More privacy changes are on their way

Robin Emiliani  /  May 27, 2021

In 2016, the EU adopted the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), and in 2018, they started enforcing it.

You probably remember the hubbub across marketing teams. What will this mean for our targeted marketing? How do we comply and still keep a close connection with customers? Which of our vendors are compliant?

Companies scrambled for answers, updated their sites, added language to their privacy policies, and sent a parade of irritating emails about how privacy was changing. (Do you remember those overflowing inboxes?)

Some companies threw up their hands and just blocked European users from their sites altogether.

That tactic didn’t last long. Because, soon thereafter, the US joined in with privacy laws of its own, and the importance of privacy has only kept trending upward across the world.

Since then, not only have governments passed regulation, but big tech companies are making changes of their own. Browsers decided to wave farewell to cookies. And now, Apple is limiting data collection via their devices.

In practical terms, this change from Apple means that apps on their phones and tablets will ask users if they want to share their data—and users can opt in or opt out.

On the user side of things, this means more control. Apple lets you opt out sharing a bunch of personal data or location tracking on big apps like Amazon, Google, and Facebook. This is good news for privacy-concerned users, though it may mean getting less relevant ads on their apps.

And while companies like Facebook are pouting about it, we think it’s actually good news for marketers too.

First, there’s this: people who want to hear from you are more likely to buy from you. If you opt into daily book deal emails, you’re probably interested in buying books. If you didn’t opt in, the company spending time and money getting your email and sending you unsolicited messages is just shooting in the dark. Which means that time and money is less likely to get them results.

Not to mention that some people (me, it’s me) carry grudges. You opted me into your email list five years ago without my consent? I remember you and will not be buying from you again. I smash the spam button anytime I see something from you come across my inbox and I might even tell friends and family not to buy from you. (Honda dealership from hell, I’m looking at you.)

I’m the extreme example, but no doubt you’re irritating more than just me with unsolicited emails and ads that stalk us around the internet. Not to mention impossible opt-out procedures that require things like phone calls to support or three different sign-in processes.

All that to say: marketing is more successful when you’re reaching people who want to be reached. And bothering people who don’t want your messages isn’t a neutral act—it can harm your relationship with them long-term.

The second thing to keep in mind is that you haven’t lost access to all data—just third-party data, which has been shown to be less valuable (and less accurate). First-party data (and the personalization you build around it) is what you actually want—and you still have access to it.

In fact, 92% of top performing marketers believe first-party data is critical to growth. And the changes to browsers and Apple don’t impact your ability to get first-party data directly from your customers

As a quick reminder: first-party data is data that you collect directly from your users/customers with their consent. People are more likely to opt in to direct data collection from brands as long as you aren’t selling it to third parties, and they appreciate the personalized recommendations that come from opting in and the comfort level of knowing they can opt out.

Finally, it’s worth noting that third-party data isn’t totally gone. It’ll just include less people because some will opt out. But those who opt in? They actually want to hear from advertisers and see relevant ads. Which tells us that they’re more open to our messaging anyway.

Time will tell the real effects of privacy changes, but for now, we’re optimistic. Treating people with empathy, letting them opt in and out of our marketing campaigns, has always mattered. Now, it’ll just be harder for companies to behave like users don’t matter.

And that’s a marketing world we’d like to live in.

Still feeling uncertain about what privacy changes mean for you? Reach out anytime. We’d love to help you navigate the new marketing challenges it poses.


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