Blog - ecom
Etgar Shpivak
Etgar Shpivak

Preparing ecommerce campaigns to the Apple and Facebook changes

This post was extracted from a webinar held on February 2nd 2020

Normally I don’t do this, but, I want to start with a disclaimer for everything that we’re going to talk about here.

This situation is something I think we have never seen before, and everything that we’re going to share now is based on information provided by Facebook in their documentation and webinars, conversations with numerous Facebook representatives, including teams that support high ticket accounts, and our own extensive research.

Things are still changing, sometimes even on an hourly basis. I am going to explain at least everything that we know to this date. So, I really hope and believe that this post will give you a glimpse of what’s happening. 

Starting with the scenario, and eventually, what we’ve seen in the recent months is essentially a massive storm around digital marketing, regarding privacy. We have seen the leaders of the largest tech companies spending more time in the Senate and in Congress than in their offices. We have seen regulation changes like GDPR in Europe, CCPA in California, and effectively in the US. We have seen the public talking about privacy, especially to the changes in WhatsApp. Essentially, what is going on here is that we’re seeing the ad platforms and browsers changing. So, our focus will be on these small and huge changes. 

It all started with Apple announcing certain privacy policies to the benefit of the users. However, by doing so, Apple is blocking most of the data being sent to Facebook and other ad platforms. 

While Apple is representing privacy, Facebook is representing the users and the businesses. The tension has surfaced just recently when Mark Zuckerberg in the Facebook Quarterly Report stated Apple as the biggest competitor of Facebook. Surprisingly, Facebook published ads in the New York Times and in the Washington Post against the changes that Apple has made. In response to those ads and comments, Apple said that Facebook is constantly violating its users’ privacy. This could only be the beginning of a war between these two tech giants. 

As far as I can tell, both are trying to set the standard for privacy in online advertising. And technically speaking, the war between the two is actually going to happen in terms of Facebook’s AEM (Aggregated Event Measurement) and Apple’s PCM (Private Click Measurement). 

Now, both organizations are saying that some of their users will be tracked and some won’t be tracked. For advertisers, it is important to determine and keep track of the users who will be tracked. However, the consequences of this are going to be a little adverse because advertisers will need to engage in campaign level reporting. As a result, all our conversion data is going to be delayed and it will be almost impossible to see real-time data according to actions that users take within the website.  

What are the changes that we are going to witness? 

Let’s start with understanding the main changes that we can expect to see within Facebook and Apple. 

For users who actually agreed to be tracked, there are going to be event tracking restrictions in place that includes: 

  • A limit of up to 8 optimization events for each domain you have:
    This means that if you have a uk.domain.com, a us.domain.com, and a ca.domain.com, all of them combined can only send out eight events. While you can send 1 million hits of the same events, you can only send eight distinct events to Facebook.
  • Events need to be prioritized:
    Because you are restricted to sending only a few select events of high value, you need to request Facebook that this particular event is my top priority and that this is the most important event. Prioritizing events also means that you can mark events that are of the least importance. So, in the case of multiple events, only the highly prioritized events will be reported. Most importantly, all the data you included in the PCM and AEM is going to be delayed by 24 to 48 hours. 

These are eventually the technical changes that are going to occur for advertisers. Currently, if you use the Facebook Pixel, there are no limitations on the number of events you can send. 

Next, for users, who opted out to be tracked, there will be modeled conversions. It translates to ‘One Main Modeled Event with Campaign Level Reporting on the Highest Prioritized Events.’

It means that, for example, if you have 200 purchases on Facebook, Facebook won’t know that you have this much number of purchases but it will estimate the number of purchases that you’re going to have. 

So according to what we understand now, even if the users opt-out to be tracked, advertisers will get the reporting within the campaign level and don’t within the ad set level or within the ad level. 

Furthermore, for all the e-commerce marketers who are going to work on value based optimization, Apple won’t deliver the value to Facebook. Instead, we are going to see four events or four value groups or value sets. Value based optimization will require 4 slots out of 8 available events. And this feature is only made available to eligible accounts. 

These value groups will range from the product with the lowest price and up to the product with the highest price within your e-commerce store. To better understand this concept, let’s take an example. Suppose you sell products ranging between $100 and $1000.  Now, it will be categorized into 8 events – 100 to 250, 250 to 500, 500 to 750, and 750 to 1000. Please note that within those eight events, the value groups will take up 4 slots. 

It is important to realize that you can decide what is your priority event. Keep in mind that once you change the priority event, you will need to wait for at least 72 hours for it to be updated. And regarding the effect on custom conversion, according to what we know so far, there won’t necessarily be a value of the URL delivered to Facebook, especially when it’s going to be blocked. 

Attribution Window 

The only attribution windows that we’re going to have will be: 

  • One-Day Click 
  • One-Day View 
  • Seven-Day Click (partial)

This is essentially the data that marketers are going to have. Most advertisers ask if these changes are going to affect all the platforms. Well, right now, according to what Facebook is saying, the changes will be applicable to only the blocked users. 

As per the information gathered from closed conversations within the Facebook events, it has been found that its AEM protocol is designed for all the platforms. When compared, AEM is a bit more flexible than the way more limited PCM. Nevertheless, while we don’t know when it is going to be implemented, this is something we definitely need to prepare for. All we know is that these new changes are limited to Apple users. 

New Limits on the Number of Ads Per Facebook Page 

In addition to these changes, Facebook has announced that they are going to limit the number of ads for each Facebook page. What is happening here is that advertisers are going to have way less possibility to play with their campaigns and ads. 

The new rule is already active for some advertisers. It will be completely commenced within this week. Consider the table to better understand the new limits on the number of ads per Facebook page. 

Advertiser Size Ad Limit 
Small to medium sized pages (under $100k in their highest spending month)250 ads 
Medium to large sized pages (under $1M in their highest spending month)1,000 ads 
Larger pages (under $10M in their highest spending month)5,000 ads 
Largest pages (over $10M in their highest spending month)20,000 ads 

Main Changes Coming to Facebook Ads 

To summarize the changes that we’re expecting to see:

Actions Current statusAfter Prompt 
Information sent to Facebook Actively choosing to opt-outActively choosing to opt-in 
Number of events to track Unlimited Up to 8
Number of events to optimizeAny event for any campaign One event per domain 
Website custom audiences (retargeting)All the visitors who logged into the browser Only visitors who approve to track 
Number of campaigns No limits Potential limit: Apps limited to 9 campaigns with 5 ad sets each 
Number of ads per page Unlimited Up to 250 per page 

Apple is responding to pushbacks 

Recently, Apple announced its new version of the PCM protocol. The company is responding to all the pushback it is getting from the industry. And it is not only Facebook, but Google, advertisers, and a lot of marketers are also criticizing Apple for not allowing them to run their ads. Therefore, Apple has made some changes. Essentially, they have published the 14.5 iOS version for beta testing. 

PCM 14.5 Beta Version: 

Original Updated 
64 Campaigns Tracked 256 Campaigns Tracked 
8 Conversion Events 16 Conversion Events 
No Web App Support App to Web Support 

The primary change that we will be seeing is the ability to track with 256 campaigns. Also, they are allowing a conversion event of up to 16 events. Previously, it was only 8 events.  The most significant update in the PCM beta version is the app to web support. Earlier, when you clicked from an app, such as Facebook or Twitter, to a website, there wasn’t any tracking information. The new PCM allows App to Web tracking. While we still don’t know when the changes will be taken into effect, we are waiting for Facebook to release the public information. However, it is safe to assume that there are going to be some changes around, such as retargeting will be possible. 

How these changes are going to impact Media Buying? 

How is this going to impact you? When you talk about your media buying process, Facebook is doing an amazing job when it comes to optimization. They boast a very brilliant algorithm and have tons of machine learning engineers. However, Facebook is going to have way less data on its users that convert on your site. Unfortunately, for the time being, the results for your Facebook campaigns will probably be less favorable than what you are experiencing now. 

In short, as a marketer, when you’re analyzing your data, you’re going to have way less data than you are having now. Yes, you are guessing it right – we’re talking about no ad reporting! Thus, it becomes crucial to find a way to work with Facebook only using less data than you have today. The consequences are going to be a significant drop in the total number of conversions. 

Here is what you need to know about the impact of these changes – 

  • Facebook will rely on less data for optimization 
  • Marketers and advertisers will have fewer data to analyze 
  • A significant drop in the view-through conversion data 
  • Cross-device conversion will be near obsolete 
  • Creating testing will be limited to ad set level 
  • Website custom audiences are expected to shrink 

What is it that a marketer can do to thrive in these changes? 

So, what can you do? What are the actions that you as a marketer can do? To start with, learn and prepare. This is one of the heaviest changes we have seen for Facebook advertisers. I’m already seeing the reactions of people, and we’re going to see way more in the near future.

Marketers are stuck with questions like why do I have fewer conversions, why are my campaigns not working, etc. It is possible that you could be the next asking the same questions. You have two options here – either complain about stuff not happening or be prepared to be able to work under these new changes. 

In order to survive the competitive market, you have to make the effort to learn starting from today. Start with taking more responsibility for your campaign, understanding your audiences and how to segment them, and finding the right ways to build the right conversion events. 

Most importantly, don’t rely on Facebook alone – not in your reporting and not in your media strategy. You need to understand this first. I will definitely encourage you to look for alternative media channels. It can be anything native, or it can be any other platform. The primary objective of choosing an alternative is to expand your media and your media channels. This is because marketers that are driving the traffic to their websites are going to have problems working only on Facebook. 

Action you need to take on an immediate basis within Facebook Ads 

There are a few actions you need to take immediately before these changes occur in order to safeguard your account. 

  • Verify your domain and your business (learn how)
  • Choose and prioritize 8 events for your domains (learn how)
  • Move to Conversion API and Offline Conversions API (see our guide)

When the Change is Going to Happen?

Sooner than you expect! Actually, it’s going to be early spring. So, probably in the next coming months, we will start seeing these changes. I came to know that half of you have already started working with the conversion API, which is fantastic. 

Planning your Media Buying on Facebook 

What are the changes that you can do within your media channels? There are some very specific changes that you can do. First, you need to ask yourself, what is your one highest priority event? 

Which event should I prioritize? 

Facebook will model one event from users who will opt-out of tracking. 

So, use the ‘Purchase’ event only if you have: 

  • Over 250 purchase events per ad set per week on iOS devices 
  • A high conversion rate between clicks and sales (5% and above) 

Nevertheless, I would like to encourage you to look for signals to high-quality traffic that have high conversion rates. 

Overcoming the new ads limit

How can you overcome the new ad limit within these boundaries? There are different tactics to use to overcome the new ad limits. However, I encourage marketers to consider the following tips: 

  • Consolidate audiences and creatives 
  • Run only high-value placements and creatives 
  • Open new Facebook and Instagram accounts for separate marketing activities 
  • Measure results on Facebook, analytics (e.g. Google Analytics), CRM, and e-commerce platform (e.g. Shopify)
  • Adjust automated rules 

Please note that I wouldn’t say this is a strategy for me and the company and we are going to count on it for 2021. But, temporarily, yes, you can do it right now. 

A lot of marketers will have different techniques. But, the numbers that we will get right now for iOS devices are going to be different than the Android devices. We do not want to reduce the spending for iOS users because they’re still very high-quality visitors. And we do want to make sure we will not turn off campaigns running on iOS just because of the PCM. So, go estimate your numbers – do it using your CRM or e-commerce platform data, and then build your rules. 

Final thoughts

To conclude, eventually, the conversion campaign to a website is going to be much more complicated. This is your responsibility to take the time to learn, prepare, constantly listen, and understand the update. Those eight events might be 16 tomorrow, we still don’t know that yet. But, when you are able to understand what’s happening, it will be really easy for you to make all the necessary adjustments. That’s everything from my side. Hope you find it informative. 

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