The release of iOS 14.5 is dramatically changing traditional approaches to mobile app promotion and analytics. In this post we’ll answer questions about how Apple’s new rules will affect the market and show you how to make this shift with minimal pain.
Starting with iOS 14.5, Apple will prohibit tracking user activity outside of the app without explicit permission. This makes it harder to buy and analyze traffic on iOS. Ad networks will have new settings for targeting and reporting, and attribution via MMPs will be replaced with Apple’s SKAdNetwork attribution system. MMPs will play a role in:
- Supporting SKAdNetwork attribution for the app
- Generating reports with aggregated data from ad networks
- Supporting new attribution for Apple Search Ads
Apple’s new policy won’t affect product analytics. You will still get full AppMetrica functionality for stats on audience and conversions inside the app, as well as for push notifications.
What exactly is changing?
IDFA (identifier for advertiser) is a unique advertising ID assigned to a specific iOS device. Ad systems were using IDFA for behavioral targeting because they could use this ID to profile users by interests. To analyze ad clicks, app installs and traffic sources, MMPs use IDFA linking combined with heuristics.
Starting with iOS 14.5, apps and ad networks won’t have default access to the IDFA, which is a universal ID that helps track users across apps.
A system prompt is shown at the first app startup to request permission to access the IDFA. If the user refuses, the device can’t be identified. In the past, device owners could go to settings and prohibit accessing the IDFA for all apps, but only a very small percentage of users were doing this. Moving forward, the portion of the audience without IDFAs will grow significantly.
In addition to these restrictions, the new Apple rules don’t allow you to identify devices using other methods, including heuristic analysis. The company does not permit fingerprinting or probabilistic matching.
What will be affected by IDFA deprecation?
· Behavioral targeting. Many mobile ad networks will lose behavioral targeting features. Apps won’t be able to identify the user and show them relevant ads, so targeting will be less effective.
· Ad campaign optimization. Ad partners won’t be able to adjust settings on the fly in order to show ads to users with the most conversions. Without the IDFA, it will be impossible to pick out the highest-value users in the audience.
· App install attribution. Attribution of iOS installs and targeted events won’t work in MMPs anymore for devices without the IDFA. If the user doesn’t allow access to the IDFA, individual traffic sources can’t be identified and these installs will be counted as organic traffic by default.
· Depth of statistics. Statistics from Apple will be aggregated and won’t be matched to other metrics in reports, which will make it harder to compare the performance of ad networks. It will also be very difficult to accurately predict the LTV of users acquired from a particular ad network.
What is Apple offering?
Applе is offering its own attribution via the SKAdNetwork. To use it, ad networks must send data about ad placements to Apple. Developers and publishers should send the data about conversions from their apps, too. Data is sent through Apple’s SKAdNetwork framework, which both sides must support. Apple is also using this framework to return statistics, but the format will be new. Instead of generating reports, Apple will send ad networks aggregated data on clicks and installs. The ad networks can use the aggregated data to create their own reports and pass them on to advertisers. In the new model, MMPs don't receive any data on user actions by default.
Market stakeholders may face some obstacles when switching over to the new model. SKAdNetwork is a dedicated integration for ad networks, and many platforms are still working on the integration process. This means it will be difficult to purchase traffic on iOS 14.5+ for a while until they straighten everything out.
Without the familiar reports on traffic, campaign performance on iOS becomes less transparent for advertisers. Tracking systems will be able to collect SKAdNetwork attribution data from ad networks and generate summary reports, but they won’t be able to verify the data.
Apple Search Ads
The release of iOS 14.5 won’t affect Apple Search Ads, the company’s proprietary platform for app promotion, because it uses a different approach to attribution. Another new framework from Apple called AdServices provides attribution on the device level without sharing the device’s IDFA with the developer. This preserves the traditional benefits of tracking: precise conversion stats, app actions linked to specific users, and user cohorts for analyzing user behavior in the app.
What will stats look like?
In regular traffic reports (like User Acquisition in AppMetrica), data from iOS will be shown as follows:
1. Broken down by channel with detailed stats:
- Installs on earlier iOS versions.
- Installs on iOS 14.5+ from users who allowed access to IDFA.
- Installs from Apple Search Ads regardless of iOS version.
2. Not broken down by channel (in the line for organic installs), without details:
- Installs on iOS 14.5+ without access to IDFA.
How to adapt your app for iOS 14.5
We carefully studied the new rules and frameworks from Apple and updated AppMetrica tools to support apps on iOS 14.5. Follow this guide to get the statistics you need and manage your iOS campaigns:
- To improve the chances of legitimate attribution, carefully design the prompt for requesting permission to track user activity. Make it easy for the user to understand what data you will collect and how you will use the data.
- Find out how your ad partner is handling campaigns on iOS 14.5 and whether they support attribution via SKAdNetwork to get aggregated statistics on app installs from devices with this version.
- Take a close look at Apple Search Ads if you haven’t used it before. The current version of AppMetrica iOS SDK 3.15.1 supports all the ASA methods, so you can get full statistics without configuring anything extra.
- Use AppMetrica tracking links in ad placements — this will help you accurately attribute installs from users who granted permission to access the IDFA.
- For retargeting app users, take advantage of additional communication channels. You can use push campaigns to reach your targeted audience segment and broadcast a relevant message with a high conversion rate. Learn more about setting up push campaigns in AppMetrica.
- Devote some time to product analytics. With limited ability to optimize advertising on iOS, your app might get more non-targeted traffic. It’s essential to pick out the most valuable users and focus on their engagement and retention. For audience analysis inside apps, AppMetrica uses the IDFV, which is allowed by Apple. This means that all the AppMetrica product reports — including Audience, User profiles, Funnels, Ecommerce, and Retention — give you full statistics for your app.
Steps to complete in the app:
- Enable support for requesting the IDFA in your app via the App Tracking Transparency Framework.
- Support SKAdNetwork in your app in order to transmit data to Apple for attribution. To do this, install the current version of the AppMetrica iOS SDK 3.15.1 — settings for SKAdNetwork and Apple Search Ads are added automatically.
- To set up push campaigns, integrate the AppMetrica iOS Push SDK.
AppMetrica already complies with all of Apple’s requirements. Install the latest iOS SDK, and we will watch for updates to Apple policies and keep you informed.
If you have any questions, contact support — we’ll be happy to help.
The AppMetrica team