Email’s Role in the Future of Internet Tracking

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The main issue on most marketers’ minds this year appears to be data privacy. In part, legislation is driving this, as other states follow California’s lead and look to implement new privacy standards.

But even more pressing than looming legislation are changes Big Tech is implementing. For example, Apple’s App Tracking Transparency policy will downgrade tracking via its mobile device, the Identifier for Advertisers. And Google will add to the chaos by killing third-party cookies on Chrome.

The upshot is that advertisers need a way to track consumers online with their consent and target them. As the name of his company suggests, GetEmails CEO and founder Adam Robinson says email is a large part of the answer.

The challenge

Robinson underscored that the big threat to tracking and digital advertising is mainly coming from corporations, not governments.

“Most of the privacy changes in the US (the California Consumer Privacy Act is the best-known example) have to do with increased disclosure to the consumer, setting up infrastructure to allow customers to see the data you have collected about them and delete it, and opt-outs,” Robinson said.

“None of the legislation in the immediate future is directly related to cross-website tracking and persistent visitor identification … The tech behemoths (Google, Apple, etc) are leading the charge on changing cross-website tracking, rather than legislators.”

It’s clear why advertisers fear the end of third-party cookies, which Safari already killed. Robinson described their efficacy this way:

“If I’m looking at a flat screen TV on BestBuy’s website, with third-party cookies, BestBuy is able to show me that exact TV when I go to to read an article. Obviously this is tremendously valuable to advertisers … And on the open internet, it’s not clear what’s going to replace that use case when third-party cookies are deprecated.”

The solutions

One solution advertisers will require in the privacy era is new tracking and targeting infrastructure. GetEmails is among the companies helping advertisers to close the emerging gaps.

“GetEmails’ technology connects anonymous digital identifiers to rich customer profiles, then passes those profiles to our customers for cross-channel activation. Email is the main focus today,” Robinson said. He added that every user in the GetEmails network “has opted in,” affirming consent.

This means GetEmails places tracking technology on a client’s website and helps them figure out who’s browsing their digital properties. Then, the company helps advertisers get in touch with potential customers. Email is one effective way to do that, partially because it is easy to measure the success of campaigns.

Other solutions do not involve cross-website tracking. For example, contextual advertising allows advertisers to target users based on the content of the pages they’re searching instead of behavioral data. Robinson says he sees contextual ads playing an important role going forward.

He also sees promise in” solutions like LiveRamp’s ATS, where consumers willingly submit data about themselves that allows them to be segmented and served relevant advertising without cross-website tracking.”

Email versus mobile numbers

Digital advertisers are trying to figure out what device or data point should be the basis of targeting going forward. Emails, mobile numbers, and fresh ID solutions are in the mix.

“As far as a universal ID goes, mobile numbers aren’t great because they aren’t a very secure thing to be sharing around a global advertising network,” Robinson said. “Do you want your phone number being handed around millions of times per day behind the scenes in order to show you targeted ads?” 

He continued, “Hashed emails work better than phone numbers and are still persistent, and unique IDs like LiveRamp’s IdentityLink and Trade Desk’s Unified ID are better still because they are even more secure.”

Joe Zappa is the Managing Editor of Street Fight. He has spearheaded the newsroom's editorial operations since 2018. Joe is an ad/martech veteran who has covered the space since 2015. You can contact him at [email protected]