Mike Herrick, SVP Technology at Airship, shares his tips on how marketers can best adapt to Apple IDFA changes and more generally to the evolution of data privacy.
Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) this month announced a slew of new iOS 15 features that will significantly impact brand marketers while giving users even greater control over their privacy and personal data.
For instance, iPhone users will be able to access an App Privacy Report, revealing how often apps use permissions they’ve granted (such as accessing their location or camera). It will also reveal which domains and SDKs apps are contacting and sharing data with while in use.
Meanwhile, turning on Mail Privacy Protection within Apple’s Mail app will hide a person’s IP address so that email senders can’t connect the account to other online activity or to someone’s location. Senders will also be prevented from using pixel trackers to detect whether the consumer has opened an email. And iCloud+ users will gain access to Privacy Relay, which will keep their internet activity private even from Apple by encrypting data their data similar to a VPN. Finally, a new Focus mode will prevent all but the most important notifications from disturbing users during certain times.
These new features, expected to roll out later this year, follow recent changes to Apple’s ID for Advertisers (IDFA). IDFA allows marketers to track a user’s activity across apps to better target and measure digital ad campaigns. However, since the iOS 14.5 update, apps have to ask users to opt in for tracking – one analysis found that only about 4% or 5% of Apple users opted in.
Combined, these changes are a huge win for consumer privacy. Along with Apple’s privacy nutrition labels for iOS apps, consumers now have more transparency and control over how their data is used. This is the latest evidence of Apple’s evolving approach to consumer privacy, and whether driven by competition or data regulations the other tech giants are likely to follow suit.
These upcoming changes also represent a major shift for the brand marketing ecosystem. Marketers, advertisers, and solution providers are likely scrambling to adapt to what will become the new mobile experience in a few months’ time, and brands must adapt to changing user behaviours. Third-party data is getting scarcer, so marketers must focus on first- and zero-party data (which is any data that a customer explicitly and deliberately shares with a brand).
To help prepare for this new normal, here are three tips to help marketers strengthen their brands.
Tip #1: Establish meaningful connections through testing
The first thing brands must remember is that when they make a first-party data “ask” — such as an app download, a social media login, or permission to send push notifications — they are not asking for a one-off transaction. In fact, they are asking for a committed relationship, which requires tact and care.
In order to establish a meaningful connection as quickly as possible, brands must offer what their customers find most valuable. Marketers can best accomplish this by continually optimising app tours, opt-in prompts, customer journeys and messages, using ongoing A/B or multivariate testing to finely tune execution.
Constant testing can also help to retain a brand’s earned audience and drive positive business outcomes. For example, Latin America-based food delivery platform iFood used A/B testing to encourage more customers to pay for orders online rather than upon delivery, increasing the share of online payments by 14%. This also improved the customer experience by saving them time, and gave the brand a competitive edge during the pandemic as most consumers preferred contactless payments compared to other methods.
Tip #2: Respect customer preferences
When onboarding customers to apps, websites and opt-in channels, brands should ask them to select product and/or service preferences that will help improve the experience. Find out how often customers want to hear from a company, and through which channels.
These explicit preferences should be granular, without being invasive or taking up too much of the customer’s time. Reach beyond preference centres and include these options in onboarding flows or during account set-up. For example, marketers for a sports equipment company might use app screens on initial open to establish which gender the user typically shops for, the sports or activities of interest, and their favourite sports personality, to learn how to better serve the customer in a few quick taps.
Remember, if customers provide explicit preferences, brands must both use and honour them to fulfil their share of the privacy-value exchange. Furthermore, marketers must try to predict customers’ implicit preferences to truly provide the best experience. Users’ website and app behaviors, their progress or stopping points during purchase journeys, and their messaging interactions — from button taps to live chat — offer a wealth of insights. For instance, if a news publisher sees a user visiting “sports” content at a higher rate than average, that could shape future targeting and personalisation. They could even turn this signal from an implicit to an explicit preference with a simple Yes/No notification: “would you like to receive more sports news?”
Brands must use this information to evolve the customer relationship on an individual level and demonstrate they care for the customer’s preferences. Ultimately, this will help to grow customer value as users receive what they expect.
Tip 3: Get your business aligned and ready
Once a brand has first- and zero-party data, marketers will want to leverage it automatically to maximise sales and achieve critical business outcomes. To accomplish these goals, the CMO and marketing department must be strategically aligned with the chief information officer (CIO) and their team. The depth of this alignment, and how well marketing, sales, and other departments work in unison, will be the modern brand’s measure of successful customer experiences.
The upcoming changes in Apple’s iOS 15 update underline that brands must earn the right to collect and leverage customer data. Marketers will also need to be more sophisticated than ever to ensure they are sending timely and relevant messages. They’ll need to do a better job of requesting customer information to collect data in exchange for more relevant experiences, communications, and promotions. And they’ll need to leverage real-time automation so that first- and zero-party data delivers great customer experiences.
This all comes down to owning and respecting the customer relationship. Serving and empathising with the consumer is more important than ever, and brands that do it well will build durable and valuable customer relationships.
By Mike Herrick