Published on Dec 21, 2022
As privacy and consumer rights on data and consent continue to take centre stage across the industry and beyond, instilling trust in consumers on companies’ marketing strategies is vital. But many businesses and organisations are anticipating a marketing minefield ahead.
Privacy regulations, like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the UK, have meant that the rights of customers, consumers and service users are affected when it comes to digital marketing; such as their right to give – and withdraw – consent, and ensuring cookie banner practices are legal. This means including options to make a selection or opt-out and reject all cookies.
Digital advertisers have long been able to use third-party cookies to learn about web visitors' online behaviour, such as what websites they visit, their interests and purchases, without any consequence before the GDPR. With this detailed data, marketers could build robust visitor profiles and would make these practices central to their strategies. Of course, we now know the extent to which creepy tactics like location-based advertising and retargeting annoy users who are now alerted to their behaviour being followed. Accept all cookies, anyone?
These infamous third-party cookies are currently being phased out by Internet browsers, such as Apple's Safari, Mozilla Firefox, and Google Chrome, who has extended their shelf life to 2024. Their near-death is part of Google's larger scheme to boost privacy through its Privacy Sandbox, which it claims aims to set new standards for privacy on the web, protect user privacy, and enable open and accessible content without the use of third-party cookies.
Since this phase-out started in 2020, it has caused a bit of a panic across the industry – but it certainly doesn't mean disaster. On the contrary, it's encouraging marketers and advertisers to interact and reach out to customers in more personal, honest and ethical ways without tracking them or compromising their privacy, and finally understanding that they may not need that much data about each customer in the first place. Like privacy-first marketing, which involves the appropriate handling and security of all personal data regarding marketing activities. Treating such data respectfully is an important part of building consumer trust. The alternative, where data is mishandled, could mean breaching data protection laws resulting in a monetary penalty from the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) and damaging reputations.
Switched on businesses and brands, such as those with a strong moral compass and desire for social responsibility, recognise that such a shift in approach is needed. But fear not, it just means it’s time for companies to sit up and arm themselves with knowledge around privacy.
The return to the old ways of marketing, namely ‘contextual marketing’, are on the horizon. This offers users adverts based on what they are currently viewing, not what they previously viewed. Adverts are then placed alongside content that aim to turn heads of an interested audience, giving users their current interests and needs, and in turn, more impact for companies. Its popularity was highlighted in a recent report that predicted that the global market for contextual advertising was estimated at $157.4 billion in 2020, and is projected to reach a staggering $335.1 billion by 2026.
Many marketers are also reaching out to new audiences without third-party data by developing their data collection operations and management models. In response to the third-party cookie demise, brands are refocusing their strategies by capturing first-and zero-party data to capture email addresses and phone numbers to grow databases, sourcing such information legally and respecting user privacy. In addition, email marketing can be used to further enrich customer data.
Using a first-party data strategy can help businesses follow existing and constantly changing regulations, reducing risk and giving marketers more control to make more informed decisions. However, by doing so, it's key to add that brands must offer a clear value exchange and be transparent about why they want that data. This can be in the form of loyalty programmes providing personalised content, experiences or exclusive offers, for example.
So, what should companies and businesses consider in the wake of the changing of the guard on privacy?
Consumers demand personalisation at every interaction, especially as the pandemic encouraged them to interact more through digital and virtual channels, increasing expectations. Companies who can implement personalisation are more likely to drive long-term relationships with customers and cement trust, according to McKinsey’s Next in Personalization 2021 report.
Next up is transparency. Regardless of what data is being collected, it’s important to instil trust and transparency from the get-go. Then once this is achieved, it’s time to show brand integrity by respecting customers’ privacy choices in communications across all platforms, sales and marketing activities. The 2021 Annual Tracking Research by the ICO, found that three-quarters of people surveyed felt that protecting their personal information is essential. Therefore, companies should make it clear for customers, service users, employees and other stakeholders how exactly they collect and process personal data, making them more trustworthy.
Setting a data ethics mentality is also well worth consideration. This includes putting the customer first, and ensuring they are treated fairly and with respect by how their data is collected, stored, used and shared. Customers who trust a company, feel valued, and are listened to – are more likely to be loyal to the business, and in turn, increase sales, profits and referrals. Creating a culture of privacy helps to boost alignment between ethical data protection practices and favourable business outcomes.
Data ethics is everyone’s responsibility, not just data scientists or legal and compliance teams. It needs attention and action from executives to frontline employees. Recent research published by McKinsey has set out seven data-related principles, from creating company-specific rules for data usage to considering the interests of people not in the room.
But it doesn't just stop there. It's important to set the tone right from the top, from the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and all the way across the marketing teams. You can instil this sentiment by assigning and developing privacy champions who promote privacy programmes from within their team or department. Undertaking certified training will develop essential skills and create a solid pool of privacy-savvy marketing professionals who can help the business meet its data protection responsibilities from within their roles.
At Freevacy, we recommend the BCS Foundation Certificate in Data Protection and the IAPP Certified Information Privacy Technologist (CIPT) industry qualifications for individuals selected to become privacy champions or technologists.
Ultimately, this can all prepare a company or organisation top-down with what’s to come next in the privacy landscape.
Freevacy has been shortlisted in the Best Educator category. The PICCASO Privacy Awards recognise the people making an outstanding contribution to this dynamic and fast-growing sector.