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A thought experiment: what would you as a marketer do without tracking data?

This article was published on Emerce on November 5, 2019.

The fact that browsers are increasingly opposed to cookies and the tracking of visitors is generating striking responses among marketers. For the time being, a significant part ignores the fact that at least one third of the data is lost. Others devise tricks to get around the restrictions. As far as I am concerned, it is high time to think together about a new form of (performance) marketing. Imagine the situation of not having any data. What would you do differently next?

Both Apple Safari and Mozilla Firefox have been working hard for the privacy of website visitors for a number of years. With Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) - or an alternative to this - they ensure a better guarantee of privacy, with the result that advertisers are less able to track consumers. In the first instance by restricting the use of third party cookies. Since the arrival of ITP 2.1 and 2.2 earlier this year, the placement of first party cookies has also been limited. Those own cookies are now deleted after seven days. So someone who has not visited a site for more than a week is unrecognizable. A complex situation for retargeting, personalization and conversion attribution. Google Analytics also no longer has a clue as to which channel was responsible for the turnover.

Circumvent or formulate an answer yourself?
This means that marketers miss out as much as 30 percent of their data in certain situations. If Google Chrome takes similar steps as expected, this loss increases by up to 60-70 percent. Targeting on demographic characteristics, for example, becomes particularly difficult. At a customer I recently saw in Google Analytics that only 20 percent of the website visitors can be determined to which age group they fall. Knowing that segmentation by age is still often the basis for media targeting, this presents a considerable challenge.

Just like after the arrival of the first ITP, marketers will again come up with workarounds such as "local storage". And not long after that, browsers will make the necessary adjustments again. Rather than taking part in a game of cat and mouse, now is a good time to step back. After all, this situation arose because we as a professional group misused the system. The fact that consumers increasingly value privacy and that they are always haunted with the same message, has led to this development.

Maintain contact
So imagine the situation that you no longer have any data. How can a marketer still be of value? As far as I am concerned, the point would be to actually recognize consumers. To then make an effort to obtain permission to use their data. Not once - because after seven days the opportunity is already gone. It is important to arouse interest and maintain contact in a much more structural way.

That's what we've largely forgotten as marketers. In a situation where less data is available, it is necessary to value each moment of contact. Then, with the help of creation, make it clear to "see" the person behind the view or click.

Redefine performance
An example. Recently, I looked online for the first time about bicycle insurance. What struck me is that I am retargeted by almost every brand and with almost the same message: "choose our cheapest insurance". For weeks these companies try to persuade me to take out the insurance with the help of advertising. I was aware that the companies offer insurance and apparently no reason to take out one. So why didn't they provide additional information to get me interested in the brand from other angles?

Not long after, Gazelle made it clear that he was thinking in a different way. Instead of bringing digital two-wheelers to the attention, it opted for a storyline that emphasizes - through various creative expressions - how good it is to cycle. Why doesn't an insurer use its knowledge of me to show that it understands me? That cycling is apparently important enough to me to take out insurance for it.

In short, it is time for a different view on performance marketing with new KPIs. The conversion at the bottom of the line continues to count, the road to it changes. Of course, such a redefinition is not easy. It demands from every marketer an answer to the question what the brand stands for and what added value it offers for the customer. Is it then still about something as plain as banner clicks or are more qualitative - perhaps emotional - indicators needed? Consider, for example, Return on Engagement (ROE). Every company should be allowed to develop its own view on this.

The start of a conversation
The question that follows is how we can start the conversation about this. Making it clear that under the influence of ITP it becomes more difficult to provide insight into the effectiveness of marketing is a first step. Only subtract 20 percent of the result during an evaluation. That way you are guaranteed to get the attention. The next three questions then provide a possible starting point for discussion.

When was the last time a customer talked or researched? The amount of data is so large that there is hardly any need to get to know people well. What does this mean for (digital) media use?

How relevant is the organization or brand given the purchase frequency? Brands can easily claim their relevance with the help of data. Every miniscule (data) signal is used as a burden of proof for this. Can it indeed be said on the basis of a page visit that someone is a lover and in the market? When is a brand really relevant, in view of, for example, the purchase frequency of other products or services?

What do the marketing activities look like without cookies? We blindly assume that we always have enough cookies. Is everyone within the organization still able to conduct marketing in other ways?

It is certain that the lives of marketers are changing. If we do not improve our lives, an ITP version number three, four and five will follow automatically and the amount of information will decrease even further. Instead of approaching this challenge technically, there is an opportunity to reason from creation and communication. How can we jointly communicate more valuable so that consumers are prepared to enter into a relationship?