This week, we investigate why customer data is becoming increasingly inaccessible – and how marketers can survive without it.

The great data drought

Privacy policies are becoming stricter. But could a diminished access to customer data re-order our priorities for the better?

Abby Clark

Business Management

Intelligent Systems Design

4 minute read

Concerns about privacy have never been so abundant – a staggering 90% of Australians1 believing it unacceptable for brands to collect their personal information for the purposes of advertising. With the Australian Government and tech giants like Apple and Google rapidly reworking their privacy policies in response, marketers are left wondering what the future will hold when their well of customer data runs dry. But there’s a drop of hope left.
In short
  • Concern is growing over customer privacy, and the public and private sector are listening.
  • The Australian Government and companies like Apple and Google are making moves to restrict marketers’ access to customer data.
  • Prioritising customer relationships and first-party data could help us understand customers better than before
Dismantling data
Recently, the Australian Government released two sets of privacy papers deemed harbingers of doom for marketers. Both the proposed changes to the Privacy Act2 and draft legislation for an Online Privacy Code3 aim to shift Australian regulations for collecting customer data closer to those of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation.

Essentially, organisations that gather or use personal information will now be governed (think social media, messaging services, and even dating apps), and as a result, marketers will have less access to customer data.

Until these drafts become law, the future is still uncertain. But we can look to the changes already making waves in the private sector for a better idea of what’s to come.
Assessing Apple
Apple’s introduction of Mail Protection Privacy (MPP) is a good indication of the kind of information that will be withheld from marketers.

According to Apple, ‘the new feature helps users prevent senders from knowing when they open an email, and masks their IP address so it can’t be linked to other online activity or used to determine their location.’4

Ultimately, the system used by MPP may now report no opens or false opens on an email. Whatever the number, it can no longer be trusted as an accurate measure of engagement. Other metrics such as click-to-open rate and individual user data (like location and time opened) will also be hidden. And it’s not only MPP paving the path forward. The demise of third-party cookies is also on the horizon, making it clear that our current methods of personalisation won’t hold up for much longer.

“Our current methods of personalisation won’t hold up for much longer.”

Rethinking relationships
The importance of customer relationships is extolled in the sacred lore of marketing, but in reality, marketers have become complacent. The volume of data consistently on tap has made nurturing customer relationships a ‘nice-to-have’. So with the combined onset of Apple’s MPP and the end of third-party cookies, where does that leave us in getting eyes on customers?

This is where first-party data takes centre stage, allowing marketers to recover much of that lost information to segment their audience. But there’s an obvious catch: customers will only give up their information if they trust you.

Research shows5 that brands can offer deals for data, but low levels of trust in a company will make any deal unappealing. Internet giants, media and entertainment companies, and social media firms all rank at the bottom of the list in terms of trustworthiness. So what’s to be done when cultivating a meaningful customer relationship is inextricably linked to your brand’s ability to capture and use customer data?
As privacy becomes a top priority, it’s clear that brands will have to start thinking more carefully about how they connect with their customers. It’s time for marketers to develop a true understanding of what their audience wants – without leaning so heavily on the crutch of data.

on Australia’s Applemania
Globally, iOS mobile operating systems make up 28.21% of the total market share. In Australia, it’s 57.29%. This pronounced preference has been pinned on Aussie Telcos’ early plan packaging, the ‘halo effect’, and seamless data-sharing within Apple’s product ecosystem. Whatever the reason, one thing’s clear: Apple’s MPP is going to hit home.

Marketing moves to survive the data drought

Ensure your email content motivates people to take action for clearer engagement metrics, past open rate.

For automation, use clicks and time-based triggers rather than open-based triggers.

Practice good data hygiene. Regularly clean and update your subscriber lists to avoid email bounce backs and spam complaints from those who have opted out, and to facilitate more accurate reporting.

Consider other channel metrics. Activities like website visits and CTA clicks are more reliable indicators than inbox behaviour.

  1. Author unknown, Australians worried about online privacy but slow to act (6 July 2018) Roy Morgan.
  2. Angelene Falk, Privacy Act Review – Issues Paper (11 December 2020) Australian Government.
  3. Attorney-General for Australia and Mininster for Industrial Relations, Landmark privacy reforms to better protect Australians online (25 October 2021) Australian Government.
  4. Author unknown, Apple advances its privacy leadership with iOS 15, iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey and watchOS 8 (8 June 2021) Apple.
  5. Timothy Morey, Theodore Forbath, and Allison Schoop, Customer Data: Designing for Transparency and Trust (May 2015) Harvard Business Review.

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