Recently, Apple updated its operating system to iOS 17. The enhancements are great news for users who value their privacy, but what about iOS 17’s impact on marketing?
With the new tracking limitations, monitoring your results just got a bit more challenging. Don’t let the move toward cookieless marketing scare you, though.
All you need to do is familiarize yourself with the changes and adapt your marketing accordingly.
Ready to learn more? Great! Let’s go.
What Is New With iOS 17?
The latest changes mean fresh features for FaceTime, search filter improvements, and more features for visual lookups. Other updates are:
- Interactive widgets on the Home and Lock screens and for Stand-by mode
- Better keyboard and autocorrect accuracy
- Email or phone number sign-in
- Enhanced accessibility features in Phone and FaceTime
- Improvements to AirPlay and AirPods
Some of the following updates in iOS 17 may impact email marketing and online marketers:
- Added link tracking protection removes tracking parameters shared in Messages, Mail, and Safari Private Browsing.
- Sharing permissions enhancements give users better control over data shared with apps.
- The Safari browser allows different profiles for work and personal life to keep history, cookies, and extensions separate.
- Enhancements to private browsing, including blocking recognized trackers from loading and removing identifying tracking from URLs (Safari).
iOS 17’s Privacy Changes: What Do They Mean?
Let’s hear what Apple says first:
Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering, says:
“We are focused on keeping our users in the driver’s seat when it comes to their data by continuing to provide industry-leading privacy features and the best data security in the world.”
What does that mean in practice?
It means you won’t know who is reading your marketing emails because you can no longer detect if or when they have been opened.
Additionally, app providers now need permission before tracking users through device identifiers due to the App Tracking Transparency (ATT) framework. This makes monitoring user behavior and targeting ads based on device identifiers more difficult.
App Store applications will now feature a “privacy nutrition label,” allowing users to review data collection policies before downloading. The App Store itself even has one:
Searchers also get additional protection from trackers when using the Safari browser with advanced tracking and fingerprinting protections to stop websites from tracking or identifying a user’s device.
How iOS 17 Will Change Digital Marketing
The most significant change for digital marketers is how they measure advertising campaigns. This is due to Apple blocking tag managers and removing tracking parameters for people browsing with privacy mode active on their Apple devices.
The changes remove traceable parameters in link URLs, preventing data about user interactions with ads from being shared with other companies. With tracking parameters removed, retargeting becomes more difficult due to reduced precision. It also makes monitoring user behavior, A/B testing, and analyzing your campaign’s effectiveness more difficult.
Tag managers in privacy mode browsing affects the following platforms:
- Google AdWords
- Facebook Ads
- Twitter Ads
- Microsoft Ads
- Google Analytics
It’s not all doom and gloom, though.
These changes to Apple iOS 17 won’t affect you so much if you’re using first-party data (customer data collected from your own sources, like website tracking tools, email subscribers, or audience surveys).
Further, Urchin Tracking Modules (UTMs), a snippet of code added to a URL for tracking purposes, remain intact as they’re not unique personal identifiers. This means you can still track and analyze data related to:
- utm_source, which identifies the specific traffic source, such as the search engine, social media platform, or website.
- utm_medium, indicating where traffic is generated, for example, email, organic search, paid search, or referral.
- utm_campaign, showing the specific marketing campaign or promotion associated with a link.
- utm_term, enabling tracking for specific keywords associated with paid ad campaigns.
- utm_content is used to differentiate between different variations or versions of the same ad or link.
- Other tracking parameters related to TikTok, Pinterest, Hubspot, Klaviyo, Spotify, and Adobe Analytics will remain unaffected, too.
Youngfolks.com has created this graph to let you see which parameters are being removed at a glance:
That should give you a pretty good idea of the potential impact of iOS 17 on marketing. Now, let’s explore the changes to campaign tracking.
What Is New With Campaign Tracking in iOS 17
The main change is the removal of tracking parameters from links in Safari Private Browsing and the links in Messages and Mail. Here’s what links look like before and after the update.
For marketers, that means they can’t monitor clicks and other essential metrics they usually rely on, like campaign performance and user behavior. With the tracking parameters removed, one of the most significant impacts of iOS17 on marketing will be assessing whether websites or conversions came from a specific advertising campaign.
However, marketers can limit the impact of these changes by finding alternative tracking methods, such as using first-party data and measuring app analytics.
What Is Customer-First Data?
Customer-first data enables business owners to understand their customer base better and deliver more personalized messaging.
There are plenty of ways to collect first-party data. Here are some examples:
- Use interactive content like polls, quizzes, and surveys.
- Implement progressive profiling techniques by collecting small amounts of information over time to build a comprehensive user profile.
- Include gamification elements in your marketing campaigns, like games and challenges.
- Launch user-generated competitions and encourage users to create content and share it on social media.
Collecting zero and first-party data is a solid workaround for marketers adapting to the current iOS 17 marketing impact and the eventual phasing out of third-party cookies and cross-site tracking entirely.
When you use the above methods, always ask for consent and provide opt-out options to respect user preferences.
How Digital Marketers Can Adapt to iOS 17
If you’ve started to panic about what these changes mean to you, relax. Don’t be worried. As I’ve previously explained, iOS 17 will impact marketing, but there is plenty you can do to adapt.
- Assess your attribution models and evaluate how much you rely on third-party data to understand the impact of LTP on your business.
- Explore alternative tracking methods or adapt existing ones and focus on contextual advertising to help mitigate the impact of iOS 17’s changes.
- Stay updated with privacy changes to future-proof your campaigns by monitoring platform updates from advertising and analytics platforms.
- Focus on ways to collect zero or first-party data from lead generation forms, surveys, polls, incentive systems, or interactive content. Be sure to handle this data in compliance with privacy regulations.
- Incorporate privacy-friendly tech stacks to help navigate the impact of iOS17 and future changes.
Link tracking protection means marketers must adapt their campaign tracking strategies. As such, it’s vital to evaluate your current attribution model to understand the impact of LTP on your business, for example, assessing how much you rely on third-party data.
You’ll then need to explore alternative tracking methods (such as first-party data collection) or adapt existing tracking models. Finally, adopting privacy-friendly tech stacks and staying updated with privacy changes can help you thrive in a privacy-conscious digital environment.
Link tracking protection and mail privacy protection are two of the most significant impacts of iOS 17 on marketing. Link tracking protection will likely impact email click tracking, and mail privacy protection means you won’t know if an email gets opened.
Email open rates are one of the most effective ways to see if your emails resonate with customers, so this is one way iOS 17 may impact email marketing.
The changes also block tracking parameters from some social media sites, and marketers must protect and prioritize data privacy and get opt-in consent.
LTP removes certain tracking parameters in URLs, messages, and mail when people use their Apple devices’ private browsing mode feature. This makes it challenging for marketers to monitor user interactions across multiple touchpoints, track campaign engagement, and attribute conversions to a specific ad or marketing effort.
Make the most of your first-party data (the data you collect directly from your customers or leads). Invite customers to opt-in to your mailing lists and segment data so you can tailor advertising directly to your list.
Use a mix of marketing channels like email, social media, content marketing, and influencer collaborations.
Be clear on what you’ll use customer data for, and ensure you have consumers’ full consent. Give your subscribers a choice to opt-out, ensure you follow the legal requirements for email marketing, and check you’re GDPR compliant.
Finally, focus on building direct customer relationships so you’re not depending on third-party data.
Consumers value their privacy, and big companies like Apple are doing their part to adjust to the need for greater data protection.
The changes to iOS 17 are great news for consumers who want to limit who sees their data, but marketers need to adapt.
There’s no doubt that the updates to iOS 17 will impact marketing to an extent, but there are plenty of simple changes you can make to adjust.
Keep first-party data and customer transparency at the top of your list, and you’re off to an excellent start.
You can also use data from UTMs, add alternative marketing methods into your mix, like social media and influencer collaborations, and invite your customers to sign up for your mailing lists directly.
Get all that right, and your marketing should keep going strong.
How will iOS 17 affect your marketing? Share your thoughts below!
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