- Despite Google and Apple’s recent anti-tracking privacy moves, personalization is alive and well.
- Businesses must capture and utilize first party data and engage with reviews. They should act on the information in reviews.
- Emerging tools are closing the cookie gap, enabling businesses to create more personalized experiences on their sites.
Over the past several months, Apple and Google have made consumer privacy a cause célèbre – and the focus of their own marketing. In January 2020, Google unsettled the marketing ecosystem by declaring the end of third-party cookies on Chrome, the world’s most popular browser. In 2021, Apple activated a controversial update to its operating system (AppTrackingTransparency) that required users to opt in, or agree to, apps tracking their behavior across the web. The industry (especially ad tech companies) reacted with a lot of “sky is falling” and “personalization is dead” proclamations.
In fact, the sky is not falling. Personalization is still alive – but evolving. Indeed, Apple and Google's decisions have changed how businesses should approach building digital customer relationships.
1. Don't Panic or Rush to Judgment
Google’s plan to phase out third-party cookie tracking may feel apocalyptic, but it’s not happening anytime soon. Google recently announced the phase-out is going to take longer than the 2022 timeline Google originally had in mind. That’s because UK regulators are reining in Google’s efforts in light of anti-trust concerns. For now, the plan is to phase out third-party cookies at some point in 2023. Who knows if Google will keep that timeline or fully eliminate third-party cookies now that regulators are involved. (Regulators are concerned about how cookie deprecation might impact competition.)
We also don’t know yet how Apple's AppTrackingTransparency (ATT) will ultimately impact advertisers’ ability to deliver personalized content. Personalization tactics will change. Exactly how is not yet clear.
2. Capitalize on the Power of First-Party Data
Apple and Google have underscored and motivated a bigger change now occurring: businesses figuring out how to develop more direct relationships with audiences visiting their sites by tapping into the power of first-party data. This includes cookie data and reviews people leave on business websites. It also extends to reviews left on Google My Business listings, Facebook Pages and any other pages or sites online where businesses have control.
By declaring war on third-party cookies, Google simply highlighted something businesses should have been doing all along: putting more effort into developing personalized relationships with their customers and site visitors. For instance, encouraging people to review your business and responding to those reviews is an incredibly personalized, one-to-one interaction that happens only when a business monitors and acts on the review. Even better is when a business learns from its reviews and develops more relevant content or improves its operations. This is just one way businesses can connect with audiences more effectively – by putting more effort into capitalizing on the power of audience behavior on their own sites.
3. Watch How Other Businesses Use First-Party Data
Amazon Advertising has become the third-largest online advertising business, behind Facebook and Google. How? By utilizing first party data and helping businesses target Amazon customers with more relevant ads. In the wake of Amazon Advertising’s growth, retailers ranging from Macy’s to Walmart have built similar models. Macy’s offers businesses the ability to create personalized ads for a fashion-conscious audience. Walmart offers ad solutions across Walmart’s online and offline stores.
No matter what Apple and Google do about consumer-behavior tracking across the web, they cannot touch or affect the customer data businesses collect on their own sites. That data creates numerous options for personalized content beyond Google’s universe.
4. Mind the Law of Unintended Consequences
Apple’s more stringent privacy controls are having a potentially unintended consequence: helping Google. Ad prices on Google’s Android operating system are increasing as businesses shift their ad dollars away from Apple's iOS. According to ad-measurement firm Tenjin, spending on iOS mobile advertising has fallen by about one third between June 1 and July 1; Android spending rose 10% over the same period. Perhaps advertisers will benefit from Apple’s ATT initiative by paying less for ads on the platform. Now is the time for businesses to monitor and potentially take advantage of opportunities created by these shifts.
Where Is Personalization Going?
How might personalization evolve? This is really the big question at the heart of the privacy and tracking conversation. The conventional wisdom is that personalization is essential for consumers, but there's room for debate about the extent of personalization and what that looks like in the future.
We can expect that personalization will become more interesting and dynamic on business and retailer websites. Adobe, for one, is creating new tools to enable more personalized content on websites. And the company recently said it has found a way to develop personalized content across the entire customer journey without the need for third-party cookies.
Times are changing. But not necessarily in the ways Apple and Google expect.