Apple WWDC 2020 Updates and Considerations for App Development & Monetisation

Posted by Jonas Jaanimagi On June 28, 2020 app ad, app development, app store, apps, cross-app tracking

Although not killing off IDFA, Apple at their Worldwide Developers Conference made some major announcements that will impact app development and app ad monetisation. Many of the changes place more control in consumers but will make it more challenging for ad funded apps that are made available for free to consumers. Key changes that the industry needs to be aware of:

– App developers will be required to report their privacy practices within the App Store so users can view prior to download,
– Consumers will be explicitly asked if they are willing to be tracked across apps and sites from other companies,
– Apple will alert people to the types of data that an app might collect,
– Users will have the option to only share their approximate location with an app, rather than their precise location and, on the web in Safari,

In a market like Australia that has a very high iOS market share these changes need to be reviewed closely by all companies developing apps whether they be paid or ad funded.

Below is a summary of the key changes and considerations for the market.

1. Cross-app tracking

Summary: Cross-tracking is a tool advertisers and data brokers often use to glean more information about people, particularly in ad-supported apps. Code in these apps and their ads allow advertisers and data brokers to follow you as you jump between apps by assigning you a unique identifier. This identifier lets an advertiser build up a profile around you and target you across a range of apps that you use. Via these new app-tracking controls, users will now be able to see what apps they’ve granted permission to cross-track them and revoke that permission at any time. Users, for example, will see just-in-time notifications that alert them when an app wants permission to track them across sites and apps followed by two options: “Allow tracking” or “Ask app not to track”. This applies to Apple’s own apps as well – and all app developers will have to follow Apple’s AppTrackingTransparency framework.

Impact: Apple is lifting Limit Ad Tracking (LAT) functionality from where it’s currently buried within a phone’s Settings menu and calling attention to it at the moment of use, which will likely lead to more people enabling it. While good for privacy-conscientious consumers, the new notifications will be detrimental for developers that rely on an ad-driven business model and will limit reach and scale for advertisers.

Considerations: App developers will have to focus building out their own data-related capabilities for buyers and carefully consider the consumer value of any cross-app tracking functionalities. The consumer benefits and the value exchange for any related advertising experiences will have to be made very clear.

2. Approximate Location

Summary: iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 will include optional “Approximate Location” controls, a system that prevents sharing an exact location of an iPhone or iPad. Many apps that use location to provide services, such as weather apps and local news apps, don’t need to know your exact location. Instead, all they need is a general idea of where you are, which is often enough to provide the same level of service without intruding on users’ privacy to the same degree.

To achieve the “approximate location” feature, Apple have divided the entire planet into regions roughly 15-20 square km in size. Each region has its own name and boundaries, and the area of the region is not based on a radius from the user as it’s fixed. That means that an app can’t extrapolate your precise location from approximate location data, because you aren’t necessarily at the centre point of that approximate location boundary.

Impact: Increased limitations on location data for advertising.

Considerations: Developers ensuring that the value exchange for any related advertising experiences are at the forefront. Still the opportunities for stadiums, events and shopping centres can exist as long as the consumer benefits are made very clear.

3. App Store ‘nutrition label’ for apps

Summary: App Store listings for apps will include an easy-to-read list of privacy details so you know what data is collected before you download an app. Internally, Apple is referring to this as a ‘nutrition label for apps’. It will include details on the user data an app wants to utilise across 31 categories. These labels will appear in every app’s listing across all of Apple’s various app stores, giving users clear upfront insights into each app’s data practices – including the types of data the apps might collect, whether that data is shared with third parties, and the option for users to opt out. This won’t be available in iOS 14 v1, but it is coming before Xmas 2020.

Impact: Increased focus on clear data transparency for app developers and clarity around consumer data practices. Consumer benefits and the value exchange for any related advertising experiences will have to be made very clear.

Considerations: Increased levels of consumers opting out of certain data collecting/utilisation unless it’s of clear benefit to them.

4. Doubling-down on the SKAdNetwork API

Summary: In 2018, Apple released an ad network API called SKAdNetwork (see image below) – which allows advertisers to know which ads resulted in desired actions without revealing which specific devices, or which specific people, took those desired actions. This API will now be improved to enable improved measurement KPI’s for app downloads and re-downloads.

Impact: This will be attractive to marketers as this now adds extra info such as app-level attribution to measurement, but mobile attribution providers will suffer as Apple would keep all the information within its own proprietary environment – thus reinforcing Apple’s dominance over the overall in-app eco-system here in Australia.

Considerations: Advertisers have until September 2020 to be ready to measure the results of their mobile ad campaigns using the SKAdNetwork API

Jonas Jaanimagi