How to track a potential customer’s activity across websites and apps following Google’s phasing out of third-party cookies is one of the major future marketing problems identified by industry experts.
Although there will be a Google privacy replacement – one which the UK competition watchdog is required to sign off – European publishers have accused the tech giant of holding them in an “adtech stranglehold”.
Meanwhile, in Germany, publishers, advertisers and media groups have called on the EU to block Google’s plans.
A third-party cookieless future means it becomes more difficult for companies to personalise content and serve relevant ads.
And according to marketers and business leaders, this is not the only misstep Google is making.
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An own Google?
Vertical Leap is a Google Premier Partner, and head of SEO, David Colgate, recounts his experiences with the media giant.
“One of the biggest pain points when running a marketing campaign – in this case we’re referring to an SEO campaign – is that Google is constantly moving the goalposts.
“As we know, there are hundreds of mini updates to its algorithm each year but in 2021 there were three major updates that completely rocked the industry. One even took place in November right before the main holiday season including Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
“With every major update there are winners and losers, and if you’re negatively affected this can mean a huge reduction in visibility, sometimes completely wiping websites from the search engine results. This can be catastrophic for some companies.”
Warrick Godfrey, VP strategy consulting at marketing platform Braze, agrees. “The tech giants could shift the goalposts at any time when it comes to third-party data – and brands need to be ready to react. Brands are facing their most significant data management challenge since GDPR was introduced four years ago, making it harder than ever to optimise the way they communicate with customers.
“It’s never been more critical for brands to take control of first-party data and their customer relationships. Successful customer engagement in 2022 will mean improving the use of first or zero-party data to personalise communications and bring harmony to cross-channel messaging.”
Director of brand & content marketing at SparkPost, April Mullen, is also concerned about the loss of trackable data.
“Privacy continues to be a hot topic for email senders, especially marketers. As the demand for relevant and personalised email increases in 2022, the barriers to collecting the actionable data necessary to meet that demand will increase as well. The loss of third-party cookies and new features, such as Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection, are likely only the beginnings of a paradigm shift that will continue to drive marketers to rethink data collection and usage practices.”
And Wulfric Light-Wilkinson, General Manager at marketing channel Wunderkind claims it could be a blessing in disguise: “Over the past 12 months, marketers have been compelled to address the challenge of how to engage customers once cookies disappear for good. And, for some marketers, it’s an issue they still need to tackle.
“Google’s initial plan to introduce FloC as an alternative to tracking was recently replaced by Topics, showing the complexities associated with finding a viable, effective solution that will keep marketers spending, and will deliver results.
“The phasing out of third-party cookies is causing huge disruption to the digital ad space, but for savvy marketers, it’s also being viewed as a major opportunity. Now’s the optimal time for marketers to reassess and focus on what’s important: The customer. The best way of doing that is using customer data to discover their likes, behaviours and buying intent, and ultimately give them shopping experiences they’ll appreciate.”
‘Any marketing campaign needs to have a clear focus’
Companies and individuals lacking the foresight to pull together an end-to-end, coherent strategy will also end up on the losing side according to our contributors.
Matthew McGillicuddy, Head of Brand at phone conversation analytics business Infinity warns against a one-size-fits-all approach.
“One of the biggest pain points marketers have is a lack of visibility across the entire path to purchase, particularly where offline purchases are involved. With many consumers jumping from one channel to another before they make a purchase, there really is no one size fits all approach to attribution.
“For marketers, if you don’t have the customer journey accurately mapped and tracked, you’ll constantly have a black hole in your analytics and lack the capacity to report accurately.”
Julian Horberry, Head of Strategy at integrated B2B tech marketing agency, Fox Agency, says that focus is vital.
“Any marketing campaign needs to have a clear focus, without this you are going to come up against multiple pain points because you don’t have clarity on what the end goal is. Our first question for all clients is ‘what are you trying to achieve?’ – we ask this to numerous stakeholders to fully understand the goals for the business, and we strategise from there. With a defined aim, all activity across the whole marketing mix is working towards the same end point and will run a lot more smoothly.”
This joined-up thinking approach is highlighted by Damien Bennett, Global Director at Digital Marketing Group, Incubeta. “The largest pain point to an effective marketing campaign is unclear or inaccurate objectives. Business goals should be the central component to building a winning strategy that maximises investment. Yet this is often found lacking, with marketers guilty of building plans without knowing exactly what they’re trying to achieve.”
Brands that measure up
An important factor in successful marketing solutions remains the ability to define and measure, especially less tangible factors such as brand awareness.
James Murray is Clients Services Manager at Definition Agency. “Brand awareness measurement is a sore point for many marketers. When considering a brand awareness campaign, I always think it’s important to set expectations and discuss and agree KPIs in advance.
“Remember, there are lots of platforms to monitor traffic and Share of Voice nowadays. Social listening tools also provide great insight into brand awareness campaign success.”
Stuart Russell, the Chief Strategy Officer of Planning-inc, whose clients include M&S and Argos, expands.
“Marketers work tirelessly to create the most impactful campaigns, but don’t measure them correctly. All that hard work goes undervalued by business key decision makers, and in order to truly demonstrate a marketing campaign’s impact, there needs to be added focus on measuring the incremental value driven by them.”
And CMO/Founder at marketing technology company Bango, Anil Malhotra, adds his thoughts. “A significant pain point in any marketing campaign is the gulf between what marketers attempt to measure, and the hard KPIs which actually matter to the rest of the business.
“There’s a strong element of self-approval within digital marketing in particular, which often focuses on audience engagement as the primary goal. But businesses must know what the correlation (if any) is between social media content, for example, and customer acquisition, revenue, and profits – the metrics which all businesses judge themselves against.”
‘Social media marketing is one of the top pain points’
The final pain point nominations go to Janicke Eckbo, CMO at Scandi software specialists Cavai and Sarah Dawley, Senior Manager at Hootsuite, experts in social media. Janicke decries a “a lack of innovation” and suggests marketers should concentrate on “the quality of engagement and the subsequent sharing of information that generates insight and increases the likelihood of conversion”.
“Ultimately, focus on the problem you’re solving for the customer, and less on the product or service you’re trying to promote. Customers rarely care about what you sell, but they do care about how it might overcome their own pain points and society more broadly.”
Sarah meanwhile sees social media as a complete solution rather than “just brands selling directly through social channels”.
“It’s much more than just a ‘buy button’ on Instagram and Facebook. Social commerce begins with inspiration and brand discovery on social channels and continues through to actual transactions and post-purchase customer care.”