting for it to be perfect so just keep thinking about what do my customers care about what do they need to know to convert and buy my product and you know think about putting that out there into the world.

Revathi:  You have listed I think several channels that marketers can now look forward to other than the paid Facebook Ads, one other thing that’s getting popular is retention marketing right because probably because of these privacy updates e-commerce brands are starting to look into their customer base and customer data and trying to nurture the relationship that they already have established with their customers. What are your thoughts on nurturing existing customers for increasing repeats and you know decreasing the chart that they have?

Ashley: Everything that we just talked about means that the CAC the customer acquisition cost is increasing but we didn’t say anything about the existing customers you already have a relationship with those customers and hopefully they’re opted in to your email communications right or your SMS communications like I mentioned so yeah absolutely if it’s becoming more expensive for the for your bottom line to acquire new customers why don’t you turn your attention inward to your existing or previous customers and I think there’s lots of different ways that you can increase activity and engage with them other than the surveys and quizzes that I mentioned you might want to consider having a really strong promotional content calendar whether that’s on your own social channels whether that’s on your email channels whether that’s on SMS and you should think about what different sales and giveaways and promos and contests and sweepstakes you might plan out for the year you might also want to think about that content like I mentioned and weaving that in if you’re going to create a piece of content for your blog why don’t you repurpose it and put it in a newsletter and send it out to your dedicated readers.

Work smarter not harder if you’re already creating an asset how can you get the most bang for your buck out of that asset and get it in front of as many valuable eyes as possible I also think it’s important to dopers so personalization is something we’ve been talking about in the industry for a long time, obviously these changes affect personalization on paid channels but if you already have zero party or first-party data on your existing customers use that to personalize messages to them you know they bought XYZ from you why don’t you talk to them about XYZ or ABC product that is complementary to XYZ hey we know you got this why don’t you check this out this will pair well you know things like.

 I also think beyond post purchase engagement that’s personalized I also would think about cart abandonment campaigns you know if you don’t already have that set up that’s an easy win that person was one click away from purchasing why don’t you send them a note hey you forgot you forgot to check out or don’t miss out or this sale ends today these items are still waiting in your cart for you like create some urgency get them over there and if nothing else works maybe you offer them a little cherry on top maybe like hey if you check out today here’s an extra five percent off this purchase right so I think cart abandonment emails are important I also think re-engagement or win-back campaigns are important because you might also have some lapsed customers that have purchased in the past some time ago haven’t engaged with you recently haven’t purchased recently so how can you communicate and reach them effectively what might be most interesting them you might even divvy up that segment into a couple segments and experiment with different offers or engagement campaigns so I think that could really help.

 I also think loyalty or refer a friend program how do you incentivize those existing customers to keep coming back for more you build loyalty amongst that base right so yeah I think those would be some of the key things and then of course if you have a line of products as an e-commerce merchant how can you best do product recommendations to your existing customer base right so those are some of the things that I would be thinking about to best nurture those existing and previous customers to hopefully repeat sales.

Revathi: That’s wonderful! As a final question as a wrap up we just want to leave you with one last question, what do you think is the future for Ads, do you think they’ll all be you know having the same kind of future where there is no personalization there’s no scope for it at all or do they have still a chance to market this to have some hope?

Ashley: I think it’s a great question I don’t think paid digital advertising is dead, you know over 50 of digital marketing budgets historically have gone just to paid digital advertising specifically on Google and Facebook who are basically historically have been in a dead heat for about 50 % each of that paid digital budget so I don’t think it’s dead I think that you know Facebook, snapchat pinterest, twitter tick-tock google ads, they’re going to continue to adapt on their platforms to try and make this as bespoke as they can within the limitations and even so like I mentioned google is planning its privacy forward-thinking as well and they’re going to be eliminating cookies on chrome which is obviously one of the most popular browsers in the world but of course that will also decrease the efficacy again of advertising across these platforms including google Ads and so I think original google has announced this several times over the years and most recently they punted this out to 2023 and specifically the reason they did that they cited was trying to understand and come up with a model to ensure that google Ads will still be feasible and profitable and useful for brands and businesses and advertisers.

I think that you know some of these large platforms are thinking about how they can mitigate the negative effects of these. I do think we’ll continue to see things moving in this way this started in the lieu with GDPR a few years ago, at that time brands and businesses in the US already thought t’s only a matter of time until the US passes similar legislation and then instead of that we’ve seen you know industry titans take it into their own hands and make these types of changes.

I think that we might see even more campaigns of platforms encouraging users to opt-in kind of like what we saw on Facebook with their campaigns I think that brands and businesses will diversify their channel mix they won’t rely so heavily on paid social or search ads for acquisition, they might think more about podcasts, podcast advertising if I think more about native content, they might think more about traditional PR outside of a pandemic maybe they’ll do more guerrilla marketing, maybe they’ll do more out of home, maybe we’ll see more billboards and bus stop Ads. I think we’ll just start to see more diversity over time.

Revathi:  That’s amazing! The more organic marketing and not the scammy cheap intrusive marketing. Thank you so much Ashley for coming to our show today and leaving us very enthusiastic and energetic.
Ashley: Thank you for having me.

Revathi Karthik
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