Where the advertising industry is concerned, there has been a considerable number of changes in the past year or so.
In the past 12 months, retailers have had to grapple with CCPA regulation on Facebook, on Chrome come 2022 (which has since been pushed back to 2023), as well as (and possibly most frustrating), which has dramatically diminished the data that advertisers can collect from Apple device users.
As a result of that update’s IDFA opt-in feature, it will soon become much harder to track Apple users at scale.
However, there is some hope as Apple’s SKAdNetwork is beginning to look like the best option available to advertisers who wish to target Apple users.
Here is what merchants need to know about what SKAdNetwork is, preparing for Apple’s ad network, how it will work, the advertising chances with Apple’s ad network and more.
Let’s get started.
Apple’s Ad Network
There has been a considerable amount written about the potential motives behind.
One of the more popular assertions is that the company is aiming to install targeting roadblocks for massive advertising networks like Facebook and Google.
This theory bears some credence, given that many have come out claiming that by providing preferential access to data for those using its network over those using the previously mentioned advertising platforms.
The reality is that since Facebook and Google are such massive platforms, a considerable amount of app discovery takes place on these destinations.
However, it seems likely that Apple wishes to seize more control over the discovery process for the apps and games that exist within its store.
These claims and allegations exist because, as a result of Apple’s iOS14.5 update, the company is now the only organization in existence that possesses Apple user-level data that can be employed for.
Again, this is a highly plausible assertion given that, according to, mobile ad spend is expected to reach upwards of $290 billion in 2021.
To put that into perspective, that is more than five times.
Naturally, this move is a massive opportunity for Apple to gain greater control over the market and generate more revenue.
Understanding all of this, preparing for Apple’s ad network is a critical task for online retailers as there are currently in this world. Moreover, this figure excludes the users of all other Apple devices.
This leads us to the next major discussion about advertising changes with Apple’s ad network: SKAdNetwork.
What Is SKAdNetwork?
In a nutshell, SKAdNetwork is Apple’s privacy-friendly means of attributing impressions and clicks to app installs on iOS applications.
Apple initially introduced the SKAdNetwork back in 2018. As it stands, SKAdNetwork shares conversion data with advertisers while not revealing any user or device-level data. As a result, things like granular tracking are out of the question.
However, there have been some advertising changes with Apple’s ad network with the advent of the iOS 14.5 update. In particular, this update has fundamentally altered how attribution is done regarding mobile marketing.
Specifically, those changes include:
- IDFA: Usage now demands explicit consent from users. This is likely to be a problem for merchants as. In effect, this eliminates the IDFA as a reliable identifier.
- Attribution: Apple is moving attribution in-house as a means of ensuring user privacy. This means that user clicks will no longer move through any third-party attribution provider.
In sum, what this means is that the SKAdNetwork will act as something of a walled garden as the attribution process will take place within the App Store prior to being verified on Apple’s servers.
At that point, the data will be scrubbed of anything that could reveal a user’s identity before being shared with the ad networks.
Using this model, there are naturally some significant limitations that advertisers will bump up against.
Limitations Within Apple’s Ad Network
Without spending too much time on the topic, as far as advertisers are concerned, there are some serious problems with the network.
Firstly, not only is the data from SKAdNetwork aggregated but there is also no direct access given to the data as it is owned and reported by Apple. In effect, this dynamic impacts advertising campaigns in a myriad of ways, including and understanding how well ad campaigns have performed.
Nonetheless, Apple has made it abundantly clear that it expects advertisers to obey the system or simply not participate. Therefore, any attempts at identifying users will be prevented.
Understanding how these advertising changes with Apple’s ad network will radically alter, it is best for sellers to get ready now.
Preparing for Apple’s Ad Network: How to Adapt
In light of this information, merchants must establish a strategy for moving forward.
Fortunately, there are a variety of steps that sellers can take in reorienting the advertising efforts, including:
Embrace Privacy Preservation Techniques
and are both methodologies employed by their respective companies to help implement new privacy protections for consumers.
Retailers should aim to partner with advertising agencies that are planning ahead by building out technologies that align with these models.
The fact is that when privacy policies are altered, one of the most significant challenges for advertisers is infrastructure upgrades. Those who view such changes as a chance to adopt innovative new technologies are likely to be ahead of the curve.
Therefore, by partnering with these types of agencies, sellers can gain a competitive advantage over merchants who are reluctant to adapt to the new paradigm.
Ensure Advertising Partners Are Ready
Ensure that SKAdNetwork conversions are visible or that advertising partners are capable of forwarding those figures. This is a good indicator that partners are mechanically ready and capable of bidding on SKAdNetwork inventory, getting attribution from Apple and producing reports.
Additionally, retailers will want to work with their partners to comb through existing iOS campaigns to understand what percent of impressions bought are SKAdNetwork compatible and how that could change moving forward.
Understand That Workarounds Are Temporary
For some merchants, it may seem like a cheap or easy fix to build solutions for preserving advertising workflows and measurement schemas by overstepping platform policies.
However, taking this approach only delays the inevitable.
Again, it is best for retailers and agencies to invest in real solutions as opposed to gimmicks that will only work in the short-term.
Adopt Contextual Advertising Models
Instead of, merchants should instead turn to contextual advertising models that view variations in ad spend and revenue over time to determine the efficiency and effectiveness of channel-specific advertising campaigns.
Redefine Campaign Goals
It is vital that retailers choose conversion values that take place early and frequently in the customer journey. Moreover, it is necessary that these conversion values line up with high-value actions down the funnel.
As far as finding such conversion values is concerned, merchants should begin a frequently occurring upper-funnel event that correlates with valuable events like purchases that are at the bottom of the funnel. This will help sellers to validate that the data pipeline for reporting and optimization is operating as expected.
After the basic work has been validated, retailers can move on to creating and implementing more complex schemas.
Rely on Niche Products Less
The products that are likely to see the most significant drop-off in sales as a result of losing identifier-based targeting tactics are those that only appeal to relatively small segments of consumers.
Niche products that are dependent on a small portion of a retailer’s customer base will, as a result, become more of an advertising liability than an asset.
Therefore, it is critical for sellers to build more broadly appealing product portfolios to help overcome the reduction in advertising effectiveness. After all, the more people who are receptive to a seller’s products, the less targeted adverts will need to be when reaching customers.
One way sellers can start this process is by to better understand the wants, needs, pain points, interests and desires of a target audience.
From there, retailers can begin identifying potential product offerings that would appeal to a larger customer segment.
With device identifiers and behavioral histories out of the question in terms of targeting, retailers will need to focus on ad creative as a means of boosting receptiveness to adverts and.
While creative adverts cannot wholly replace the efficiency and effectiveness that digital advertising is losing with the absence of such means of targeting, it can still help to reach and resonate with the most relevant segment of an audience by cutting through more generic ads put forth by competitors.
With precision targeting effectively gone, is a seller’s best tool for standing out among the crowd and attracting the most relevant buyers.
As with the advertising industry at large, there are many advertising changes with Apple’s ad network with which retailers will be forced to grapple.
While these changes may be some of the most impactful and audacious to big tech privacy policies in recent history, retailers can be assured that it won’t be the last.
The fact is that preparing for Apple’s ad network alterations is vital as this is merely the beginning of a new era in digital advertising. Therefore, it is wise to use this opportunity to become intimately familiar with various privacy technologies and advertising techniques so as to maintain competitiveness in the coming digital marketing paradigm.
However, there is certainly a lot that goes into preparing for Apple’s ad network and the new privacy-oriented age of advertising.
If your brand needs some assistance in navigating these rocky, uncharted waters, reach out to.
Our team of advertising professionals can help your brand to formulate a plan to maximize its Apple advertising performance amidst the changes taking place and those that have yet to come.