One could easily argue that privacy and personalization are not friends. Back in the Wild West days of digital advertising, when third-party cookies and ubiquitous, unregulated online traffic reigned supreme, consumers were inundated with ads on every platform based on every website they visited. While many ad tracking companies made out quite well during this time, it was also a low trust era, where internet users were suspicious of brands and how marketers knew so much about a person’s online behaviors.
Now, infosec demands, consumer interest, and changing opinions in tech-sector board rooms are coalescing to create a more secure, more private internet where consumer data protection is paramount. Many marketers wonder how renewed attention on consumer data will affect their marketing efforts. The truth is, brands will adapt, finding new ways to deliver personalized digital marketing while respecting their privacy.
This balance is ultimately a great thing for consumers and marketers. After the European Union launched General Data Privacy Protection (GDPR) regulations and California passed their own data privacy laws (known as CCPA), people became more attuned to how their data is processed and leveraged. It didn’t take long for the tech industry to adjust. Google announced in 2020 that the company would eventually phase out third-party cookies, and Apple will end up launching a bevvy of new privacy features in 2021 including App Tracking Transparency and Mail Privacy Protection. Now brands are adjusting to the changes, ensuring that digital marketers can continue to build effective communications that prioritize both ROI and privacy.
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The Marketer’s Dilemma
Garnter predicts that more than 65% of worldwide internet users will live under the umbrella of privacy regulations by 2023, which means that marketers will need to quickly adapt to a new world where consumer data is more limited. But is this a bad thing? In a 2018 study, Harvard Business Review found that eCommerce stores that disclosed that consumers were seeing ads based on on-site activity, click-through rates went up 11% and revenues grew by 38%. It’s not that consumers want zero personalization, it’s that they’re looking for more transparency.
Marketers need information on customers to create targeted emails and mobile messages that increase revenues. Yet privacy limits the type of data that can be accessed easily. For instance, Mail Privacy Protection will make it more difficult for marketers to glean contextual information from an Apple Mail user. It will also make countdown timers much more challenging.
While countdown timers were at one point a staple of digital marketing, many brands have already shifted focus away from time-oriented email marketing. One Movable Ink client in the sports retail space said it best when speaking recently about its Movable Ink use cases:
“I know that when we first started, our use cases relied heavily on these time-targeted use cases (i.e. timers). Since we’ve moved away from time-based content I personally don’t see it as a huge loss to our program. Making content more personalized and more engaging is now our focus as it’s been in our more recent use cases. It’s good for us to be aware of these changes, but I don’t think anyone on the team is going to lose sleep over these changes.”
As the CRM manager quoted above mentions, more engaging and personalized content is how the brand now markets to their customer base. That will likely strengthen the relationship between brand and customer in the long run by providing content that delivers value for the consumer. It also helps brands continue delivering the personalization that consumers want.
Accenture found that 91% of consumers are more likely to purchase from brands that personalize the marketing and customer experience. It’s up to marketers to deliver ROI-driving campaigns within the parameters set by businesses, regulators, and consumers. To do so, brands will need to invest in first-party data and innovate their email marketing strategy.
It’s easy to consider any limits on privacy as limits on what marketers can accomplish through personalization strategies. Yet, as the internet becomes more secure, consumers’ trust levels may increase substantially, which is beneficial for everyone in the long-run. Some marketers will face short-term challenges as traditionally reliable data grows more difficult to access, but investing in those changes now could ultimately drive more revenue and build better connections with consumers.