Digital marketing is here to stay. It’s hard to imagine a world without smart devices in our pockets. But increasingly, we’re also becoming more aware of privacy controls.
In 2020, we experienced worldwide disruption. With that, we saw even more change in online behavior. Digital ad spending increased by 12.7 percent, making total ad spending just over $455 billion.
This growth is fueled by the fact that it’s easier than ever to advertise online. Digital marketing encompasses a variety of platforms, all of which can be up and running in seconds, providing you with real-time data you can use for making decisions about business growth. You can run ads on Google, Amazon, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter. They can be built for access on desktops or phones, browsers or apps. And the demographics you can collect and utilize are unlike any other marketing media we’ve ever used.
What used to be considered the Wild West is now being reined in. As the landscape of digital marketing changes, we’re seeing a more educated individual user understanding the process and pushing back at how much data they are willing to hand over.
Do we really want online marketers to know every little thing we do and place we visit and deep-dive into our daily habits?
And if our ideas as consumers change, the way we market has to change right along with it. What does that mean for your future as a digital marketer?
Why Privacy Became an Issue
You only have to open up your favorite news source to find a story about a data breach. They occur with such frequency that we rarely give it a second thought. They are becoming more damaging over time.
In 2016, a data breach at MySpace exposed 360 million records, leaving account names, emails, and passwords vulnerable.
In 2017, a River City Media breach exposed 1.37 billion records, compromising names, IP addresses, physical addresses, and emails.
We witnessed the biggest year ever of data breaches in 2019, exposing 1.2 billion records at People Data Labs, 885 million records at First American Corporation, and 540 million records at Facebook/Cultura Colectiva.
Of course, those breaches are just the tip of the iceberg. Chances are, you’ve been notified once or twice yourself about the potential risk. It’s become so common, we may not like it, but we accept it as a part of life.
That doesn’t mean we aren’t working hard to solve the problem. That’s where it gets more interesting as a digital marketer.
Companies and governments adopt policies to meet users’ demands for higher privacy rules and more transparent data sharing. The EU put forth the GDPR in 2018. California put CCPA into effect in 2020. In 2021, Google announced it would stop selling ads based on a person’s browsing habits, while Apple released iOS 14, which requires users’ permission to use tracking techniques for advertising.
What’s a Digital Marketer To Do?
Before we develop a marketing plan for moving forward, it’s important to understand what personal information is considered part of privacy controls. It includes information such as:
- Contact information, including name, address, phone number, and email
- Identifiable details such as date of birth, Social Security number, driver’s license number, and IP address
- Financial information, including credit card numbers and bank accounts
- Usage information, including cookies, tracking details, and prior visits
This is just the starting point. If you’ve been marketing for any length of time, you probably see many of your old approaches being lumped into this new way of life. When you used to dive deep and define your prospects on a personal level, what do you do when that information is no longer available?
How digital marketing coexists with privacy controls
Advertising on Facebook, for example, once was an open road. You could fully define your customers and create marketing messages that worked incredibly well. If you wanted to reach a 40-year-old homemaker with 2 kids who loved reading sci-fi, you could target that person and deliver ads that matched their interests and hobbies.
As businesses, we became well versed at personalizing each message. Because it was easy to create ads, even easier to target specific interests, you could create multiple ads, each designed to speak directly to the consumer.
And understandably, consumers were a bit skeptical. Even back in 2019, Gartner predicted businesses would abandon personalization by 2025 because of the perils of customer data management. We’re seeing that play out now.
It’s a fine line between keeping users who buy smart devices and use services like Facebook or Google happy and giving marketers who spend money advertising what they want at the same time.
Optimize digital marketing processes
Instead of relying on advertising platforms to target specific demographics, it will fall back on digital marketers to be better equipped with their techniques. That means:
- Collecting your own data
- Being resourceful for how you reach out to your audience
- Continually respecting what privacy means
Create better content. Be sure it aligns with your branding and that your prospects and client base recognize you for what you have to offer.
Be aware of what your audience wants and where they hang out. Your goal now is to think ahead of where your customers will be and provide them with the content they most want to consume.
Monitor your ads and tweak them for more recognition. Personalization is good—but only to a point. If you’re specific with who you target, you can reach out in ways that speak to a group without getting overly creepy. Transparency is good in all aspects of digital marketing today. Let people see who you are and what you’re about early and stick with messages that resonate.
Digital marketing is changing. But as long as you’re aware of how privacy controls are impacting top platforms and how you can continue to reach out in ways that people enjoy, you can find your way to a future that’s full of promise.