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Privacy is a word that’s likely to elicit different reactions from consumers versus those of us who work in marketing. The recent onslaught of data privacy legislation has left marketers contemplating what “personal information” means nowadays and how they can comply. 

The topic of data privacy has been a discussion point for some time but came to the forefront with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union in 2018. More recently, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and GDPR compliance in Latin America came into effect. And now Apple and Google are making plays to limit data collection by rolling out new data privacy features in the near future. 

For Apple, the changes affect Apple’s ID for Advertisers (IDFA), an identifier that allows the digital ad industry to track iOS users’ activity across apps to better target ads and measure the effectiveness of marketing campaigns. Until now, users have had the option to opt-out of being tracked by flipping a switch in the settings menu. But with the release of Apple’s latest operating system in April, all apps will have to ask users to opt-in before they can begin tracking you. Since very few people are likely to give this consent, the IDFA is essentially no longer a reliable identifier of users. 

With Google Chrome, new browser privacy laws are continuing to change consent requirements, which means an end to third-party cookies. And federal privacy legislation in the United States is probably not far behind. Whether it happens this year or in the next few years, the changes are coming and we need to be ready to adapt.

When Google made its announcement, it introduced Privacy Sandbox with the intention to build new technology that will replace the third-party cookie over the next two years. Privacy Sandbox includes web browser APIs designed to maintain privacy while still delivering the ability for advertisers to target and measure campaign effectiveness.

The iOS 14 update will impact all businesses to some extent, but the impact on small businesses could be very detrimental. Up until now, many small businesses were able to take advantage of Facebook’s highly accurate targeting. For example, Facebook uses tracking to create lookalike audiences. These are new groups of people to target based on tracking data collected from a page’s existing audience. So, if everyone opts out of sharing that data, it will make it a lot harder for Facebook to do this.

What Does This Mean For Digital Marketing?

Moving away from a focus on cookie-based audience data towards a focus on user experience and behavior. Cookies have been used for years, but marketers need to get smarter, as cookies slow down websites and are unreliable, and impact the customer experience they are meant to improve. Users want a seamless personalized experience that can be improved in the following 3 areas.

  • Creative: Eye-catching visuals and messaging have never been more important. Users want to self-identify with brands and buy into them. If your message is compelling enough, you’ll achieve this.
  • Contextual Targeting: Old formats will be coming back, most importantly theme-based targeting. As a user, we typically sit across many audience verticals e.g. looking to buy a house, recently married, shopping in luxury stores, etc. You’ll be able to drive personalized content for users with intent without them being identifiable.
  • First-Party Data: Grow your audiences. The risk is that the search ecosystem will become a maze of login pages so, think about how you can grow subscribers, customers who are engaged and returning, and a hyper-personalized advertising strategy that customers love to experience.

If brands want to prosper, they need to move toward transparency, convince consumers to willingly give them information (and protect that information), and invest in new ways of thinking about personalization.

Creating amazing, personalized user experiences is what we, as marketers, should strive to provide. And those great experiences will result in more customers who are willing to share their information. Ultimately, marketing will adapt and hopefully, these privacy laws will result in stronger, more strategic marketing in reaching end-users who have ‘opted in’ for information. 

Background in traditional and digital media. Loves startups, local business and online marketing. Read more about me here.

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