Trust me on this

Editor's note: Dawn Paul is content marketing manager at Adtaxi. 

The data privacy movement is disrupting digital marketing worldwide. But disruption leads to innovation. With the right tactics, privacy is an opportunity for competitive advantage. 

Throughout the history of digital advertising, there have been many important changes that caused concern for how brands do business. In the end, marketers have learned to adapt to this fluid environment and in most cases have ended up better off than before. Data privacy is proving to be no different. While being driven by consumer apprehension on how personal information is being collected, stored and used, it’s causing marketers to rethink how they can be smarter in their approach and improve users’ online experience to encourage long-term relationships. 

Some players in big tech have acknowledged their responsibility for digital privacy and already implemented changes. Google’s plan to phase out the third-party cookie, now projected for the end of 2023, is one huge step. Apple also recently implemented an opt-in system for data collection on the App Store, putting the decision-making power back into consumers’ hands and forcing more transparency from the apps themselves. 

The way marketers strategize is changing but what many don’t realize is this actually could be good for business.

The benefits of sharing 

Despite wariness on personal information being used for online marketing purposes, consumers are recognizing the benefits of sharing some information with businesses they value and trust. In Adtaxi’s 2021 privacy study, 44% of U.S. respondents said their online experience is better because apps and websites collect their data and 45% said they generally give permission to collect their personal information when asked. Preferences are clearly moving toward informed choice and control, rather than a blanket ban on all data collection. 

This is where the privacy movement becomes an opportunity. First-party data – the customer information that you collect yourself – is an incredibly valuable resource when used correctly. If marketers can tap into consumer preferences around consent and personalization, they can build a new and highly effective approach that centers around trust and ethical data practices.  

Collecting high-quality first-party data is no small task; it’s a concerted effort where customer experience should be front and center. The goal is to genuinely earn customers’ trust and help them understand how sharing data can benefit them by unlocking a better and more personalized experience. It is important to use clear, transparent language and underscore that customers are empowered to make their own choices. 

Ask for information gradually, rather than overwhelming customers with questions. Name, contact information and purchase history – which many online shoppers are used to sharing – are excellent starting points to build from. Over time, you can begin to look at how they interact with your site and brand, whether through browsing data, reviews or creating an account with additional personal details and preferences. 

A great way to help website visitors share data is to incentivize them. By offering discounts, loyalty programs, exclusive access and more in exchange for data, you can show customers that sharing information makes their experience better and that you value their unique perspectives.

Accuracy and effectiveness

Using first-party data is where attention to privacy really becomes a competitive advantage. With a respectful and methodical approach to data collection, and a strong strategy for implementation, brands can target new and existing customers with serious accuracy and effectiveness. 

Building a segmented database is the first crucial step, fundamental to effective personalization and targeting. Dig through the data you already have and don’t shy away from the details. Even if a category of information does not seem immediately relevant, having it organized could be a crucial asset down the line. Start with basic demographics – location, age, etc. – and then move to details like buying patterns, interests and more. You may be surprised at what you learn just by looking at each category one by one. 

The more details you have, the more effectively you can reach your target audiences both on your platforms and across channels. Customizing messages and creative to different targeted groups is the gold standard for digital marketing – a much better use of ad-spend than pushing out all of your content to all of your contacts. 

Retargeting works the same way. Using the data you have to provide customers with highly personalized suggestions and messages creates an ideal environment for conversion. And because website visitors have consented to share their data and understand the value exchange, seeing the personalization in real time will help further strengthen the relationship. 

Because you own the data you collect, you can rely on a higher level of accuracy, both in targeting and in your metrics, to give a more accurate picture of your customers’ behaviors and interests. With a fuller picture of how customers interact with your brand, you can make more effective optimizations and build more intentional campaign strategies. As the relationship evolves, you can even leverage user patterns and personas to inform how you go to market and how you develop future products.

The art of adaptation 

Relying less on the third-party cookie economy doesn’t mean ad-tracking goes entirely out the window. Campaigns can still secure user data through APIs like Google Chrome’s Privacy Sandbox, mobile ad IDs (which tend to be ultra-reliable, as most people shop on their own mobile devices) or make certain content available in exchange for first-party data. 

Normalizing first-party data-based campaigns poses a major opportunity for advertisers, since brand-owned data can still inform all the previously-available targeting levers and platform-specific campaign tools you’ve likely become familiar with (lookalike audiences, e-mail lists, cart-abandonment and other dynamic retargeting options, to name a few).

Here are some other common approaches advertisers are utilizing to adapt to recent privacy measures limiting the use of third-party data:

  • Leverage native advertising to expand your audience on social media feeds. Native ads are an opportunity to directly control the brand message and user experience and are demonstrably more readable and shareable on social media compared to display ads. Native strategies work best when they’re informative while matching the look and feel of their surrounding platform – 70% of consumers say they prefer learning about products or services through content rather than traditional advertising.
  • Create ad groups targeting “only trackable users” on the Trade Desk platform to cater to your customers’ journey across devices and channels where your ads will have the most impact. Cross-device targeting will reveal valuable insights into how your audience acts and which behaviors, devices and experiences lead to the most conversions.
  • Implement device ID-based targeting strategies away from mobile Safari by serving ads across in-app environments. In-app advertising provides precise first-party data gathered from the app’s policy agreement usually required in order to download. Matching mobile device IDs to users allows your brand to reliably target by geolocation and other personalized options.
  • Develop quality content in line with the ideal specifications for each marketing channel, including video ads where appropriate (which is most places). Video content in 2020 saw 10x more Twitter engagement than tweets with only text, increased the shareability of LinkedIn content by 20x, generated the most engagement of any content type on Instagram and made Pinterest users 2.6x more likely to make a purchase.

Refine your strategies 

Your organization should take time to make process changes permanent with the fading of third-party cookies. Now, this doesn’t mean your marketing plan needs to forgo digital advertising. But it does mean that you need to refine your strategies and consider different concepts. Implementing required ongoing testing may greatly increase your ability to pinpoint what works best, driving results and helping you maintain current customers while connecting to new ones.

Assessing effectiveness may also look different as the industry moves forward. More factors may need to be considered when evaluating success across platforms. Regardless of where you are in the process, privacy will remain a priority for both brands and consumers. It is extremely critical that advertisers and agencies factor this into their digital marketing plans. While shifts in the industry are inevitable, the privacy push is and will continue impacting businesses of all shapes and sizes.

Your best defense for the changing landscape is to always be agile and proactive. No matter what happens next, privacy will continue to be a focus moving forward, and in order to remain competitive, as a brand, you need to be prepared.

Build something stronger

Privacy may be changing digital marketing as we know it, but the benefits of first-party data – more accuracy, better targeting, better metrics and better customer relationships – should not be underestimated. In fact, with first-party data you can build something even stronger. 

The more fully you commit to privacy, the greater the rewards. When a customer opts-in to sharing their data, they are creating a bond of trust that will benefit both of you for the long term. Maintaining and strengthening this trust is an investment in a stronger and more sustainable future.