What Ecommerce Brands Need to Know About iOS 17
June 13, 2023
Reading Time: 6 minutes
Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) keeps us on the edge of our seats. The potential impact of yet another major iOS update can strike fear into the hearts of marketers everywhere.
There is a lot of disagreement about the impact of iOS 17 on UTMs and link tracking. As it stands at the time of writing this article, merchants sending texts on Postscript can take a deep breath. It’s going to be ok (if you are using an iPhone 8 or X, you might need a new phone though). I’ll explain why, but first a bit of context around iOS and cross site tracking.
Ecommerce marketers are still feeling the aftermath of iOS 14.5. Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) changed the game by having consumers need to select if they would allow an app to collect certain data and share it across other apps. I remember the reaction from other marketers when this was released, the doom and gloom felt by the marketers I knew was further compounded when I asked if any of them were going to allow their apps to track their activity across other apps and websites (the answer was no).
Most consumers don’t think about the consequences that were felt by businesses that advertise on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Ads quickly became more expensive and many businesses found themselves looking for alternatives.
The pain felt by ecommerce brands didn’t stop with falling social ROAS, email marketing suffered the loss of reliable open rate data with the release of iOS 15. Every looming iOS update comes with uncertainty and misinformation (I’m looking at you iOS 16 promotional folder) as brands try to do less with more in the current macro environment.
You probably find yourself asking, ok well what do I have to deal with this time?
After we finished debating the announcement of Apple Vision Pro, Twitter was buzzing with concerns about the impact of iOS 17 on link tracking.
Source: Apple's Newsroom
This is just another step towards the death of the third party cookie and cross site tracking.
Link Tracking protection is designed to find user-identifiable tracking parameters in link URLs and automatically remove them. In a world where cross site traffic is increasingly difficult, adding a tracking identifier to a URL is one way advertisers can track user activity across websites (this is definitely a loophole).
In terms of the impact to SMS and email marketing, you won’t see much impact because you aren’t sending the raw link. Postscript, for example, adds UTMs during the redirect to the correct page on your site. You’ve probably noticed in your texts that you aren’t sending out the full URL that includes the UTM for your campaign (those short links are also helping you manage character count because the links are shorter than they would be if you used the full raw URL). Ultimately because Postscript is handling everything server side, you’ll still be able to see clicks to your website (which is used to track attribution).
Safari also made updates to private browsing. It’s now locked by FaceID so every time you come back to private browser tabs, your phone is going to check if it's you. Private browsing will block trackers from identifying your device and following your browsing across websites.
iOS 17 is currently in a developer beta, which means you can install it on a compatible iOS device. We’ve already put our platform to the test using an iPhone that has the developer beta enabled. (Yes, clicks are still tracking and when the short link redirects to your store, the UTM parameters are still showing in the URL. We saw the same thing when opening a link in a private Safari tab).
The other big news (that doesn’t affect your SMS program but might impact your wallet) is Apple announced which devices will be compatible with iOS 17. If you are still rocking an iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus or an iPhone X, the bad news is you won’t be able to install iOS 17.
Like most major iOS updates there are plenty of other bells and whistles that are coming. These are some of the things I’m personally looking forward to:
One-time verification codes delivered by the Messages app can be deleted automatically. Keeping my inbox more manageable and leaving room for texts from friends, family and of course my favorite brands.
Less copy/pasting over verification codes. The default iOS mail app will support auto populating verification codes like you’ve grown to love with Messages. (Seriously, unwilling to imagine a world without this).
The addition of search filters in Messages so I can find what I’m looking for a lot faster. This is going to make my personal shopping on BFCM a lot easier in case I get distract after reading about a sale (or trying to find something I texted my sister 6 months ago without having to scroll all the way back through the thread especially when I can’t remember if it was a conversation between the two of us or part of a group text).
As someone who would have to admit to using Google on a regular basis to double check how to spell things, I’ve been fairly happy with Apple’s improved autocorrect. Plus, there are additional improvements to speech recognition for dictation.
FaceTime is adding the ability to leave either an audio or video recording if the person you are calling doesn’t pick up. Most of my FaceTime is audio calling my sister in the UK so I look forward to being able to leave a message when I accidentally call her at 2am.
On that same note of voicemail, iOS 17 introduces Live Voicemail, which shows a real time transcript of the message on the lock screen as the person is speaking. This makes it a ton easier to decide if you want to answer the phone. Also you don’t have to worry about as much spam in your voicemail as calls marked by carriers will be instantly declined (and you won’t see them in your mailbox).
The photo app can now recognize pets (currently just cats or dogs). My photos are overwhelming cats, quilts and cats on quilts. More of a personal point of pride, but a quilt portrait I made of one of my cats was classified as a cat when my photos were finally sorted (this has to be done while your phone is charging and the screen locked and it sounds like most people find it happens overnight).
And you can now set a “poster” that appears when you are calling someone. I’m looking forward to having someone else on iOS 17 to call so they can admire my new cat, Ollie.
There are plenty of other fun & quality of life improvements coming with iOS 17 that didn’t make my list. We’ll be keeping close tabs on future updates and the impact on your SMS program.
So until next time, take a deep relaxing breath and shift your focus on those fun improvements (unless you have to go buy a new phone, you can thank and/or blame Apple for the nudge to upgrade).
Principal Market Intelligence Manager
Mindy Regnell is the Principal Market Intelligence Manager at Postscript. Over the last 15 years in ecommerce, she has run an online store, studied over 30 different ecommerce platforms, and tracked the latest trends. When she isn’t geeking out on SMS or ecommerce, Mindy can almost always be found quilting up a storm.