A Guide To Getting Ready For Apple's IDFA Changes In 2021
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IDFA Changes – Good News For Your Users & You

Ashish Chauhan By Ashish Chauhan | May 24, 2021
what is an idfa

Not to be confused with Dua Lipa’s hit single IDGAF in 2017, the Apple IDFA or Identifier for Advertisers is a unique identifier generated for every Apple device. 

BREAKING NEWS: Apple iOS 14 update is here

Apple has announced that it will be upto the users to decide whether they wish to block the IDFA identifier at the app level or not. Among other updates, this means that the iOS 14 update will require apps to get user’s consent to collect and share data.

The reason? According to the sources, Apple has asserted that privacy is a user right. That is why it is taking decisive steps to grant users the ability to opt-out of any type of tracking or targeting by a third party or outsiders.

The said change is believed to reflect across every Apple’s product. For deep insights, check out our blog, ‘Apple reveals iOS update’ 

But what’s all the noise surrounding IDFA Apple’s changes? In this blog post, we cover everything from what IDFA is, why it is in the news, how the Apple iOS 14 IDFA update impacts users and what it means for in-app mobile advertising in iOS.

So, shall we?

Apple’s Changes to IDFA in iOS 14

During its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June 2020, Apple rolled out a bunch of changes and features to its devices and Operating system, which isn’t anything new.

[Update: As of January 28th 2021, Apple users need to give explicit consent to share all types of device-level data, including fingerprint IDs, device graph IDs, session IDs and more. Read Apple’s latest policy here.]

Several new privacy enhancements in iOS 14 were announced for both consumers and marketers. Some of the updates to Apple’s SKAdNetwork framework are quite promising. The improvement in SKAdNetwork reflects that Apple is not only yielding to the needs of app publishers but also providing tools for experienced marketers. 

However, the announcement met with a flurry of queries & concerns and to some extent – denial across some industries. Following a few weeks, the company delayed the tracking restrictions that were originally supposed to launch in fall 2020, until 2021.

Also Read | WWDC 2020: All the Keynote Highlights from Apple Event

While currently delayed until early next year, these changes introduce new challenges and opportunities for the entire industry. This means what change usually means: that marketers will have to adapt and innovate. We must remain committed to providing our customers and partners with the flexibility they need to achieve their goals and increase users’ privacy.

-Paul Wright, managing director UK, France, Middle East & Turkey, AppsFlyer

But what was the fuzz all about? To put it simply, once the updates come into action, developers will have to ask users for permission to track and share their Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) (you will find about it later in the blog) to facilitate mobile in-app advertising and measurement. 

permission requested in idfa

Though IDFA is not new, it raised eyebrows at WWDC when the announcement of its non-compulsion was made. 

What is the IDFA?

The IDFA, an acronym for Identity for Advertisers, is an identifier used by Apple on iOS devices. It is basically a unique string of random numbers and letters assigned to Apple devices. 

Here’s an example of what an IDFA can look like:

3F902I75D-7846-4CA4-TE6P-8416A5YFDC

IDFA holds significance for two reasons:

1 – It is one of the most accurate ways to evaluate user interaction between iOS apps and ads.

2– IDFA offers a robust level of privacy and emphasizes the user’s personal choice.

Advertisers use IDFA to identify iOS, iPadOS and tvOS users across apps to provide customized and targeted advertising, frequency capping, accredit impressions & clicks to app installs and measure the performance of campaigns. 

Unlike cookies (that can be declined or deleted), the IDFA is uninterrupted i.e. it will stay associated with the particular device until a user changes his/her Apple device or manually resets the IDFA.

Take a look at how IDFA works:

how idfa works

How IDFA Works. Source: https://www.appsflyer.com/mobile-attribution-glossary/idfa/ 

Advertisers will be able to obtain more precise information since each Apple device holds a unique ID. However, a user can reset the IDFA, provided that they know the whats and hows about it.

Even Google’s Android comes with a mobile ID called Android Advertising ID (AAID). It functions the same way as Apple’s IDFA.

Read – Top Apple App Store Statistics & Trends 2021

Why is the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) Important?

IDFAs are important because they are a precise way to track iOS users. When you assign a device to a single IDFA, advertisers who can track IDFAs within a campaign have greater certainty about the defining qualities of that user and whether they installed due to an advertising campaign

Not only this but IDFAs also offer an upright level of privacy for users. Though the IDFA doesn’t provide user’s personal information such as name or address, it allows marketers to retarget them somewhere else by checking which ad network the user frequently visits.  

Also check | WWDC 2020 Day-2: Apple Unveils Rosetta 2 & WatchOS 7

How to find IDFA on iPhone?

IDFA (Identifier for Advertisers) was introduced in 2012 as a replacement for the Unique Device Identifier (UDID).

An anonymous, easily-resettable value, IDFA gives users power and authority over their privacy. Though Apple doesn’t provide a way to check your IDFA within the device settings, you can download apps like AppsFlyer or My Tune from the Apple App Store to get your IDFA. 

To view your IDFA as well as other identifiers such as device IP, download either app. The information will be displayed directly on the homescreen.

Why is Apple Making Changes to IDFAs?

During the WWDC, Apple revealed that the new features of iOS 14 and their upcoming operating system will greatly impact how smartphones are utilized for targeting, insights and adscription.

Moreover, Apple products are designed to protect user’s privacy, because they believe that privacy is a fundamental human right. The company has repeatedly, in several instances, taken steps to give users the option to opt-out of any type of tracking. So, it can’t be claimed that changes to Apple’s IDFA were unexpected.

Above all, Limited Ad Tracking (LAT allows iOS users to opt-out of targeted advertising) has been a crucial feature of iOS app development for years, hidden deep down in the iOS settings. The new privacy feature stays in sync with the previous privacy initiatives where Apple limits the use of first-party cookies and restricts third-party cookies.

Why is the IDFA in the News?

When Apple announced that the users would have to give each app permission to use the IDFA (just like you do for location tracking or push notifications), it came into the limelight.

Do note that IDFA is merely a part of a wider Apple initiative called App Tracking Transparency; The feature requires apps to be crystal clear about the data they collect about the user & a broader shift in the industry away from third-party tracking data.

Though IDFAs is one of the most significant ways to track a mobile advertising campaign on iOS, over quite some time now users are increasingly opting out instead of using it.

But why all of a sudden hype? Well, IDFA is in the spotlight for two reasons:

1 – Firstly, after pressure from mobile ad networks and ascription companies, Apple decided to delay the updates until Spring 2021. The time is brought to allow the companies to switch over to Apple’s new SKAdNetwork; this allows advertisers to measure the overall success of their campaigns, but not to an individual user level.

2 – Why is the IDFA in the news? Well, ever since Apple’s announcement, the mobile ad networks and attribution companies have been forcing Apple to reverse their decision – but all in vain. In fact, Facebook has been running an ad campaign accusing Apple of jeopardizing small businesses by reducing their sales upto 60% by limiting their ability to serve customised adverts.

The introduction of Apple’s iOS IDFA update will give Advertisers a hard time in gathering relevant, quantifiable data from their campaigns.

If you are a newbie who has just finished an awesome iOS app, check out our blog on how to promote your app on Apple app store (step-by-step)

How will the Apple iOS 14 IDFA update Impact Advertisers?

Essentially, IDFA changes mean that apps on iOS 14 will require user consent before they are able to collect or share data. This way Apple gives users more control over how their data is shared by providing the option of not to sign up or opt out of any ad targeting.

The update will ask the users if they want to share information with apps like Facebook or Snapchat. In case they don’t, the platform will prevent the third-party apps from collecting data.

It is estimated that where over 70% of users were not bothered to reverse their consent, the update will make the figure fall to only 10% – 15% of users who will allow apps to track what they do.  

Even though according to Apple IDFA iOS guide, the IDFA doesn’t provide information about Apple user’s name or address, having it allows advertisers to check which ad network a user frequently visits. It would also inform them of the times a user has revisited their site. 

how idfa can be accessed in ios

Platforms like Facebook, Google, DSPs, MMPs, etc. will be using SkAdNetwork (The class that validates advertiser-driven app installations) and Apple Search Ads will have its own framework.

Apple’s SKAdNetwork allows the privacy-safe measurement and attribution installation. When the app is installed and launched for the first time, it sends an install postback to the Ad network along with information such as campaign ID.

At present, the SKAdNetwork has very low adoption levels from ad networks. 

Let’s know the key areas where Advertisers will be impacted the most:

#1 – Ad Targeting 

Several targeting types such as search retargeting, geographic targeting and demographic targeting will no longer work for users who have opted-out of sharing their IDFA. 

Some of the platforms like Facebook and Google have other deterministic variables that can be used to identify devices but other platforms, without deterministic ID graph information, are most likely to see a fall in targetable audiences.

#2 – Assisted Metrics

Another core area where advertisers are likely to be heavily impacted is Assisted metrics, along with other conventional metrics like conversions, conversion rates, revenue and cost per lead.

Assisted Revenue and Assisted Conversions are two important metrics that let advertisers comprehend their advertising campaigns’ effectiveness.

#3 – Ad Measurement

Mobile Measurement Partners (MMPs) built their system capabilities and measurement around the IDFA identifier. Though Apple has announced a replacement API that will allow conversion data to be passed back at the campaign level, the advertisers are still going to see a cutback in the data fidelity that mobile measurement partners have to identify across mobile campaigns. 

So does this all mean a download for Facebook, Amazon, Google, etc? Normally, anything that restricts data or the ability of smaller players to use data, benefits the biggies that always have huge banks of data. Seeing the wider picture, it can be assumed that the established and strong players will manage somehow & maintain their strong position.

However, chances are that start-ups and SMEs have a huge fight ahead of them. 

But no worries. Apple states that advertisers, publishers and platforms that are focused on building a cordial relationship with their users and are able to get email addresses & permission to target them, will work just fine. 

How will the Apple iOS 14 IDFA update Impact Users?

If a user chooses ‘Not allowthe app to track’, that doesn’t mean he/she will no longer see ads. It only means the ads they will see will not be customized but rather potentially irrelevant. 

The advertising industry will rally together and develop new, alternative methods for delivering targeted advertising. We will see a wave of new measurement solutions and identifiers emerge in a collective effort to set new privacy-compliant industry standards.

– Kolin Kleveno, SVP of Addressable Audiences at Tinuiti

When will IDFA Changes take place?

With the sun getting up and about in the sky, spring is now truly here. So when will the advertisers require explicit user consent to use the IDFA? The answer is yet to be determined.

The release of iOS 14 was decided in the early Spring of 2021 but the date is still to be decided.

Though we don’t know the exact date, it’s a chance for the advertisers to understand the impact of this change and plan a way to adapt to the new environment.

“We suggest focusing specifically on the user consent mechanism and how you can secure high opt-in rates. Importantly, app developers can create their own internal prompt before serving the iOS pop-up, which they can customise, design and word to best fit their app. This is where you can explain why apps need access to the IDFA, and the benefits it will bring users – namely in the form of better, more personalised ads. We recommend working closely with your UX team to research successful approaches to push notifications and consent forms and experiment with the copy and timing of this internal prompt. Careful A/B testing will be key here, so you can go on to iterate on the most successful combinations of copy and UX design.”

– Andy Chandler, VP client success, Adjust

Utilize the time before the iOS 14 changes come into force to keep up with the new approaches and stay on top of the latest developments with the mobile attribution companies. So, to all the advertisers – Work like the date is tomorrow!

How Appventurez can Help the In-App Advertising Industry Adapt to these Changes?

The future belongs to those who prepare for it.

– Jim Moran

The industry is moving forward at the speed of light. At the end of the day, businesses need to create scalable, secure and sustainable solutions, while allowing users access to their favorite apps and content, without compromising on their security.

Come whatever may – Brands should stay fully prepared to hit any curveball they face, for the inevitable loss of ad targeting and measurement.

Appveturez is a leading mobile app development company that not only offers unparalleled mobile and web solutions but also fully managed services including content and creative production. 

The experts carry out in-depth performance analysis and go the extra mile to give you access to all relevant data.

Get in touch with us to get detailed insights.

Ashish Chauhan
Ashish Chauhan

Co-Founder and VP Mobile Architect at Appventurez. An expert programmer who is passionate and loves to explore emerging mobile technologies. As a leader, he is a perfect match as he is always there for the team to help and guide them to learn and implement smartly and effectively.

⚡️ by Appventurez

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