We surf the Internet every day in search of information on subjects of interest, for goods and services, entertainment, and socialization. The Internet offers a great deal of information to consumers for free, but is it really free? This vast open-access resource is in fact an exchange of information for our attention to advertisements. It is an economic exchange that enables free access to information for everyone, and it’s big business. Google parent company Alphabet Inc. breached $2 trillion in market value, fueled predominantly by growth in its digital advertising business that relies heavily on tracking cookies.
Tracking cookies have provided marketers with a strategic tool to create personalized, and even one-to-one brand experiences designed to improve sales. Ninety-one percent of consumers say they are more likely to shop with brands that provide offers and recommendations that are relevant to them. To meet these consumer expectations, marketers have gathered a wealth of online data through third-party cookies that track the movements of consumers online. Each interaction tells a story about a consumer’s preferences, purchases, and behaviours while they are online searching, shopping, listening to music, watching videos, or just browsing.
However, increased privacy concerns have led to sweeping privacy laws that will make tracking harder. Canadian regulations mandate that businesses secure permission from users to collect, share and use data collected from consumers. In addition, companies like Apple are offering users the ability to opt out of tracking cookies altogether. Search engines like Safari and Firefox have blocked all third-party tracking cookies, and Google, the world’s largest search engine, plans to block all cookies from its Chrome browser by 2023.
So, what will this cookie-less world mean for marketers? Moving forward, first-party data collected directly from consumers by a brand will be the driving mechanism for continued personalization. “Although consumers are very concerned about their privacy, they also want personalization and are willing to share information to get it”, says John Leonard, V.P. Sales and Marketing, Cover-All Business Communication Management. An overwhelming 83% of consumers say they are willing to share their personal data to create a more personalized brand experience. Third-party cookies certainly offer marketers greater reach but have their challenges when dealing with accuracy and privacy. First-party data, on the other hand, is the best possible information about your audience because it comes directly from them. It provides a higher degree of accuracy when making strategic marketing decisions, and meets consumer privacy expectations because it offers transparency and increased control over personal data.
First-party data will be the driving mechanism for continued personalization.
First-party data can be collected and used in a variety of methods. Data is often collected through fill-forms on websites, from CRM systems, social media profiles, subscription information, and surveys. Marketers are also turning to direct mail as a means of first-party data collection. It is widely known that consumers trust direct mail more than digital marketing, with 76% of people saying they trust ads they receive in the mail. As a result, they are more likely to follow through with providing their private data if they receive an offline communication piece they view as trustworthy. Direct mail is also being used to circumvent digital fatigue consumers are experiencing by sending requests for personal data by mail, and response rates are higher for physical mail than digital marketing, increasing the overall success of first-party data collection.
Direct mail is trusted, and response rates are higher, making it the perfect channel for first-party data.
In an effort to connect the offline and online world, brands are making it easier for consumers to provide their data with the use of QR codes in direct mail pieces. QR codes in direct mail pieces link consumers directly to the website where they are prompted to enter their personal information. The number of times a consumer uses a QR code, what they purchase, and their online activity can all be measured to determine the success of a specific campaign. “The data collected by QR codes can improve the effectiveness of direct mail campaigns by utilizing custom-tailored data programming to identify historical purchase patterns and other online activities to create personalized direct mail campaigns that improve results,” says Leonard.
First-party data will become vital to strategic marketing once Google eliminates tracking cookies and replaces them with Google’s Privacy Sandbox. Advertisers will be required to use their first-party data in conjunction with features in Google’s Privacy Sandbox like FLEDGE (First Locally Executed Decision over Groups Experiment) and FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts) to target specific interest groups online. Advertisers will be able to use their first-party data to help determine which interest groups, or FLoCs, they want to reach, making the collection of first-party data all that more critical moving forward. The future of personalization is dependent on first-party data and marketers need to start preparing for this eventuality, or get caught playing catch up with their competitors.
John Leonard is V.P., Sales & Marketing for Cover-All Business Communication Management. He works with his team and clients to develop relevant and effective communications by using data and technology. Contact Cover-All Business Communication Management to find out more at (416) 752-8100.