The evolution of privacy and the cookie-less future

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The data privacy landscape is shifting increasingly in favor of consumers. This is because, over the years, it’s become transparent how increasingly non-transparent companies are with the data they collect about you.

There isn’t one overarching law in the U.S. that comprehensively standardizes regulations on how companies collect, store and share customer data. There are various industry-specific laws (like HIPPA, COPPA, and maybe ROSCA comes the closest at present), but nothing that comprehensively holds companies accountable for the customer data they are collecting, storing and selling in a standardized way.

And so begins, what I like to call, the road to regulation.

Before GDPR in 2018 (the massive EU push for General Data Protection Regulation), Apple launched ITP (Intelligent Tracking Prevention) in 2017, which limited website tracking capabilities in Safari. GDPR was shortly to follow. Since then, we’ve had Firefox cookie blocking, CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act), Apple’s ATT (App Tracking Transparency) and various state-level regulations following CCPA (including Colorado, Connecticut, Utah and Virginia). All of this to say, Chrome phasing out its third-party cookies is on brand for this ongoing privacy evolution. (Regardless of when it actually takes place, now slated for 2024).

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Building consumer trust

So, what does this all boil down to? Consumer trust. I mean, isn’t trust the foundation of any healthy relationship? My POV has always been that brand safety is a two-way street. Oftentimes (especially in my prior days as a media buyer), the brand safety conversation is centered around blocked keyword lists and validating that ad impressions were served adjacent to brand-safe content. Brand safety also means, is your brand safe? Can your brand be trusted? If I, as a consumer, give you, the brand, my personal information — how can I trust that my data won’t get leaked in a breach, that it won’t get sold without my permission or knowledge, that I won’t get spammed multiple times a day?

This conversation is vital for reassessing how brands can establish and cultivate consumer trust. This is where Customer Experience (CX) teams can enter the chat. Giving consumers choices of what personal information they share and setting preferences for the cadence and type of brand communications they’d like to receive. (For once, I’d like to unsubscribe from a newsletter I don’t even know how I got on the list for in the first place and actually be “unsubscribed.”)

Giving the consumer more control over the who/what/where/when/ how of their data is the future. Consent is going to be something more democratized and this is going to be the catalyst for brands to fortify their customer relationships.

Brands can start by employing more strategic ways of capturing and utilizing their own first party data.

  • Understand your customers: This could include data auditing and enrichment efforts or identity building.
  • Engage your customers: Improving CX based on your strengthened customer data.
  • Incentivize: Deploy personalization strategies, promotions or loyalty rewards.

With data, personalization will follow

With consumer trust and robust first-party data, personalization can follow. We all spend so much money cultivating and retargeting customers — isn’t that the name of the game? Why not give them the value exchange they are seeking as they interact with your brand? People want to feel like they are being treated special or being incentivized, unlike a one-to-many experience.

As people are willingly sharing information directly with you, it’s the brand’s responsibility to deliver better experiences while remaining compliant and offering some level of value exchange.

The demise of cookies does not equate to the end of marketing. What it does mean, however, is rethinking the approach to data capture and governance. Underpinned by consent, accuracy and scale as compliance efforts are being assessed: the kind of data you’re using, how you’re collecting it, how it’s distributed, and how you keep it secured.

Third-party data can still be very helpful as a complement to your first-party data. That’s why it’s important to diversify data strategies.

Teams can perform audits on existing data partners to understand how data is collected, whether it is deterministic/probabilistic, what is the main identifier in establishing matches (and a whole lot more).

In essence: Start testing now, learn what works and what doesn’t and be open-minded to adopting changes.

Because after all, the only constant we will ever be able to rely on in this industry is change.

Kristen Dolan is VP of media strategy and innovation at Influential.

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