iOS14 and Facebook advertising for eCommerce: what we know and actions you need to take

by | May 8, 2021 | Facebook Ads: Platform updates, Facebook Advertising | 0 comments

In April 2021, Apple introduced a number of policy changes that will impact data sharing across iOS. Specifically, Apple now requires that all apps in the App Store show a tracking permission prompt (called an App Tracking Transparency [ATT] prompt) to users with devices that are using iOS14.5 or later. Apple’s policy prohibits certain data collection and sharing unless people opt-in to tracking when these prompts are shown.

This update won’t just affect Facebook but any app that tracks peoples’ activity/collects user data in order to inform their advertising or personalisation services (so TikTok, Pinterest, Snapchat, Google etc. will all be affected too).

This blog post looks at how the update will affect advertising across Facebook and Instagram.

What Apple has said:

Tim Cooke on iOS14 and Facebook advertising

What Facebook has said:

We believe that free, ad-supported businesses have been essential to the growth and vitality of the Internet, and that personalised ads and user privacy can coexist. We support proactive privacy measures and data transparency, but we don’t agree with Apple’s policy changes.

The exact implications and extent to which this will affect Facebook and Instagram advertising remain to be seen as we progress throughout 2021 and will vary by account. But let’s take a look at what we do know right now…


How iOS14 will affect Facebook ads for eCommerce businesses


Apple’s request for users to opt into tracking has changed how Facebook receives and processes data from the Facebook Pixel and subsequently affects your ability to track and market to potential and current customers via Facebook and Instagram ads.

Read more from Facebook.


Here’s a breakdown on the key changes…

1. Some custom and lookalike audiences will be affected


As more people opt-out of tracking on devices operating iOS14.5 or later, the size of your Website Custom Audiences (for example, audiences of website visitors, people who have added to cart, purchasers etc) will decrease. Remarketing and retargeting to warm audiences will therefore be affected.

In addition, when excluding these audiences, those exclusions may be less accurate (for example, if I exclude recent website visitors from a campaign, the ads in this campaign may still be shown to website visitors on iOS14.5+ who have opted out of tracking).

This will also result in weaker Lookalike Audiences that are built from Website Custom Audiences (for example, a lookalike of people who have visited your website, a lookalike of people who have added to cart or a lookalike of recent purchasers). This may impact the success of campaigns using these Lookalike Audiences.

There should not be an impact on the quality of audiences built from actions taken within the Facebook and Instagram apps (for example, audiences of Facebook or Instagram Engagers and lookalikes of these audiences).

What you should be doing:

  • As always – testing! You should always be testing audiences and creative.
  • What is working best for you post iOS14.5?


2. Reporting is delayed


Real-time reporting on your Facebook analytic dashboard is no longer supported and some data may be delayed by up to three days.

What you should be doing:

  • Try to avoid making rash decisions/large optimisations on short windows of data because the data may not be complete.
  • Instead take a broader view – what has happened in the last 30, 14 and 7 days windows?


3. Conversions are now attributed to the day they take place


We are used to conversion events (for example, Add to Cart, Initiate Checkout, Purchase) being attributed to the same day the user clicks on the ad, which is not necessarily the same day as the conversion event happens. As of April 2021 conversion events are now reported based on the time the conversions occur.

For example, if I clicked on an ad for a jumper on Monday but didn’t buy it until the next day (Tuesday), historically the purchase would have been attributed to the Monday (the day I clicked the ad). Now it is attributed to the Tuesday (the day I triggered the conversion event, in this case, a Purchase).

What you should be doing:

  • Bear in mind that once an Ad/Ad Set/Campaign is switched off you may still see conversions come in for up to 7 days.



4. The default optimisation and attribution windows have changed


Historically, Facebook reported conversion events that have happened within 1 day of viewing an ad, or 28 days of clicking on an ad. This is known as the attribution window. A 28-Day Click/1-Day View attribution window is what most accounts used as it was the default setting.

From January 2021, the default for all new or active ad campaigns was set at a 7-Day Click/1-Day View attribution window and this has since changed again with the iOS14.5 roll out to 7-Day Click only).

So, historically, if I clicked on an ad for a jumper I like on Monday 1st January but decide to wait until the 26th January to buy it, my purchase would have logged on the Facebook ad dashboard and we could track that Facebook had a part to play in that conversion. Now, this purchase would not be reported on the Facebook analytic dashboard because it occurs outside the new 7-Day window.

These attribution changes will make your reported ROAS (return on ad spend) look worse. To what extent will depend on your customers’ typical time to conversion. If you sell low-priced products that customers usually buy within 1-7 days, your reported ROAS will be affected less than if you sell higher-priced items where customers take their time to consider before buying (for example furniture).

What you should be doing:

  • Not leaning too heavily on your Facebook ROAS to make overall scaling decisions.
  • Facebook reporting won’t pick up sales outside of that 7 Day window and it will also lose data from those opting out of tracking – but all those sales will still show up in your eCommerce platform.
  • So while your ROAS might look worse on Facebook, look at the data in your eCommerce platform or Google Analytics. Are you still generating good return overall vs what you are spending on paid advertising? This is often referred to as ‘Blended ROAS’ (£ total sales / £ marketing spend) and is something we will need to lean into more as our guiding star when it comes to making decisions. If your Blended ROAS looks good, it’s a good indicator Facebook (and other paid channels if you use them) are working for you, despite what the Facebook dashboard might be showing!

    5. Some results will be incomplete or estimated


    Metrics will not include all events from iOS14.5+ users due to the fact some will opt out of the tacking. Facebook has said that statistical modelling will be used for certain metrics to account for conversions by users on devices that have opted out of tracking. In some cases, data will be partial.

    If an iOS14.5+ user opts out of tracking, we can still obtain data on their highest priority event, but only if that Ad Set is optimised for 1 Day Click. If you are optimising for 7 Day Click (the default) or 7 Day Click/1 Day View you will see NO conversion data from iOS14.5+ opt-outs on your Facebook dashboard.

    It is communicated on your Facebook analytic dashboard when a metric is partial or modelled.


    What you should be doing:

    • See point 4 – Keep an eye on your ‘Blended ROAS’


    6. We can no longer see data breakdowns for conversions


    Historically we were able to breakdown our Facebook reporting data by certain delivery and action parameters – for example, age, gender, region and ad placement.

    We can still get this breakdown for on Facebook/Instagram actions (for example, click through rate and engagements) but breakdowns are no longer supported for off Facebook/Instagram activity, including conversions.


    7. A maximum of 8 conversion events are now reported


    Facebook will now allow only 8 conversion events per domain. If you are using the standard eCommerce set of conversions – Page Views, View Content, Add to Cart, Initiate Checkout and Purchase (which most of you reading this will be) you will be unaffected by this change.

    For Android users or those that have opted-in to tracking on iOS14.5, all events (up to the maximum of 8) will be reported.

    For those on iOS14.5 who opt out of tracking, the highest priority event a user triggers will be can be tracked and reported – but only if the Ad Set is optimised for 1 Day Click.


    Actions to take right now (if you haven’t already)

    Here are the things you should do ASAP within your account to ensure your ads continue to run and collect as much data as possible:


    1. Verify your Domain


    Verifying your Domain ensures that you are “official” in the eyes of Facebook. As far as we can tell, this will be necessary for you to perform certain operations, such as edit your 8 priority conversion events.

    Here’s how:

    1. In Business Manager, navigate to Business Settings
    2. On the left-hand menu click Brand Safety > Domains
    3. Select your Domain from the available list or click “Add” if no domains are present (and add your website address.
    4. Follow any of the three verification processes — DNS Verification, HTML File Upload, or Meta-tag Verification and follow the steps to Verify your Domain.


    Shopify users

    If you are a Shopify user, the easiest method is to select the Meta-tag Verification tab and copy the “meta name=” code by clicking the text.

    Facebook Domain Verification 1

    Open your Shopify dashboard and go: Online Store > Themes > Actions > Edit Code.

    Facebook Domain verification 2

    Navigate to ‘theme.liquid’ and paste the code underneath <head>. Click Save.

    Facebook Domain verification3

    5. Once you have completed one of the verification methods, head back over to Business Manager and click Verify. You may need to refresh your screen and/or wait a little while before it will verify. If it doesn’t verify immediately give it a few hours, come back and click verify again. Remember to click Verify with the correct section depending on the method you chose to verify your domain (DNS Verification, HTML File Upload, or Meta-tag Verification).

    Once verified you’ll see a green verification dot next to your domain name.

    Facebook domain verification 4

    2. Implement the Conversions API (CAPI)


    The Conversions API (CAPI) helps Facebook track user activity based on information completed on your site rather than Pixel events. This will help you to attribute more sales to your ads.


    Shopify users

    1. Head to the home screen of your Shopify store, click on the Apps tab and install the new Facebook Sales Channel. Note – you may already have a Facebook app installed called ‘Facebook Shop’ – this is the old app (if you click on the Facebook Shop app you should see a prompt to download the new one).

    Shopify Facebook Commerce

    2. Once the app is installed, follow the prompts to start the set-up process and connect your Facebook account, Business Manager, Facebook Page and create a Commerce account


    3. During the set-up process, you’ll be prompted to configure your Data Sharing settings. (If you are not, these can be found in the settings section of the Facebook app per the image below). Ensure that you enable customer data sharing, set the level to maximum and connect your Pixel.

    Shopify Facebook data sharing settings

    3. Turn on Auto Advanced Matching


    Automatic Advanced Matching tells Facebook to gather data (for example, first and last name, email address, postcode) directly from your website visitors/customers when that data is present (for example, when they provide their information during the checkout process).

    To turn on Automatic Advanced Matching, go to your Business Manager and navigate to the Events Manager section.

    Auto advanced matching1

    In Events Manager, click on ‘Settings’, scroll down to the ‘Automatic Advanced Matching’ section and ensure all are switched to on.

    auto advanced matching2

    4. Select your priority events


    To select your priority events head to Business Manager and then Events Manager. Click on the tab entitled “Aggregated Event Management [NEW]” and then Configure Web Events. Find your domain in the list, expand it and click ‘Manage’. Here, you want to select the events in the order shown below with Purchase being the most important (if you can, toggle Value on for this). 

    Prioritising 8 events facebook ads


    5. Work out how many conversions happen after 7 days


    As mentioned in the previous section, Facebook will be shortening the attribution window from a 28-Day Click/1-Day View attribution to a 7-Day Click attribution.

    Take some time now to have a look at the difference between these two attribution windows. It’ll help you to understand which percentage of your conversions come after 7 days so that you can better anticipate the impact the upcoming changes may have on your metrics. Adjust your targets accordingly.

    To do this, in the columns menu on your analytic dashboard, click on ‘Customise Columns’.

    Facebook attribution windows

    Then select ‘Window Comparison’ and select 7 days and 28 days.

    Facebook attribution windows

    For my clients, I will be creating an Excel sheet that shows the 7- vs 28-Day Click attribution month by month. This is important because you’ll find that at certain times of year (for example, the lead up to Christmas) your 7- vs 28-Day attribution will be different to other times of the year.


    6. Review your email marketing strategy

    Given that these changes within iOS14 will likely impact your custom (warm) and retargeting audiences, now is a great time to review your email marketing strategy and automated flows (for example, abandon cart emails, emails to entice customers who haven’t shopped in a while back to store etc). Your email list is the only data you really “own” so it is important to ensure it is working hard for you.


    This is an ever-changing situation and I anticipate further updates and clarification from Facebook over the coming weeks. I will be reviewing this blog post as and when new information or recommendations come to light, so do bookmark it!

    Any questions? Pop me a DM over on Instagram!

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