App Tracking Transparency (ATT), succinctly referred to as ATT, stands as Apple’s proactive privacy paradigm that mandates every iOS app to solicit user permission for data sharing. This is orchestrated through a pop-up interface, proffering users the choice to either authorize or decline data tracking.
What exactly constitutes App Tracking Transparency (ATT)? Emerging subsequent to the iOS 14 launch (and enforced post iOS 14.5), the ATT privacy framework was introduced across the gamut of Apple devices. Its principal aim was to curtail the extent to which app developers could disseminate user data to external entities. This initiative has yielded consequential ramifications for the mobile advertising sector.
Preceding ATT, all iPhone users were involuntarily enrolled in data tracking, unless they had proactively opted out via the Limit Ad Tracking feature. In such instances, developers and marketers could access user-specific data and attribution through a distinct iOS advertising identifier labeled as IDFA.
Under the ATT umbrella, app users are compelled to actively opt into data tracking via a pop-up displayed by the app. Owing to the majority of users opting out, this has posed a considerable challenge for advertisers, publishers, and app developers alike, rendering the task of targeting precise demographics and refining campaigns based on high-performance user data significantly more onerous. Further elaboration on this will follow.
How does the interface of App Tracking Transparency manifest? The crux of ATT lies in the in-app pop-up, colloquially known as the ATT prompt. This interface queries users if they wish to “permit the app to track your activity across other companies’ apps and websites.” Users possess the liberty to abstain or assent, with the default setting being opt-out. While the wording of this prompt remains immutable, there exist strategies to augment opt-in rates, which we shall delve into later.
Not a Mandatory Fixture for Apps Apps aren’t under obligation to showcase the prompt since it functions on an opt-in basis. Should developers opt out of this display, they forego the collection of user-specific data. The ATT prompt serves as an avenue for apps to accumulate user-centric data, which in turn can augment performance and furnish insights for benchmarking, extrapolation, and more. Consequently, a substantial majority of apps (nearly 70%) opt to feature the prompt.
Prior to Apple’s resolute focus on privacy, app developers and publishers reveled in unrestricted access to copious amounts of data. Apple operated on the Limited Ad Tracking (LAT) model, allowing users to renounce personalized advertising.
Though available to most users, a significant majority (around 70%) refrained from exercising the option to opt out of tracking. This facilitated publishers and advertisers in trading and disseminating user data among media companies, apps, and advertisers. This ecosystem engendered finely targeted ad campaigns based on behavior, demographics, and interests. Alas, optimization thrived at the expense of privacy.
Transitioning to ATT and Its Implications
Although the shift from iOS’ opt-out model to an opt-in model did diminish tracking rates, global adoption of ATT still stands at a commendable 46%, albeit this figure pertains only to users who encountered the prompt. For advertisers, the crux of the challenge rests in the scarcity of IDFA attribution.
Navigating the Unfamiliar Data Terrain User-specific data and attribution have been pivotal for optimizing ad campaigns. Conversely, the dearth of data has proven detrimental for advertisers and publishers accustomed to working with granular user-level data, now rendered incapable of orchestrating finely targeted campaigns akin to the past.
In this context, it remains pivotal to acknowledge the ongoing industry transition. As we acclimate to the domain of aggregate-level data insights, the primary objective, innovation persists, and measurement is anticipated to be largely sustained. (Refer here for further insights.)
The initial challenge arises from a substantial user segment that eludes tracking. Users who previously opted out of personalized advertising (LAT users) are automatically classified as ‘denied’ to advertisers today, constituting over 30% of global iOS devices.
Moreover, 14% of Apple users employ restricted devices designated for minors, unknown age demographics, or educational purposes. Additional limitations on tracking could emanate from certain corporate-owned devices.
Certain app developers express apprehension regarding the intentionally unwelcoming verbiage (“allow app to track your activity across other companies’ apps and websites”), which could potentially exacerbate user churn and impede user experience.
A noteworthy stumbling block involves dual consent when advertising across different apps. Users are required to provide consent twice for user data exchange between two distinct entities, effectively sealing the attribution loop. Consent must emanate both from the advertiser and the publisher. This dual opt-in dynamic significantly contributes to the diminished IDFA attribution rates, despite relatively high ATT opt-in rates.
Having delineated the prevailing challenges presented by ATT, let’s embark on a journey through methodologies to elevate opt-in rates.
The keystone catalyst for elevated ATT opt-in rates is trust. An app with an established presence or a brand with inherent credibility garners greater user trust, rendering users more amenable to entrust their data. For nascent apps, cultivating a secure and trustworthy user experience is imperative.
Experimentation with diverse pre-prompt messaging emerges as a plausible approach. This involves an antecedent popup preceding the ATT prompt. Tailoring the messaging to accentuate the advantages of personalized advertising for users is pivotal. Conciseness, sincerity, and clarity should remain focal.
No universal panacea exists for determining the optimal prompt display timing. The decision hinges on user behavior and the value proposition your app extends. Identifying the funnel stage that aligns with your objectives is paramount.
Early Funnel: Inception of app usage, preliminary app session, early stage completion, initial app revisits Displaying the ATT prompt during the early funnel phase offers access to a substantial audience. This strategy gains efficacy when accompanied by high opt-in rates, substantiated by data indicating negligible churn or attrition due to ATT. However, this approach could be perceived as intrusive by new users.
Mid Funnel: Account establishment, app’s inaugural value juncture, meaningful engagement Positioning ATT prompts within the mid funnel hinges on user actions within the app. This could coincide with a pivotal “AHA!” moment when users discern the app’s intrinsic value. Timing the ATT prompt during this felicitous phase could capitalize on the positive user experience.
Lower Funnel: In-app purchases and beyond While this targets a narrower audience, engaging users in the lower funnel entails reaching a highly-trusted cohort. These individuals have already recognized the app’s utility, evident through their purchases.
The optimal choice hinges on your objective, audience profile, and their familiarity with your brand or app. A singular best practice remains elusive, with trade-offs between audience scope, timely campaign optimization, and distinctive opt-in rates.
Android’s Terrain: A Glimpse Unpacking Android’s Trajectory Apple’s proclamation was promptly followed by Google’s announcement in June 2021. This announcement heralded heightened privacy measures for all Android devices, a policy slated for Android 12 and beyond.
Parallel to Apple’s precedent LAT model, Google’s update empowers users to disengage from personalized advertising.
With Google poised to sunset cookies in 2023, conjecture mounts that Google might eventually curtail user-level data exchange via its GAID (Google Advertising ID), akin to iOS’ IDFA. Nonetheless, the constraints are anticipated to be comparatively less stringent than Apple’s stipulations.
Now that we’ve unraveled the nuances and significance of ATT, let’s delve into its implications for users. For iPhone, iPad, and tvOS users, evading ad tracking necessitates no action on their part.
Apple has enriched their informational guide “Day in the Life of Your Data,” elucidating the benefits of ATT for ordinary users.
On your iPhone, access Settings, followed by Privacy. A conspicuous orange icon denoting Tracking will appear. Clicking on it reveals a toggle labeled “Allow Apps to Request to Track.”
The master toggle dictates universal app tracking settings. Alternatively, users can independently designate tracking permissions for specific apps.
Should users alter their preference, it’s seamless to inhibit the ATT prompt from appearing on iOS or iPadOS devices. The process mirrors activation, with the difference being the selection of the tracking toggle under Settings, Privacy, and Tracking. Simply toggling tracking on or off orchestrates the desired changes.
Crux of the Matter In a nutshell: App Tracking Transparency (ATT) necessitates iOS 14.5+ apps to secure user consent through a pop-up before sharing their data. Pre-ATT era enabled app developers and publishers to access copious user-level data. Although ATT opt-in rates are commendable, dual consent requisites and user experience hurdles pose challenges for attribution and campaign measurement. Strategically selecting the prompt display timing hinges on the app’s value proposition and user behavior. Parallel to Apple, Google’s Android is adopting augmented privacy measures, permitting users to opt out of data tracking. Armed with the insight into ATT’s implications and mechanics, users can navigate their privacy preferences with greater clarity and control.