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Major Changes for Marketers: Apocalypse or Opportunity?

major-changes-for-marketers:-apocalypse-or-opportunity?

Make your peace with how things used to work because pixel tracking and cookies are about to go extinct. Recent iOS 14 changes, as well as Safari and Firefox, significantly alter the way brands collect customer data and track advertising performance. Facebook is following suit and will be decreasing their attribution model from 28 days to seven. Additionally, IDFA will no longer be default.. 

While many agencies and consultancies are strategizing about how they’ll adapt to these changes, many brands aren’t even aware of what’s coming. 

Recently, Alex Timlin, SVP Verticals, Emarsys, sat down with marketing consultant Mark Baartse, Marketing Consultant to discuss how changes in the attribution model impacts marketing and what brands can do to gain a competitive edge.  

What’s Changing in Digital Marketing

Customer data permissions is the central changeup, but marketers will focus most on the following three changes: The seven-day attribution window, the impending loss of IDFA, and a renewed focus on first-party data.

The Shrinking Attribution Window

Instead of 28 days of campaign reporting, Facebook is shrinking the window down to seven. More than likely, this change is due to the removal of tracking within specific browsers and operating systems. 

With 2018’s GDPR in Europe, and data privacy measures in California, the world has been moving towards a model where customers have control and can choose to provide permission for use of their data. But data permissions shouldn’t be an obstacle. Brands can use their data permission policy as a competitive advantage against companies that don’t do it as well, and customers gain more personalized experiences when shopping. 

According to his own research in the changing attribution model, Baartse sees the dilemma brands believe will occur – that revenue will drop an average of 20% as soon as Facebook’s new seven-day period goes into effect. However, that’s not true. 

Revenue won’t be lost. Facebook is just reporting less because of changes in attribution. This only impacts the way revenue is tracked. Brands will leverage new ways to measure marketing and advertising performance.

No More Identification For Advertisers (IDFA)

Another scare point for brands tracking apps is that Apple will no longer offer Identification For Advertisers (IDFA) as the default. IDFA will be an opt-in feature, and Baartse believes there will be a large initial opt-out when the change goes into effect but remains unsure as to what the long-term solution will be. 

The Value of First-Party Data

By now, every brand should have marketing strategies built around their most valuable asset, their data, and with the loss of cookies and tracking pixels, data will only continue to increase in value.

“I’m a big fan of ‘data’s the new oil’ in the truest sense of the word, which is, it’s unrefined. So customer data, you have a lot of it. It’s just sitting behind your website in a data layer. If you’ve got Google Tag Manager or anything else similar, it’s all just sitting there. You have a huge amount of data sitting in a repository behind your website on your own servers and on cloud servers that people can really look at and then start to leverage and you can leverage it to start owning the signals that you’re sending to Facebook and Google.”

14 Alex Timlin

— Alex Timlin

SVP Verticals, Emarsys

Everything your brand does in 2021 and beyond will be driven by your own first-party customer data. 

How Your Facebook Marketing Is Impacted

“If we apply IDFA as being the kind of the cookie equivalent in the app world and say if the same thing is to happen in the web world, where we’ve already seen a lot of pressure in Europe especially and now in the U.S. and California around cookies being opt-in, advertising cookies, permissions, tracking cookies, and everything else that goes with it. Now there’s an additional layer of saying ‘Okay, not only are they opt-in, but the length of time that they will operate for is also now going to be a problem.’ Why it’s a big issue for not just Facebook, but for Google as well, is they are walled gardens. Particularly with Facebook. Facebook’s entire advertising model is based around advertising to people inside a closed network. Inside a Facebook, inside an Instagram, inside a Messenger, and what they know is about what you put into your Facebook profile, and what you put in Instagram. What they don’t know is anything that happens outside of that app.”

14 Alex Timlin

— Alex Timlin

SVP Verticals, Emarsys

Think about this: Facebook doesn’t actually allow brands to market to customers on a 1:1 basis. You can’t use recommendations, and the only personalization you can do is with Facebook’s proprietary tools. It’s not the greatest channel to engage customers in the long run.

So what’s the workaround for a cookie-less Facebook?

“Getting a little bit techy about it, but the solution to these cookie problems is service-side technology. When you look at the whole thing about cookies and tracking pixels and stuff like that, it’s actually a great big, really quite unpleasant hack when you think about it from a technical perspective. Our conversion, our measurement of conversion is reliant on a piece of JavaScript. I’m a server, and I say, ‘Alex, you’re a web browser, and here is a piece of JavaScript. I’m going to trust you to run this exactly as I intended. I’m going to trust you not to put in an ad blocker. I’m going to trust you not to turn off JavaScript. I’m going to trust you to have a fast internet connection. I’m going to trust you not to close your browser window too quickly. I’m going to trust you to not use Safari where, you know, ITP’s going to keep up Office things.’ It’s actually a miracle that it’s worked as well as it has for the last two decades or whatever.”

Mark Baartse headshot

— Mark Baartse

CMO & E-Commerce Marketing Consultant, MarkBaartse.com Consulting

Tips to Future-Proof Your Business in the Cookie-Less World

As mentioned earlier, not all of these changes will go into effect right away. Facebook has delayed the official change until next year, and Google will remove third-party cookies by 2022. The latest versions of Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox currently block third-party cookies and the IDFA from Apple will be effective early next year. You have time to future-proof your brand, and use your data permissions policies as a competitive edge that sets you apart from industry peers. 

Return to Marketing Basics

The more tech we pile on, the more we seem to forget about basic Marketing 101.

“And similarly, if you’re really worried about the ID for Advertisers and it goes away , what’s your strategy to be able to get that data from a customer and make it valuable for them? And how do I not look at my internal stuff, my cost, my budget and my spreadsheet, but look at the external stuff which is… In retail, we’re in the business of selling things to people. You need to really understand the things you’re selling and the people you’re selling them to, which means that people need to get back to the marketing basics of understanding their customer and their product, which I actually don’t think is the worst thing in the world.”

14 Alex Timlin

— Alex Timlin

SVP Verticals, Emarsys

Marketers may focus disproportionately on retargeting and leave out messaging, creative, and strategy. In terms of what makes marketing effective, 53% of success comes from good creative, and 8% comes from targeting. It’s time to shift to long-term engagement alongside creating excellent customer experiences.

“Are people proud of their advertising and are people proud of their marketing? I’d say a lot of people don’t even look at it anymore. They’re looking at spreadsheets and control panels and audiences and APIs. They’re not really looking at what’s the creative element add in? What’s the message? How am I differentiating between a new customer, a returning customer, and my best customer. And I think having a little bit more of a strategy around how are you going to engage with a customer who doesn’t know you?”

14 Alex Timlin

— Alex Timlin

SVP Verticals, Emarsys

Stop Focusing So Much on Retargeting and Raise Your Creative Game

Why does everybody concentrate so much on retargeting? Is it just a habit (especially when retargeting doesn’t deliver much revenue)?

“The problem is it [retargeting] does work. There’s plenty of companies who have been very successful off just basically running Facebook and Google ads. You know, I’m not banging that. There’s a time and a place for that. There are some companies where I advocate for that being their lead strategy. Usually smaller companies. Then what happens is essentially you’re building your business to essentially become an employee of Facebook, and you become an employee of Google, and you basically, you know… There are so many companies who just write blank checks to Facebook and Google every month. They’re giving… I don’t know how many consumers realize that for every time you go and spend $100 online, you’re actually giving probably $5 to Google and $5 to Facebook, for many, many companies. I think most people if they actually knew that would be horrified.”

Mark Baartse headshot

— Mark Baartse

CMO & E-Commerce Marketing Consultant, MarkBaartse.com Consulting

Why do brands still rely on campaigns that bring in minimal revenue? 

“Having worked in a background in… specializing in initial email, CRM, and the direct-to-customer communication element, one of my biggest challenges and biggest frustrations is always you can have an email campaign that’s really, really bad and has a response rate of 0.1%, but it will work reliably and still give you that 0.1% each and every time you press a message. You can do something badly and predictably. The same is true for remarketing and retargeting: Look at particularly born-on-Instagram, digital-first brands and fast-growing Shopify stores. There’s a Facebook tracking pixel on the website. They’re uploading a Facebook product feed to say ‘Here’s the product I’ve got available,’ and then they’re saying, ‘I will set a budget of $15,000 a day. Run!’ And what’s happening is every single day, there’s a retargeting ad, getting automatically assembled from the feed that says, “This product is available at this price, and you viewed it on the website, and if that doesn’t work, what’s the next product, the next product, and the next product. We’re just pushing a product, pushing a price on every available channel and screaming and shouting at people and hoping for the best, and it works to a large degree.”

14 Alex Timlin

— Alex Timlin

SVP Verticals, Emarsys

Re-evaluate Your Performance Metrics by Focusing on the Customer Experience

The change in Facebook’s attribution window doesn’t mean you’re losing revenue, but it’s enforcing a fundamental change in how you need to be measuring the performance of advertising and marketing.

“But they only know what you give them, and advertising is increasingly about behavioral data now.”

14 Alex Timlin

— Alex Timlin

SVP Verticals, Emarsys

All that’s really changing in Facebook is the reporting timeframe. Conversions do matter a great deal, but shifting to long-term engagement strategies based on customer lifecycle data matters more. 

The best two things you can do is to re-evaluate everything you’re doing and the ways you’re measuring it.

“I think that’s the key point. I think people got into a phase of expecting advertising and sales to become more data and less art. There’s a lot of spreadsheets. There’s a lot of PowerPoints. A lot of meetings that people sit in where they’re looking at the numbers, and they’re looking at performance. If you look at amazing, fast-growing brands in Australia like the Lorna Janes and Ryderwears of the world, it’s not just because they’re on social media. It’s not just because they’re digital. It’s because they actually have a brand. They don’t just have a product. They’re not just following someone around the internet with a picture of shoes for weightlifters or some really tight yoga pants, but they’re trying to understand ‘who is my customer. How do I appeal to this customer? And how do I tell a story no matter which channel which device I’m on to help make sure there is a consistent brand and a consistent message for that customer?”

14 Alex Timlin

— Alex Timlin

SVP Verticals, Emarsys

Turn Permissions Management into a Competitive Advantage

Your permission strategy should revolve around your customer and offer an exchange of data for a personalized experience. Data security must also be provided while developing your ad tracking solution.

“I’ll repeat what you [Baartse] said in the way you said it earlier well before recording, which I like: ‘It never worked anyway!’ We’ve got literally more than 10,000 website implementations under our belts now at Emarsys, and what I can say wholeheartedly and reliably is that the information getting past the Google Analytics tracking pixel, a Google remarketing tracking pixel, and a Facebook advertising tracking pixel are three distinct pieces of JavaScript put on three completely different websites that then behave very differently on mobile devices — not mobile web, never mind a mobile app — and people don’t have an accurate picture of what’s going on anyway, and the vast majority of the reporting isn’t accurate. But it’s all as inaccurate as each other. So there’s a solid baseline where because the data doesn’t change that much, it’s there.”

14 Alex Timlin

— Alex Timlin

SVP Verticals, Emarsys

Where you do have to notify customers about what you intend to do with their data, this change is not simply about complying with data privacy regulations. This is about how those regulations will force brands into an even closer connection with customers, because you’ll have to beat the competition by leveraging your greatest asset: first-party data. 

Final Thoughts

The discussion boils down to a few key questions you should be asking yourself right now:

What’s in it for the customer? What’s in it for the business? What data do I have available? What am I going to do with that data responsibility that’s going to be good, not just for the business, but good for the customer as well? That takes people. It takes resources, and it takes a certain element of bravery in some brands to be able to stand in front of people and say I want to do something different. I want to do something better.”

14 Alex Timlin

— Alex Timlin

SVP Verticals, Emarsys

Digital marketing accelerated this past year, and at the beginning of 2021, more will be changing. It’s never been more vital to make certain that all your data is stored in a platform that can easily help you create 1:1 personalized customer experiences.  

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Special thanks to our friends at Emarsys for their insights on this topic.