Cookies are crumbling: How Apple’s changes to iOS 14 impact B2B marketers

May 21, 2021 Chuck Leddy

The impending doom of cookies has arrived, and it will have a massive impact on B2B marketers. Google plans to phase out cookies by 2022. Meanwhile, Apple has updated their latest iOS version 14 to give users more control over tracking and cookies. The Apple update also impacts every brand advertising through Facebook. Marketers won’t be able to use Facebook’s ad-tracking Pixel for data collection, attribution, and optimization. 

With fewer ways to track and collect data, marketers may lose visibility and insight into their customers and the buyer’s journey, not to mention losing revenues. Many marketers fear that a cookie-less world will reintroduce inefficiency, data/platform silos, and less effective targeting. In order to better understand the big changes Apple has made in iOS 14 and how they impact B2B marketers, we spoke to Sojourn Solutions Managing Partner Adam Mitrosz.

What exactly is Apple changing in iOS 14?

Mitrosz: The new version 14 basically limits the data points that are made available from Apple devices [such as mobile phones] for tracking. So iOS 14 will now ask users for explicit consent to enable tracking. You need to explicitly opt-in, rather than having opt-in as the default. Beyond this technical change, there’s a big impact on marketers. We have big players like Apple, Google, and Facebook now making important changes to tracking and cookies. For instance, Facebook will obviously be impacted in terms of its advertising and ad targeting services. Businesses that use Facebook for ads and rely on Facebook for attribution reporting will be impacted. Those small businesses typically don’t have resources to do their own attribution without Facebook’s reporting.

Impacted businesses will have to change configuration in order to get anywhere close to the attribution data they’ve been getting from Facebook, and they’ll also have less overall data available. Facebook’s reports are actually far better than what small companies would typically be able to generate by themselves. Small businesses could be looking at a revenue loss of at least 20%. That's a big deal. 

How does Apple's move connect with larger trends around data privacy?

Mitrosz: It is completely consistent with trends like GDPR, CDPA, and moves by Google and other big platforms. If you restrict or limit the effectiveness of cookies, which Apple is doing in iOS 14, it means that you need a “walled garden” [a walled garden is a closed ecosystem in which all operations go through and stay in that ecosystem.].if you want to know who is visiting and who is buying. You need to have a login. So that's the clear way for Apple to make more money. Facebook of course could lose money. For the end users, it means more data privacy and more choice, but could also make it more difficult to navigate when you see “opt-in messages” all along the way.  

So users get to click more buttons asking them to agree to enable tracking or not. Do users like those messages before they can access the content they want? It’s like driving down a road, trying to get from A to B, and seeing lots of signs and restrictions. Personally, I’d prefer to live in a world where there's very clear guidelines around using my data and where the user experience and the ethics around using data are clear. Facebook’s argument that “we support and empower small businesses” so that it's not only the big players like Google or Apple who can take advantage of the technology is valid. But Apple also has a valid argument that they’re protecting people’s privacy and data. 

In the short term, what marketing approaches will be disrupted? 

Mitrosz: Anything related to mobile will be impacted, as well as Apple devices. If you are a heavy Facebook campaign user, you'll have to change your campaigns and you’ll have to configure the data points that Facebook provides. It impacts visibility across platforms and you may not have a single view across platforms into your customers. 

First-party data will only become more important for our clients, especially if they want to close the loop with reporting. Marketers definitely need to implement first party cookie tracking -- this move by Apple makes that even more important. In terms of targeting, you will no longer have an individual tagged with an ID. So even for a business that has really well implemented tracking, they’ll have to be even smarter and invest more time, knowledge and technology into understanding their data, seeing customer behavioral patterns for example. AI will inevitably become more valuable here. 

What should B2B marketers be doing now in response to the iOS change?

Mitrosz: More diversification is the answer. So if you rely on cookies today, you should be looking into getting more logged in users. Your service or product needs to be worth logging into for your customers. A log in means that you don't even have to collect their consent in order to know who they are. In addition, invest in data analysis and make sure to clean your data so you know what's happening with your audience. 

In the long term, you should focus on UX, giving users the experience they really want. People don't necessarily want to be asked too many questions. Like the driver going from A to B in a car, they want to reach their destination without too much friction. You need to be transparent with your audience about how you use their data and be open and ethical when using someone's data. That’s more important now than ever, and it’s also becoming a necessary business concept. 

To learn even more about how to market effectively in a world where cookies are crumbling, reach out to us here.

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