In the field of online privacy, things have been far from dull in recent years. For example, earlier this January, Google’s Topics AI (an alternative to cookies in the Chrome browser), received fierce criticism – becoming dead and buried before it could even launch. Meanwhile, data submission via Google Analytics has been caught under heavy fire, OpenAI’s ChatGPT was banned in Italy for due to serious privacy issues, and let’s not forget how mega-processor Meta has been struggling for months, if not years, with the impossibilities of personalized advertising on Facebook and Instagram.
However, while it’s the big players making headlines, we shouldn’t forget that online privacy concerns any organization –big, medium, and small– that sells or interacts with customers online. Many businesses are eager to “do something” with modern and emerging tech, such as to do with AI or machine learning. However, even the world’s largest companies seem unable to find their way amidst new privacy legislation.
The Three Pillars of Privacy Law You Should Know
Whether it’s GDPR or another legislation that’s restricting your business’ use of personal data, online privacy always rests on three pillars:
- Users, who are increasingly aware of how valuable their data is and how well businesses can uphold their online privacy.
- Privacy laws, such as GDPR, as well as impending directives such as the AI Act, which guarantee citizens’ rights.
- Platform changes and restrictions on the use of information, such as IPT on Safari, Apple iOS privacy restrictions, and the depreciation of 3rd party cookies on all browsers, to name a few.
The problem is that many organizations find it difficult to oversee, let alone manage the entire playing field – across all these pillars. This is partly due to businesses having relied on tools like Google Analytics to collect all the data needed for campaigns, advertising, and customer outreach. But when this kind of data can no longer be collected without explicit user consent, a company has to find other ways to collect and process the missing data itself. It may sound simple, but it’s surely no easy feat. In fact, even Google’s alternative solution to this problem (trying to infer “missing” data from available yet limited data) is still far from effective.
Given this landscape, you have to ask yourself: How will you reach your customers if you can no longer simply buy access to them? Do you have a clear plan, or even the resources to adapt?
Organizations without clear and feasible solutions to these questions could be facing the downfall of their online business strategies. To help you build an online strategy that will help your business thrive amidst disruptive privacy legislation, consider these four top tips.
1: Understand what “a good foundation” means
Installing Google Analytics on your website, setting up the right dashboards, and then fine-tuning your campaigns with Google’s information… This has been a relatively straight-forward way of marketing for ages. Now, this approach is soon going to cease to exist. Many businesses and webshops will need to go back to the drawing board and answer these basic questions:
- What goal do we want to achieve and what strategy should we use to do so?
- How are we going to reach our target audience without third-party cookies?
- How can we measure our success?
- How can we collect the data we need for those measurements?
- How will we provide Google, Meta, Amazon, or whatever platform with that data if it can no longer be proactively collected?
With answers to these questions, you can modernize the foundation under your marketing strategy and prepare it for the future.
2: Go from cookie marketing to contextual marketing
Take, for example, a clothing webshop. Customer A is a regular customer and orders one piece of clothing each time, but without having an account on your site. You recognize them based on third-party cookies and can use these cookies to show Customer A relevant and personalized ads, for example on Instagram or Facebook. This may result in small orders each time, but all in all, you have yourself a valuable, satisfied customer. On the other hand, Customer B is a new customer who comes in once, orders five garments, but then returns three more. After that, he never comes back.
In this new world without third-party cookies, you can no longer track your Customer A’s outside of your own site, and you can’t show them targeted offers. Moreover, you wouldn’t be able to recognize them as a returning shopper. As a result, this could easily make it seem as if Customer B is more valuable because in terms of net value, they’ve ordered more. Even though Customer B is a serial returner who will never shop with you again.
But you don’t know that. So it could now be that, based on this half information, you are going to focus your strategy on the profile of Customer B. In effect, you actively try to attract non-loyal customers who return a lot of products.
All this to say, if you don’t come up with a solution to send first-party data to your Web analytics tool, you’re potentially missing out on very valuable customers (aka revenue). However, businesses should recognize that although serious changes need to be made on their part, there are alternative ways to recognize and reach their target customers. A prime example would be by advertising on platforms whose data show that your desired customer profile is well represented there, or in other words, via Contextual Marketing.
Contextual Marketing is a way of serving people with targeted ads based on their search terms or browsing behavior. For example, if someone visits Amazon in search for a seasonal shoe design on a particular topic (e.g., open-toe sandals for women), ads for summer dresses or bikinis could be shown when they revisit the Amazon later on. This approach almost feels like a step back in time, as if you have to decide in which paper magazine you want your ads to be placed. It definitely requires a different way of thinking about marketing.
3: Avoid battle between marketers and legal experts
Simply scrapping all your processes and practices because they’ll become a massive burden under future privacy laws is not a viable option for many. The monetary impact of doing something like that is too much. It’s important that marketing and legal departments within your organization step out of their silos and start working together to implement solutions that abide by the new legislation.
Marketers need to be aware of the data they want to collect: Why do you want that data? What do you want to do with it? Can the same results be achieved in another way? At the same time, the legal department must realize that there is a commercial business to be run. Thinking in limitations and wanting to reduce all data processing to a minimum is not in the best interest of the business. Working together and understanding and acknowledging each other’s challenges provides a breeding ground for creative new ideas that are in the best interest of the company. A good starting point is to bring together stakeholders from all involved departments to work together on a strategy that is beneficial to all.
4: Use the changing times to your advantage against competitors
Privacy regulations are there for a reason, and they’re here to stay. The big data processors of this world are hard at work preparing for stricter privacy laws. But every company should be, especially ones that exist primarily by the grace of online sales and digital marketing. This means that this affects you, as well as your competition.
In times like these, the wheat is separated from the chaff. Organizations that move with the times, get their basics right and follow a clear plan become the new leaders in the market.
Overall, while disruptive privacy legislation can seem daunting, change doesn’t have to be a negative thing. Yes, the area of privacy is shaking up the way we do business in many ways, but it also comes with an immense opportunity for you to set yourself apart against your competitors.
To go in-depth about how your business can adapt to the new privacy landscape in a way that gets you ahead, get in touch ([email protected]) – our Data & Privacy team is always open for a chat.