Earlier this month Google signalled that it has surrendered a key front in the secret and massively complicated nerd-war being waged by Apple and others in the name of user privacy and security.
Google quietly announced via its developer platform that it will be phasing out the manner in which it collects, stores and sells consumer information gathered by its super-dominant Chrome browser. Unsurprisingly, given that this information is the lifeblood of its advertising business it is committing to an awfully long sunset period of two years with lots of income-statement covering caveats.
According to Geoff Cohen, partner at DYDX and former CEO of 24.com, in theory, this is a win for consumers. “It can’t really be argued that removing weaponised data from the hands of increasingly intrusive, unequally regulated, marketing superpowers is at face value a bad thing,” says Cohen.
But like the introduction of GDPR in Europe the way this particular retreat plays out may have some significant collateral damage impacting marketers, media owners and oddly further consolidating power in the hands of established platforms.
Cohen explains the winners and losers of these changes:
- Consumers, kind of. Anything that protects consumers from needless exploitation is a good thing, but a large part of the functionality and frictionless when expect from our digital products is derived from the gathering of relevant data and behaviour.
- Facebook, Amazon and Google will be able to increase the amount they charge marketers to access their logged in, permissioned walled gardens in social, commerce and search. Other channels that have sizeable user data/registered consumers will have a marginally stronger hand, but not nearly as strong as the platforms.
- Adtech/Martech vendors clamouring to design, market and sell the latest technology suite and attendant three-letter acronym to increasingly swamped and confused marketers.
- Prospecting over remarketing. Without tracking and granular analytics, marketers will be forced to review their strategies, increasingly focusing on building top-funnel acquisition and brand building rather than aggressive remarketing and follow me everywhere ads.
- CRM and owned audiences. Registrations and utilizing every single available data stream will become, quite rightly, the norm. Direct communication, bypassing the platforms, will become the single largest potential for marketers in an anonymous world.
- Media owners who relied on user data to package and sell their readers in Google and Facebooks marketplace. Unless there is a concerted effort to form login, partnerships providing a scaled audience the media owners will again be forced to accept lower prices.
- Google, despite the long lead time it has given itself, the business is under significant regulatory pressure with competition complaints about market dominance being registered across the world. This is going to be a tricky time for them and could lead to some messy commercial outcomes.
- Digital analytics software is going to see a large drop in accuracy and granularity. For years business owners have relied on the insights provided by user data and behavioural tracking but in an anonymous world, these changes and we can expect to see a lot more “sample” data than the granularity we have come to expect.
Overall, these changes are overdue. The pendulum in digital marketing and user experience has swung all the way to creepy from contextually relevant and this is the impact of the broader market pushing back. Asking for a bit more respect and duty of care. “We should enjoy while it lasts before the pendulum swings back again as it inevitably will,” concludes Cohen.