Report: Privacy and Walled Gardens Risk Undermining Marketing Strategy

Marketing strategies, and the data they run on, face systemic risk in 2021. More than ever before, marketers’ access to customer data is being cut off by increased privacy restrictions from governments and private gatekeepers alike.

Despite the challenges, a new report finds that mature identity programs are highly correlated to how successful brands are at achieving their key objectives, even as pinning down a customer’s identity gets more difficult.

Surveying more than 300 decision-makers at brands and agencies around the globe, Tapad and Forrester Consulting found restrictive privacy laws, operating system restrictions on data collection, increased consumer adoption of privacy tools, and the increased presence and closed-off nature of walled gardens are all threatening the data-driven marketing strategies that brands have long relied on. With fewer of these tools at their disposal, more brand marketers are turning to identity graphs to gather deep insights, build audiences, and deliver effective attribution. 

In Tapad’s survey, brands with mature identity programs in place were 79% more successful at improving safeguards to reduce regulatory and compliance risk, and 247% more successful at improving marketing ROI than those with less mature identity programs.

“A ‘mature’ brand doesn’t mean you need to be a big brand. Smaller companies are likely able to be more agile with their spend, and less set in the ‘old way’ of doing things, so an identity-based approach could be an easier shift,” says Tapad General Manager Mark Connon. “Plus, while smaller brands often don’t have the big budgets, in this case, it isn’t so much about how much money you have to work with. It’s what you’re doing with it.”

Tapad’s research shows that the most successful brand marketers are those who have already identified where shifts in the data and regulatory landscape will impact their approach when it comes to consumer privacy, data collection, and user privacy control. 

Preparing for Future Restrictions

Although Google’s timeline for the death of browser cookies continues to evolve, Connon recommends that marketers get prepared for the changes now. That means coming up with alternative solutions and investing more heavily in identity resolution strategies. It also means building a foundational layer of first-party data so that brands aren’t as reliant on third-party data and they can begin to interact with customers outside of walled gardens.

“Digital identity is at the crux of so many aspects of the customer experience when it comes to digital advertising campaigns,” he says. 

Pressure on brand marketers isn’t just coming from regulators. Consumers expect brands to deliver more engaging experiences than ever before. Fifty-nine percent of those brand decision-makers surveyed by Tapad said customer journeys are less predictable and linear than they once were, and 67% said customer purchase journeys are taking place over more touchpoints and channels than ever before.

Overcoming these obstacles requires a strong infrastructure of first-party data, coupled with well-tested cross-device identity resolution strategies. Connon says brands that have a strong investment in first-party data are better able to leverage tactics like frequency capping, ad sequencing, and targeting ads. 

“While marketers increasingly see identity resolution as the foundation for understanding and reaching their target consumer with the right message, the prolific rise in the number of devices, touchpoints, data sources, and solutions exacerbates the complexity they face,” Connon says. “Our goal was to cut out this noise to reveal what’s truly working and what isn’t, and to more aggressively test and prepare their identity strategies.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

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