By Jürgen Galler, CEO and Co-founder of 1plusX
Since the inception of digital, data has been the linchpin for marketing success. However, global privacy regulations have led to a series of changes, including Google’s phasing out of third-party cookies on Chrome and the introduction of Apple’s ATT framework, significantly restricting the ability to collect and use data for tracking users across the web and mobile.
As the onus has fallen on the industry to find privacy-friendly ways for companies to identify and connect with their consumers, first-party data has been cited as a viable way to inject new life into the marketing engine. Merkle’s 2021 Customer Engagement Report found that 52% of marketers were prioritising first-party data collection and 88% saw this as imperative in the coming six to 12 months.
While there’s no doubt first-party data will play a big part in marketers’ post-cookie strategies, it’s only half of the story. The other half is about implementing advanced technologies to fully capitalise on first-party data, in particular AI-enabled tools.
These technologies are shaping a new era of marketing; one where companies are able to implement data-driven strategies while ensuring privacy compliance. Here I explain how they can help achieve that.
Gaining a better understanding of consumers
It’s expected that e-commerce will account for 22% of global retail sales by 2023, up from 14.1% in 2019. This growth is largely due to the pandemic which led to a surge across many verticals, with online food shopping experiencing a 55% increase, for example. Of course, the rise in online traffic means it’s harder than ever for marketers to cut through the noise and grab consumers’ attention.
One way for marketers to create meaningful connections with their audiences is by delivering outstanding experiences that are tailored to them. Having access to granular user data is key for businesses to better understand what their target audiences engage with and how. Brands such as Netflix and Amazon are already masters of this art, personalising consumer experiences using data on previous online behaviour and buying habits to inform product recommendations.
Nowadays, however, with consumer-brand touchpoints multiplying – think Internet of Things (IoT), for example – and subject to privacy changes, marketers face the challenge of making sense of disparate, incomplete data sets. This is where AI-supported technology can help, pulling together varied data sets and providing useful insights from multiple touchpoints like website interactions, call records, CRM data, and in-app activity for example.
AI-powered automation is also one of marketers’ best allies, making complex and cumbersome data orchestration an easier task to carry out. An additional benefit is also improved data quality. AI functions as a cleansing tool; matching disparate sources, deduplicating and consolidating data, and ultimately increasing its accuracy. These AI capabilities enable businesses to achieve a holistic and more accurate view of the consumer and therefore increase the success of their marketing efforts.
Navigating and predicting market changes
Other advantages of AI solutions lie in their predictive capabilities. With the help of machine learning, a subset of AI, businesses can analyse behavioural patterns in their consumers using both real-time data and historic information to predict future events.
Far from being a conceptual technology, there are real-life benefits for businesses investing in these tools – from simply making better-informed decisions to staying ahead of the curve with the latest trends. Marketers can also be better prepared to switch up their strategies in response to rapid market changes, in a similar way to how many businesses had to pivot to digital platforms during the pandemic.
In a rapidly changing market, accurate and fast data processing combined with a layer of predictive analysis is essential. AI can perform these vital functions better than humans, allowing marketers to look ahead and meet their audiences’ needs even in changeable times. At a measurement level, marketers are also able to compare campaign performance against predicted outcomes, such as conversion, to gauge the effectiveness of their efforts and the efficiency of their investments.
Ensuring transparency and compliance
In this privacy-first world, AI technologies provide valuable solutions for marketers, allowing them to continue connecting with consumers while adhering to ever-stricter privacy regulations.
Digital marketers, for example, are familiar with Google’s FLoC proposal, which enables them to reach groups of similar consumers based on their comparable attributes and browsing histories without personal information being revealed. This system comes from an AI-driven technique called Federated Learning, whereby data is collected and analysed locally within its own server, meaning there’s no need for data collection on a mass, centralised scale.
For example, home assistants like Google Home or Amazon’s Alexa collect users’ previous requests within the device and use these to generate answers that are aligned with the users’ interests. This is without any personal information leaving the device.
In addition to enabling privacy-compliant marketing, AI can also help ensure smoother data collaboration for greater transparency. It’s easier for some brands to collect first-party data than others. To put this into context; businesses in the consumer packaged goods sector, for example, may struggle to collect owned data as their products are sold across marketplaces and retail partners.
AI can help bridge this gap through a combination of cleanroom technology and predictive analytics. These tools allow businesses to compare their own data sets with those of broader consumer cohorts, accessing valuable insights while still respecting consumer privacy.
The evolving nature of digital marketing means that businesses may have to get used to facing continuous challenges. The good news is there are technologies that can help businesses adapt to disruptions and emerge better equipped.
AI-enabled solutions not only allow for analytical speed and precision but also offer strong privacy-compliant tools. With the increased use of these technologies, businesses could see greater efficiency, transparency, and adaptability, which ultimately will strengthen their reputation and connections with their consumers.
About the Author
Jürgen Galler is the CEO & Co-founder of 1plusX. His remarkable career, which includes notable roles at Google Chrome and YouTube, has earned him a solid reputation as an expert in digital business. In 2014, he founded 1plusX combining his experience and passion for digital marketing, machine learning, and artificial intelligence.