As technology continues to evolve, businesses and marketers have relied on data-driven insights to make informed decisions about their advertising strategies. One of the key tools in their arsenal has been UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) parameters, which allow for precise tracking and attribution of marketing campaigns.
However, with the release of iOS 17, Apple has announced significant changes that will affect how marketers track and attribute campaigns across their ecosystem. Let’s dive into the changes in iOS 17 and examine their potential impacts on marketers and business owners advertising their products and services.
iOS 17 Changes
Apple has been at the forefront of user privacy concerns and has made several changes to its ecosystem to give users more control over their data. With the release of iOS 14, Apple introduced App Tracking Transparency (ATT), allowing users to opt-in or opt-out of being tracked by third-party apps for ad targeting purposes. iOS 17 takes this privacy-centric approach even further by stripping away UTM parameters in Apple apps, such as Safari and Mail. This move will have profound implications for marketers who rely on UTM parameters for campaign tracking and attribution.
What are UTM Parameters?
Before we dive into the implications, let’s take a moment to understand what UTM parameters are and why they are so crucial for marketers. UTM parameters are strings of text that are added to the end of a URL to track the source, medium, campaign, and content of a user’s visit to a website. They enable marketers to gather valuable data about the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns.
For instance, a marketer can create a unique URL for a Facebook ad campaign and use UTM parameters to differentiate between different ad creatives or targeting segments. This allows them to measure which ads are driving the most traffic, conversions, or revenue.
The Impact on Campaign Tracking
With iOS 17’s removal of UTM parameters in Apple apps, campaign tracking will become significantly more challenging. Here are some of the key implications:
- Loss of Granularity: UTM parameters allow marketers to track campaigns down to the finest detail, such as the specific ad creative or keyword that led to a conversion. Without them, the granularity of campaign tracking will be lost, making it challenging to identify what elements of a campaign are performing well and which need improvement.
- Attribution Challenges: Attribution is the process of determining which marketing touchpoints contributed to a conversion. UTM parameters play a vital role in attribution modeling, as they provide the necessary data to attribute conversions accurately. Without this data, marketers may struggle to attribute conversions to the correct source, which can result in misinformed decisions about budget allocation.
- A/B Testing: Marketers often conduct A/B tests to compare the performance of different ad variations. UTM parameters allow for easy tracking and comparison of these variations. With the removal of UTM parameters, A/B testing will become less straightforward, and marketers may need to rely on alternative methods or third-party tools to measure performance accurately.
- Cross-Device Tracking: UTM parameters have been a valuable tool for tracking user journeys across different devices. Without them, marketers will face greater difficulties in understanding how users interact with their brand across smartphones, tablets, and desktops.
- Conversion Funnel Analysis: UTM parameters help marketers map out the entire conversion funnel, from the initial touchpoint to the final conversion. This enables them to identify bottlenecks and optimize the customer journey. The absence of UTM parameters could make it challenging to conduct comprehensive conversion funnel analysis.
Adapting to the Changes
While the removal of UTM parameters in Apple apps poses challenges, there are strategies and alternatives that marketers can explore to adapt to the changing landscape:
- Leverage First-Party Data: With the limitations on third-party data, marketers should focus on collecting and leveraging their first-party data. This includes data gathered through their website, email lists, and mobile apps. By strengthening their first-party data strategies, marketers can maintain a level of control over user tracking and attribution.
- Invest in Attribution Modeling: Marketers can invest in advanced attribution modeling solutions that use machine learning and statistical algorithms to attribute conversions accurately. These models can analyze a broader range of data points, including user behavior on the website and app, to provide more insightful attribution insights.
- Collaborate with Third-Party Partners: Collaboration with third-party advertising platforms and analytics providers can help bridge the tracking gap created by iOS 17’s changes. These partners may offer alternative tracking methods and insights that can supplement the loss of UTM parameters.
- Focus on Contextual Advertising: As user data becomes scarcer, contextual advertising, which targets ads based on the content users are consuming rather than their personal data, may become more relevant. Marketers should explore this approach as a way to reach their target audience without relying on granular tracking data.
- Rely on Aggregated Data: Apple has emphasized its commitment to user privacy and data aggregation. Marketers can work with aggregated data provided by Apple, which maintains user privacy while still offering valuable insights into campaign performance at a broader level.
The impending changes in iOS 17, particularly the removal of UTM parameters in Apple apps, will undoubtedly challenge marketers and business owners in their quest to track and attribute their advertising campaigns effectively.
While the landscape is evolving, marketers can adapt by focusing on first-party data, exploring advanced attribution modeling, collaborating with third-party partners, emphasizing contextual advertising, and leveraging aggregated data provided by Apple. As the digital advertising landscape continues to evolve, those who can adapt to these changes will be better positioned to thrive in a privacy-conscious world.