Understanding the Customer Lifecycle Post iOS 14/15

Apple's security updates in iOS 14 and iOS 15 made it difficult to track customer journey's. Get actionable tips for e-commerce brands to track their customer journey's in the post security world.

Customer Lifecycle Post iOS 14/15

In the booming world of DTC brands, understanding your customer lifecycle has become an ever present challenge. If you are a business owner or work for a digital brand, you may have already felt the pressure of tracking your marketing efforts and being empowered to make decisions built on data you can actually trust. You may be asking yourself questions like: What is the real ROAS for my Facebook ad campaigns?, Did my email campaigns actually drive conversions or awareness?, What source of data should I trust the most? 

In the past these types of questions could be answered with a deep level of accuracy using FB ad pixels, cookies, etc. which are now trending towards being more regulated and less accurate. Much like a cowboy of the past exploring the wild west, the digital marketing era had little guidelines but this is rapidly changing with the recent privacy laws and updates such as ios 14/15. 

So let’s talk about what steps you can take as a marketer or brand owner to diversify your marketing reach and still understand the journeys your customers take to become a customer and beyond. In this post we will chat about: 

  • Current state - what the standards are right now 
  • Action items - what you can do to still see the customer journey
  • Future state - where things may go in the future. 

Current State

iOS 14 Changes

In late 2020 Apple announced iOS 14 which included a feature called App Tracking Transparency (ATT) that changed the way users of Apple devices were allowed to be tracked. These changes went into effect in April 2021 and by default users will not be opted into tracking across apps and websites. You probably heard some news about this update full of lingo such as pixels, cookies, third party data, etc. To put it simply, now developers must ask permission to track customer data with a description of how their data will be used and give more transparency on what data will be tracked.

You may have seen these notifications yourself and the natural tendency is to default to not allowing companies to track. The main platform that has been affected by this change is Facebook. In the last year since this change Facebook ad managers have seen higher cost per acquisition, less in platform conversion data accuracy, and much lower lead quality. 

Action Items to offset these changes

Even with the increased difficulty of advertising on Facebook, it remains one of the most valuable ways to reach customers at scale. Given the need to still use Facebook ads, we talked to our in-house ad manager expert and got the top tips and tricks he uses to offset these difficulties and compiled them here:

Verify your domain in Facebook ad manager

You may have already done this in the past, but with the new ios 14.5 changes, verification needs to be done for your primary domain, also known as effective top level domain plus one (eTLD+1). The article linked above gives more detail if you have specific questions that are deeper in the weeds.

Select and rank your facebook conversion metrics

Facebook ads manager allows you to select 8 custom conversion goals. By setting the conversion criteria and ranking them in order of importance, you can start to get more accurate reporting on where your customers are coming from and how they are completing actions you set. Once again if you have more specific questions the link above has much deeper information and instructions on how to set these conversions. 

Collect your own first party data

First party data in this context is prospect data that you collect from people interacting with your brand. Now more than ever the need to build organic databases with data you can trust is extremely important. The typical path to growing this data is organic social, SEO, and retargeting efforts. A clever trick we have used is pushing broader CPC campaigns to the website and then using lists of users to retarget with higher targeted CPA ad campaigns. 

How can Particl help you understand your customer lifecycle?

Following these tips will give you a strong base to combat the tracking changes. If you would like to have an even deeper understanding of the journeys your customers are taking, consider looking at our customer attribution tools. We created a groundbreaking pixel technology that gives brands the ability to track their customers journey from first interaction to conversion. If this sounds interesting, learn more here

iOS 15 Changes

The Apple iOS 14.5 update mainly made paid advertising more difficult where the iOS 15 update largely affected the email marketing world. In fact some have coined this the “death of email marketing”, this is somewhat hyperbolic but the fact remains there are additional challenges that will arise from the new iOS. In short, the main changes are iPhone users can now:

  • Hide their email address
  • Users can now select an option to hide their email which makes 3rd party email collection more difficult. 
  • Block IP tracking 
  • Users can block location information from being shown which makes it more difficult to segment based around geographic location
  • Skews email open tracking
  • If users select the “Protect Mail Activity” setting Apple will automatically load images and email CSS which means emails will start to count as being opened without any human eyes touching them. 

What does this mean for marketers?

With this update it will now be harder to trust 3rd party email lists, build customer profiles form email data, and it will most likely make the email open rate metric unusable as emails sent to an Apple email client could wrongly appear to be opened. If you know very few of your customers use an apple email client, you can still trust your open rate data but that is highly unlikely. In a recent study by Litmus, Apple email client has the largest share in the market across iPhone and desktop they control ~50% of all with gmail coming in at a close second.

Image courtesy of Litmus Email Client Market Share in July 2021 Report

Post iOS 15 the most tangible loss will be the use of open rate and in turn the testing open rate allowed email marketers. 

Most a/b testing will now be obsolete, especially subject line testing. The vast majority of marketers used open rate as the barometer for success when a/b testing different email subject lines, copy, or content. Now that metric cannot be fully trusted.

Action Items to Offset These Changes

Leverage zero party data

Zero party data is leveraging data from customers that signed up to receive content from you. These are your bread and butter: the users that are engaged with your weekly newsletter, organic social followers, and blog followers. Growing these databases gives you opportunities to talk with the highest engaged and deepest funnel leads. 

Shift to email metrics you can trust

Although open rate was nice to have, it isn’t the end all be all metric. Consider shifting your reporting to click-through-rate in place of open rate. Click-through rate is the number of people that clicked a link divided by the number of emails delivered. This gives you a better idea of how engaging your email content is beyond just those that opened.  

Clean your email lists

Clean email lists mean less wasted time trying to communicate with unengaged users. Consider compiling a list of highly disengaged contacts in your database and sending them some last chance emails. Those that do not convert may need to be deleted from your database and more focus placed on the higher intent leads. 

General Data Privacy Changes

There is a continued push for greater data security on a larger scale. Recently California passed the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) which requires companies to be much more transparent with the data collection, use, and selling of consumer data. Modeled after the already existing GDPR requirements this act among other regulations requires: 

  1. Consumers have a right to know what information companies collected, why they have it, and what third parties have access.
  2. Consumers can ask to not have their information shared, or have their information deleted entirely.
  3. Age restrictions on data collection.

These laws are the tip of the iceberg as far as data privacy goes especially in the United States. Adjusting early will give you a head start on the competition.

Action Items to Offset These Changes

If you have not started, now is the time to move towards full GDPR compliance. This process is multifaceted and may require help from data experts but this effort will be worthwhile as the rest of the world trends towards matching the strict requirements. By making these changes you will have the chance to build brand loyalty with clear communication to your customers and the safety of their data privacy. 

Future State

Digital marketing is a field that is constantly evolving and changing. A smart marketer understands the need to change with the market and see where future trends are moving. Knowing your customers' lifecycle is essential to making intelligent and efficient marketing decisions, but increased data privacy is not going away. At times it feels impossible to get a deep understanding of your customer, but there are some things you can do now that will continue to drive marketing value and understand the journey your customers are taking.

  1. Diversify your channel mix
  2. Invest in customer retention
  3. Create a single source of truth

Diversify your channel mix

The updates with iOS 14 and 15 have shown us the necessity to not rely on a single or even couple channels to heavily push marketing efforts. While paid ads and email will remain the largest players, start to plan for new emerging channels that can diversify your efforts and therefore decrease dependency on one channel. Some channels to consider are:

  • Newsletters
  • Organic social especially tik tok
  • SMS marketing
  • Traditional marketing - billboards, tv, print 

Focus on retaining customers

New leads and customers are going to become harder and harder to come by. By focusing on building passionate customer relationships, you can increase profits without costly marketing efforts. Some effective retention strategies are transparency with data, loyalty programs, and customer satisfaction surveying. Building a community of loyal customers will always lead to longer term success vs. continually churning and needing to generate new customers. 

Create a single source of truth

As I mentioned in the iOS 14 section of this post, platform analytics across Meta/Facebook and email are no longer as accurate and easy to trust. Establishing a single source of data that is accurate allows you to make decisions without the guesswork. This is where having an e-commerce tool becomes essential. Some of the top tools the e-commerce brands use are:


Create a single source of information for your customer, competition, and company in an easy to use platform built for DTC brands at scale. 


Typically used as a marketing automation tool we see some brands using Hubspot as the place to hold all customer information

Google Sheets 

If you are a small business lacking the resources to pay for a tool, start tracking conversions at a broad level with calculations from ad spend to profit and beyond.



How Particl can help you navigate the customer lifecycle

Particl is the only e-commerce tool that allows brands to understand the customer lifecycle, the competitor landscape, and benchmark your internal data. What really sets us apart is not just the data we collect but the solutions we raise for you and your teams. You wont need a data expert to understand what to do with your insights. 

We live to help DTC brands while removing many of the typical growing pains. If this sounds interesting to you, learn more here or reach out to our team now. 

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