The changing face of digital marketing and analytics
Published on February 01, 2021 Last modified on April 28, 2022
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Effective marketing, at its core, is a balance of three things: 1) developing the right product or service, 2) crafting the right message, and 3) serving this message to the right audience.
Over the years, this third factor has relied heavily on the ability to identify users through personal information collected online. But recently, the advent of stricter data protection laws and an overall public shift to a more privacy-centric mindset have rendered this information scarcely accessible, and online marketers are left scrambling for ways to fill the gaps.
Marketing, analytics, and data privacy
Marketing is largely dependent on insights gained from web or app analytics, and analytics is only as effective as the data that it has access to—so while there are certainly different factors that have played into how digital marketing has changed significantly over the past year or so, it’s safe to say that data privacy is probably the most prominent nudge to this evolution.
On the one hand, data privacy is definitely an important matter that everyone should concern themselves with, not just on a personal level, but also in business—respecting users’ choices and consent on which of their data can be collected and used is always a good step towards building trust with potential customers.
On the other hand, though, it can’t be denied that stricter data privacy laws like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), as well as most browsers’ initiative to block third-party cookies by default, have rendered most analytics and conversion reports more or less unreliable. When you don’t have a complete picture of your data, it can be hard to make credible observations, and harder still to draw conclusions.
So where does this leave online business owners and digital marketers? If recent trends are any indication, it looks like there’s a need for some shift in our perspective.
Where do we go from here?
Late in 2020, Google has released new resources and features designed to help marketers navigate this slightly changed terrain of advertising and selling online:
Consent Mode (beta), which introduces new tag settings that enable website owners to track and measure web events, including conversions, while respecting user choices and consent regarding cookies; and
Google Analytics 4, the ‘new generation’ of Google’s renowned web analytics product, which introduces more user-focused metrics, smarter insights and enhanced reporting capabilities.
We’ll explore these two new technologies in more detail in the next blogs in this series, but it’s first worth noting some general conclusions that we can draw from these recent developments, as to where marketing and analytics are headed in 2021:
1. A cookie-less future
We’re likely not going back to a time where user information collected through cookies is freely available for use in targeting and personalization, and as such, it’s time to stop thinking in terms of ‘workarounds’ and ‘alternatives’ to user tracking; rather, it’s time to start considering what enhanced opportunities are now available to us in this changing marketing landscape.
2. Data gaps will be normal
“We’ll have gaps in data altogether and this is going to be true of all measurement providers,” according to Russell Ketchum of Google Analytics, as reported by Search Engine Land.
As users rightfully get more control on how their personal information is collected and shared online, we’ll also get to see less and less of the data-rich insights we’ve been used to basing our marketing decisions on. The key, then, is to focus on the information that we still do get, and if necessary, adapt new metrics that are better fit to these data.
3. AI and machine learning
As the industry continues to make strides in AI and machine learning, it’s probably not long until we can fill in the data gaps discussed above with insights from predictive analytics, machine learning, and statistical modelling.
Although these are not a match for “real-life” data, it’s probably not right to dismiss them as lesser alternatives either. In some cases, AI reports may even provide smarter insights than we can come up with in our analysis of “normal”, actual data.
In the next blogs, you’ll find how these general conclusions about recent trends are reflected in Google’s latest releases. We’ll be discussing Google Consent Mode and Google Analytics 4—how they work and how they can be implemented in your website and marketing strategy, as well as firsthand insights from our team’s own experience of using and testing them out in our own sites.
If your business relies on online presence and advertisement, the time is now to start learning and experimenting with these new technologies to help you prepare for what’s ahead.