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How to adapt strategies to the latest data privacy trends

With 96% of Apple users opting to not share data with marketers and ad delivery algorithms, the PR and marketing world is facing big changes.

Apple has tweaked how it allows apps on its phones to track user data—a change that is roiling the digital ad and marketing industry. It’s new “App Tracking Transparency” feature is seen as a big deal—particularly by social media giants such as Facebook—which use tracking data to serve relevant ads to users across platforms.

It’s this consumer data that has made companies like Facebook and Google some of the most sophisticated marketers in human history. Demographic data allows marketers to not only track the performance of various ad messages, but also “retarget,” serving that ad with the strange pajamas again and again as you traverse the web.

Apple is trying to educate consumers about the use of their data and is allowing companies to make their case on why users should opt in to data collection.

The Verge reports:

Developers will have control over when to show Apple’s prompt, specifically to give apps like Facebook, NBC News, or BBC a chance to make their case to users about why they should allow tracking. And Facebook is doing just that, with a letter to users that tries to sell them on the idea of getting more relevant advertisements and supporting small businesses.

So far, the vast majority are opting out—in a not-so-subtle sign that consumers would much rather have privacy than experience personalized sales messages. After the update, only 4% of iOS users in the U.S. opted back in to data collection.

When you factor in that Apple eats up about 60% of the U.S. mobile phone market, that’s a huge drop in data access for marketers.

“Over half of mobile devices now are really having reduced visibility,” explains Derek Welch, vice president of media at Allen & Gerritsen.

Derek Welch

“What it boils down to is the concern that advertisements will no longer be relevant; that digital advertising will now regress back to the days of irrelevant pop-ups and flash banners created with glittering WordArt,” says Zach Travis, media director for imre.

Zach-Travis

Zach Travis

“Advertisers want to create personal connections with their audiences because that is what drives action and results,” he says. “We’ve become reliant on algorithms and machine learning to do that, fueled by data, and since this update gives people the opportunity to say, ‘don’t share my data,’ advertisers may begin to see a decrease in meaningful results.”

Welch indicates this shift will dramatically affect retargeting, which has been a potent tool for moving consumers down a sales funnel by identifying users’ levels of interest in your product.

“Those [pools of consumers], which have always been absolutely crucial to us in terms of being able to take somebody from awareness, consideration, whatever, all the way to actually converting on something, are absolutely critical,” he says. “And now most of that is going to go away. Over 50% of retargeting pools are now just completely gone.”

Attribution

The other big problem created by the loss of consumer data for marketers and communicators is attribution.

“We’re still able to see anything click-based in terms of conversions and activity,” Welch says, thanks to analytics and other tools that allow marketers to track users on their web pages. Instead, this affects “view-through” activity, where marketers have been able to prove that even if a consumer doesn’t immediately click on an ad and buy, through tracking them over time the team can show that these various touchpoints moved a prospect closer to buying.

“We just know for a fact that consumer behavior is not that linear,” says Welch, and so being able to see how consumers move over time has been a gift to marketers. But that gift is going away, at least for Apple users.

Nothing new under the sun

Despite the gravity of the latest changes, Travis argues that data privacy isn’t some new phenomenon that is surprising marketers.

“Data privacy concerns are not new, with the most basic cybersecurity efforts dating back to the 1970s to prevent unwanted people from accessing networks,” he says. “However, a series of data breaches throughout the late aughts and mid-2010s, culminating with the Equifax breach in 2017, brought the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) into the limelight.”

And Welch argues that marketers might not see that big of a loss when it comes to sales. It will just be a more convoluted process.

“People are still going to have exposure to ads and ultimately find themselves in your site, find themselves in your store, buying from you, whether it’s a product or service or otherwise, you’re just not going to see it,” he says. “So the actual effect on the bottom line shouldn’t be that much.”

Adapting to a new world

Yet, optimizing campaigns and making sure your message resonates with your target audience will require some new tactics for marketers online.

“How we adapt to a world with more data risk, and privacy, is multifaceted,” says Travis of imre. “First, as an agency rooted in empathy, we feel we have an obligation to protect personal data. It is a constant for us, and our client partners, to ensure we’re aligned on best practices and how to handle them with care.”

“Second, we need to look at what the goal of our program or activation is and identify who are the right audiences to try and reach. We must ask ourselves, are we comfortable with driving awareness amongst a broad audience, or are we looking to do something a little more niche that would require a personalized experience based on past actions?”

Travis says that campaigns looking to reach narrow, targeted audiences must be prepared to get the data for themselves. “If it is the latter, we are working closely with clients on designing, activating and measuring first-party data programs that allow us to not just own our audiences, but deeply learn about their behaviors in a way that leads us to make informed hypotheses on what drove them to take the meaningful or desired action,” he says.

Facebook in particular has invested its vast resources in workarounds to help marketers access third-party data, essentially bypassing Apple through other connections. Yet, these tactics often run into privacy regulation and concerns, such as the GDPR or California’s privacy regulation (CCPA).

“We’re realizing as we talk to the legal teams, that’s not an easy solution,” says Welch. “We still on the site have to say, are you OK with X and Y—and a lot of people are going to opt out of that, too.”

Welch says that Allen & Gerritsen is looking to find ways to change behavior and strategy rather than finding patches to reacquire data that consumers say they want to keep private.

Welch says that this is an opportunity to A/B test and see just how valuable that retargeting advertising really was. In a world where an inordinate amount of advertising spend is wasted, the new privacy laws mean agencies can see if the retargeting investments were really moving the needle—or if consumers might have converted anyway.

Security and first-party data

Brands will likely invest more in their direct relationships with consumers and look to build data models from first-party data. After all, “first-party cookies aren’t going away,” Welch says.

There are solutions for brands and publishers to create their own retargeting pools without the help of Facebook, but turning every brand into its own big data hub creates concerns about cybersecurity that organizations should consider.

Welch has two other takeaways from the loss of third-party consumer data. The first is to invest more creativity in the consumer experience with content and messages that converts the customer, rather than relying on retargeting tools to follow a prospect around the internet. The second is the possibility of a “liberation from extreme attribution.”

“When I first got into this business 10 years ago, it was much more about ideas and it was more about how can we do exciting, brilliant things that get people interested and talking,” Welch says, where now marketers must prove how every last cent was used to boost ROI.

“There’s no creativity to that,” Welch says, indicating that maybe this is a moment where more than a little change is possible.

Looking for more on the risks and crises that communicators must navigate in the months ahead? Be sure to join us for Ragan’s Crisis Communications Virtual Conference June 10.

The post How to adapt strategies to the latest data privacy trends appeared first on PR Daily.

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