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How New Digital Privacy Laws Will Impact Your Marketing Plan

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Sergio Alvarez is a performance marketing expert, digital attribution leader, and CEO and Founder of Ai Media Group.

As governments across the world react to global scandals such as the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data breach, more and more countries, including the U.S., are rolling out privacy laws to protect the personal identifying information (PII) of digital citizens.

The most significant of these changes for digital marketers is the consumer’s ability to opt out of tracking. If you can’t track your customer’s digital footprint, how on earth are you going to know where to market to them? All is not lost, though — marketing just needs to pivot.

Tracking Is Dead

With the shift to more stringent privacy laws in the digital realm, tech giants like Apple, Facebook and Google are already finding ways to adapt. If you don’t understand how these changes impact you as a marketer, you may be left out in the digital cold.

Until recently, it was not unheard of for marketers to use only platform-specific attribution tools to track the source of their sales conversions. This method has always been somewhat inaccurate as Facebook, for example, will take credit for as many sales conversions as possible, often misrepresenting the number they were responsible for. It wouldn’t make business sense for them to acknowledge that other pathways (Google, Amazon, etc.) played a major role in your sale if their platform featured even once in the funnel.

With the now-limited ability to track outside of their own platforms, this becomes even more true: If you continue to rely solely on platform-specific analytics for your digital marketing decisions, you’re now working with highly inaccurate information.

In The Shadow Of Giants

One thing we digital marketers need to understand is that the giants we rely upon for our data are businesses. The Facebooks, Googles and Apples of the world are not on a gallant quest to protect your data. The changes we see being made by these companies are simply their efforts to ensure that they continue to earn money while operating within the confines of the law. Fair enough.

With that in mind, it is necessary for us to approach these changes with caution. Google recently announced that it will stick with its own replacement for the tracking cookie, the Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC). FLoC allows Google to track large groups of people with similar browsing histories in order to predict what ads will best fit an individual’s interests, meaning a consumer’s personal clicks will be tracked significantly less.

So if we can no longer completely rely on these individual platforms’ stats for our marketing planning (could we ever, really?), how should we approach our strategies?

Holistic Attribution

Although holistic attribution systems have always been key to accurate marketing decisions, the changes in privacy laws have made this model even more vital.

Holistic attribution means understanding that even a fractional contribution from a platform is a vital part of the process. Just because your sale was finally converted through a Google ad does not mean that the Facebook and other ads your customer saw did not contribute. In fact, even a non-digital close such as a telephone call or in-store visit may well have been initiated by one of your digital avenues. If you are only measuring at the conversion end, though, you will miss out on this data — and ultimately will miss out on sales. The new privacy changes we are seeing online are only emphasizing the need for a holistic approach to attribution and marketing.

The Future Reality

If you think you can work around these changes and still use your previous method of attribution for digital marketing, think again, or prepare to lose money. It really is as simple as that.

Businesses that insist on sticking to their tunnel-visioned form of attribution will start to see less successful campaigns very soon; without holistic attribution capabilities, they may not even know where to start to claw their way back.

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