Taking a Bite From the Apple: Why Privacy Is at the Heart of iOS 15

A consideration behind the technology company's latest advertising shift

Earlier this month, Apple previewed its new operating system iOS 15, which included a host of privacy changes designed to give users better control over how their data is accessed, managed and shared. The update followed from iOS 14.5, which many brands and app developers saw as the first step by Apple to limit their ability to reach users.

Yet despite the concerns being voiced within the ad industry, the changes should ultimately be viewed as positive, especially for consumers. Through the move, Apple is ensuring its users aren’t bombarded with irrelevant notifications and ads but instead campaigns that they want to connect with on a human level.

It is a peek into a future where trust drives positive change and where brands can no longer rely on third-party data to paint a picture of their audience. And it’s a reminder of what good advertising must look like in a world that is digital first.

Privacy by design

Privacy is a fundamental human right and one that has increasingly been in the spotlight in the digital world. GDPR was introduced three years ago to give control back to consumers and allow them to opt-out of any brand communication. WhatsApp also launched its first major privacy campaign to address customer backlash and reiterate its commitment to keeping conversations safe and encrypted.

The decision from Apple to provide end users with transparency and control over their information is just another piece of the privacy puzzle and part of the greater move toward data privacy that we’re witnessing across all industries.

Take Mail Privacy Protection (Apple’s own VPN), which will shield the user’s IP, limit apps’ ability to retrieve location information and hide whether an email is opened or not. It’s a perfect example of privacy by design in action, and it will undoubtedly restrict marketers’ ability to measure the effectiveness of the email campaigns in the mail app.

A change in pace

In the face of increasing privacy measures that further restrict marketers’ ability to drive engagement, there will likely be a shift away from freemium services in favor of in-app purchases and subscription-based apps due to the difficulties in monetizing from ad revenue alone. That typically requires a high volume of active users who are willing to consent to app tracking.

The new operating system delivers a big blow to customer relationship management (CRM). Firstly, the way in which notifications are used will change. A new feature called Focus Mode will allow users to take control of their notifications by either scheduling a daily summary or enabling a work or personal mode, which only delivers appropriate notifications.

This will most likely reduce the effectiveness of notifications, as it will make it more challenging for marketers to cut through the noise or reach the user at the right time.

Better engagement means better results

Despite many targeting and tracking capabilities regressing, there are new opportunities coming to the App Store that should help marketers test what app features resonate best with different users prior to installing, all while improving retention.

Following iOS 15, brands will be able to make their product pages even more relevant and effective for customers on the App Store, with product page optimization and custom product pages. Product page optimization will enable marketers to A/B test their icons, screenshots and app previews from organic traffic to test what improves conversion rate, a feature that is already available on the Google Play developer console.

Custom product pages will also allow the creation of up to 35 additional pages, each with a unique store URL. This will enable advertisers to test different messaging and features against different user groups, depending on the channel that drives them to the store.

ROI doesn’t have to be monetary

Ultimately, the innovations in Apple’s privacy policy shows the company is willing to take a position of leadership and directly address consumers’ concerns about privacy. We have already seen customers shun brands that fail to protect their information, with over half (56%) of consumers saying they would stop buying from a business that fails to protect their data.

On the other side of the coin, companies that embrace these changes and create better engagement with their audiences will reap the long-term benefits. It’s not simply about increasing profits, either, but about showing customers that you value their information and want to create a human connection that leads to an overall better online experience.

Apple putting privacy at the heart of the user experience is merely a sign of the changes to come in the advertising ecosystem. As expected, Google is also following suit with AAID restrictions coming to Android as another indication that brands can no longer try to find loopholes in how they reach audiences.

If it’s not genuine, honest and transparent, the user may well decide to block that brand across all of their platforms. Change is coming, and it’s time to embrace and understand what this means for your brand.

The big picture? Advertisers will need a new mindset; one that takes consumer privacy into account from the get-go and not as an afterthought.