The ability to fully utilize user-level data for marketing purposes is on its way out; that much is somewhat evident by now. On iOS, the change is imminent, while elsewhere—from Android to web—it’ll be some time before we feel it, but feel it we most certainly will.
Among the numerous changes brought on by weaning the online marketing industry off this data, some are more predictable than others. When planning your roadmap, prioritizing technology and time expenditures, and thinking about the future of the industry in general, here are the things you should consider
1 – The World Doesn’t Stop When User-Level Data Goes Away
Consider this: iOS users who upgrade their devices to iOS 14.5 or switch to a browser that blocks 3rd party cookies won’t magically develop resistance to consumerism or aversion to marketing. They are bound to click on relevant ads as much as they have before. The display inventory will be there as well. It’s essential to keep this in mind to contextualize everything that follows: the only ones for whom things meaningfully change are the marketers. For them, though, everything changes.
Do this: Don’t dilly-dally. We see too many marketers who adopt a “wait & see” attitude. This is absolutely the wrong way to go about this. Not only will you need to prepare your tech stack for the changes that are coming, but there’s also valuable data you can be collecting right now, which can help you later.
2 – New Data, New Rules, New KPIs
Consider this: Tracking whole user journeys, from ad views to churn, is a great way to understand how each marketing decision translates to the KPIs that matter to you. With the disappearance of user-level data, it’s not only the visibility into the funnel that goes away but the “story” itself. Attribution becomes fragmented and anonymized.
Do this: Begin testing hypotheses and hoarding insights as soon as possible. Which upper-funnel metric correlates to your best lower-funnel KPI? Is this correlation channel-agnostic or channel-specific? Designate proxy KPIs that aren’t reliant on user-level data and try optimizing towards them with some percentage of your budget. Doesn’t work? Maybe there are more parameters you need to take into consideration – country, ad type, etc.
3 – Fewer Signals, More Noise
Consider this: Not only will you have to aggregate data from more sources, but it will also require advanced reconciliation to make sense of disparate streams. Organic, deterministic, and probabilistic data will all tell some part of the user journey. Between SKAdNetwork, the various attribution platforms, channel-specific data, and in-app events, it’ll be enough to tax even the more flexible BI solution.
Do this: As in our previous points, time is of the essence. Whether you plan to reconfigure your BI solution or use a marketing intelligence platform such as Bidalgo, waiting until the last possible minute is precisely the wrong thing to do. The time to act is now.
4 – More Weight on The Shoulders of Ad Creative
Consider this: Right now, you probably use targeting optimization to get the right users for your product. Much of this optimization is based on user-level data. A large part of your activity will probably look very different in a few years: less targeted optimization, more platform-driven automation. Inevitably, more irrelevant users will be exposed to your campaigns. The purpose of the ad creative in this environment will be to both attract the best users, and less obviously, prevent the wrong users from clicking your link. In other words, creative itself will become the targeting mechanism, not just a container for your messaging.
Do this: To properly treat ad creative as a driver of optimization, you need creative level data, insights, and statistical models. Which concepts bring the best ratio between lucrative and lukewarm users? Who are your best designers, and what are they doing that others don’t? How can you make sure that good creative can be scaled even when the endless feedback loop between creative and lower funnel data is broken. These are some of the questions we’re developing Bidalgo to provide answers to.
5 – This Is Only The Beginning
Consider this: Apple is far from alone in its crusade against utilizing user-level data for marketing purposes. It’s just the trendsetter on mobile. More and more industry giants, even those who make money from targeted ads, begin to curb their data collection practices—across all platforms. Google is considering its stance on App Tracking Transparency in Android and will end 3rd party cookies support in Chrome next year (the last among major browsers); regulatory bodies worldwide are considering setting limits on data aggregation; user sentiment towards data sharing is changing as well.
Do this: Accept that the industry is changing, and make the most of it. For the first time in more than a decade, efficient marketing is becoming harder—not easier. Yet, with the playing field more level than before, smart marketers will still get ahead. They will do it by finding insights in data others ignore, being ready for every change, and not shying away from trying new things.
6 – Web-First Marketers Are Not Immune to Change
Consider this: The spirit of the change Apple is implementing is “no permission—no tracking of any kind”. This doesn’t just impact app marketers, as app-to-web conversion events from the Facebook app are—at least as Facebook views it—covered by the new ATT framework. So if the user doesn’t opt into allowing tracking data, app-to-web conversion tracking will be impacted as well.
Do this: Web marketers who rely on Facebook advertising are currently among the most complacent about the coming change. If you are too, at least read up on what to expect. You might need to rethink your conversion tracking.
The Future Is Still Bright
At the end of this tunnel, there’s a bright light—an ad industry that’s both efficient and privacy-minded. This is a good thing for our users, and as a result, a good thing for our industry. Meanwhile, though, we’ll need to learn, adjust, optimize, and repeat. As this is a cycle with a protracted learning period, early adopters will be at an advantage. The sooner you begin your adjustment period, the more effort you invest in developing workflows that don’t rely on user-level data, the easier it will be for you in the long run.