(Revised and republished from our original article in late February 2022).

There is movement afoot by the big web browser and mobile OS players (that's Google and Apple essentially) to improve the privacy of your customers' personal data.

What is changing and when?

The new changes will prevent:

  • The use of third-party cookies
  • Email marketing platforms from detecting your customer's open/read events

Third-party cookies have been going out of fashion for a while now on some browsers (like Apple's Safari) and will be removed from Chrome (the most popular browser engine) in 2023 (after a brief, recent stay of execution).

Email open and read events on Apple platforms become redundant when iOS15 was launched, others will follow...

What does this mean?

For digital marketers and web site authors using Absolutely Interactive (AI) or similar CMS, email marketing, e-commerce and Marketing Automation (MA) platforms:

  1. Removing the use of third-party cookies means that a user's browsing information cannot be shared beyond the web site that he/she is visiting. This is a major game changer for social and online advertising - gone will be the days (maybe not forever though, see below) when the pair of shoes you have been looking at follow you around the entire Internet...
  2. So, marketers won't be able to use existing big data inferred by big organisations to help you personalise your ad campaigns, etc. Instead, marketers will have to get more savvy about profiling their own CRM data using tools like Marketing Automation and leveraging/embellishing the behavioural and demographic information they already have about their leads and customers - not a bad thing in some ways but nonetheless it will no doubt reshape the online advertising landscape in the short to medium term
  3. Apple have always been keen to minimise the use of third-party cookies in their Safari browser but they are also going further with the privacy of all apps that run on iOS15 and future Mac OS', including their own and third-party email clients, etc.
  4. The effect of email clients preventing standard tracking methods means that your open rates could drop to zero for users on Apple phones, iPads, etc and email read events will occur for ALL iOS email clients making these overall stats entirely useless
  5. Again, the trend will place responsibilities on marketers to infer less from open/read rates and place more emphasis on click-through events (which will still operate correctly). Again, this is no bad thing as post-click tracking and MA behavioural events can deliver more meaningful insights about the links the user chooses from the email after they arrive on your site. This also allows for 'proper web page and e-commerce personalisation', not just the bland form in the guise of generic targeting of emails implied by affiliates

So, we'll be seeing some big changes over the course of the next 12 months but, fortunately, with some preparation this need not effect your AI MA journeys but the unreliable open/read events will certainly affect the AI Email Marketing system (like every other email marketing system out there).

What can you do?

If anything, it places more importance now on effectively tracking, analysing and personalising user actions on your web site and relying less on accurate social ads. Find out how you could personalise any page on your site by person or persona as easily as ABC with AI MA.

Also, if you are an MA user and have customer journeys triggered by Email Open or Email Read events, you will have to re-think these campaigns very soon. It should not be too difficult - for instance if you send an email with a specific link to an offer, don't rely on the open/read data but just substitute this trigger for one that detects the user visiting the linked destination (Visits a particular URL).  

It is likely that Google's initiatives (like FLoC) will come to the fore and use aggregated, averaged, segmentation information to lump users into cohorts and suggest to advertisers that a particular cohort might be interested in 'X'... This will never be as accurate or as effective as using third-party cookie tracking but it could get close over time.

What happens next?

You can start preparing now - emphasise more the valid metrics from user activities on your site rather than relying on email opens and reads.

Ensure that you do not rely on open/read events for your MA journeys and do not include these event types in you lead scoring journeys either - or Apple users will get massive scores for apparently reading every one of your emails when they may not have even opened one personally!

We will watch this space and keep you informed on further changes but if would like more assistance to prepare for these coming changes then please call us on 01908 733360.


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