S2:E1 Cookies and privacy – digital marketing strategies will change

Hello everyone, welcome back to Season 2 of the Marketing Mindset Club podcast.

How are you doing? Did you enjoy the tiny bit of summer we had here in the UK? It was absolutely glorious here for all of about a week and now it feels as if summer has been and gone. Back to the dreary drizzle. But I do love the crackle of Autumn leaves and the cooler evenings. I hope you’ve been able to take some time for yourself. You may remember at the end of the last season, I talked a lot about burnout and self-care. It’s been top of my mind for the summer and getting life back into some form of equilibrium is still a priority for me.

How is work going for you? Are you seeing success in the areas you want to? The upheaval and disruption caused by COVID-19 doesn’t seem to be subsiding. Some businesses are thriving, and if you’re in that group I’m so thrilled for you but some people are still being made redundant and businesses are closing. If you are experiencing job insecurity – I just want you to repeat to yourself – I am strong, this is not about me. Remember, you are brilliant, talented and you will find a new path.

If you do find yourself looking for a new job or branching out on your own, I’m hoping this podcast will really help. If you’re completely new to marketing, you’re very welcome here too. I’m going to do my best to make these episodes valuable no matter your level of digital marketing experience.

This season is going to follow the same structure as season one, so each episode is going to cover

  • The digital news bit and what matters about the top stories
  • The learning bit where I’ll deep dive on a tool, technique or strategy you can use
  • And the real-life lessons bit where I’ll talk about results I’ve seen or have been shared from other marketers

The digital news bit

So, let’s kick off with what’s happening in the digital news. 

The shift to online shopping continues to grow. We saw consumer behaviours shift online at the start of the pandemic as need outweighed learned habits. However, Waitrose reported that 77% of the British public now do part of their grocery shopping online, which echoes the insights that Mintel gathered earlier in the year where they predicted the online grocery market would grow several times more than it would have had lockdown and COVID not happened. And it doesn’t seem like time in-store is going to increase any time soon. Econsultancy reported that Rakuten Advertising found that 90% of back to school shopping purchases in the UK would take place online. eBay has also predicted that Christmas shopping online is going to start early.

So, what does this mean for your business? It means a couple of things. Firstly, if you have a bricks and mortar business and your online presence isn’t all that – get. it. sorted! Your online store is probably going to do more than you think it will in this half of the year if you can get it optimised and keep it regularly updated. Take custom photos, write custom product descriptions and keep your inventory updated. 

Secondly, it means that if you’re looking for a new business opportunity and you can retail products in food & drink, DIY, home entertainment and interiors – there is a market out there that is gearing up to shop early for Christmas. If you can source it, ship it (dropshipping included) and manage inventory, you can probably sell it this year. 

AirBnB’s audience is expected to fall by 60% in the US this year, and I would expect the same is probably true here in the UK and the same trend is probably happening for lots of self-catering accommodation providers. It echos the same behaviour we’re seeing in travel behaviour. Statisa estimated that travel & tourism revenue in the UK will almost halve this year from around 40bn to 20bn. If you’re in this market place there’s no doubt the audience available and willing to travel this year has decreased. The main thing you can do if your venue is open and you have services to provide is to address travellers’ main concern – safety. They need to know more about your cleaning procedures, social distancing and safety precautions than ever before. It might seem like the most boring content and ad messaging you’ve ever done, but we discussed how brands are adopting this approach and getting results with it in season 1 episode 3

Google just published an article about changing video trends that have emerged as a result of the pandemic. They noticed that people were turning to video to meet their immediate needs of coping with social isolation, replicating essential services like learning and keeping things they are passionate about alive. I found this piece fascinating because they partnered with Susan Kresnicka, a U.S.-based cultural anthropologist who shared a framework for understanding consumer behavior. It relates to three core needs that all people experience: self-care, social connection, and identity.

They discovered that people were gravtiating towards nature sounds and dream sounds videos and that food content was increasingly popular as people sought to cook new dishes at home while the restaurants were closed. The ‘with me’ category of content, like ‘get ready with me’, saw a 600% growth in views since March as we humans try to maintain some feeling of social connection. Tour videos were also more highly viewed, such as museum tours, as people tried to enrich their social experiences and connections with virtual visits to places of interest.

The third category of consumer behaviour, identity, is a littler harder to define in terms of behaviour outcomes. How to cut your own hair videos grew in popularity, as did other specialised skill-sharing and belief-related content – all key to discovering who we are. So, what does this mean for your future content? In the article, Kresnicka recommends refocusing on some fundamental principles and I quote:

“Marketers know that to be successful, their offerings must create value for people, and often that value involves helping them meet their core needs,” she says. “Why is a 100-year-old soda brand still the market leader? Because it boosts our energy and mood (self-care), brings us back to previous times in our lives (identity), and makes us feel connected to others who shared the same experience (social connection). Thinking this way forces us to understand, deeply and holistically, how a product or service operates in people’s lives. When we do, we open up new ways to communicate, connect, and serve people.”

So how can you apply the thinking from that piece to your business? Elevate your messaging from purely functional to emotional and think about how your product or offer helps people’s self-care, social connection, and / or identity. For instance, when discussing an item of home decor like a house plant – it’s not just green with some variegated leaves in a pot that’s 20cm high and needs sunlight. It’s about oxygenating your environment so you can think more clearly and live your best life.

Cookies

So let’s move on to the main thing I wanted to talk about today – cookies.

Cookie notices are part of our daily digital lives, and even more so in the UK since GDPR. For anyone unfamiliar that is the General Data Protection Regulation and it was introduced in UK in May 2018. It concerns any business that collects and processes personal data in this country.

There’s no avoiding the relentless stream of cookie notices you’re confronted with on your first visit to almost any site, but especially those from UK businesses. You will probably have seen a wide variety of different types, from those that force you to accept or decline cookies before proceeding, to those that are more subtle and assume you’re agreeing to cookies. Strictly speaking, every user should specifically have to opt-in to cookies but in practice that’s not always the case. 

But before we discuss more about them, let’s talk about what a cookie is. A cookie, or HTTP cookie to give it its full name, is a small piece of data that’s placed on a user’s device when they visit a website. You can think about it like the name label you get when you’re visiting a networking event for the first time. It quite often says your name, your business and sometimes a conversation starter or something about you. Cookies work in a very similar way.

There are first party and third party cookies. First party cookies are created by the website you visit and these enhance your experience, like remembering language settings, content preferences or previous behaviour on the site. Third party cookies are set by domains that are not the website you are visiting, but are in related to your visit. The most common example are analytics and advertising tracking cookies.

We marketers rely on cookies for all sorts of things, especially for analytics. It’s essential that we’re able to calculate the return in investment of our marketing activities in order to drive efficiency and plan effective future activity. But as data privacy expectations heighten, the life expectancy of the cookie as a core part of digital marketing and campaign optimisation is, I fear, limited. FIrefox and Safari are already blocking all third party cookies by default, and Chrome will start phasing out third party cookies from 2022. This is the big one as Chrome has market share of browser traffic around the world.

This means, among other things, that a significant portion of website visits won’t be tracked, retargeting audiences could become a thing of the past and attributing conversions to specific channels is only getting harder. So, what do we do? Given that Marketing Land labelled the future as ‘post-cookiepocalpyse marketing’, we can assume that it’s going mean some big changes in how we approach return on investment calculations. 

The first thing we can do is make more use of first party cookies, which probably means aiming for more logged-in sessions for users. We’ll need to prompt users to be logged in from the beginning, which also means we can deliver a more personalised web experience. We’ll also need to get opt in to share their data for the purposes of marketing to them. Which is what should be happening anyway, it’s just that assumed opt-in for third party cookies has been the norm for so long even in spite of GDPR. But if we do get that positive opt-in, we can then use this data to do customer matched audiences across the desired platforms for marketing. In terms of analytics, I think CMS analytics platforms will grow in popularity. I also think including first party cookies in web builds from the outset or specific projects to retrofit them to sites are going to become more common. 

However, Google isn’t just going to let their flagship analytics platform die at the same time as third-party cookies do. They blogged about a building a more private web last year in 2019, stating they are concerned for user privacy, but also that without third party cookies, it could jeopadise publishers’ sites who rely on ad revenue. They referenced a study that showed a 52% revenue drop for a publisher’s site when there is no cookie present for a user. Whether or not you can rely on those figures is to be debated as it was a piece of research Google themselves undertook.

So the initiative they’ve come up with is called ‘The Privacy Sandbox’. It is, and I quote, “a secure environment for personalization that also protects user privacy. Our goal is to create a set of standards that is more consistent with users’ expectations of privacy”. One idea they suggest is that user data could the aggregated anonymously and still deliver relevant ads to the right users. I think it’s safe to assume that Google will come up with their version of privacy on the web without relying on third party cookies – but will it put privacy in the hand of the users? I’m curious to see. I’m all for being in control of your own data online, but also as a marketer, I believe that the right ad served to the right person at the right time is as useful enhancement to the web experience. 

In an interview with Digiday in January this year (2020), Amit Kotecha, a marketing director at data management platform provider Permutive, explained the key features of the proposed Sandbox:

“The most significant item in the Privacy Sandbox is Google’s proposal to move all user data into the [Chrome] browser where it will be stored and processed,” said Kotecha. “This means that data stays on the user’s device and is privacy compliant. This is now table stakes and the gold standard for privacy.”

As far as I can tell, Google hasn’t yet elaborated how that user data would be shared (if at all) with advertisers. Are we to expect that we’ll still have plenty of affinity audiences, similar audiences and in-market audiences to advertise to through Google Ads, but that to retarget users on other platforms, we’ll need first party data? Possibly. Watch this space.

But in terms of what you need to be thinking about for your business – in the next 6 – 12 months, think about how you will respond when third party cookies are finally extinct. Consider bringing your attention to first party cookies and enhancing your web personalisation activities. Being ahead of the game is going to be where this battle is won or lost.

The real life lessons bit

So, onto the real life lesson bit. Today I want to talk about Facebook and Instagram ads. The platform is incredibly accessible and easy for anyone to get started with, which is both a blessing and a curse. How many times have you heard someone say they tried Facebook ads and it didn’t work for them? I’ve heard it a lot.

What someone means when say this is that they didn’t see the results they were expecting. But often, they can’t identify exactly what they were expecting to see either. So, if you’re considering taking on a client who is sceptical of the channel but you have good reason to think it’s worth trying, here are some things you can do to build trust and also help them understand why they feel it didn’t work last time.

  1. Give an objective opinion on their previous activity. It’s usually pretty easy for a marketer to identify areas where a campaign that’s been put together by someone who’s not from a marketing background can be optimised. And that’s not to say you have to be a marketer to effectively used the platform, it just means that having a strategic marketing brain, you can identify areas of improvement. As always, be sensitive with this. Sometimes even the best intentions don’t produce results, so identity the positive as well as those things that need addressing for the next set of activity. 
  1. Align your proposed activity with their audience knowledge. As an agency or consultant, you probably won’t know the business’ audience like the people who work in it day to day. You can use the insights from their existing data such as CMS, ecommerce platform, analytics platform etc but delve into the first hand feedback from the team on the shop floor so to speak as much as you can. I guarantee there will be some gems in there, not to mention that you’re building the relationship with your client and creating empathy with their ambitions.
  1. Get clear on the value proposition.  As we’ve discussed several times on the podcast before, successful advertising is simply a value exchange. Your ads need  to clearly answer these questions in a user’s head:
    1. Is it interesting?
    2. Are you trustworthy?
    3. Is this the right product / solution for me?

So no matter how great your targeting is and your audience profiles are, if you’re not creating value in the content and the creative, you might be setting yourself up for a fail. That’s not meant to keep you in a place of inaction – if you’re not sure, test and try and fail and learn – and that’s all ok. But take your client on the journey. 

  1. Agree the KPIs up front. One thing that you’ll probably find evident from the time they said it didn’t work, is they didn’t set any key performance indicators (KPIs). So they couldn’t know if it was working or not. When you take over the account, set KPIs that are relevant and achievable for the stages in the user journey that you’re working on impacting. That means setting awareness, engagement or conversion KPIs, or a combination of all three if that’s helpful.

Marketing success isn’t a certainty, if it was, everyone would be running their own business. So be sure to manage your client’s expectations and go on the journey together.

And that’s all I have for you this week. Thank you so much for coming back to the Marketing Mindset Club for season 2. I’m so glad you tuned in! If you haven’t yet subscribed or left a review, please consider doing so if you’re getting value from the show – it really helps me out in my goal to grow this club. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments and questions so head over to Instagram @MarketingMindsetClub and I’ll see you next time.