Digital Privacy: What Facebook Has Taught Us and What’s Next for Paid Social Media?
by Jeff Pearlman
Digital Privacy – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
If the iOS-14 Update started the digital privacy revolution, Google’s depreciation of cookies (slated to begin sometime during the second half of 2023) will signify the beginning of a new (marketing) world. By the end of 2023, 42% of mobile users in the U.S. (and approximately 87% globally) will join their iOS colleagues in being untraceable to Apps like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snap, etc. What’s an e-commerce brand or social marketer to do?
Don’t get us wrong, digital privacy is great. But, it does force e-commerce businesses and their marketers to jump over some pretty significant hurdles. After all, we’re trying to repeat the success we saw when the internet was a free-for-all. Those were the days, you know, when we could just follow users around the web, pestering them for a sale. As you might have noticed, those days are long gone.
Whether it’s attributing conversions to ad spend, understanding who is and isn’t a prospective customer unaware of your brand (pre-purchase) or the shrinking of pixel-based audiences, digital privacy changes have left their mark. And, none of this is specific to Facebook/Meta. Every other social media platform faces the same issues today and moving forward.
While it’s not about to get any easier, as we noted above, all is far from lost. .
The 3 Biggest Changes We’ve Seen as Digital Privacy Evolves
One of the biggest challenges stemming from evolving digital privacy is effective and accurate attribution. When a platform is unable to track a user when they click through to a website, it’s impossible for the original platform to attribute a user’s actions to the ad responsible for the click. The same goes for third party platforms stating that they can bridge the gap. Digital privacy starts at the operating system level. That means we can only get the data is from that operating system. And we all know that’s not going to happen anymore.
This presented a big problem for e-commerce brands. How big? Well, consider that the iOS-14 Update affected approximately 58% of US mobile users. This means that businesses lost insight into the actions of a huge portion of their consumer base. Some more than others. It’s safe to say that if your current customers are primarily made up of iOS users that your future customers will be too. So, if 75% of an e-commerce brand’s audience was found to use an iOS device, then that business could no longer track three quarters of their potential audience moving forward.
If a prospective customer clicks on your Facebook Ad, goes to your e-commerce website, browses 3-5 pages and adds three products to their cart (without logging into your site) and leaves, you understand that they’ve moved beyond the prospecting stage of their purchase journey. Social platforms are currently blind to this fact, specifically with iOS users. This makes it extremely likely that such a user will continue to be served with upper funnel content and ads. This creates a big problem – a lack of personalization.
Research shows that 71% of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions. And 76% get frustrated when this doesn’t happen. Brands get it, and while 71% of retailers believe that they excel in personalization while only 34% of consumers agree. A brand needs to understand the purchase journey position of a potential customer, in order to market to them effectively. From awareness to interest and consideration to conversion, brands are finding it more and more difficult to personalize their messaging. And, it’s all due to evolving digital privacy.
Pixel Based Audiences
As you might have noticed, pixel audiences are very much affected by the evolution of digital privacy. If we use the example above where 75% of a brand’s customers use iOS devices, it’s easy to see why. Imagine if this was your e-commerce brand and seemingly overnight, pixel information on a massive portion of your audience was gone. All of a sudden you lost significant amounts of insight into who visited your website, browsed specific items, added payment information and even added items to their carts.
And, if a brand didn’t have a first-party data and/or a CRM solution already in place, the loss of information could’ve been outright devastating. Unless those brands were able to generate a Halo ROAS report showcasing the effectiveness of their ad spend as it relates to online and offline (Halo) revenue.
What Can Your E-Commerce Brand Expect as Digital Privacy Continues to Evolve?
The easy answer? More of the same. But, truthfully, it depends on your brand and how many customers use each specific operating system. For example, if your customer base has proven to be predominantly made up of Android users, then the iOS-14 Update didn’t have a dramatic effect on you. That said, when Google deprecates cookies, things will change exponentially for your e-commerce business.
Fortunately, there’s still plenty of time to prepare for digital privacy’s final act. You can use this time to truly understand how the changes affect your e-commerce businesses ability to achieve its goals. And, you can take the necessary steps to ensure that the updates have a minimal impact on your brand and its day-to-day operations.
How Your E-Commerce Brand Can Work Around Evolving Digital Privacy
Zero and 1st-Party Data
Both zero and 1st-party data can provide immense benefits to your business as digital privacy continues to evolve. Before we explore how your e-commerce brand can utilize each, let’s take a look at the difference between the two.
Zero Party Data is the data that a user intentionally and proactively proactively shares with a brand. For example, creating an account to complete a purchase or completing a Facebook Lead Generation form to get a 20% welcome discount.
1st-Party Data is the data collected by an entity that provides insights from analytics and user behaviors. For example, tracking the purchase behavior of users who’ve already provided personal identifiable information.
1st-party data’s role is to help your brand gather vital information. This data allows you to deliver personalized content to prospective and current customers. Zero-party data can help you grow your customer and potential customer base (via seeding lookalike audiences). Then you can then deliver bespoke content using, you guessed it, 1st-party data.
Branding and Personalization
Don’t call it a comeback, branding has been here for years. It’s just going through its renaissance period. Branding is the ability for a business to change hearts and minds, It’s not about discounts, sales or celebrity/influencer endorsements. It’s all about aligning the values of a brand to its consumer, addressing the audience’s pain points, and providing a positive reason for being in their audience’s lives.
Personalization is the ability to understand who your customer is, what their values are, how your brand addresses their pain points and identifying the customer’s position in their purchase journey. True comprehension of all the above allows your brand to accomplish everything necessary in a cookieless world – achieving brand awareness, affinity and loyalty.
Offline Conversions APIs
This product were originally designed to solve the problem of attributing offline conversions to online ad spend. Think: brick and mortar retailers and the auto industry. But, we can use products like this to help us attribute online conversions that would otherwise be impossible (due to digital privacy, of course) to online ad spend. It’s by no means a miracle cure. But, if your brand is collecting zero-party data, then you’ll be able to utilize this product for more than its originally intended use.
Keep Up with Evolving Digital Privacy
The social media and e-commerce worlds are always changing and as digital privacy continues to evolve, there are always new challenges to address. For e-commerce brands looking to scale, it can be difficult to keep up with everything all at once. Reach out to us and we’ll guide you through all of these updates. We’ve been fortunate to work with brands just like yours and that’s provided us with the experience and knowledge to understand what works and, perhaps more importantly, what doesn’t.
You’ve got a business to run and bigger things to worry about.
About the author: Jeff is an analytical and creative Digital Strategist with 9+ years of Social Media, Influencer and Content Marketing experience with various brands like Jaguar, Land Rover, Lenovo, Motorola, Ulta Beauty, Malin & Goetz, Teleflora, b New York and Raaka Chocolate – to name a few. He started his career as a copywriter, penning copy for an online sports company where he found his work featured on the back covers of national publications and featured on ESPN Radio. He currently resides in Seattle where he likes to spend as much time outside as possible with his wife and three kids, one of which is a dog.