GDPR Marketers Will Need to Think Outside the Box if They Want to Target Consumers at Scale

Later this month, the biggest shake-up to data privacy in 20 years becomes official—representing one of the most significant shifts in how businesses collect, use and store consumer data. There’s no doubt that brands are having to completely re-evaluate how they record, track and serve ads to consumers.

But contrary to what many may deem as a doomsday event, the new regulations open doors to a brighter future. It forces an entire industry to re-evaluate some of the classic tools for audience engagement and begin to place more emphasis on the origins of both 1st and 3rd party data—while discovering new and unknown audiences without a reliance on cookies. Likewise, it encourages marketers to think outside the box when it comes to targeting and truly engaging consumers and maximizing ROI.

Trust needs to be restored

While control has been clearly cited as a key constituent of GDPR, experience and trust sit firmly alongside as key outputs for the consumer. There is no doubt that many consumers have become disillusioned with the quality of ads that are constantly disrupting their browser experience, as well as concerned about the way their data is being used following several high profile breaches. They are now seeking value, positive experiences and efficiency from the brands they engage with and need to feel confident that their data is not being used as a tool for manipulation. Not to mention, the recent fallout from the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal will force brands to work even harder to win back the trust of the consumer.

The success of ad-targeting in this environment will depend on brands’ abilities to deliver what consumers want. Opt-in and consent is more likely to be won by those who provide real value while remaining transparent; brands will need to prove why they should have a place on screens, news feed and in inboxes.

The solution: getting to know your customers

The GDPR will encourage brands to better leverage their own first-party data in creating targeting profiles. The information curated from a brand’s own customer base is valuable, and in most cases highly accurate to the brand who owns it. Understanding the characteristics, patterns and trends of people who are regularly buying from a brand delivers effective insight that can be used to identify new audiences with similar traits and behaviours.

The importance of ‘relevance’ has never been disputed in advertising, but the way this has been achieved in the past has been lazy; it’s not enough to just follow someone around the internet based on past behaviours. If someone viewed an item of clothing a week ago, it’s likely they could have already made a purchase in-store; it therefore makes little sense to retarget said person. It’s now time to find ways of being hyper-relevant to consumers by targeting them based on what they’re engaging with in the moment.

Brand interactions online will therefore need to be contextually intelligent, meaning brands should have sensors on every digital asset to understand what their users are reading or viewing, and the context within which this is being presented. Understanding page content during a moment can paint a more accurate picture of an audience and predict the profiles most likely to gravitate towards it. Subsequently, this informs the best-suited ad content to serve in that moment. The focus needs to shift away from how consumers might have behaved previously, and on to the immediate context. This way, advertising becomes a lot less irritating and intrusive, forming the basis of a more mutually beneficial relationship between customer and brand.

Maximizing ROI

By shifting the focus onto nurturing the users they already have, brands have a good chance of adding value with each interaction. This produces more meaningful performance data, which is also proprietary to the brand. GDPR will change how marketers approach customers, which will in turn prove more worth in the consumer’s life. By getting to know the customer better, brands can serve ads to a more engaged and receptive audience base – those who recognize the benefits of this will reap the financial rewards.

The next step for intent-focused marketers will be to predict what consumers will be interested in tomorrow and be able to react to changing agendas as opposed to just setting them. An obsession with the actual customer journey will serve a much more engaged audience base – and ultimately lead to less wastage.

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