Always on the front lines of addressing privacy concerns, Apple is launching an important security update in spring 2021. The upcoming iOS 14.5 update is expected to completely change small business advertising via social media apps.
Already causing escalating conflict between Apple and Facebook, the privacy feature to be rolled out with iOS 14.5 may come as a shock to small business owners who have only limited time to prepare for the changes.
First expected to be released with the iOS 14.4 update, Apple’s new privacy feature is now set to release with iOS 14.5.
The business-controversial App Tracking Transparency (ATT) feature is already available to iOS 14.5 Beta users and will be available to the public in early spring 2021.
iOS 14 update: what everyone’s talking about
Unlike prior releases focusing on COVID-19 contact tracing, UI improvements, and bug fixes, the iOS 14.5 release won’t be just about user experience. Bundled into iOS 14.5 will be a major privacy update that impacts small business even more than it does iPhone users.
Its most talked-about feature is called App Tracking Transparency (ATT). When activated, ATT can prevent social media apps like Facebook and Instagram from collecting user data.
With the release of iOS 14.5, expect to see a message like this when you open an app:
“X would like permission to track you across apps and websites owned by other companies. Your data will be used to deliver personalized ads to you.”
You’ll then have a chance to agree or to opt out. Your setting will only work for the particular app, and you can choose different privacy settings for different apps.
For iPhone and iPad users, the feature is a landmark privacy update. It allows users to choose which apps may collect their data to use for targeted ads, and which apps to block from collecting browsing data.
For example, if you’ve recently searched for kitty litter boxes or visited a couple of online stores to buy one, you won’t have to see kitty litter ads all over your Facebook page for time immemorial.
iOS 14.5 impact on small business
For iOS users, the iOS 14.5 update means a very welcome privacy wall against unsolicited social media advertising. But for countless small businesses that rely on Facebook and Instagram ads to drive customers, the update is an unwelcome conundrum.
How will small businesses generate traffic and leads when iOS users have the chance to simply lock their browsing data from being sent to apps like Facebook?
If you are that pet store owner, some of your greatest conversions may come from Facebook ads targeting people who’ve already viewed your products but left the site, have an abandoned cart, or viewed products similar to yours.
Following the iOS 14.5 update, many iPhone users will opt out of sending their data to Facebook and Instagram with a simple tap of the finger, leaving small businesses with a spiralling down social media reach.
Moreover, how will you drive sales if the person you’re targeting has the ATT feature activated? (And let’s face it, considering the annoyance of social media ads from the user side, most users will activate it.)
Questions like these are already destabilizing small business owners relying on Facebook or Instagram advertising as a major source of leads or site traffic.
How to prepare for Apple’s privacy changes as a small business
Apple may be a pioneer of mobile privacy features like ATT, but with the overall public demand for privacy on the rise, it is wise to foresee other platforms (both mobile and desktop) emulating the feature in the near future. For example, browsers like Safari and Mozilla Firefox are already using data tracking prevention. Likewise, Cookie policies are becoming increasingly widespread, with the state of California and the European Union having mandatory Cookie policies.
Experts suggest that small businesses relying exclusively or heavily on social media advertising should revisit their lead-gathering and marketing strategy to avoid severe drops in customers in the near future.
Be sure to use business tools to grow your business contact list, email lists, and expand your email campaigns. This way, you will not depend exclusively on social media campaigns. You can also go for lighter-style client management from your iPhone — like CRM built into the business phone system.
Finally, take time to understand your audience better so that your social media ads are spot-on, targeting the category of people most likely to convert into customers.
With privacy being mobile users' top pain and concern, the coming years will see plenty of privacy changes coming to mobile devices and browsers.
As a business, your best bet is to watch out for the “signs of the times” and be prepared to adapt your marketing and/or client strategy without waiting for the proverbial thunder to strike.