To put it mildly, 2021 was one heck of a tumultuous year for growth teams! Between the IDFA changes in iOS 14.5, Facebook’s deprecation of the AMM program, the infamous Apple ruling, Apple’s privacy threshold, and more—it all became a bit much. Of course, all this was in addition to the general trials and tribulations brought on by the “new normal,” which affected most every department of every industry. Drastic changes in consumer behaviors, lifestyle, and demands compared to just one year prior naturally made most every market volatile. As a result, marketing teams had their hands full in a dozen different ways on a relatively regular basis, as they had to make numerous changes and adjustments through the course of 2021.
But here’s the thing though. How many times can teams realistically be expected to go back to the drawing board, and always be on the defense while trying to figure out how to sustain growth amid the new normal?
With that in mind, I decided to reach out to some top marketers, to get a better grasp on how they responded to the changes that came their way through the course of 2021.
But before we get into what they have to say, allow me to elaborate on only some of the changes that were thrown at marketers, with special focus on Apple and Facebook.
The whirlwind that is Apple
Marketing teams collectively cringed every time the big tech news sites reported Apple news that had nothing to do with new devices.
Let’s take a walk down memory lane, shall we?
It all started with iOS 14.5
Apple’s iOS 14.5 gave users the option to block IDs for advertisers (IDFAs) at the app level. This update threw a monkey wrench at data-driven marketing as we know it and sent a shockwave across the gaming industry. Gaming marketers — who were already juggling paid acquisitions with different goals (e.g., installation, in-app purchases, value optimization) on various ad networks — suddenly found themselves grappling with the implications.
As a result, the automated targeting that we have all come to rely on became much harder to use, and less effective because user-level marketing data availability decreased. Since user tracking changed from opt-out to opt-in, early reports showed that only 4%-10% of iOS 14.5 users are opting-in.
User-level marketing data was suddenly not available for the majority of iOS campaigns.
Here are some other complications:
- Retargeting got a lot more competitive due to higher competition for the smaller potential audience, and therefore becoming more expensive and yielding a lower ROAS.
- Lookalikes became a new challenge as advertisers will have to get sharp on signal selection to build lookalike campaigns, maintaining a quantity—quality balance.
- Accurate attribution became a big challenge due to attribution cut to seven days. By day three, marketers need to be able to predict what your 90-day revenue is going to be by using predictive LTV.
- There were fewer signals to rely on due to the event limit and event prioritization system.
Apple vs. Epic Games ruling
The latest Apple ruling, dictated that Apple can no longer ban developers from providing buttons or links in their apps that direct customers to other ways to pay outside of Apple's own in-app purchase system.
The ruling also said Apple cannot ban developers from communicating with customers via contact information obtained by the developers when customers signed up within the app.
Okay, maybe this one wasn’t all that bad. BUT, as of the time of me writing this post, the ruling has been put on hold. 😒
iOS 15 - the update that was pretty good, but also not really
Unlike the previously-mentioned changes, the ones that were brought on by iOS 15 weren’t all that bad. In one of our previous posts, we talked about how it seems as though Apple got the memo—and is making strides in appeasing marketers.
I mean, gotta give credit where it’s due. iOS 15 brought improvements to the SKAdnetwork, and they also introduced product page optimization. That thereby increased opportunities for marketers to drive more traffic to their product pages on the App Store. They also bestowed us with custom product pages for paid UA, giving marketers complete freedom to change the promo text, screenshots, and the app preview video and drive audiences to unique URLs.
On the flip side though, tracking got way tricker, as Apple gave its customers several ways to limit or prevent data-sharing. IP masking… email masking…. 😭
Why Apple, why? (Okay, we get why, but still…!!!)
Facebook’s deprecation of the AMM Program
On Oct 29th, Facebook directed the MMPs (Mobile Measurement Partners, such as Appsflyer, Branch, Singular, etc.) to stop providing marketers with a user-level attribution API.
In other words, Facebook makes this raw data available to MMPs but not to advertisers.
Facebook recently announced that following successful testing, they intend to leverage Google Play Store’s Install Referrer to bring back some of this data for Android.
Here’s a quick technical rundown of how this works:
- You run an Android app ad on Facebook
- A user clicks on the ad and is directed to the Google Play Store
- Facebook appends secured campaign metadata to the click that gets passed to Google
- If the user installs the app within the Google Play Store, the Install Referrer will pass that secured campaign metadata to the advertiser
- Once the app is installed and opened, MMPs can retrieve the secured metadata for clients and use it to retrieve information about which campaign directly led to the app install
All these changes collectively led to changes across major marketing platforms. In turn, marketing teams, especially UA marketers, found themselves in a position where they weren’t able to continue doing all that they used to do. Growth teams were dealt a tough hand. They faced rises in UA costs in different platforms, which meant they had to reevaluate their marketing spend, mix and channels. As a result, there was a degree of uncertainty of what the ROI of their campaigns would be.
At this point, marketing teams are being experts in managing to accomplish X, despite new limitations in Y.
There’s one silver lining though, and that is data science. In one of our recent posts, we covered the top six ways that data science is helping to solve growth marketing challenges. Power to the marketing people!
So without further ado, here’s a quick dive into ways that some top marketers overcame the growth marketing challenges that came their way.
BFA Industries switched to ROAS-based measurement
Ido specializes in the intersection of technology and operations, building digital infrastructures to help companies achieve operational excellence and enabling their growth at scale. He led transformation projects in Marketing, Operations and Supply Chain for BoxyCharm, one of the largest subscription box companies in the US.
“As CAC soared in Q2 of 2021, and created a new normal, our financial assumptions and goals broke…”
Click here to learn more about why BFA Industries switched to ROAS-based measurement.
Elementor revamped numerous strategies, from data, to growth, to creative
Amit is a digital marketing professional who is focused on the development and execution of strategic online marketing plans and implementing successful growth campaigns. He is known to deliver innovative online marketing strategies that reposition businesses as leaders in competitive marketplaces. Amit effectively utilizes competitive analyses, market research and statistical surveys to assess business plans and provide solutions that foster growth.
“First, we had COVID-19, which continued throughout this year. While it opened a window of opportunity for technology companies to surge and grow faster, it also changed our ability to predict the future and plan ahead. As a result, our predictions are less accurate by default when we base our activities and budgets on abnormal years.”
Click here to find out how to revamp numerous marketing strategies as Elementor did to regain control of growth
Kurve became more UTM-focused, and is using MER as a guide
Oren is an on-demand CMO and digital marketing consultant for disruptive tech companies. His approach is to blend brand building with performance marketing. He is focused on automation leveraging tech to increase efficiency, and drive transformative results. Oren has been quoted in publications such as Virgin Entrepreneur, Business Zone, The Guardian, M&S for business, Business Info Guide, Real Business, Fourth Source and Raconteur. Voted as top 100 hot list for British Interactive Media Association 2015.
“With less transparency, advertisers are less able to make informed decisions about which campaigns are working, and they therefore shoot in the dark, especially with mobile app campaigns which is even worse compared to website conversion events.”
Click here to learn about how Oren is advising companies to hit ambitious targets through his work with Kurve.