11 Steps: Navigate your business through a cookie-less privacy-centric 2021

Feb 24, 2021 | Digital Marketing

Adform & Dynata research reveals a staggering 90% of UK marketers have no planned solutions in place to mitigate the removal of tracking cookies, despite 75% of global companies being worried about it.

Written by Jamie Thorpe Senior Digital Strategist Ten Four Digital Marketing Agency
Sometime in Q1 of 2021, Apple & Google are rolling out a goliath amount of software updates designed to increase user privacy in the iPhones operating software, iOS and the world’s most popular browser, Chrome.

So what’s going on? The iOS 14.5 privacy updates and specifically the introduction of the App Tracking Transparency (ATT) prompt are expected to cause a mass amount of marketing attribution and analytics related data-loss. Some are suggesting as much as 95% data loss. Industry experts expect the ATT prompt to see only 20% of users opting-in to being tracked.



Add the impact of the iOS 14.5 update into the mix with Google’s Chrome browser version 89 and 90 updates, specifically the Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) [Privacy Sandbox] update. Along with Apple’s Safari browser and Firefox already blocking third-party tracking software, it seems that we really are seeing the death of the tracking cookie.

Many marketers and agencies are either unaware of the impending changes or have adopted a ‘wait-and-see’ approach since the announcements, hoping that the industry will unveil a solution for them. However, the clock is ticking, and there’s certainly no desire on Apple’s part to reduce the impact of ATT as it stands to make significant revenue from the updates. This revenue will come from app developers moving away from ‘free’ apps (which generate revenue via advertising) to paywalls, subscriptions and in-app purchases, all of which Apple stands to take a 20% commission on.

11 ways to navigate your business through iOS 14, Chrome updates and the eradication of tracking cookies

So how can you navigate your business around the death of cookies and new privacy restrictions:
1. “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” – Albert Einstein

Yes, if you’re a marketer or business owner, you should be taking these changes seriously, but remember that with the right type of relationship with a knowledgable partner such as Ten Four, there are opportunities to take advantage.

We’re probably not as magnificent as Albert. Still, at Ten Four, we’re resilient, innovatively adaptive and persistent. Instead of sorrowing over these seismic changes, we’ve already identified fantastic opportunities to come out of these changes that we believe will surpass the capabilities of the tracking cookies. Such opportunities lie in utilising the Facebook Conversion API far beyond its basic use with incredible functionality.

Speak to one of our team today to discuss how Ten Four can help you and your business in either an advisory, facilitator or integration partner role. Cookies are dead, so looking for a solution that replaces the cookie is futile – accept it and move on.

2. Move to a first-party data collection and controller centric approach.

Over the years, business owners and marketers have become overly reliant on the vast distribution of easy to install tracking scripts such as the Facebook Tracking Pixel and the powerful algorithms that work alongside them to identify and target effective look-a-like audiences. The changes mentioned will make these third-party tracking pixels and cookies practically obsolete, but perhaps it’s for the best. 

These tracking methods have always been problematic. A user continuing a session on a different device or browser, or simply using ad blockers or clearing their history could scrub any valuable data for a marketer. 

Start owning your data rather than squatting on others. The captured data about your customers, collected by platforms such as Facebook via third-party software is ‘garden fenced’ into their ecosystems and platforms. Only accessible via paid advertising and non-transferable to other platforms.

For a long time, businesses should have been collecting first-party data and nourishing customer data by offering value propositions in exchange for said data and knowledge. But why?

Well, not only can you create a more personalised and tailored experience for your users, utilise the first party data to contact customers via cheaper or free channels such as telephone or email, but first-party data can also be shared with a variety of platforms to identify and target your customers with nearly complete accuracy.

First-party data such as email addresses, phone numbers, physical addresses, and date of birth are unique in isolation or when grouped to specific users, which are far more accurate at identifying a user than tracking pixels and software.

Businesses should be focusing on creating marketing strategies, online experiences that require logins (wish-lists and account areas), activations, EDM automation, or onsite UX to acquire these precious customer data points—allowing your business to personalise your customer relationships end-to-end. Most importantly, it will enable you to move this valuable intellectual property channel-to-channel, platform-to-platform.  

Tip: It’s always better to collect first-party data from an assets perspective. Just think about the platforms that have come and gone, such as Myspace and Google+. Or how Donald Trump had his Twitter account blocked permanently with over 80+ million followers vanishing in a flash – now some people may or may not enjoy the fact that he’s not on the platform any more. Still, It goes to show how you can quickly lose an audience that you have invested significant time and money building. Controlling your data gives you security in the ability to diversify channels quickly.
3. Offline, Online, Server-Side Events & Conversion Tracking

We know that the privacy updates will heavily impact analytics data and attribution data. The main impact will be the reduction of attribution windows to a maximum of 7 days with the iOS 14.5 updates. We believe this will play havoc for lead generation orientated businesses and those with a highly involved purchase decision process (such as expensive or luxury goods or life-changing purchases such as property or travel).

The industry will be looking for new methods of attributing advertising spend to revenue. But until more robust systems are put in place, businesses should look to utilise approaches that don’t require on-page tracking, such as offline server-side events, as well as conversion tracking or methods such as intelligent call-tracking systems such as ResponseTap.

Our strategists at Ten Four have a wealth of experience assisting omnichannel retailers to overcome similar challenges. Ten Four are trusted with the same responsibilities for the likes of Procter & Gamble. Speak to one of our strategists today with no-obligation on how we can utilise off the shelf systems or build bespoke solutions to mitigate your data loss and improve your data attribution.

4. It’s essential to prepare yourself for the changes

Archive your current data – If you currently have a business that utilities digital marketing techniques, now is probably a good time to take note and archive any knowledge that you currently have, including attribution data, time-to-purchase data, demographic data and affinity knowledge, device and browser data and funnel knowledge, etc. Over time these benchmarks will become less relevant, but it’s good to use this knowledge in the short term or confirm them via other means in the future.

Have you got the right systems and processes in place? You need to consider if you have the correct software stack, datapoints, KPIs and most importantly, partners such as Ten Four with established skill sets and robust processes in place to manage the switch. You may need to utilise a robust CRM platform and move away from data management platforms, especially if you become more first-party data-oriented from a software stack perspective.

5. If time isn’t on your side, analyse and diversify

Suppose these changes are impacting you. The immediate step is to evaluate what uncontrollable impacts these changes are having on your business and come up with a plan to work around them.

Likely, diversification in your marketing spend into a variety of various channels may be a better solution to mitigate the risks of one particular platform in the short term and perhaps moving forward. Advertising channels such as search and contextual advertising are likely to be less affected by the changes than channels such as Facebook Ads which rely on third-party data collection.

6. Become platform and channel-agnostic
Some channels and platforms will undoubtedly be majorly affected by current and future macro-environmental facts – they’ll thrive or fail. Our advice is to be continually testing and optimising your marketing strategy.
7. Innovative & hardened marketing channels may mitigate the effects.

Innovative channels, platforms and techniques will undoubtedly help mitigate the loss of third-party tracking, but be mindful of providers that promise to be the solution to all your problems. The fact is: no one knows the full impact these changes will have because they are still to be released.

Just because the changes are recent doesn’t mean a part-solution also has to be fresh and flashy. At Ten Four, we’re exploring the benefit of channels such as contextual advertising, which displays adverts based on the actual page content the targetted audience may be reading, as well as services offered by the likes of VerizonMedia – in which some studies have shown a purchase intent increase of 27%.

8. CRMs and metrics to track your efficiency & performance

Utilising a CRM system that monitors and feeds in metrics and micro-events from along the purchase or lead funnel for multiple systems against a customers profile is a highly effective method of monitoring your marketing success.

Many CRM systems have internal processes that can monitor email opens and click-tracking for example. You can build out detailed segments to create micro-target campaigns and utilise custom APIs to link offline data such as phone calls, loyalty card usage or check-ins at your retail stores against user profiles. Such strategies can be highly effective at understanding the customers’ current position in your purchase flow.

Our digital team can strategise your organisations’ data flow and identify opportunities and efficiencies in your business – increasing revenue and decreasing costs not only in your marketing budget but perhaps even fixed costs.

9. Email & SMS marketing is very much alive and possibly your key to survival.

We’ve touched on collecting first-party customer data. An email address and a phone number are unique pieces of information that you can use to identify users across platforms in various ways. But email marketing and SMS marketing have some of the highest open and conversion rates amongst the plethora of channels out there. Just take a look at SMS in the US:

  • 98% open rate
  • 8x more engagement than email
  • Avg. conversion rate of 23.3%

You only have to look at Gary Vaynerchuk and Ashton Kutcher to see the power of personalised SMS marketing. These individuals have set up specific marketing encouraging users to ‘text them’ in an attempt to collect customer data and control the direct communication with their audience.

10. We LOVE data so much we’ve created our own digital data centre.

The granularity of some insight will go away with these privacy updates, primarily when a third-party cookie currently provides the data. However, here at Ten Four, we’ve been investing and preparing for the end of third-party cookies for some time now by building our own proprietary data pooling, modelling, and automation tools to provide advanced data insights and analytics.

By independently collecting, cleaning, analysing our clients data sources and then blending the data metrics, we are able to take a wider view on the effectiveness of our clients advertising spend and marketing strategies. We’re able to push this enhanced data back to platforms such as Facebook to enrich targeting in a far superior manner than utilising a pixel.

We believe we are on the right track and way beyond our competitors to deliver excellent results in a cookie-less and privacy-centric environment.

11. Top of Funnel Marketing KPIs

Digital paid advertising on a platform such as Facebook ads usually falls into the three setup categories: targeting, creative and onsite tracking. Most of the latest privacy steps impact onsite tracking.

If Facebook is not able to track user behaviour, the effectiveness of the Facebook algorithms is severely diminished. This results in inaccurate reporting for conversions all the way down to ineffective remarketing. Here’s a snippet of the most important ones…

  • Targeting options will be weakened and this means your ability to create hyper-personalised ads to audiences may be hindered greatly. E.g People who Add to Cart in the last 7 days.
  • Less targeting options means more wasted spend and less personalisation of ad campaigns. Custom Audiences – won’t be the gold nugget it used to be!
  • Attribution: No defined attribution window – An attribution window is the number of days between when a person viewed or clicked your Facebook ad and subsequently took an action. This is huge when tracking sales performance.

The changes will limit your ability to rely on ad networks to build the pathway to conversion. We’ll need to pivot towards older-style digital marketing tactics, such as separated lander pages with A/B testing, switching to a lead generation goal and nurturing campaign. We’ll see marketers and business owners extracting data directly from marketing tools to understand the efficacy of their advertising.

Thanks for reading!