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Now that customer data has gone underground again, the magic genie is back in the bottle. That means now is the time to prove that you as advertisers and marketers can juggle engagement and privacy.
About a year ago, consumer data was everywhere and easily accessible. But following data restrictions by Apple, countless consumers have reclaimed their privacy. In fact, consumers not only question the security of their personal data, they also feel that their daily lives are being monitored by companies, according to a recent study by Pew Research.
After the data floodgates started to close, a big problem came to light: many marketers and many companies had become quite lazy. We had the gift of easy data, which helped identify consumer behavior with a fairly high level of confidence. It turns out that adjustment may have been only a modest first step: Google plans to discontinue third-party cookies in Chrome sometime in 2024.
Related: Importance of customer engagement in this day and age
The future of digital advertising
While the Apple changes were one of the first dominoes to fall, the proposed Google changes are also making the entire digital advertising industry nervous as Chrome holds the majority of global browser market share. Google’s move could represent a drastic departure from current methods of targeted advertising. Indeed, I foresee a cookie-free future for digital ads that look a lot less appetizing.
That means the battle for authentic customer interaction needs to adapt and mature. Advertisers and marketers often don’t know what to do to get authentic consumer engagement. This shift away from data-driven, high-confidence sales scenarios means engagement needs to happen as early and often as possible by working to make digital feel more personal.
We all know that clicks don’t necessarily convert to sales or loyalty, but the era of understanding what drives a consumer based on behavioral data such as keyword searches and previous page views is behind us. A consumer’s initial search for a microwave, a car, or a soccer ball may have led to memories popping up later in a social media feed as a nudge. Today, the same search returns dozens of examples that don’t necessarily inform, educate, or sell.
As a result, we’re in a very confusing time for digital advertising, where the old, programmatic best practices – of optimizing cost, scale, and personalized accuracy – are dying out, but new ways to try to optimize digital advertising with personalization aren’t clear. Amidst that uncertainty, the best approach to redefining customer engagement is a back-to-basics approach that, at best, can differentiate brands by helping to build customer trust and loyalty.
Related: Now is the time to get to grips with the new data privacy reality
Redefining customer engagement
For certain purchases, prospects always want some sort of engagement that feels more personal. This means that any company looking to close a sale without that built-in ability to organically understand a customer’s needs and preferences is now faced with creating a three-dimensional relationship in a one-dimensional environment. With less data to go around, purchasing decisions rely more on creating a sense of value exchange by going back to some basics, starting with creating a more human connection.
An age-old solution to this modern problem is a return to selling with insight. Many brands moved from human-assisted selling to 100% digital because the move was more cost-effective at the time. But now is the time to rethink this step. In a world where there is less “easy data,” companies risk spending a lot of money on engagements or clicks that don’t become engagements that convert.
A personal, human element can potentially turn those clicks into an engagement or a sales conversion, creating a sense of value exchange that not only drives engagement, but a confident purchase decision and even better consumer loyalty.
Brand owners will have to work harder to get real know their customers. That is where a meaningful, strategic customer engagement strategy will be decisive. Consumers have lost their appetite for cookies, but they are hungrier than ever for meaningful connections.