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Digital Services

  • 11 Feb 2021
  • 3 min read

iOS 14 means it’s time to rethink food and drink marketing

Digital Strategist, Joanna Harrod shares her thoughts on how big changes in online privacy will impact the food and drinks industry - and how the industry needs to change

The Story

It’s been a tumultuous year for food and drink brands. Pandemic lockdowns have accelerated the shift towards ecommerce and increased digital advertising spend. And now new privacy changes to iOS devices will force brands into yet another pivot.

But the upcoming changes reflect a growing trend that can actually offer an opportunity to build trust and brand loyalty. Rather than simply responding reactively to Apple’s imminent rollout, now is the time for long-term thinking that puts customer needs at the heart of marketing strategies.

So, what are the iOS 14 changes?

As data privacy becomes increasingly important for consumers, Apple’s iOS 14 update (released in September 2020) included several new privacy features that give users more control over their data.

But one feature was initially held back because of the profound effect it will have on apps that use features to measure or personalise advertising. Users will now need to opt-in to sharing their data with these apps, rather than the current opt-out practice.

Currently advertisers can indefinitely track users, building profiles that allow them to run highly-targeted ads. Asking for opt-in will inevitably mean that many more people will choose not to share their data. Facebook (one of the world’s most used apps) is likely to be one of the most affected. The ability for advertisers to effectively target their audiences and measure campaign success will be severely affected.

As marketers we may find these changes painful, but we need to remember this move is welcomed by consumers. And they’re our consumers, the same people we need to serve.

How will this impact the Food and Drinks industry?

These changes must be seen in the context of a tumultuous year for the F&B industry, where even the most well-crafted 2020 strategies had to be completely torn up and thrown aside in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, Hootsuite reports that a staggering 50% of the world’s internet users aged 16-64 have used an online service to order take-away food for delivery in the last month, whilst online grocery purchases jumped by 40% in 2020.

For many in the industry digital advertising has been an essential driver of customers. But now many effective strategies, including retargeting, exclusion targeting, segmentation and lookalike audiences, are set to be severely limited by the iOS 14 privacy rollout.

What can F&B brands do about the changes?

What this ultimately means is that brands must ask themselves why someone would choose to ‘opt-in’ for tracking, and then make it worth their while.

Think Netflix, where millions of customers willingly hand over data because of their ability to personalise content recommendations. Or Coca-Cola’s loyalty programme, that allows the brand to develop relevant digital content for different audiences.

For food and drink customers, added value could include promotions on their most frequently placed orders, or information on opening times and table availability on restaurants in their local area.

Alongside this, brands must focus even more of their energy on their owned channels, including email, SMS and mobile apps. High quality and personalised content can attract potential customers to owned channels, reinforcing brand loyalty and reducing or even ending the reliance on third-party tracking.

In the UK, the iOS changes come alongside the introduction of a near total ban on advertising for F&B brands whose products are categorised as HFSS (high in fat, sugar and salt).

This could be seen as an entirely separate marketing problem. But the right response to the latest privacy updates could help address this challenge too. Putting customer needs at the heart of your marketing strategy will build brand loyalty. This will boost your CRM database, your social media following and engagement across your digital platforms. All in turn will enable revenue growth, regardless of the regulatory landscape.

Food and drink is an industry accustomed to constant adaptation and innovation. The old adage that ‘the customer is always right’ should continue to guide brands as control of data privacy moves increasingly into the hands of their consumers.