How Apple’s IOS Privacy Updates Are Impacting Real Estate Ads

iOS privacy updates

This article originally appeared on Forbes.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably aware that data privacy concerns have been escalating across the digital space. In fact, 79% of U.S. adults are somewhat or very concerned about how companies use their data, with the same percentage not confident that companies will take responsibility for data misuse or compromise. It makes sense that companies are responding to gain back the trust of their customers.

You may have heard about Apple’s initiatives, probably in response to this sentiment. With its iOS 14.5 update, Apple introduced the AppTrackingTransparency framework (ATT), a set of rules that app developers must follow to inform iOS users about how their data is used by third-party advertisers. It states that upon an App Store app download, users must be shown a prompt requesting permission to access their device advertising identifier. The prompt also must explain how their data will be used, which includes tracking the user for personalised advertising purposes. iOS 15, just released this fall, introduced privacy features to build upon this.

Privacy updates have caused platforms that use this user data to adjust their policies and available settings to comply.

With iOS holding 57% of the U.S. mobile operating system market share, and Apple accounting for 53% of smartphone sales in Canada, this has understandably caused concern for advertisers about the efficacy of their campaigns.

Let’s focus on the effects of ATT on real estate Facebook ad campaigns. As the CEO of a performance marketing agency with many clients in the real estate industry, I’m often deep diving into our campaigns to understand the full picture of their performance.

Special Ad Categories For Housing Ads

ATT isn’t the only thing that has had detrimental impacts on real estate ads. Back in 2019, Facebook announced Special Ad Categories for credit, employment and housing ads to restrict discriminatory targeting practices. This resulted in ads within these categories being served to a more general audience based on basic interests, rather than a niche user persona typical of your standard Facebook ad.

ATT’s Impact On Real Estate

Further limiting targeting sounds like doom and gloom for real estate marketers. The good news is that the impacts are less severe than we thought.

The (Not That) Bad News

Audience Size Decrease

Our real estate clients’ audiences have decreased in size for both detailed targeting and retargeting campaigns due to Facebook’s reduced ability to match targeting parameters to customer attributes with many opting out of tracking.

Solution: Use first-party data such as registration lists, surveys, etc., to help you build Special Ad Audiences that are similar to these users. Facebook lead ads are a great option to collect registrations — they minimize touchpoints and tend to have higher conversion rates, thus lowering your cost per lead.

Cost Per Lead Increase

Because audience sizes are smaller, cost per lead has increased across the board, by sometimes as much as 15%. This is also due to the reduction from 28-day view and 7-day click, to 7-day view and 1-day click attribution windows, causing fewer leads to be attributed to ad interactions and driving up the costs.

Solution: Use Campaign Budget Optimization, which allows Facebook to automatically manage the campaign budget to get the best ROI. Capping the maximum spend allows you to still capture registrations but at a lower cost.

Results And Reporting Limitations

Under Apple’s new policy concerning data sharing, reporting on Facebook is now limited for iOS devices. Real-time reporting is no longer supported, which has caused metrics to wildly fluctuate. Breakdown data that helped advertisers compare results of specific placements is also no longer supported.

Solution: Facebook has introduced statistical modeling to make up for the missing data from iOS opted-out devices. Instead of prematurely optimizing, wait longer for metrics to stabilize. Another workaround is to use UTM tags, which allow you to append data such as source, medium and campaign to URLs and view it in Google Analytics.

The Good News

Perhaps part of your audience does opt out of tracking — that only means you can’t track their activity across other companies’ apps and websites outside of Facebook. User data and activity collected from within the Facebook and Instagram apps themselves can still be used to serve targeted advertisements. We’re in 2021, and machine-learning algorithms are only getting smarter and learning how humans as a whole behave on the internet.

Let’s say you’re a real estate developer and want to launch a Facebook ad campaign built around collecting sales leads. You can choose an optimization event for your ad sets based on your intended outcome — in this case, conversions. Therefore after you launch your campaign, your ad sets enter a “learning phase” to deliver your ads to people who are most likely to convert. While the audience will be smaller and results may not be attributed directly to your campaign, Facebook will still continue to optimize your ads for your intended audience based on their activity on Facebook or Instagram — iOS updates or not.

There are additional actions you can take to mitigate the effects of these changes. Verifying your domain will allow you to prioritize eight conversion events per domain. Conversion events are actions you deem valuable for your business goals. For real estate campaigns, a conversion event could be a completed registration form or a visit to your “amenities” page. The best part: Facebook states, “Ads optimizing for a prioritized event can deliver to people whether or not they opted into tracking at the AppTrackingTransparency prompt.” It’s time to get prioritizing.

Finally, don’t underestimate the power of changing up your creative. With the limitations from Facebook on real estate ads as a Special Ad Category and now iOS updates, the ad creative has become even more important than before. For our real estate campaigns, we’ve seen as much as a tenfold decrease in cost per registration with a simple ad refresh.

It’s understandable that data privacy is a concern for people. But not all is lost for marketers. Only time will tell whether people prefer to see tailored ads versus irrelevant ones. And if you build a foundation upon transparency in how your company uses personal data, you will be sure to sustain the trust of your customers and prospects.

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