Changes in the trackability of online consumers coupled with an increased desire for privacy have affected all online advertisers this year.
Facebook received the lion’s share of the attention about the impacts of this issue due to the highly publicized iOS tracking changes implemented in early 2021. However, this trend affected a lot of other platforms besides Facebook.
It doesn’t matter if you leverage Google Ads, Facebook, programmatic, or any other platform. The harsh reality is that you are able to track less user behavior and conversions this year than you could last year. The writing is on the wall:
- Third-party cookies are scheduled to get their final “death knell” as Google plans to disable support in Chrome sometime in 2023.
- The opt-in rate to allow app tracking on iOS14 is between 25% and 40% depending on the data source.
- A study in October 2021 found that 68.7% of consumers said that “having more control over data and how it’s shared” was either extremely important or very important.
- More governments, both in the US and abroad, are enacting or considering GPDR like legislation.
Privacy concerns will continue to decrease online use of PII.
The world is clearly moving toward more data privacy for consumers. The usage of personally identifiable information (PII) will be more regulated and less available in the future.
Have you begun to prepare?
There are simple strategies that you can launch today, or begin preparing for, that will put you ahead of the curve and may even improve your active campaign results today. Here are some things that all brands and marketers should know.
1. Rethink your walled garden strategies.
They call them walled gardens for a reason: what happens in a walled garden stays in a walled garden.
Most advertisers understand that this limits their ability to access and read detailed user interactions. Unfortunately, they forget that this structure also significantly impacts what strategies make sense to implement within walled garden platforms such as Facebook and Google. These platforms thrive when they can originate and re-target audiences that live within their own walls.
It wasn’t too long ago that you could leverage Facebook as a retargeting platform only. You could target consumers that had interacted with your website, and have a lot of success doing so.
Today the tracking changes that hamper these platforms’ ability to see conversions are also hurting their ability to successfully target audiences built outside their walls, within their own walls. Establishing ad campaigns that funnel users through the sales cycle have always been important. However, it’s now imperative that you do the same within each individual platform.
I worked with a brand that was historically running successful retargeting-only campaigns within Facebook leveraging pixel-based audiences. The performance had fallen off and they were questioning if the platform was viable for them. After adding an additional prospecting funnel step within Facebook, they were able to invest more advertising dollars at a 2x return on ad spend. Just by supplying Facebook with an audience curated from within their own walls, targeting rapidly improved.
It’s growing more difficult to pick and choose certain platforms for certain tactics only. The more ways you can allow a walled garden platform to leverage its own audience data, the better you’re going to be able to drive cost-effective results.
2. Think cookie-less.
More and more digital advertising platforms are embracing “cookie-less” technology to both target audiences and track conversions.
From third-party analytics and attribution tools to programmatic DSPs, these solutions give you the data you need to drive ROI. You can optimize your campaigns without the use of PII. Evaluate and migrate to these types of platforms today. Doing so will give you the time to prepare and future-proof your marketing technology stack. This will be true no matter what changes happen in the future.
3. First-party data rules offer greater freedom.
If you haven’t started building a first-party relationship with your customers, you’re missing the opportunity to get ahead of the incoming privacy wave.
First-party data is mostly immune to the new privacy-focused world. When consumers choose to engage directly with your brand, it’s easy to understand their preferences, purchase habits, and how they respond to your marketing efforts.
4. Consider the big picture.
Digital marketers have been hyper-focused on the granular since the beginning of the online advertising industry. The ability to target, refine, optimize, and control everything was one of the key reasons marketers embraced the technology.
As more and more platforms are opaque, not connected, or have diminished tracking abilities, smart marketers are looking at the big picture as well.
I worked with a brand that had experienced a decrease in the ROI that was being attributed to all their campaigns. These changes started happening around the time that the iOS privacy initiative rolled out. They were concerned that their online marketing efforts may have been losing efficiency and wondered if they should be reevaluating their marketing mix.
I did an analysis of their overall online marketing spend compared to their overall direct sales. We found that while their attributable results had lowered, their marketing dollars were as efficient as they were before the falloff began when considering total direct sales. We established that their overall investment was still as efficient as ever. In doing so, we had a great baseline established to take advantage of the next tip…
5. Learn to read lift.
With the reliability of individual platforms to track and attribute sales, lift is an increasingly important way to understand success.
Establish a ”big picture” baseline that encompasses all sales and all ad inputs. This gives you a great way to see if the effects of the changes you’re making are actually improving the bottom line.
Typically you should establish a 3- to 6-week baseline right before a big change or optimization cycle. Doing so will give you the clearest picture of current performance. Then make the changes and evaluate the performance during the test period compared to the baseline.
If your results improved, then the changes you’ve implemented are worth carrying forward.
It’s important to keep other marketing inputs as steady as possible while you’re testing to limit other variables. Of course, this isn’t perfect. However, it gives you an additional vantage point into what’s happening. User trackability does not affect the results.
6. Expand your reach.
Individual platforms will get “dinged” by privacy restrictions at different rates. This unpredictability makes it harder to rely on just one or two platforms for your campaign’s success.
Testing new platforms for success now is incredibly important to help safeguard your overall campaign from sudden privacy changes.
If you’re able to expand into an additional platform, say programmatic display, that you weren’t leveraging before, a tracking change that hurts your Google search performance could be easily mitigated by shifting the budget to display.
It has always been a smart idea to be as diverse as possible since audiences shift from one place to another frequently. The unpredictability of privacy and tracking changes give you yet another reason to test and learn a new platform today.
The privacy and tracking environment for online advertisers is sure to become more challenging in the future. Making these changes now will help keep you from getting caught off guard when the next big change occurs.
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