Ad Tech and Privacy

Anonymized, Localized Shopper Data Offers a New Beginning for Brand Marketers

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Blis is a Street Fight Thought Leader.

Many brand marketers are worrying about how the upcoming withdrawal of third-party cookies from Chrome combined with new data privacy restrictions being introduced to iPhones will impact their ability to target consumers with relevant advertising.

Rather than fear the upcoming changes, marketers should welcome the steps being taken to safeguard consumer data privacy and recognize the opportunity to leverage the massively rich, privacy-compliant consumer data sets that are still available to them. 

At Blis, we believe that by taking cookies off the table and turning instead to localized, anonymized consumer data and the valuable insights they hold, marketers will ultimately produce more relevant and effective ad campaigns than before. Kicking its cookie habit could be the best thing the advertising industry has ever done.

A loss of scale?

Cookies are basically little packets of data which provide information on the online journey of individual users, e.g. sites they’ve visited, products they’ve researched, ads they’ve clicked, and so on.  These cookies made it very easy for marketers to identify large numbers of online users displaying the characteristics they were looking for, e.g. car owners, and to then serve those target users with ads relevant to their interests.  

Many advertisers are worried that the loss of third-party cookies and other mobile advertising IDs will impact the scale of their advertising campaigns. They think they won’t be able to find the same volume of target customers with the right mix of desired characteristics. However, this isn’t true.

By analyzing and identifying the common traits of existing customers, it is possible to create anonymized, privacy-compliant profiles of target shoppers. These profiles can then be used to find large numbers of potential customers with the same mix of target characteristics. 

This new ‘shopper affinity’ approach to targeting involves the use of cutting-edge AI to automatically identify and update the shared characteristics  of target customers and then find others like them. This provides the scale that marketers have grown used to for their campaigns but avoids the need to rely on reams of personal data on individual shoppers.

Location data, plus…

We have always specialized in providing marketers with highly accurate, anonymized consumer location data. This authenticated information on where consumers go empowers marketers to better understand their ideal audiences and engage with them via relevant, personalized messages that drive more sales and business results.

Location data is very valuable in its own right. However, it becomes even more exciting for marketers when it is paired with the wide range of anonymized third-party data that’s out there to be leveraged. For example, our platform incorporates and regularly updates census and other aggregated governmental data, which provides localized insights into things such as household income, household demographics, average house price, car ownership, etc.

For retailers with brick-and-mortar stores, it’s easy to understand how analyzing these combined data sets at a zip code level could help them identify their ideal customers and target their marketing spend.

Take the example of a supermarket with a network of stores. When they look on our platform, they can find where their consumers live and how far the customer is from store locations. For instance, if they then overlay that location data with car ownership information, they may identify areas where car ownership is lower than average and decide, in response, to target those local areas with ads about their delivery service.

That sort of example is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the insights on offer, particularly when you consider the other forms of rich data still accessible to marketers.

The insights in our baskets

One recent development that we’re very excited about is our new collaboration with one of the world’s biggest credit card companies. The partnership will allow us to refine and layer our audience data sets by identifying the vendors that consumers are spending money with and where it is happening. This shopper data, when paired with our own location data, allows brands to better understand their own competitive environment at a local store level and identify areas and audiences to focus their media spend on. 

While our alliance with the credit card giant provides us with shopper data on where consumers are spending, our partnership with another company, IRI, lets us know exactly what products and services they are spending their money on. IRI’s systems are integrated with store point of sale and store card data, giving accurate brand sales information (again, down to zip code level). 

The identity of individual shoppers remains unknown to the advertisers at all times, making this ‘information layering’ technique totally privacy-compliant but rich in valuable consumer insights. 

Better data, better campaigns

Third-party cookies have been the common currency linking multi-touch marketing across digital, but they came with inherent problems. The cookie-based targeting of individuals left advertisers vulnerable to various types of ad fraud, including cookie stuffing, an affiliate marketing technique where users unknowingly receive a cookie from an ad they’ve never seen. If the user later visits the target website, the cookie stuffer is credited with encouraging that visit and is paid a commission they haven’t legitimately earned. 

From a consumer perspective, marketers’ over-reliance on cookies has often delivered poorly targeted, repetitive, and invasive ads that seemed to follow you around. Dependence on third-party cookies also allowed too many players to insert themselves between the source data and the brands hoping to leverage it, further diluting the quality of the data on offer and the relevance of the ads served to customers. 

By drawing our authenticated, anonymized location and shopper data directly from the source, then continuously and automatically refreshing that data, we ensure that our brand clients are protected against the sort of data fraud that has sometimes tarnished the reputation of the ad tech industry.

Rather than mourning the demise of the third-party cookie, marketers should recognize and embrace the opportunity to leverage rich, real-time consumer behavior and location data and focus on ‘shopper affinity’ to produce a new era of highly effective, privacy-friendly targeted advertising.

Courtney Palm is Regional Vice President of Blis Central/West.