How Businesses Are Navigating iOS Updates [Survey]

Key Takeaways:

  • 54.9% of business owners and marketers felt knowledgeable about the impact of recent iOS updates on online marketing.
  • 62% of business owners and marketers believed that their companies have found a way around the iOS restrictions on marketing.
  • Despite the recent iOS updates,  92.4% of marketers and business owners will continue to run their ads on Facebook and Instagram.

The rollout of iOS 14, iOS 15, and future updates appear to have one thing in common: data privacy, and more of it. Many are calling this the creation of a “safer data environment for consumers,” since it gives people the ability to opt-out of third-party tracking. While users are clearly loving this autonomy (Ars Technica reported that U.S. users opt-out of app tracking 96% of the time), how are marketers feeling without access to this once highly coveted information?

From Facebook advertising to cost-per-action marketing (CPA), all areas of the industry have been impacted by recent iOS updates. We spoke to business owners and marketing strategists across the country to discover exactly how they’re reacting and adapting. To find out the results, keep scrolling.

iOS in Action

Our study begins with an initial pulse check into exactly which versions of iOS the average marketing managers are utilizing today. We also asked them to rate each version and to self-assess their own familiarity with the impact of iOS on marketing strategy.

IOS with any number following refers specifically to the software on mobile Apple devices such as iPhones and iPads—not computer-based software. Most of the marketers we surveyed had updated their business-related mobile devices to iOS 14 (38%) or even iOS 15 (40.6%). While iOS 14 enabled users to opt-out of sharing their data with specific apps, iOS 15 took things a step further by enabling users to hide their IP address from all trackers. Business owners were somewhat less savvy, with only 56.6% having upgraded their iOS beyond iOS 13.

While privacy changes could theoretically make the life of a marketer more difficult, the newer the software update, the better the rating it received from our respondents. Marketers and business owners increasingly approved of each software version, giving iOS 15 an average rating of 4.4 out of 5 (with 5 being best) in comparison to just 3.7 for iOS 13 or earlier. That said, those owning or working for microbusinesses (those with fewer than 10 employees) were possibly unable to properly assess the software in the first place, with fewer than a third of this group claiming to be knowledgeable about how iOS updates impact marketing.

An Apple a Day Keeps the Marketers Away

Marketers were next asked to share their perspective on the impact of iOS updates on everything from specific ad dollars to the overall business outlook. Platform-based advertising (i.e., Facebook and Instagram), as well as cost-per-action campaigns, were all considered.

In spite of the inherent restrictions of recent iOS updates, respondents felt overwhelmingly positive about their impact on the overall outlook of their business, indicating that giving more data privacy back to individuals may not actually be a bad thing for anyone involved. Less than a fifth of business owners and marketers perceived the increased privacy as negative. Perhaps this group had been relying too heavily on the previously available data, or maybe they’ve simply missed something the 68.7% of respondents who ranked the changes as positive have noticed and benefited from. Very few marketers (8.3%) felt their strategy had not been impacted by the changes in any way.

The impact of the iOS updates and their increased data privacy rules were felt most keenly on Facebook and Instagram. More than half of respondents reported that their advertising strategies for these two platforms had been affected. Historically, a major part of Facebook’s advertising appeal was hyper-targeted ads, which could seek out potential customers according to specific demographics and even psychographics. With data privacy enhancements reducing the possibility of targeted advertising, marketers are clearly switching strategies here. And while changes to other strategy areas weren’t as common, very few remained as they were prior to the iOS updates. More than a third of respondents said they even changed their email strategy.

Changing Strategies

Digging a little deeper, marketers and business owners next shared the ways in which their efforts and emphases have changed with regards to both Facebook and Instagram advertising.

With added data privacy restrictions, the level of effort required for both Facebook and Instagram advertising has ultimately increased according to people in the marketing world. One major way this plays out is in organic versus paid content. Decreased targeting capabilities mean that marketers will ultimately benefit from putting more effort into their page’s organic and branded content, drawing people in naturally rather than as a result of automated, paid adverts. While this evidently requires more effort, it could ultimately create a better relationship between a company and its customers.

Unfortunately, smaller businesses, who admittedly knew less about iOS updates and their marketing impacts in the first place, were more likely to take a different and ultimately detrimental approach. Instead of rising to the new challenges, many chose to reduce the amount of effort put into advertising on social media. One in 4 small-business owners and marketers even reduced their efforts in terms of Facebook conversions, which translate directly into revenue streams.

Heading in a New Direction

Lastly, our survey gave marketers and business owners a chance to share which pivot strategies they’ve employed since the game-changing iOS updates. We asked about workarounds and platform-specific changes.

Although 20.5% of respondents said they had zero solutions in place, and an additional 17.6% were unsure, the majority believed they had found a way around the new iOS restrictions. Instagram advertising (47.3%) and Facebook advertising (47.1%) appeared to be the primary places to start. While updating social media strategies to adhere to the new updates can entail an entire host of activities, quick and straightforward actions, such as verifying your business domain, come highly recommended. And yet, this solution, in particular, had only been undertaken by 12.1% of microbusiness owners and 24.6% of business owners overall.

While initial confusion is to be expected with each iOS update, business owners and marketers alike were ultimately optimistic about their future in this regard. Seventy percent of business owners agreed that increased data privacy measures would have a positive impact on small businesses in the long term. And 92.4% said they would continue to run ads on Facebook and Instagram regardless of privacy updates.

Keeping Your Strategy Updated

Business owners and marketers alike appeared to be generally optimistic about new iOS software updates. They shared increasingly high ratings for each update and were overwhelmingly positive when it came to imagining how data privacy would ultimately impact their business. That said, few were able to keep their previous marketing strategies in place, and even fewer small-business owners felt their working knowledge of the updates was solid.

Fortunately for business owners and marketing strategists, the burden of iOS update changes does not have to rely on any one individual. In fact, Best SEO Companies offers a treasure trove of free resources online, like this one. Their blog is updated daily with a host of helpful information for marketing your business, while the company consistently dedicates itself to helping you achieve the best SEO strategy possible. To see how your business can get an immediate leg up, head to today.


We used Prolific to collect the responses of 554 business owners and employees involved in company marketing strategy who use Facebook and Instagram ads in the U.S. 46.1% of our participants identified as women, 53.8% identified as men, and less than 1% identified as nonbinary or nonconforming. Participants ranged in age from 19 to 58 years old with a mean of 30 and a standard deviation of 7.1. Those who failed an attention-check question were disqualified.

The data we are presenting rely on self-report. There are many issues with self-reported data. These issues include, but are not limited to, the following: selective memory, telescoping, attribution, and exaggeration.

Fair Use Statement

Marketing has many nuances, especially in the wake of each new change in technology. If you know a marketing manager, business owner, or someone who could benefit from the findings of this study, you are free to share it. Just be sure you link back to this page and that your purposes are noncommercial.