Marketers Are Under a Digital Ad Siege and Must Now Convince Customers to Share Data

July 1, 2021
Contributor: Jackie Wiles

As options for targeted digital advertising shrink, marketing leaders must convince customers to volunteer their data — and then manage that first-party data capture effectively.

Google has issued a temporary reprieve to digital advertisers, saying it won’t scrap technology that tracks web-browsing habits quite yet. Still, the respite is short, and doesn’t remove the urgency for marketing leaders to convince customers to volunteer data about preferences and behavior (“first-party data”) — data once visible through third-party cookies.

“To succeed in a world of consent-based advertising, digital marketing leaders must accelerate when, where and how they collect, aggregate and deploy first-party data,” says Chelsea Gross, Director Analyst, Gartner. “They’ll need best-in-class tactics for incentivizing customers to share first-party data, as well as data and analytics (D&A) management capabilities to handle the data itself.”

Demise of third-party cookies

Third-party cookies were designed to store information anonymously under the control of end users, but they were seized on by ad tech providers to amass and link datasets to target and measure highly specific ads. Google and Apple, citing privacy concerns, both recently announced moves to increase customer governance over their own data.

An iOS update by Apple now requires opt-in for device identifiers. And Google announced early in June 2021 that it would kill its third-party cookie tracking in early 2022. By the 24th of the same month, Google had relented, saying it would delay that change until late 2023, but the writing is on the wall.

Whatever the specific timeline, digital marketing leaders face disruption, including:

  • Strategies for ad targeting, buying and optimization will be upended, especially for performance-oriented campaigns and custom audiences. 
  • Attribution and optimization practices are constantly evolving, incrementally testing and improving app-to-web tracking.
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Three Actions to Prepare for First-Party Data Capture

Ultimately, digital marketing leaders need to get customers to willingly share their preferences by building compelling touchpoints for data capture as consumers make their way to a purchase on owned channels. 

Done right, first-party data can strengthen customer relationships, as it enables organizations to provide more personalized, relevant experiences. But how marketers gather and manage first-party data will be key. 

Here are three things digital marketers should be focused on right now.

No. 1: Establish a foundation for customer data management

Before accelerating customer data collection, first evaluate your D&A organizational structure and capabilities — and look to identify efficiencies and close gaps. 

In the Gartner 2020 Marketing Data and Analytics Survey, which polled both producers and consumers of marketing analytics, 64% of respondents said that data management, data integration and data formatting were among their top three most time-consuming activities. 

The challenge of effectively integrating and utilizing customer data will only become more pressing as regulations on third-party sources increase.

Marketers will need to tackle technologies and capabilities including the best use of customer data platforms vs. other technologies and the most effective processes for data acquisition, organization and storage. They’ll also need to benchmark the maturity of their advanced analytics teams and learn what best practices are and how to follow them. 

No. 2: Tailor data collection for current conditions

Consumers are increasingly concerned about who is collecting their data, how much of their behavior is being tracked and what companies are doing with their information, so be prepared to tailor your approaches to data collection to ensure consumers are willing to share it.

You’ll need to follow data privacy best practices, and plot a strategy — perhaps using lessons learned by peers — to incentivize account signup and leverage first-party data to improve the customer experience across sites, apps and email.

No. 3: Create compelling touchpoints for data collection on owned channels

Getting consumers to volunteer information about themselves requires a compelling value proposition. 

Loyalty programs that solicit data in exchange for transactional and experiential rewards are popular models, but opportunities exist for incentivizing account creation or data capture outside of traditional loyalty programs as well. 

There are many opportunities to learn more about a customer after a purchase, including unlikely sources such as a product return. For instance, if you ask a customer why they want to return an item, you may be able to act upon that decision and improve the marketing communications, or even the product itself, over time. Retargeting efforts and 1:1 communication through email and social media continue to capture information that is valuable for marketers.

One digitally native bra brand, for example, leverages post-purchase opportunities to collect data that enables higher customer lifetime value in the way it handles product returns. The company requests proactive feedback via an embedded call-to-action button that can kick off a product return and exchange if needed. During that process, the company solicits product feedback and uses the information gathered to re-engage the customer with recommended products via email after the return has been completed.

All marketers will need to get more sophisticated about how to use data from loyalty programs to deepen engagement on owned channels in a way that strengthens customer retention efforts — and turn points of churn or friction within the postpurchase experience into an opportunity to collect valuable data and feedback.

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