An updated privacy feature from Apple will allow Safari, the Apple web browser, to block cookies and prevent advertisers from tracking your web viewing habits.
Essentially, iOS 14, including Safari, now blocks all third-party cookies. This means that no advertiser or website can track your web movements and browsing using standard tracking technology.
This development is two years ahead of Google Chrome, as Google confirmed in January that it would begin phasing out third-party cookies in 2022.
Users are unlikely to notice a change, but advertisers will.
Over the last few years, as a user, you have likely become more familiar with what cookies are, mostly because websites require you to "accept" every time you enter. Named after fortune cookies, the online cookie is a small text file that holds data.
First-party cookies are created by the website you visit, designed to collect information to help improve the website performance and user experience, such as saving a shopping cart and user settings.
Third-party cookies are set up by a third-party server, such as Facebook or Google. They are created when a code that you can insert into your website creates them, often referred to as a tracking pixel. If you use Facebook advertising, chances are you have come across this and applied it to your website.
The third-party cookies identify the website user and follows them through the internet to understand their behaviour in order to target relevant advertising.
If you have ever searched for a breakfast bar stool on Amazon, you have likely been subsequently inundated with visual ads trying to sell you a stool. Ultimately, cookies are here to make an advertiser's life easier, with highly targeted audiences, introducing more relevant adverts to users.
Whilst cookies and tracking pixels were sold on the basis of being useful for all, the increase in need, and want, for privacy and transparency have led to some user protest.
Apple and Google have both taken steps to appease these users, by rolling out changes to third-party cookies. First-party cookies remain unchanged, but in iOS 14 updates, Apple will require the user's permission to track their data on apps and websites. This provides easier opt-out which will reduce the size of audience pools and the ability to accurately target consumers. Brands will likely need to widen their targeting in order to reach the same number of users.
Companies using Facebook advertising will need to set up domain verification and the social media giant has admitted that the year will prove challenging in terms of adjustment.
However, if paid social is your go-to advertising solution, never fear - Google will be replacing cookies with new browser APIs, such as trust tokens, and Apple devices have long come with a hidden IDFA (Identifier for Advertisers).
The IDFA is unique to the user, allowing for significant targeting and measurement of the effectiveness of adverts.
Today, approximately 70% of iOS users share their IDFA with app publishers, after iOS 14's changes, it's estimated this number will drop significantly to 10 or 15%.
If you are using paid social advertising, your success could be impacted by this. Facebook is working on a way to get around this, named Aggregated Event Management (AEM) which limits the transmission of user data, but this won't be realistically usable for a while.
Alternatively, lead generation adverts on Facebook could be a great way of overcoming the issue. This will allow you to introduce a nurture sequence, whereby you can introduce downloads, upsells, and more, within a larger email campaign, but Facebook still help you to achieve the first point of contact.
The recommended work around is to focus on your existing database and optimise email engagement, or alternatively, funnelling the existing paid budget into traffic driving campaigns to optimise first-party data, rather than third-party.
The change is an ethical one, and whilst it will create restrictions, it is a continual evolution of the changes UK marketers have had to adapt to, since the introduction of GDPR in 2018.
The world of marketing, technology and privacy is increasingly consent driven, it doesn't mean it's impossible to reach your audience, it just requires more thought, consideration, and ultimately, respect for your audience's privacy and preferences.