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AIM 2021 Webinar Recap - Compliance in the Digital Age

There’s been a flood of consumer advertising from Apple and Facebook calling attention to new consumer data privacy rules designed to benefit consumers.

These new regulations also affect marketers, particularly those who rely on finely tailored, customized audiences, for instance, from Facebook.

The team from G5 spoke about this new environment during an AIM Webinar “Compliance in the Digital Age,” hosted by Joshua Tree Media.

A patchwork of state laws – led by the recent California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which was borne from the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) a few years earlier– has created confusion and challenges about what companies and marketers can do with consumer information. More specifically, Facebook, Apple and Google must operate with these uneven regulations.

The ability to study users’ online activity is a potential boon for marketers who rely on users’ interests to conduct targeted marketing campaigns. Consumers’ online behavior is tracked by “cookies,” which are small text files that are stored on a device to store preferences and track activity.

Variations include first-party cookies, which are put on your device directly by the website you are visiting; and third-party cookies, which are placed on your device, not by the website you are visiting, but by a third-party such as advertisers or an analytics system.

Tracking Users Across Websites & Apps

Google Chrome will no longer support third-party cookies by 2022. This will mean that Google will only allow cookies originating from the website domain that the user is visiting to be stored on that user’s device. Tracking users across the web therefore becomes much more challenging.

This will reduce clarity into your renters’ journey and make it difficult to determine which advertising campaigns are working well versus those that are not.

Separately, Apple proactively decided it would require its users to opt-in to having data shared across apps on its iOS 14 platform. This will likely impede advertising companies like Facebook’s ability to collect user information from anywhere outside of their own apps.

Will many choose to opt-in to allow cross-app tracking? G5 anticipates that over 60 percent will decline. Many consumers have become leery about sharing their info since 2018 when the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal grabbed headlines, giving consumers a deeper understanding of how important tracking consumer behavior is to online marketers.

The number of consumers who choose not to opt-in will have a significant impact on the overall advertising world, particularly any marketers who use lookalike and custom audiences and target ads to very tightly tailored groups through Facebook to create low-funnel web conversions, the panel says.

“[Requesting that users opt-in for cookies] is not a change required by law, it’s a decision Apple has made on its own,” Thomas Lavallee, Senior Director of Compliance, G5, says. “Did Apple choose to make this decision so they could become the exclusive owner of user data so that marketers have to come to them to conduct their advertising? That’s possible.”

What to Do About All of This?

Panelist David Holman, Data Analytics Product Manager, says, “For users, the cookies decision is a good thing. For marketers, I’d say, ‘Don’t panic,’ Facebook is not going to suddenly become irrelevant because they aren’t following you all day.

“Facebook is already putting in place aggregated tracking mechanisms. Apple is, too. They now will obscure your personal information, but observe your behaviors. But no longer are they following you, for example, on your email app.”

Big tech companies don’t want to violate data privacy rules because it will anger consumers, Holman says. Behavior modeling will be their new tracking method, he says.

“Marketers need to track quality signals from all their networks,” Holman says. “For example, they need to see what data comes out of Facebook for them, and also be checking on all of their marketing data sources. You will decide how valuable those leads are, and if you have the right system, you’ll be able to see this at scale and automate those responses. You’ve been doing this already. You just need to get better at it.”

Holman said marketers can get out in front of this somewhat contentious issue by changing the narrative as such:

  • Rather than letting your renters assume the worst, share with transparency how your property does and does not use data.
  • Work with partners committed to ongoing compliance with data privacy regulations, and data transparency for both marketers and their customers.

Meanwhile, within your own ecosystems, “make sure you know how to capture as much data as necessary and store that data intelligently through your CRM and property management systems (like Google does through its browser), and then track that data on your site and use it intelligently,” Holman says.

When Consumers Opt-Out

Given consumers’ heightened focus on their personal data, it’s important for apartment companies to know what information they are collecting (and holding) from their visitors and make that information available on the disclosures page of their websites.

Not only can website visitors opt out from cookies, they may submit a Data Subject Access Request (DSAR), demanding that the company delete their data wherever it may be stored. This can be a real challenge to manage, particularly given that rules pertaining to handling data vary by state.

Eventually, uniform national rules may be decided, Lavallee says.

How a company will address this should be included in their privacy policy found in the disclosures section of their website.

“But the key is that you need to be prepared to respond,” Lavallee says. “You don’t want to wait to figure out your DSARs policy, because it will create a bit of a panic. There are statutory deadlines to get this done. And it’s not just about what information is in your database; it can be paper files, invoices that your payment department has, or things that could be in your property management system.”

Lavallee says companies could think about who is making the DSAR requests, and examine whether they have the right to ask for it, based on what state they are in.

“You might not have to do anything at all,” he says. “And if it’s billing, there are reasons and situations where you wouldn’t have to take specific actions.”

How to Still Make Ad Campaigns Effective

How can marketers run effective advertising campaigns if prospective renters stop sharing their info? G5 says marketers can have a robust first-party customer data platform that is built intelligently – one that supports removal by hitting a few keys, and it’s wiped clear – but better is using one that is able to obscure that personal data.

“Use behavioral modeling to make the most of what you are able to observe,” Holman says. “Think: How do we look at the data we do have, and then look for broad patterns on what people are doing at scale.

This helps you to make the right decisions. It also helps to avoid targeting individuals, and seeing beyond their erratic individual journeys, and thereby not getting lost in those gaps.”

In summary, renters are more informed and more empowered, and many are choosing to limit their tracking. Regulations are erring on the side of the user’s data safety and privacy.

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