Building an eCommerce brand in the age of privacy

Building an eCommerce brand in the age of privacy
Written by
Richard Emanuel
Published on
August 5, 2021
Read time

If you’ve ever set up a retargeting (or remarketing) campaign for your eCommerce store, then you already know how powerful they can be. Using third-party tracking data, you can pick up on purchase intent from your customers, follow them around the internet, and display ads for products they’re already looking for.

Even better, you can use those same trackers to set up automated email, SMS, or chatbot campaigns to begin a conversation about your products. It’s a great way to get your foot in the door at just the right moment.

At least… it used to be.

With new privacy restrictions in place (and more on the way), it’s becoming more difficult than ever to create targeted, relevant campaigns using personal data. Today, we’ll talk about the latest episode in the changing world of privacy, and explain how to update your campaign strategies to cope.

A changing world.

You’ve likely already heard about Apple’s new privacy initiatives from earlier in the year. To recap, their new app tracking transparency scheme (ATT) now requires users to opt-in to data collection when they use third-party apps. The company has also updated it’s App store policy, requiring apps to make it clear what data they’re collecting so users can make an informed choice about the apps they use.

In Q1 of this year, Facebook updated their apps and, thanks to Apple’s privacy labels, came under fire for just how much data they’re collecting. 

Now, Google is facing the same heat, updating their suite of iOS apps a few months ago after a long hiatus. In doing so, they were forced to add Apple’s labels. Now anyone with an iPhone or iPad can see exactly how much personal information Google’s apps are silently siphoning off in the background—and it’s a lot.

Google apps

So much so, that it's raised the hackles for a lot of folks currently using the apps, even prompting cybersecurity writer, Zak Doffman, to call for a boycott of the Gmail app in particular.

Which, if you’re a marketer who currently uses email to sell D2C, is frightening news. A mass exodus of the Gmail app on iOS could be devastating for your campaign performance when Apple updates their software this fall.

Why? Well, if you’ve been reading a lot of tech news lately, you may already know that Apple has a bigger roadmap in mind when it comes to protecting user information on iOS 15. And while that may be a great thing from an ethical standpoint, it gets a little frustrating for anyone who uses the internet to sell products.

The jig is up.

With iOS 15, your open rate data is going to be next to useless.

After the update, anyone using the Apple Mail app will report an “open” on every email the app receives, regardless of whether they’ve actually read the message or not.

So no more real-time follow ups. No more A/B testing your subject lines. No more automated sequences that trigger when someone neglects to read an email you’ve sent them. The jig is up.

On its own, this should be enough to send email marketers into a bit of a panic. According to Litmus, more than 45% of emails are open in Apple Mail—that’s almost half your open rate data wiped out in a single update.

However consider the call for a boycott on the Gmail app mentioned above. If this happens and iOS users leave Gmail en masse, you’ll end up losing their data as well. Painful times ahead, especially if you’re using open rates as a major KPI in your marketing.

Unfortunately this change is coming whether the marketing world likes it or not. So naturally, you’re likely reading all this doom and gloom asking yourself, “what now?”

What can marketers do?

When it comes to your email list, engagement is still key to making a sale. After all, if people aren’t reading your emails then it doesn’t matter how great your discounts are—you need folks to read your sales messages if you want them to buy. The difference is, now you’ll need to take a more active role in driving engagement. Meaning more personalized messaging, better copy, better email design, and a better customer experience.

Additionally, since the update won’t affect clickthrough rates—these are still being tracked across all email clients—we recommend considering clicks as your new engagement KPI. Yes, this makes it more difficult to pinpoint which specific part of your messaging needs improvement. However without reliable open rate data, clicks are your next best thing.

We also recommend looking at adding SMS marketing to your outreach if you’re not doing so already. With an average of 98% open rates (according to CrazyEgg) text marketing is a great place to send messages that actually get read. You can even look at ways to tie the two channels together, especially if you’re using a Shopify-ready tool like Klaviyo.

Finally, consider segmenting your lists based on device. If someone is on an iOS device, don’t bother tracking their opens. But for anyone on Android or Microsoft (gross), feel free to continue testing your subject lines. That said, keep in mind that Apple tends to lay the groundwork when it comes to changes like this. It’s very likely that other smartphone manufacturers will end up following in their footsteps.

What’s more, these latest privacy measures are far from being the last. Retargeting is going to become increasingly difficult as new restrictions are put in place. Our strongest advice is to take steps now to improve your customer experience as part of your brand’s overall digital transformation. 

In other words: build a brand people love to hear from, send messages they enjoy receiving, and collect user feedback at every touchpoint. It’s the only way to future-proof your marketing, no matter what Tim Cook decides to do.

Photo by Szabo Viktor on Unsplash