Digital Transformation Agency

How marketers can prepare for a privacy-first web

By Harry Brace | Marketing technology consultant

Impression

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June 29, 2022 | 7 min read

Data privacy has been an increasing concern in recent years as internet users have felt kept in the dark on who has access to their personal information and how it is used online. In response, marketers and advertising platforms have felt under pressure to respond to increasing consumer demands regarding privacy and control. Harry Brace, marketing technology consultant at Impression, considers changes to privacy settings and how they will affect marketers.

Several web browsers have already blocked third-party cookies, such as Firefox and Safari, and Google Chrome will block them by the end of 2023. As a marketer, this change has the potential to drastically alter how you run your marketing activity as you will have less insight into channel performance and customer behavior. With less reliance on third-party data sets, building your own customer database and collecting first-party data should be a priority.

Collecting first-party data

Users are becoming more aware that their data is worth something. The old adage that if you’re getting something for free, you’re probably paying in another way is true. This is becoming common knowledge among general users. For consented data, your brand must learn to offer something valuable in return. This might be via:

Impression considers what effect changes to privacy will have on marketers.

Impression considers what effect changes to privacy will have on marketers

  • Newsletter sign-ups

  • New product launch updates, or stock or price change alerts

  • Useful content behind an enforced sign-up

  • Membership or VIP schemes with user benefits

These are just a few of the many ways you can collect first-party data, but one thing is certain: in a cookieless world, brands will need to accept that the user has the power.

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Data Modeling

Even with all the efforts made to grow first-party data, the privacy-focused landscape will result in significant data gaps. In order to fill these gaps, ad platforms will gradually introduce machine learning (ML) in order to model conversions. Google and Meta are using similar functions in order to supplement the data between ad interaction and conversion data - this being ‘modeled online conversions,’ which uses both historical data and consented data.

While these ML models are not going to be perfect, the longer these models are trained, the more accurate they will become. This boils down to simply: the more data, the better. In a privacy-first landscape, the brand with the most complete data will outperform its competitors, and it will be able to better leverage ML-based automation by providing more data for the machine to learn from.

Platform solutions

It is important to understand how new tools and technologies emerge to help maintain the quality of our attribution data. It is not a tool to circumvent privacy preferences – rather, it is a tool to help businesses work more in a first-party context with data, and use it to power data-driven campaigns.

Google server-side tagging implementation

Server-side tagging has recently been made available within Google Tag Manager (GTM) and comes with various features. Until recently GTM was strictly client-side, meaning tracking scripts would run in the user’s browser when required and any related JavaScript files would be downloaded and executed.

Using server-side tag management means that you have full control over your data, allowing you to control exactly what data is collected without any third-party JavaScript code libraries being downloaded. This not only reduces the load on a user’s browser compared to client-side tagging, it also hides tracking IDs and other identifiers, which offers better data security.

Consent mode

Released in September 2020, consent mode works with a variety of Google tags such as Google Analytics and Google Ads. This tracking feature allows you to adhere to a user’s cookie consent options while still collecting anonymized signals to power your data-driven marketing.

In its most simple form, a cookie consent solution will interact with your tag manager and either allow or block tags from running based on a user’s preference. When utilizing consent mode, tags will always fire; however, their exact behavior and data they send is modified based on the user’s options.

Enhanced conversions

Enhanced conversions works by utilizing first-party customer data to match conversions against the original ad click, ie if they are clicking a Google search ad, the user will need to be logged into their Google account. Likewise for ad clicks on social media platforms. When a conversion happens, specific enhanced matching data is sent with the conversion. This data is then cross-checked within the platform and can be attributed to a specific ad click.

None of the technical solutions listed here are a silver bullet to solving the attribution challenges that the new privacy-first web brings. That said, each one will help fill a gap within your attribution and capture those edge cases that would otherwise leave some channels underreporting.

In our free white paper, you’ll find a complete analysis of the privacy landscape and a detailed guide on the steps marketers should be taking to prepare for a privacy-first web, including the benefits, limitations and implementation of first-party data solutions.

Digital Transformation Agency

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