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Paradigm Shift for Website Monetization: Safari’s New Privacy Feature

In early June of 2017, Apple Corporation announced that they would be integrating a feature into iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra’s Safari browser that would prove to, months later, become a major point of contention online.  The new feature plays into Apple’s increasing focus on artificial intelligence, offering users machine learning enhanced privacy features within the Safari browser.  With the launch of iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra this week, advertising industry groups have come together to issue a complaint letter to Apple, claiming the new feature will “sabotage the economic model for the internet.”  The letter was signed by six of the largest ad industry associations and was put forward by the Coalition of Major Advertising Trade Associations.

Regardless of your philosophy on advertising and privacy issues, a Safari feature significant enough to mobilize ad agencies to this degree is worth paying attention to, especially for eCommerce companies, who may rely on advertising or extra revenue from shared advertising.  In this article, we will explain the new Safari feature, and offer some options to adjust to the coming changes.

How Does “Intelligent Tracking Prevention” Work in Safari and Why Does Apple Think It Is Necessary?
 

Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention feature is based on detailed research on third-party cookies, which are primarily used to enable important features on the web.  Some examples of fundamental cookie usage include eCommerce shopping carts, remembered logins, and user interface preference preservation.  In recent years, cookies have been increasingly used to collect data on users as they browse the web, often for the benefit of advertising companies looking to build demographic information on web users.

In Apple’s research, they determined that some very popular websites were employing 70 or more cookies designed for tracking users per website, some of which were baked-in to essential cookies for website function.  As a response to this, Apple set out to design a way to selectively prevent burdensome tracking while providing users additional privacy options.

The solution came in the form of a machine learning feature that watches for user tracking and responds to it dynamically.  The artificial intelligence algorithm also pays attention to user behavior; if it sees a user visiting a site frequently, it will ease up cookie rules to ensure that the website functions best.  For those concerned about Apple’s new feature breaching privacy in its own way: don’t worry, the feature is restricted to your devices only.

How Will This Effect Ecommerce and How Can Businesses Prepare?
 

Companies located in Europe, where less than a quarter of users browse on Safari, are likely to be the least affected by this change – at least for now.  In North America, however, almost 50% of mobile users browse using Safari primarily.  For eCommerce companies whose customers are located in North America, the Safari change could mean major changes are necessary.

First off, partnerships with major companies that have relied heavily on user tracking to provide value may have to be rethought or reanalyzed.  Without the ability to easily track users using third-party cookies, large websites like Facebook may not be able to target ads as well as they have in the past, specifically for mobile users.  As mobile users are the fastest growing demographic of eCommerce customers, this could really impact business negatively if not adjusted for appropriately.

Second, forward-thinking eCommerce companies who do not already have primary content generation via a blog or social media accounts need to move on this front as soon as possible.  Sometimes, the best way to advertise your store and bring paying customers to your site is to lead via quality content.  Being an industry thought leader can outpace the even the advertising that the prime of social media has to offer.

Finally, if your company relies on data collected from ad partnerships, try to pivot into different ways of gathering demographics.  Often, email campaigns offering coupons or other benefits in exchange for surveys can be even more useful than analytics from web trackers, though it can certainly be more labor intensive.

While advertising trade associations may or may not be correct about this paradigm shift being for the negative, Safari’s new feature is undeniably a major shakeup for the advertising market online, especially if machine learning algorithms are adopted by other browsers.  Given the fact that Apple has long been an industry leader in regards to privacy features.

 

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