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Apple vs. Facebook: What It Means for Building Materials

Let’s untangle any confusion there might be around Apple’s iOS 14 update. There’s a war between Apple and Facebook right now, and it’s affecting how brands connect with their customers. We’ll uncover how you need to shift your strategy to continue to reach your audience effectively, in light of these changes.

Photo of Zach Williams
Photo of Beth PopNikolov
by Zach Williams and Beth PopNikolov

More About This Episode

The Smarter Building Materials Marketing podcast helps industry professionals find better ways to grow leads, sales and outperform the competition. It’s designed to give insights on how to create a results-driven digital marketing strategy for companies of any size.

In this week’s episode, Zach and Beth discuss how the iOS 14 update will change how businesses reach their customers, and how it will impact anyone selling building materials products online.

The Impact of Apple’s iOS 14 Update

113 The Impact of Apples i OS 14 Update

Apple has announced it will roll out a software update for its mobile operating system early this year. While this news might not seem to be noteworthy, it has far-reaching effects for anyone marketing a building materials product.

“What's essentially happening is Apple is reducing Facebook's ability to track people online,” explains Zach.

If your brand’s marketing strategy includes online advertising or retargeting, specifically on Facebook and Instagram, this seemingly innocent software update has a big impact on how you reach your audience.

But let’s step back for a second and provide some context around the digital playground we’re talking about.

How and Why the Update Impacts Facebook Ads

“The way that Facebook currently operates is it is able to gather user data based on your interactions outside of Facebook,” Beth explains. “That means if you're logged in on your Facebook mobile app and you're navigating on your phone, Facebook is tracking that.”

If someone is logged into Facebook, it can still track their activity across websites, even if Facebook isn’t open. Apple’s recent update, however, changes all of that.

“With the iOS 14 update, you will now have to opt-in for Facebook to track you across the web versus opt-out,” Beth explains. Facebook users will get a push notification asking if they want to allow Facebook to track their actions across the web.

This privacy update has a big impact on marketing to Facebook and Instagram users; previously, brands could track users’ website activity and transactions.

“And those transactions can be eCommerce, they can be lead generation, they can be audience building. There's a bunch of different things that can happen within Facebook and Instagram,” explains Zach.

So how will iOS 14 affect the ads you’re running and the audience that you’re trying to build online?

What You Should Expect From Facebook and Instagram Ads Going Forward

Marketing your brand will look a bit different for building materials companies in 2021.

Apple iPhones account for 25-30% of all online traffic. “That means about 25% of all online traffic, and specifically U.S.-based, Facebook mobile traffic is using an iPhone,” says Beth.

The privacy update will impact that number. “It's safe to assume that not everybody is going to opt-out of this type of tracking,” explains Beth, “but even from just a friction standpoint, it’s going to be one of the reasons you'll see a decrease.”

What kind of decrease? Brands can get an idea of that now. To help establish benchmarks for how your ads are performing, and how the changes will impact performance, marketers should look at last year’s data. According to our research, “when this update rolls out, you should anticipate somewhere between a 25% to 30% drop in ad visibility and potentially ad conversions,” says Beth.

Facebook has lashed out against Apple, arguing that this prevents businesses from reaching their customers. It could significantly impact smaller shops that rely on platforms like Facebook and Instagram to connect with their customers.

But it doesn’t mean that Facebook ads are a thing of the past. “It just means that we have to be smarter about how we go about targeting,” explains Beth.

And it means that businesses will need to tighten up their digital marketing strategy. “I think sometimes when tighter restrictions come out around ads, it basically cuts out the people who are just checking ads dollars without really having a strategy,” says Beth.

With a solid strategy and clear message, your ads should still perform well. ”And what it might even do is take out some of the non-viable leads that would potentially click on your ads,” explains Beth.

How Brands Need To Approach the iOS 14 Changes

So what’s a building materials brand to do in this new technology climate? Start looking at your conversion game.

Conversion tracking is going to change for marketers, in a couple of ways:

  • The number of lead conversions you can have. A conversion isn’t just when a visitor gives you their contact information. “That's typically how we refer to conversion in general, but you can set up your Facebook ads to be any type of conversion,” explains Beth. “You'll now be limited to only having eight of those conversions or goals within your ads platform in general.”
  • The window of time for tracking a conversion. When someone clicks on your ad, Facebook would track that user for the next 28 days. “That window is going to be shortened to seven days. And if they even see the ad within one day and then make a conversion, Facebook also contributes that,” says Beth.

In the building materials industry, lead times are long: Some leads are in a pipeline for months, even years — not days.

That means when it comes to Facebook ads, building materials brands need to rethink how and when they deliver ads to the user. Instead of thinking about selling a product, brands need to pivot and think about making users aware of the product: offering a brochure or downloadable guide, for instance. Think about what your audience can do in the immediate future, knowing you have to work within a seven-day period to keep their attention.

Beth also recommends revamping your retargeting strategy: Currently, when a user visits your site, they’re “cookied,” so their internet browser knows they’ve visited your site. Then they’ll be retargeted and start seeing your ads on Facebook or Instagram. Well, iOS 14 changes that.

“That ability is going to shrink, and frankly it's shrinking anyway, even outside of the Facebook platform,” says Beth. Many browsers have rolled out policies that don’t allow cookies, which means brands would have to rethink where and how they deliver ads.

113 How Brands Need To Approach the i OS 14 Changes

Ultimately, brands won’t be able to rely on a one-size-fits-all way to attract and nurture their sales leads.

These technology shifts mean that brands will need to optimize their website and email automation efforts to more firmly establish their brand in the mind of potential customers.

Or as Zach asks, “How will you get closer to your customer?”

How Brands Can Make a Real Impact in 2021

In digital marketing, brands are often at the mercy of the platforms they’re marketing on. But there are ways to leverage your brand’s online presence so that you’re not losing leads this year.

It all comes down to smarter marketing, and asking “what is the actual journey of somebody who visits a page, and what do you want them to do specifically on the site pre and post visiting that page,” explains Zach.

The changes that Apple has made in its recent iOS update means that brands can’t rely on one method of reaching customers, or one single platform. “And if you're fully reliant on that platform, it puts you in a very difficult position,” says Zach.

Your digital marketing can’t just be a Facebook ad campaign, in other words. “If all you're doing is putting money into ads, it's a long term losing game,” says Beth.

But building materials marketers don’t need to fret. There are better ways to build an audience online that include search engine optimization, content marketing and email automation … or what we like to call “understanding your audience on a deeper level,” according to Beth.

Want Even More Insights?

Don’t neglect your online presence this year. To stay on top of Apple’s updates, building materials marketing changes, and how all of it impacts your brand, listen to the full episode of the podcast.

Want help mapping out your digital marketing strategy in 2021? Get started by reaching out to us and clicking here.