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Last year’s update to Apple’s privacy policy is one of those events where the worried predictions ended up being exactly what transpired: The significant reduction in marketers’ ability to personalize and target ads based on consumers’ digital behavior and the downstream impact on the social media giants’ ad revenue.

Even worse, the dollars still being spent by Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) have become less effective. Sure enough, by some measures, ROI plunged nearly 40%. This new environment has marketers scrambling. But it hasn’t changed their behavior dramatically yet.

Marketers are still acting as if we live in an advertising world enriched by an almost unlimited amount of available data. Many have yet to pivot in the way I think would help them most: By realizing that, in this post-privacy age where marketers are given less information about individuals or their digital consumption across other applications, it makes it vital to engage with customers immediately after they express interest.

Human-centered interaction

Consider this example: I recently did a search online for kids’ bikes and discovered a wasteland of old-world advertiser thinking: Everything I saw, from the high-priced top four Google pay-per-click (PPC) links to all those fortunate enough to be listed afterward, was basic. A simple link back to a site.

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Maybe those who clicked through to the site would see an ad for a flash sale or some other enticement. More noticeable was what I didn’t see: Any attempts at engagement.

I’m referring to the sort of human-enabled interaction that many marketers still believe (incorrectly, I think) will not scale effectively. These include click-to-message or click-to-call prompts, which engage highly interested, possibly motivated consumers in fewer clicks (with a lot less frustration) as opposed to them finding them on their own.

In an ideal world, consumers are engaged with a resource — human or otherwise — that help them understand their options and propel an eventual purchase.

Driving conversion in a world where you have less information about a potential buyer requires a different approach. This means putting in place channels for conversion at every opportunity, rather than simply asking those same consumers to do their own homework, engage passively with a website, and expect the same results as when you could count on some degree of interest from those you targeted (later) with a link or discount.

Exchanging value

It is not enough to assume that each person you reach is the ideal demographic candidate for your product, especially those that require a high amount of consideration. Some exchange of value still needs to take place, where marketers are providing something a customer needs — which in most cases is just more information — in exchange for their attention and, hopefully, their loyalty.

If these requirements weren’t necessary, mattress stores or any physical retail would no longer exist. That they still do is proof that consumers are after something beyond just a transaction and proof that it is now a digital marketers’ challenge to re-create the three-dimensional relationship that still exists in-person in a one-dimensional world.

Apple’s privacy policy change revealed in many ways just how lazy some marketers had gotten. They had become accustomed to an environment where they could learn as much as they wanted about each and every customer by watching signals closely for future buying behaviors.

Yet the absence of that world doesn’t mean marketers are doomed. It simply means that they need to find new and creative ways to accomplish their goals, including relearning some old lessons they may have forgotten.

Nick Cerise is chief marketing officer of TTEC, a technology-enabled services company providing customer experience, engagement and growth solutions to clients worldwide.

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