Apple and Google’s Privacy Updates

Apple and Google’s Privacy Updates: How They Affect eCommerce Retailers

Data privacy has been an ongoing challenge since the eCommerce era began. In the beginning, the only concern was that personal information and bank accounts were protected. Now, users are demanding even more protection and that includes ad tracking. 

With ad tracking, eCommerce retailers have been able to up their game and reach hundreds, if not thousands, more customers than before. eCommerce retailers often depend on it to show off their products to potential customers. 

The problem is, Apple and Google have just updated their privacy features by removing 3rd party cookies and giving users the option to turn off tracking respectively. It’s been a long-awaited update by users, and now retailers are feeling the heat. 

What Is Ad Tracking?

Ad tracking is the marketing research that monitor’s a brand or product’s performance. It can include brand and product awareness, product trial and usage, and the attitude towards a brand in comparison to competitors.

When you visit a site or view an ad on social media, the pixel sends a signal back to the retailer’s tool telling them that you just looked. It provides them with your user data and activity. 

Said data is collected by a text file called a first-party cookie that gets sent to your computer and tracks your movement on their page. 

Then there’s third-party ad tracking. Third-party trackers do the same exact thing but use third-party cookies to display their ads on different websites you visit.

While there are some benefits of ad tracking to users, it’s created a storm of distrust online. Apple and Google are listening. They want the competitive edge on privacy and have made some upgrades to their policies, but eCommerce retailers are panicking.

What’s Different?

Google Privacy Updates

In March, Google made an announcement that they intend to remove support for third-party cookies. They’ve been working to build innovations that protect anonymity for web users and will not build alternate identifiers to track individuals.

Google Chrome created the Privacy Sandbox initiative that proposes a privacy policy that supports business models that fund the open web without tracking mechanisms like third-party cookies. They’ve been experimenting with different APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) that can enable ad selection and conversion measurements for eCommerce retailers while keeping personal information protected.

One of these proposals includes an approach called the Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoCs). Instead of tracking users with cookies, their behavior is tracked across the web and stores that data in the user’s browser. Based on a user’s behavior and interests, they are then placed into cohorts where eCommerce retailers can market to them anonymously.

Apple Privacy Updates

Apple announced that they’re taking a different approach in their privacy updates with the new iOS 14.5 App Tracking Transparency (ATT). Put simply, it’s a feature that requires apps to request permission from users to track them across different apps and websites.

Unfortunately, the hype didn’t live up to the release. There are a lot of users that upgraded to iOS 14.5 and have yet to see any changes. According to an article by Forbes, “many Apple users are complaining about a lack of “Ask to Track” prompts since upgrading to iOS 14.5. Some people haven’t seen any at all, while others have seen heavily customized pop-ups”.

The Impact on eCommerce Retailers

The declaration of all these privacy updates has eCommerce retailers shaking, but the truth is… not much will change. That is, the ability to advertise to customers isn’t impossible now. 

Numbers will definitely decrease as advertisers maneuver their ways through different marketing strategies, and that’s expected. Tracking has never been an art form. Consumers have always been able to delete cookies or block ads. Plus, most people have multiple devices, and that can mess with user-tracking results.

It’s important to note that Apple’s updates are only going to affect the traffic coming from iOS app users. Facebook will also be largely affected by these updates, and that can cause a significant blow if that’s all the retailer depends on. It’s estimated that 70% of traffic comes from Facebook Ad Campaigns and predicted to drop between 15% and 20%.

The moral of the story is, eCommerce retailers just need to update their strategies. Changes are a part of business growth. 

First-party cookies aren’t being restricted, so they’ll have to rely on those to track analytics. Any third-party tools should be steered away from. Doing things like verifying their domain and implementing Google Site Tags are only some of the options advertisers have if they want to keep up with the changes.

While there’s still a lot of uncertainty around Apple and Google’s updates and their actual impacts on brands, all they have to do is prepare and strengthen their campaign strategy and it will minimize the effect on their bottom line.

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