A Marketer’s Full Funnel Guide to Navigate Data Privacy Changes
Change—it’s the only constant in life. And modern marketing.
While announcements like Apple’s iOS 14.5 update and Google’s phasing out of third-party cookies aren’t shocking, they’re far from a pleasant surprise—much less a welcome one for eCommerce marketers.
Whether you’re already pivoting your plans or you’re bracing for impact, one thing’s clear—it’s time for marketing as usual to change.
What you need to know
The way you’ll be able to use third-party data—or the information you collect on users through an indirect relationship—is fundamentally changing. And it all comes down to the cookie.
While these tiny pixels started as a way for advertisers to track consumers and provide more personalized content, cookies can now seem creepy as consumers become increasingly concerned about how much of their private information is publicly available.
Big tech realized consumers were growing wary and recognized more regulations were likely on the horizon after government interferences such as GDPR and CCPA, so they’ve incorporated more privacy features into their platforms.
Apple’s response to consumer privacy concerns
Previously, Apple could track and share your data across other apps and websites through something called an Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA), or a unique identifier Apple generates and assigns to every device. This IDFA tracks users’ online behavior and provides advertisers with data they can use to serve consumers relevant ads based on their browsing history.
But with the iOS 14.5 update, which affects all Apple devices (and over one billion people globally), apps now have to ask to collect and share your data, and consumers can opt-out at any time.
Of course, if only a small percentage of the population was opting out of tracking, this wouldn’t be such a big deal. But only 15 percent of worldwide users and six percent of US users have chosen to opt into tracking on iOS 14.5.
Google’s response to consumer privacy concerns
Google plans to phase out third-party cookies (3PC) in 2023. Cookies are the tracking codes that exist on various websites and follow users around the internet. They let advertisers track people’s movements online in order to target them with relevant ads.
In lieu of 3PC, Google will test Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC), which tracks groups of people based on their common interests, as opposed to tracking individuals based on their online behaviors.
While FLoCs may ease the burden of cookies disappearing altogether, they certainly don’t replace 3PC, and marketers will need to better understand how to effectively target these groups of users as opposed to targeting individual users.
How these data privacy changes will affect eCommerce businesses?
Long story short, advertising on third-party platforms is going to be more challenging and less efficient since marketers’ will lose their ability to deliver highly personalized and targeted messages to consumers.
Not to mention, paid to advertise is getting pricey—cost per impressions (CPM) and cost per click (CPC) are increasing, which is effectively inflating customer acquisition costs (CACs) on third-party platforms.
Meanwhile, there may be a lower return on ad spend (ROAS) because the attribution windows on advertising platforms may be shorter, causing lower activity attribution.z
What is Customer-First Data™ and why should you care?
As it becomes more difficult to collect, target, and measure with third-party data, savvy marketers are shifting their focus to first-party data and zero-party data.
Zero-party data accounts for the information that people voluntarily offer to brands, like their email address or phone number, and first-party data account information observed by a brand about someone on their owned properties.
Acquisition tip 1: Rethink how you measure attribution
Measuring the impact of your marketing dollars on third-party channels will undoubtedly be a challenge moving forward.
In fact, as ROAS becomes significantly harder to track because of the reduced visibility around user activity, many marketers are being forced to revisit the way they think about attribution completely.
“Somebody may have seen a Facebook ad 10 days ago and made a purchase, but Facebook is no longer getting credit for that sale. They used to have that 28-day conversion window and now it’s seven days. Marketers have to look at the big picture, which is measuring top-line sales versus total media spend.”
Kunal Parikh, senior director of client success and strategy, MuteSix
One emerging attribution method that’s proving to be popular is ditching platform-specific metrics in favor of measuring your marketing efficiency ratio (MER).
MER is also sometimes referred to as blended ROAS because it refers to evaluating the return on investment (ROI) of all online advertising compared to other channels. More specifically, MER looks at your total revenue divided by total advertising spend.
But what does this mean for marketers?
It suggests that you’ll have to zoom out of attribution on a channel-by-channel basis (e.g., understanding the ROAS for Facebook advertising) in exchange for measuring the ROI of paid advertising as a whole and determining if it’s effective for your brand.
“We’re exploring budget reallocation from paid advertising to other channels with our clients, but we’re not going to decrease ad spend on paid search and paid social on a whim. We’re taking a step back, and instead of just looking at ROAS attributed in Facebook, we’re looking at MER.”
Ben Schreiber, co-founder, and head of marketing, Brand Caffeine
While MER is going to be a popular way to determine the effectiveness of paid advertising, you have different options to measure attribution. That’s why it’s important to research and identify a model that works for your business.
What Apple’s iOS 15 means for marketers
Apple’s upcoming privacy changes, including hiding My Email and Private Relay, will make opt-ins more valuable and may complicate already strained efforts to reach target users on iPhones.
Apple last month caused a stir among marketers and their advertising agencies with a preview of a software update that will give its customers more control over their personal data. The planned changes, estimated to launch this fall to coincide with new device announcements, will force marketers to develop alternative ways to find potential customers and engage with existing ones. A key strategy will be to position themselves as direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands that gather first-party data from consenting customers.
“With Apple turning off all these signals and going more privacy-centric, it is more important that brands get data back from the consumer,” Tim Glomb, vice president of content and data at customer engagement firm Cheetah Digital, said in an interview. “They won’t be able to use third-party data from other sources like Facebook, et cetera — it’s going to be blocked.”
The next version of the iOS software for the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac will give Apple’s customers several ways to limit or prevent data-sharing. Those privacy features include technology to mask the email and internet addresses of Apple customers, making them less effective as a unique identifier for online tracking.
Embrace personalized messaging
The Hide My Email feature is an upgraded version of an existing capability that lets Apple users create a randomized email address when they register with an app or website. Any email sent to those new addresses will be forwarded to a personal email account. While the feature prevents tracking the same consumer across different platforms, it still allows for one-to-one communication between brands and customers who opt in to receiving promotions and offers with a compelling subject line.
“You have to double down on personalizing emails and SMS messages sent from your own website to reach people,” Glomb said. “An email is basically free to send, but you have to learn about your audience to send the right email or SMS message at the right time. You’ll make more revenue without having to spend for advertising.”
To entice people to share their personal information, marketers need to offer something valuable in return, Glomb said. They can gather information about purchase intent and consumer preferences through short surveys that offer discounts or chances to win sweepstakes. By collecting the information directly, marketers have a basis for one-to-one connection with consumers that also respects their privacy.
“Being able to say, ‘I’ve got a million people in my database and I have a million contracts with every single one of those consumers,’ is the key to moving forward,” Glomb said.
Moving beyond IP addresses
With iOS 15, Apple also plans to update its premium iCloud storage and cloud computing service to offer an internet privacy service called Private Relay. The service encrypts web browsing data and assigns an anonymous internet protocol (IP) address to a user, making it more difficult for sites to track their browsing activities.
The service will add to the difficulty of reaching consumers across websites and apps. As tech companies respond to growing concerns about privacy, they’re gradually ending support for third-party cookies, a common method of online tracking. Apple blocked all third-party cookies in its Safari browser last year. Google had planned a similar update for its popular Chrome browser for early next year, but last week it delayed the plan until late 2023.
“Marketers need to stop relying on crappy old technology that got them fat and lazy, and they need to start getting creative and thinking like human beings.”
Tim Glomb, VP, Cheetah Digital
The two-year reprieve gives marketers, media outlets, and ad tech firms more time to develop an alternative to cookie tracking. Glomb said the move away from third-party cookies is long overdue.
“Marketers need to stop relying on crappy old technology that got them fat and lazy, and they need to start getting creative and thinking like human beings,” Glomb said. “How do two people meet each other on the street? They ask each other questions. They listen, they learn and then they use that information to continue the conversation and build a relationship. Marketers lost that.”
The effect of Apple’s privacy updates on marketers will depend on how many of its millions of customers use the services. The disruption could be profound, considering that the iPhone has an estimated market share of 47% in the U.S. smartphone market, according to researcher eMarketer.
Popularity follows effort level
Apple’s last major update to its privacy features has proven to be popular. The company in April introduced its controversial App Tracking Transparency (ATT) feature that came with an update to iOS 14. The feature notifies Apple users when apps want access to a unique Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) that’s embedded in devices including the iPhone. Marketers use the technology to improve the targeting of online ads, and users who decline to share their identifiers are more anonymous.
As Apple prepared to introduce ATT, it faced criticism from companies including Facebook and app developers that complained the feature would reduce the value of digital advertising when people opted out of tracking. Those concerns were legitimate, considering that only 9% of iPhone users nationwide have consented to share their device identifiers, according to mobile advertising and analytics firm Flurry.
The popularity of ATT is partly attributed to its effortlessness — an Apple user only needs to tap an on-screen button to opt-out of tracking. It’s less clear whether the Hide My Email and Private Relay services will be as popular. People who use Hide My Email will have to remember their randomized email addresses while using a non-Apple device such as a Roku set-top box or Windows desktop. The Private Relay service costs extra money as part of Apple”s premium iCloud+ tier.
“If you want to live in the iCloud world — and there are people who do — you can,” Dave Pickles, co-founder, and CTO of the demand-side platform The Trade Desk said in a company blog. “Though I believe it’s a fairly fringe activity and don”t see it being adopted at scale.”
2021 Holiday Shopping Ecommerce Stats & Trends
Holiday gift box or present with bow ribbon against a blue bokeh background. Magic Christmas greeting card. Copy space for data or design.
In a post-pandemic world, everything is unprecedented. The 2021 holiday shopping season will be no exception, with consumers’ shopping habits and spending behaviors transformed by the events of the past several months.
To help your brand thrive this holiday season and navigate these uncharted waters, we’ll be keeping this blog post updated with the latest holiday e-commerce stats and trends. Bookmark and keep coming back so you’ll always be up-to-date with the 2021 holiday shopping landscape.
The world is in a very different place today than when we published our 2020 holiday report. Between recovering from a pandemic that disrupted every marketing executive’s expectations, keeping up with sudden transformations in how consumers shop, and reaching milestones that weren’t predicted to happen until 2025, this year has set brands up for yet another challenge this holiday season.
Luckily, we love challenges here at ROI – which is why we’re so excited to share with you our executive holiday guide for 2021. Our 2021 Holiday Success Plan for Brands reveals key insights to make sure your brand is prepared to thrive this holiday season. You’ll uncover insights like:
The 4 crucial components that form the foundation of a successful holiday season strategy
Strategies for navigating your brand through never-before-seen consumer buying behavior during peak seasonality
The most buying factor to shoppers this holiday season and how you can make sure your brand achieves it
4 tips for holiday season success
The holiday shopping journey is a long, winding path from beginning to end. The key to successfully navigating 2021’s unprecedented shopping season is to take an omnichannel approach and make it as convenient as possible for shoppers to buy from your brand. Keep these four pointers in mind as you form and execute your holiday strategy:
Consumers’ holiday shopping behavior will be a hybrid of the old and the new this year. Brands that optimize and align both their online and in-store presence will be positioned to thrive the most this holiday season.
There’s never a more important time than the holiday season for consumers’ packages to arrive when they expect them to. Plan ahead so that when your peak days hit, you have time to focus on making quick, strategic decisions instead of worrying about whether your customers are able to buy and receive your product.
Like last year, this year’s holiday shopping season will start earlier than ever. Be prepared for shoppers to expect early deals and to start buying products sooner than they did in previous years.
A solid foundation is critical to a successful holiday strategy. Keep a close eye on your product feeds, be proactive about supply chain strain, optimize your organic presence, and use personalization to help ensure your brand is set up for success this holiday season.
Tips for E-commerce Holiday Shopping Season
Determine your goals for the holiday season. Are you willing to sacrifice return in order to scale your year-over-year revenue? Are you experiencing inventory issues this year or did you experience them last year in a way that might impact YoY growth?
Start testing and planning early, and start discussing budgets now! Finalize campaign structures by October to be ready to fully leverage automation. CPCs are expected to continue to climb over Q4, so take that into consideration when determining budgets for October through December.
Increase prospecting and retargeting spend. Capitalize on increased traffic and stay top-of-mind throughout the holiday season by increasing your targeting spend to reach gift-givers who shop around.
Build up your remarketing lists for Cyber 5 shopping by running brand awareness strategies starting in late Q3 or early Q4 (or even earlier). During the busiest shopping season of the year, remarketing is a must. Only 4% of website visitors are ready to make a purchase, meaning that 96% of website visitors haven’t decided if they want to buy from you yet. Ensure your brand is top of mind during the purchase decision process.
Run Black Friday promotions earlier and longer. Black Friday saw a huge spike last year that carried through Cyber 5 weekend, compared to previous years when Cyber Monday saw the biggest spikes. This shift occurred as most shoppers shopped online instead of in-store over Black Friday weekend due to pandemic concerns and restrictions. Last year’s trend of shoppers buying gifts earlier to avoid shipping delays will continue into this year. Offering a promotion before the Cyber 5 can entice them to purchase from your brand over your competitor.
Provide personalized recommendations to shoppers. Many sites utilize recommendation sections like “You May Also Like” or “Customers Also Shopped For” on their product pages. If you don’t use this feature already, be sure to enable it before the holidays to boost your AOV for each order. Already using this functionality? Consider modifying the language to match the intent of the user by relabeling these sections as “Additional Gift Options,” “One For You, One For Them,” or the like.
Use countdown timers to give users an extra psychological FOMO push. Countdown timers could apply to a specific sale (like during Cyber Monday) or could be related to shipping cut-offs for guaranteed holiday arrival.
Make updates to your creative and copy focus on the seasonality of the holidays and gift-giving. This includes updates to your Amazon Store, Posts, and DSP. (For example, “The perfect gift for her this holiday season” or “Keep your pond protected from cold weather.”)
Focus on quick delivery times, free shipping, and/or BOPIS. Make sure to call out shipping details in your ad copy. Customers are always looking to get their gifts in time for the holidays, and they haven’t forgotten about the shipping delays from the height of the pandemic.
Emphasize your product availability/inventory with a time-sensitive copy to encourage shoppers to make a purchase.