2019 has been a fairly tumultuous year for marketers. The first fines began to hit brands for GDPR breaches and the previous years’ Cambridge Analytica scandal continued to rumble-on, keeping privacy firmly in the spotlight with negative headlines and a high-profile Netflix dramatization. 

But it wasn’t all bad. Marketers eschewing the third-party data sets that got them into hot water in the first place were the starting klaxon for rebuilding trust with privacy-conscious consumers, and we learned that the majority of consumers will share personal data and preference insights in exchange for product recommendations and better personalization.

2020 promises to be just as chaotic, with the enactment of the CCPA in North America and web browsers ceasing cookie tracking, but for marketers focused on building more meaningful connections with consumers and delivering a better customer experience, it will be an exciting 12 months. Here is my 2020 vision. 

Marketers to tackle the personalization and privacy paradox

The new era of privacy has created a catch-22 for marketers. Today’s consumer expects true personalization, bespoke content, and tailor-made product recommendations. But this is a headache when contrasted with government legislation for increased privacy, tighter data controls, and consumer demands for their privacy to be respected by the brands, technologies, and platforms they use. This fundamentally rips up the status quo for how martech and adtech businesses currently operate. 

Over the coming 12 months, iOS updates will continue to double down on enhanced privacy features, behemoth browsers will fight to be the search engine synonymous with respecting privacy, and marketing clouds will dissipate and pivot to the first-party data marketer. 

If marketers can’t track users through cookies or purchase aggregated third-party data sets, they will need to find a new way to connect with consumers and collect the permissions, preference insights, and purchase intentions they need to power personalized marketing.

Online walled gardens are here to stay... so find a new way

The advertising duopoly of Facebook and Google is not going to pivot to transparency any time soon, so marketers need to cease blindly squandering budgets that are no longer fit for purpose — chasing clicks, eyeballs, and other vanity metrics instead of what actually matters: engagement. 

Digital advertising is already associated with a lack of transparency, fraud, and ad spamming, resulting in the lowly engagement rates and poor performance we see today. However, the online walled gardens are reluctant to share the depth of granular campaign metrics one would expect from any other partnership. 

We’re already seeing behemoth brands like P&G (responsible for the world’s second-largest advertising budget — $6.75 billion in 2019) decide they are going to build out their own customer data to track consumer engagement, and 2020 will see more of the same with brands going direct to consumer and offering a value exchange in return for the preference data they need to engage with them over every digital channel.

The maturity of zero-party data economy 

It is possible for marketers to collect the permissions and self-reported preference data they need to build lasting and meaningful relationships with consumers. This is zero-party data.  

Business analyst Forrester describes this as a class of data that “a customer intentionally and proactively shares with a brand.” It includes purchase intentions and personal context. 

However, this isn’t first-party data with a millennial rebrand. First-party data is collected during sales and includes things like past purchases, mailing address, date of birth and the like; purchase history, rather than purchase intentions.

Marketers can collect zero-party data by asking, rather than inferring, and by offering a tangible value exchange, consumers are willingly and intentionally sharing.

2020 will see marketers better personalize their marketing efforts, services, offers, and product recommendations through zero-party data, constantly evolving and audience building, and keeping data accurate, relevant, and current.

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