Presented by Celebrus

Major privacy and data challenges for the marketing world are looming over the final months of 2023, and they’ll significantly impact marketing trends moving into 2024 and beyond. Three issues in particular will be driving these challenges and the trends they spark, says Ant Phillips, CTO at Celebrus: 1) generative AI; 2) the war of attrition between third-party analytics vendors and the big platforms making privacy changes; and 3) the regulations that are driving those changes.

“The recent changes in the industry came so quickly and are so profound — and the deprecation of reliable data is such a huge deal — that it’s tempting to think that the marketing industry is trapped, that these things aren’t solvable,” Phillips says. “But recent trends show that there are solutions out there for brands, ways to give them the data they need to engage their customers and deliver powerful, personalized experiences. And first-party data will be the real game changer.”

Here’s a look at some of the major obstacles marketers are facing now — and the increasingly sophisticated data solutions that are changing the game.

Challenge: Privacy changes reaching their full impact

Across owned properties, including websites and mobile apps, brands are trying to get a consistent set of data and understanding of their customers, and trying to do that in a cost-effective way, despite the rolling tide of data privacy regulations, which have not even reached their full effect.

“Brands really are on the receiving end of this, because bad data leads to ineffective marketing campaigns,” Phillips says. “It’s wasting money on targeting the wrong audience or delivering irrelevant messages.”

The consequence of that is low conversion rates and poor ROI. But it also has other knock-on effects around reputational damage — sending irrelevant messages or poorly timed messages around bad data damages a brand’s reputation and erodes customer trust. And then there’s the missed opportunities. If you’re not properly understanding where a user is in the customer journey, or who a visitor is, you’re missing valuable opportunities for engagement, cross-selling and so on.

Roll that up to the macroeconomic climate and you see that inaccurate data creates inefficiencies in the market.

“Businesses are making suboptimal decisions based on flawed information, which reduces customer confidence and increases compliance costs,” he explains.

Challenge: Clinging to third-party paradigm

Many brands and vendors are loath to move away from the third-party tracking world, Phillips says. “It’s the business model analytics vendors have built over the last 20 years or more,” he explains. “No surprise that they’ll hang on to that as long as they can, trying to paper over the cracks, replace all the things which are now missing from third-party data.”

There’s a push by some vendors toward server-side tracking, which collects and processes user data from web and mobile applications directly on the server of the browser or mobile app, rather than on the client’s device, and then sending it to third-party vendors. They can also collect sensitive data or personal identifiers without the user’s knowledge or consent.

“That has been purported as a solution to the whole issue of tracking, where in reality it makes it easier to circumvent a user’s privacy settings,” he says. “Not only that, but it offers significantly less insight into the customer’s journey on that website or app. It’s a very poor solution in comparison to proper first-party data collection, which is the best way to go.”

Solution: First-party data and identity resolution take center stage

“Marketers need to own the first-party strategy, because it’s the only way forward as we move into next year,” Phillips says. “They need to own that data and control it to solve the digital identity gap

Brands are encouraging users to authenticate in order to collect essential first-party data. That’s more or less easy — depending on what industry the brand is in. For instance, customers in financial services routinely authenticate, so getting accurate visitor identity is quite straightforward. That can be more of a challenge for retail brands. But it’s the best way to ensure you’ve got the PII that you need, with a customer’s full consent.

“We want to get to a place where brands are collecting the data about their own visitors,” Phillips says. “It’s consented and compliant and it’s all secure and accurate. That’s the place we all need to get to, because it aligns with everyone’s best interests. But we’re not there yet, with so many vendors hanging on to the third-party business model, which we need to get away from as quickly as possible.”

First-party data is one of the major factors in identity resolution as well — understanding who a user is as they navigate through owned properties. Today, restrictions like Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) which introduces seven-day caps on persistent cookies, third-party cookie deprecation and cross-domain blocking, all mean brands are losing a cohesive view of a customer, reducing the effectiveness of paid media and real-time personalization.

“We need to identify context over multiple user interactions across digital channels — a better way to manage identity in real-time, while remaining compliant,” he says. “Brands need this data to tailor customer experiences and validate transactions, whether or not they’ve authenticated.”

Many brands are tackling this issue with contextual advertising, which reaches those visitors who have opted out entirely. They’ll place ads that are relevant for the user’s immediate actions on the site, rather than the whole customer journey. Celebrus’s own solution is their Identity Framework, which layers an identity graph composed of first-, second-, and third-party identifiers on top of the Celebrus data model. It uses real-time data capture, contextualization and activation capabilities to persist identity. And because it’s a true first-party solution, it’s unaffected by browser restrictions, and doesn’t rely on third-party cookies.

The continuous evolution of the marketing landscape

The number of data privacy and compliance regulations will continue to grow across the U.S. and across the globe, especially as generative AI takes a central role in many business strategies. Companies need to be cautious.

“Invest in robust data privacy and security measures, and transparent consent management — those are the foundations now for what consumers expect of us,” Phillips says. “Ensure you have solutions for data quality assurance and bias detection. And obviously stay informed about evolving data privacy regulations.”

This is, without question, a team game he adds.

“Marketers will need to lean on skills from across the business, cross-functional teams,” he says. “That’s the way we stay on the right side of compliance and consumer trust.”

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