Organizations need to have full oversight into the behavior patterns of their target market to make better business decisions ultimately. This can lead to the ethical and responsible use of personal data as well as the ability to deliver great personalization and relevance for consumers. These tactics are essential for business success and will help organizations navigate their marketing tactics in both the long and short term, says Guy Hanson, Vice President, Customer Engagement at Validity.
When GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) was introduced in 2018, many established data best practices were written into law, which significantly impacted the dynamic between brands and consumers. Stronger consent, more choice, better quality of data and greater transparency created a trustworthy relationship between organizations and their customers. Since the regulations were implemented, many marketers have been analyzing marketing metrics such as open rates, clicks, conversions, return on investment and lifetime value, and research from the DMA1 has shown that all of these factors have increased since GDPR.
Due to a growing awareness around consumer privacy and how data is managed, there are ongoing efforts by many technology providers to proactively limit the use of online tracking. An existing example of this can be seen with Apple’s decision to block third party cookies in Safari. Apple has now taken another step toward greater data privacy – the new iOS 15 update has introduced Mail Protection Privacy (MPP) which will prevent senders from using tracking pixels to collect information about their recipients. Any subscriber that uses an Apple Mail client with MPP enabled will have their email images cached, which will cause those emails to register as ‘opened,’ even if the recipient did not physically open the email. In addition, MPP obfuscates users’ IP addresses, limiting the use of behavioural information such as the devices their subscribers are using, or their location at the time they engage.
This will have a significant, sweeping, impact on the industry and lasting consequences for marketers, who rely on open rates to determine the success of their email campaigns. In addition, it will cause many email best practices such as recency management, split testing, and journey automation to be less effective for Apple Mail users. Content that marketers are familiar with using such as countdown timers and real-time weather updates will also be impacted.
Going forward, marketers will need to embrace greater utilization of metrics outside of open rates to measure meaningful engagement. Organizations will need to use other tools and platforms to get a more comprehensive view of how their campaigns are performing. This includes insight into inbox placement rates and sender reputation signals, which can be used as proxies for whether emails are being opened or not.
The importance of ethics
Many senders still fail to inform their subscribers that tracking is used; therefore customers are unaware their behavioural insights are being obtained in this way, though they may have their suspicions. Policies such as Apple’s MPP have shone a light on ethical data practices, resulting in a greater focus on zero party data, information consumers actively decide to share with organizations. This has many advantages from an ethical viewpoint, as it is provided to be used and individuals have clarity on how their information was sourced. While beneficial for the consumer, zero party data also has additional benefits for brands. It provides clear consumer preferences that can help organizations tailor content to better align with their needs.
However, zero party data can also create challenges for marketers, as consumers will need to be convinced of the merits of providing this data. Marketers should ensure they are completely transparent about their intentions with this data and provide a clear explanation of how it will benefit the individual. Data accuracy is vital, accurate data drives relevant content, meaning a better chance of increasing sales for the business, and this means re-visiting customers regularly, to ensure the data collected is up-to-date and therefore still valid. Once zero party data is executed successfully, organizations will reap the benefits in both the short and long term.
Traditional marketing methods are increasingly being phased out due to advancements in sophisticated technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), but this also creates additional complications because AI is so completely dependent on the data given. If the data used to drive AI solutions is incomplete, inaccurate, or biased this will be reflected in the insights it generates. MPP creates a risk of incomplete data because of the insights that will no longer be available, which in turn can mean reduced context. For example, the UK’s weather is highly localized, so while a restaurant sender may base upcoming offers on a predicted weather forecast at each outlet, this approach could be quite flawed if they don’t have accurate location data for their subscribers. MPP may impact AI-driven solutions like copywriting and next best offer selection where historical open rates inform the recommended approach.
Communicating with consumers
With more focus on creating deep customer relationships, organizations prioritize data to create well-targeted, highly personalized, end-to-end customer journeys and communications. In recent years, there has been a surge in marketers placing greater emphasis on channels such as social media and phone calls. Approaches such as these came into play in the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when many consumers craved in-person contact. Omnichannel marketing strategies are valuable for organizations, and email should be positioned right at the centre. Indeed, research2 shows that email is the channel most valued by consumers, 92 per cent preferring email, and marketers, with 72 per cent preferring email. This provides compelling proof of its effectiveness, plus an opportunity for even further adoption.
Deliverability drives engagement
While ethical marketing is important, it is useless if the messages it creates are not delivered, which is often the case as marketers do not have the correct
amount of data to understand whether or not it is happening. When it comes to communicating with customers, it is essential for brands to understand the impact of deliverability, and a large portion of this is driven by positive subscriber engagement. Ethical handling of customers’ personal data will create organic engagement, meaning, in turn, their emails will have a better chance of being delivered.
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Ultimately, marketers will not necessarily make the best decisions for the business if they do not have full oversight of how their target customers are behaving. Marketers can close this gap by embracing ethical data management to help deliver the insights that predict more accurate outcomes. Doing so means they can do the right thing for their customers while enhancing their marketing tactics and increasing sales for their businesses.