It’s time to talk about a favorite topic among my B2C marketing colleagues: data deprecation. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, this won’t be the first time you’ve heard of the four forces — cookie deprecation, privacy regulations, walled garden restrictions, and consumer privacy-related actions — making it difficult to collect and activate consumer data at scale for marketing and advertising purposes.

Over the past few months, we’ve seen more details emerge around Google’s intent to deprecate its third-party cookies, Apple’s changes to IDFA (Identifier for Advertisers), and new privacy regulations. While the future of data-driven marketing seems a bit unclear, Forrester sees a future where data is fragmented and marketing strategies across targeting, measurement, personalization, and tracking will widely vary depending on goals and data availability.

As these forces whirl, Forrester recommends marketers take four immediate actions to prepare their data-driven marketing practice:

  1. Evaluate your data collection and usage practices. Before making any changes to targeting or personalization approaches, marketers need to understand what types of data they’re collecting and using and determine if data restrictions will impact marketing activities. For instance, financial services brands that already rely primarily on first-party data will be less impacted than manufacturers that use a lot of third-party data for programmatic advertising. Best practice dictates a privacy-first marketing strategy, where marketers pursue data-driven activities only when truly value-adding and appropriate. Another example: When identity-based targeting really isn’t needed, such as in pure prospecting efforts, marketers must wholly invest in less intrusive forms of targeted media buying, such as cohort- or other non-audience-based approaches.
  2. Collect zero- and first-party data. Brands should prioritize their owned data assets and direct relationships with consumers. Forrester recommends collecting first-party transactional data as well as zero-party data — information that consumers volunteer about their preferences and interests, usually in exchange for a benefit or perk. Brands can use this data instead of trying to infer things like behaviors, context, and intent through sketchy tracking mechanisms.
  3. Invest in privacy standards across your marketing efforts. Rather than leaving privacy as an afterthought (or neglect it altogether), proactively think about consumers’ privacy and how to protect it. Privacy by design is legally required under the General Data Protection Regulation, but all marketers should apply its principles across the organization and adopt a “just because we can, doesn’t mean we should” mindset. In other words, just because you have the technology to manipulate customer data for a specific purpose does not mean you have legal clearance — nor the approval of your prospects and customers — to do so. Assess your privacy proficiency, and apply the principles to your marketing strategy.
  4. Test new marketing approaches. Conventional approaches to targeting, attribution-based measurement, personalization, and identity are about to get a lot harder. Test alternative approaches for targeting (such as building direct publisher relationships), and interrogate existing identity, advertising technology, and media partnerships for clarity on process, intermediary players, impression hops, and data leakage points or injections. For measurement, use customer identity data that maps out ad exposure across the journey for people-based measurement. And use campaign-specific data, like impressions, in your advanced measurement models.

Data deprecation is happening whether you like it or not. Make it a priority to adapt your marketing practices now. Read our report to learn more and stay informed on this evolving issue by requesting an inquiry.