Welcome back to the Mercury Ecommerce Newsletter.
This month, we’re exploring advertising strategies in a post-iOS 14 world. We hope you find it helpful.
Apple recently rolled out new privacy features with their latest iOS 14 updates, resulting in less transparency into the effectiveness of paid advertising campaigns across major ad platforms like Facebook.
The result: Ecommerce brands are incurring higher overall ad costs. If you’re running paid ads for your store, this article will help you navigate the change.
What you need to know: Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature requires apps to get a user’s permission before tracking their data across other apps or websites. This means apps will no longer be able to pass along certain information for detailed ad targeting and conversion results if they do not have permission from users. Brands selling in the U.S. are the most heavily impacted, since half of the country’s total population uses an iPhone.
The good: The move by Apple addresses growing concerns about privacy and protection for online consumers.
The bad: Ecommerce brands that, for the better part of the last decade, have relied heavily on ad platforms like Facebook to drive paid growth and ensure effective conversion measurement, are now finding themselves in new and unfamiliar territory, requiring them to adapt quickly to ensure their advertising remains profitable.
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We spoke with Ben Matteucci and Brennan Zielinski from the award-winning team at ZIMA Marketing about the changes the iOS 14 updates bring, and their new strategies for running profitable paid ad campaigns.
"If you can start making business decisions based on a database that you own, no one will ever be able to take that away from you, no matter what regulations are put in place."
-Ben Matteucci, ZIMA Marketing
What have you been hearing from clients about Apple’s iOS 14 updates?
Ben: Clients were generally panicked about how the updates were going to affect their businesses. There was uncertainty around whether they could continue to remain profitable through online ads, to the point where people were looking at selling off products or reinventing their business models.
Brennan: The biggest problem many of our clients are facing is tracking. We’ve been innovating on that front by using third party tools so we’re not relying on Facebook or Google to make sure the ads we’re running are leading to sales.
Should advertisers leave Facebook and look to other platforms like TikTok or Snapchat to spend their budget?
Brennan: Advertisers shouldn’t abandon Facebook, but they should keep an open mind to other platforms. We recently asked a client who was using Google Ads if they would be open to ads on Bing, and they agreed. Two months later, we tripled the budget allocated toward Bing because we’ve seen great results. You never know until you test it.
Ben: These updates also don’t mean Facebook is no longer a useful platform, but brands who continue using it should make creativity a priority. Any ad that evokes emotion has been timelessly successful on any platform, whether digital or on a billboard. We recommend trying out new formats, like video, which are people’s favorite way to engage with ads.
What can brands do today to improve the effectiveness of their Facebook ad campaigns?
Ben: The iOS 14 update shows us how important it is for brands to own their customers’ data, and we’re seeing more companies switching their priorities to building those databases. If you can make business decisions and connect with customers using a database you own, no one will ever be able to take that away from you, no matter what regulations are put in place.
Brennan: There are a few things brands can do to improve Facebook campaigns and build customer databases:
- Install the Facebook Conversions API, a free new measurement tool that works with Facebook pixel (it requires some tech savvy to set up, most media buyers or web developers can help you integrate it with your website).
- Explore third-party software that’s right for your business, to help with things like tracking ads to collecting and storing customer data —Oribi is one, but there are lots of great tools out there.
- Continuously test out different campaigns beyond conversion, like lead generation, to help grow your email list.
- Create high quality content that moves your audience, from ads on Facebook or Instagram, to your product landing page and blog posts.
- Leverage email and SMS marketing campaigns (we’re seeing insanely high open rates on text messages).
Ben: We’ve also found success with targeting campaigns on Android users, or those without an iPhone. That’s a way to be effective right out of the gate. Brand awareness campaigns are also really important: the more people see your brand, the more likely they are to purchase from you when they’re given a choice. You can win big by continuously staying in front of them in a way they remember, because it takes time for people to make decisions.
Can you share an example of a successful post-iOS 14 update ad campaign?
Ben: A small business coffee client recently came to us, previously having the most success with conversion campaigns offering 50% off a bag of coffee. In our view, you need to build value before providing a discount, because as a standalone it suggests the product doesn’t have much value. By shooting an in-studio coffee taste test that was funny, quirky, with people from a variety of backgrounds telling us what they thought about the product, we generated a 1000% return on investment within the first three weeks of running it. The objective was to build up an email list and re-market to those people.
If you could give one piece of advice to every ecommerce business owner navigating the new changes, what would it be?
Brennan: Instead of advertising, entertain. It’s not really an ad if people enjoy watching or interacting with it. If it’s a piece of content they fall in love with they will want to buy your product.
Ben: Be creative and try new things. The people making millions of dollars in ecommerce sales are continuously testing. If we have something that’s working really well, we’ll always tweak it a little. Sometimes it doesn’t work, but other times it ends up increasing results dramatically. Look at it like an investing portfolio: your core tactics should help you reliably achieve your goals, but a small amount of your budget should be allocated to trying new things.
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The Mercury Team