The next big regulation; ‘cookie law’ will cease personalisation practices

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Is GDPR now a distant memory for most businesses? I highly doubt it. However, there is a new regulation on the horizon – ePrivacy. Also known in some circles as the “cookie law”, it is set to cause another headache for businesses whilst they’re still trying to settle into the new GDPR routine.  

Predominantly focused on marketing efforts, this will replace the old ePrivacy directive which informs the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations. It will introduce new regulations over marketing, like GDPR did, focusing on electronic communications - devices, processing techniques, storage, browsers and the like. Unless someone has bought from you before, you will need consent to contact anyone you want to sell to, including other businesses. This is set to be a big change for B2B marketers as they have never had to ask for consent before and it will make it more difficult for SMEs to find new business.

However, the biggest shake-up will be in the world of digital marketing, where internet browsing companies will become the gatekeepers of online targeted advertising. The regulation from Europe is approaching fast and is currently forecast for the end of 2018. It will play havoc with the advertising methods many businesses have in place. With users facing cookie request pop-ups and the ability to opt-out of cookies at a browser-level across all devices, marketers have estimated as much as a 40 per cent drop in web traffic for their businesses.  

Some headway was made for businesses earlier this summer when the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council debated the regulation and softened the rules somewhat. However, browser providers will still be obliged to inform end-users about the privacy settings at the time of installation, first usage and when updates take place and alter the privacy settings.  

The pressure is on for businesses and how they advertise, and it isn’t going away any time soon. Our recent research report discovered that 30 per cent of marketers in the UK and France are planning to reduce the amount of cookie-based display, paid search and retargeting they carry out in the immediate aftermath of the new regulations having a profound effect on how re-targeting operates.

Businesses who find themselves reliant on cookies, whether they are B2B or B2C companies, are at severe risk of losing a key source of behavioural data from current and prospective customers. This is going to leave the relevant teams under pressure to find a sensible and legal alternative to this, which can compensate for the significantly large data hole that is going to be left. They won’t have the same insight about their customers.  

Sorry for eating all of your cookies  

Despite the impending regulation, cookies are still used all the time across lots of areas of the digital ecosystem. We also recently discovered, whilst 85 per cent of marketers are confident they know the difference between ePrivacy and GDPR, 93 per cent of companies are still using cookie-based advertising to target their customers.

Across the UK and France, cookies are crucial in storing customer information such as addresses, phone numbers and payment information (55 per cent). They also play a crucial role in tackling basket abandonment, with just over two fifths of respondents (42 per cent) using cookies captured on their website to save shopping baskets or wish lists.

It is the ability to extensively track user activities, where they visit and what they look at whilst on a brands website, and cookie-based advertising that is at threat from ePrivacy. Internet users will have the ability to set browser-level cookie permissions, which could potentially mean the extraction of millions of consumer datasets from brand view.

What could you do instead?

It is probably no surprise that 31 per cent of UK marketers believe that Google Analytics data is the most important information they collect from cookies. This vital data provides businesses with the ability to view who their customers, or potential customers are, and outlines the best way to reach them online through digital advertisements. Therefore, it really is time for businesses to wake up and begin preparing for this.  

Our research did highlight that among the businesses who are thinking about this already, the immediate response will be investment in direct communication channels. These would be comprised of social messenger services (72 per cent) and email (79 per cent) to reach customers. This approach is a sensible one, as many live chat and chatbot interactions are started by the customer themselves. This means that the information has been offered up by the consumer, in exchange for support from a member of staff at the other end who can provide real-time help and quick responses to customer queries.   

The popularity for these channels has soared in the last year or so. They can gather a lot of information about customer needs quickly, allowing for businesses to improve and provide a better customer experience online. Another bonus is that during the chat conversation, consent can also be given for further communication via other channels.

Get out of my personal space  

Another concern in the face of ePrivacy, is the discovery that more than half of marketers (54 per cent) admit they still purchase lists of third-party data from data sales houses or other large site and system operators. Businesses purchase these lists as a sales tactic, but also for marketing campaigns. Not only is this a practice that could put businesses at risk of chunky fines for breaching GDPR requirements, it is also an archaic tactic that needs to stop before ePrivacy comes into force.  

Sharp brands should have already considered that ePrivacy will redefine the limit of personalisation based on the available data sources. They will have tactics in place to gain a clearer picture of the information they track, and will also plainly outline to customers why they will receive a better experience and gain an advantage if they provide access to their data to be tracked – such as saved lists and better website navigation. This will also encourage customers to trust brands with their personal information. Not least, because the most popular lead generation methods will soon be through more personal routes such as LinkedIn and Facebook Lead Ads (71 per cent). This surpasses events (59 per cent) and content marketing (39 per cent).

Show the value

Brands need to meet their customers’ needs at any moment in time and the way they will do so is by tailoring all offers to suit them. This will build a competitive advantage among competitors and allow brands to be the business leading the charge in this area – a source of inspiration for others. They will need to ensure they rely less on ad retargeting tactics, and put resource into creating qualitative data insights to build campaigns that customers invest in. The longer-term opportunity of browser-level cookie approval means both B2B and B2C brands will have to focus strategically on how they can grow and maintain the most valuable customer insights.

Judy Boniface-Chang, Chief Marketing Officer, Mailjet
Image Credit: NakoPhotography / Shutterstock