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SEO and Paid Media

Nordic Morning Talks: How data is disrupting digital marketing


On September 14th, we hosted our very first episode in a series of talks live on Linkedin which are dedicated to discussing emerging business challenges in the field of digital.

First up we welcomed to the panel; Mira Mäkiranta (Head of Analytics, Helsinki), Rickard Broberg (Head of SEO & Paid Media, Stockholm) and Kevin Mullaney (Martech Lead, Malmö) as we dissect how today's digital marketing landscape is being affected by our access to data.

We covered tech innovations, the evolution of privacy and the role of agencies and digital marketers in supporting businesses through the age of data disruption.

Read the full transcript or watch the video to find out how the privacy goalposts are changing, where we see the biggest challenges and opportunities, which brands are getting it right and how specialists in the Martech field can future-proof strategies...

Over to Kevin, Mira and Rickard!

Kevin Mullaney (KM): This is the first Linkedin Live session hosted by Nordic Morning and it will be one of a regular series of discussions that we're planning on having, bringing in experts and leaders from around our business to talk about the most pressing marketing challenges facing our clients and marketers more broadly today.

So, we will jump straight in at the deep end today with a topic that's been really heating up over the last decade. During 2021 there have been a couple of big announcements around Apple's privacy updates, and the looming Google ban on third party cookies, which will be coming into effect.

So today, I'm joined by two fantastic leaders from our offices in Helsinki and Stockholm.

I'll be your host today. My name is Kevin Mullaney. And I'm no stranger to data, running the marketing technology team in Malmö. And my team comprises of data scientists and analytics and insights specialists, who really helped fuel the great work of our other SEO and paid media consultants.

Without further ado, I'd like to bring in my two guests for today. First of all 've got Rickard, who is the Head of our Owned and Paid Media teams in Stockholm. Rickard, if you could introduce yourself, and also maybe answer the most obvious question, which is, what types of data are we currently using? And how are we putting it to good use for our clients?

Rickard Broberg (RB): I think that is the fundamental question for today's session that we will discuss today. But first, let me take a minute to introduce myself for those who haven't met me already. I have worked with digital marketing for about 14 years, moved to Stockholm from our Orebro about four and a half years ago, and have been at Nordic Morning since then, in various roles, working with the large enterprise business, but also b2c customers as well.

But back to the question. So I think what you're basically asking is a little bit around first party cookie control, third party cookies, and third party cookies is basically something that is installed on your domain that you're not self owning. So the website itself is not the one that is implementing that kind of cookie.

So you usually put a script or a tag on your site, and then you get those third party cookies in there. And why do you do that? Because you can use them for online advertising purposes and to build your audiences. Then you are able to work with them to increase the data and insights, to reach broader audiences that you want to connect with.

KM: Great, let’s now bring in another perspective from Mira who heads up Analytics at our Helsinki office. How are these changes with cookies impacted when we talk about data and analytics in particular?

Mira Mäkiranta (MM): Hello, my name is Mira Mäkiranta, I'm from the Helsinki team leading the data and Insights Team as the Head of Analytics.

I have worked with many kinds of data previously, and for the past 20 years there has been a lot of market research into online measurements, Google Analytics, Adobe as well. To your question - the data that we gather, we gather for marketing purposes. We talked about online measurements in Google Analytics, Adobe's things like that.

The needs are mainly first party cookies, meaning we are talking about activity that is concerning the website where the user currently is. So basically, the third party cookie is not directly affecting this side of things. But of course, every time we want to use that measurement data to something outside our own website, third party cookies come into play. For instance, if we want to do retargeting based on Google Analytics segments, for instance it will affect it.

KM: Great. And I think we kind of alluded to the two sort of big players and big changes happening with Apple and Google. Let's start there. What's been happening recently? And what can marketers expect?

RB: Hmm, good question. There are a lot of things happening, and I hope we can touch upon more of them a bit later on in this conversation. But first of all, the Facebook pixel and the iOS update the iOS 14, particularly, is raising big questions amongst our customers. When it comes to the Facebook pixel and iOS 14 update, and how that will affect Facebook's conversion tracking, the answer to that is that this update. It will inevitably lead to less effective tracking, and therefore less effective ads as the result of that.

As you can understand Facebook wasn’t too happy that Apple was making this announcement. But that has not stopped Facebook so they rolled out their ‘big guns’ and have now released a new API - the conversion API. This combined with the tracking pixel is potentially even more effective than it was before, all while abiding by all data privacy laws.

So at this time, it's great if you can include this thinking into your strategy. There will be even more changes coming from Apple with this iOS 15 update which will come really soon. And we will talk more about that later. I think Mira has some good insights on what's coming as well...

KM: But before we jump to you, Mira, I'm an Android user, so I haven't actually seen anything from Apple. Can you explain what the update means for the users? And then your view on what are we actually losing from a marketing perspective?

RB: Good question. So basically, before you can track the cookies for a longer period of time, 28 days which was decreased down to seven days as is now down to one day.

So the Safari browser itself will delete the cookies now. This as you can imagine is making it hard to track performance over time, combined with being unable to have more than eight events in your Facebook tracking.

So really, you need to be smart about which events you want to track. There are a lot of things happening with Facebook and iOS in this area. But for the Android user, I think for now, it's like no big changes you need to worry about right now.

KM: I see, so I will get better marketing as an Android user for the time being then! Mira, so tell me, what's happening from the Google side?

MM: So I have a couple of things in mind related to Google in general, and especially starting with Google Analytics, how Google has reacted, and what are the recent changes on that side which you need to know about.

First of all, there's a new version of Google Analytics, by far the biggest change in the technology of measurement. So basically, what Google tells themselves is that it's privacy centric by design. What it means in practice is that the new version of Google Analytics will be moving from full individual measurement towards mor like machine learning and modelling which guesses more than actually tracking every single step of the way.

There's completely cookieless measurement available including ip anonymization where the user specific data storage period is a bit shorter. But content is still needed, if that's what the local laws say.

Another thing, which is new or is at least gaining in popularity at the moment is service tracking. So traditionally, if we measure something, whether it's pixels for third party websites, or whether it's Google Analytics tracking, or Analytics tracking in general, traditionally, the pixels and tags have been fired on the browser end.

And then the server side tracking means that instead of firing those on the browser, we're moving them to the server side. What that means is that it gives us, as people who run the website, better control on what information exactly is sent out to different places. Especially as it helps the site control what kind of data or third party pixels are sent out.

Another thing to mention is Chrome ending support for third party cookies. Originally it was supposed to be at the end of this year, but now it's delayed at least one year, maybe the main reason being that the next solution was not fully ready for marketers...

KM: Great. And I mean, obviously, we're talking about the eventual death of third party cookies whenever Google does catch up. What sort of challenges is that presenting for marketers? I know that we're going to talk about solutions later. But um, what sort of problems is that causing right now?

MM: Yeah, if I may continue on that one. There are immediate changes.

First of all, with the use of machine learning and algorithms, algorithms will definitely increase, because there's always some data missing, and that missing part needs to be replaced with something else.

Basically, advertisers and media platforms need to find new ways to send targeted ads, and provide a more secure internet experience. This change has somewhat already started happening as marketing audiences are more and more based on platforms on collected data instead of third party cookies.

But the key is that higher quality data will mean more spot-on target groups who will expect to be advertised to. This will mean that following individual users becomes less crucial because the advertising will be more meaningful to those who accept it.

More often than not we are talking about typical user profiles and groups instead of very specific users. One outcome could be that small companies may have a harder time retargeting their own audience and then bigger advertisers.

Already now, the minimum audience size for retargeting with Google has been set to 1000 users, while only a few years ago, you could almost target personally. And then, of course, in the long run, hopefully at least, end users will slowly but surely learn about why data is collected, what they should give consent to, and how they benefit from it.

To my understanding, the challenge has not been that all marketers acted irresponsibly collecting all possible details. But the main issue has been that if data collection is not open, and the users have had no say in it, it remains a bit unsafe, kind of suspicious, a bit of a black box. So now I think that it's good that it's opening up, and people are learning to understand what the data is used for and what to obtain. Transparency is key.

KM: Great. And, how about you Rickard?

RB: Yeah, I totally agree with what Mira says here.

And from a paid marketing perspective, we need to be really agile with what's coming and look into other alternatives. As Mira pointed out, the main site themselves on the first party data, contextual targeting is a good example of another way of doing ads, where it can be targeting a group of people that likely would be interested in your product.

So you can work it around a little bit. But of course, there is going to have to be a change in perspective.

KM: I think you both would be a bit of a warm blanket making marketers feel a bit better about the options for online marketing right now.

So what I'm seeing with my team right now is that since Apple did its privacy update the numbers are in flux. From a performance marketing perspective the cost per clicks are lower and cost per acquisition are higher right now in general.

These are things that we kind of might have expected. But we're in a kind of in between phase at the moment where you could say that 50% of our data is now not reliable.

What kind of trends and figures are you noticing in your own team’s metrics, dashboards? And how do we kind of work in this sort of environment before Google's third party changes roll out?

RB: I think that it's a really relevant question. And I think with the change that’s happening you could expect that your Facebook ads are less effective than they were before the iOS 14 update.

On the other side of things, if you really rely on Facebook ads to direct audiences towards your goods and services that you might want to sell, or buy, you can expect them to be less relevant, because we are not able to target as accurately as before.

Looking at the bigger picture, you need to sit down and think about whereyour audience really are. And how can you work with them in a better way.

But the immediate solution, if you are relying really heavily on Facebook, is to implement the CAPI, as we talked around before the conversion API. And at the same time doing that still looking at transition towards more server side tracking as we touched on already.

MM: I might also add that, of course, depending on what you use the data for it doesn't mean that it's necessarily useless. That's exactly why machine machine learning will come into place more often in the future to replace the missing parts of the data. And we can consider it as a sample more in the future than nowadays.

KM: Great, and I think we're now halfway through our discussion.

And I think now maybe as a decent sort of inflection point we will now shift our focus from the present to taking a look at the future.

As we have now heard, there will be a fundamental change in marketing operations and businesses at large about the relationship between businesses and customers based on data. So let’s open up that conversation.

How can businesses start to become more customer centric and focus on first party data in a way that's going to be valuable for their customer relationships?

RB: Yeah, I would say all of these updates are a real wake up call for every marketer out there. And around the world.

It's every everything is happening, and particularly in Europe now. But if you're including Facebook, and also probably Google, and they are also trying their best to scramble to find a workaround that we all can get back on track, so to say, so we should still have our faith in them.

As we know, iOS15 is rolling out this week. This update will include new designs and fancy updates, but it's also coming with a new privacy dashboard, which will show which apps are giving permissions to you, and how often they are assessed.

You will get more insights as a user, and it will be easier for you to also opt out of tracking within this kind of dashboard area. So the iOS15 is a really nice update when it comes to privacy for users.

So I think, coming back to this topic, as Mira mentioned before, you will be able to track a lot of data. But now it's time to really think about what data you want to track and have trust in your brand with which users you choose to build up.

Why? Well what do they get back from giving you their data? So I think you should sit down and think about the zero part data, maybe we can explain it as whether or not you have earned the data? I also believe that you need to reconsider your overall marketing strategy if you have both physical stores as well as an ecommerce business. Start to think about those as the same platform for the user. For instance they can one day go into the store and then the next time they buy something it happens on the internet. The customer experience needs to be the same.

You could consider having two different kinds of teams working on it: one is working with the offline experience and the other is working with the online experience, though those need to connect and talk with each other, working this way can be really beneficial.

If you're on the offline side of things, it might be really easy to collect data about users coming to that offline store that you can learn to use on the online. So I think that could be like a major shift that needs to happen on the brand side of things in order to work in a new way to develop customer experience and grow audiences. And, I do think that companies need to be brave to start doing this.

I strongly recommend that everybody start looking at our data driven strategies, how their CRM is collecting data, and upgrading any of those privacy policies today to really get on track with your, with your data, so to say, so set some time aside to kind of look at your privacy.

KM: I think I think you drive home a point worth mentioning in that the rumour mill is rife around what might happen.

And there's not as much certainty as we might hope, especially when you look at some of the other bigger players including Amazon and LinkedIn for example. So Mira, in your view what are the fundamentals that people can actually do to future proof this sort of strategy is going forward?

MM: The big issue with data nowadays is that there's so much of it.

And the problem is that very often, a huge chunk of it remains unused. But especially if we talk about people's own data. The key here is to actually use it.

So being authentic brings real value to the end customers by showing them what they get in return when they provide their personal data to the business. That's one of the key things why this whole discussion about data and privacy has been such a big, big thing.

That's one of the reasons that people haven't really gotten anything in return for the data that they have been providing to the businesses. So I guess that's something that businesses need to keep in mind. You need to give something to get something in return.

KM: I think that speaks to, again, this fundamental shift and kind of the relationships which need to be fostered between businesses and customers.

I mean, this is really bigger than privacy isn't it in terms of how businesses need to operate and foster loyalty, right Mira?

MM: I think it's about being customer-centric, which is a bit of a cliche, but that's where it the value lies for both parties.

RB: And I mean, those companies able to handle consumer data and privacy in the right way will have a clear business advantage.

If they can be relevant to their audience, and only ask for the necessary data they will make an even stronger connection with those users.

And I mean, we have this conversation and do this sort of work for several clients, and help them with a lot of aspects of their digital marketing. And that's what I really like working at Nordic Morning, that we have that full spectrum and can support clients in a number of practical ways.

So in Nordic Morning terms, we can combine our support to them when it comes to their strategies for customer experience. We would support them in the full funnel to build trustworthiness around their brand for their users. The most important thing is to be solid in all of the different touch points that the user is meeting today, because these days, there really are so many different touch points out there.

So combining essential data points, both offline and online as I mentioned before, as well as the first-party data that Mira talked around is the foundation to build on.

KM: And Mira, I think you were the first one to really sort of bring up the first party data advantage.

What sort of business advantages do you really see and what are the things that you can do with first party data that you couldn't with third party?

MM: Well in the long run, it's really about building the relationship with the customer. And those companies which have people signed in to their services, will have the full contents of their first party data. But here they will also get something in return, meaning that we will be working with better data from our clients.

This then means that we can serve them better, because good targeted messaging can also be an essential part of customer service. So I think it's definitely an advantage in business to have that kind of data, when it makes sense to your business.

KM: Great, so what are the key pillars which businesses should be really focusing on right now to get up to speed and get ahead of this?

MM: I would focus firstly on planning on what data you collect, that would be step one.

So not just collecting anything and simply planning well, so that you can use it well as possible. Ask for consent or act accordingly.

Secondly, when collecting the data sets another thing would be from Google Analytics users to start using it in addition to the traditional uses for Google Analytics. This will be a key tip.

Then I would say my third point would be to switch over to server-side tracking. This is something that's definitely on the list for everyone to review over the coming years. So in essence, use the data that you collect to serve your clients better because of the data you have. So that clients notice the benefit and are then willing to provide you with their personal data.

RB: To add to that, the bottom line is, if brands haven't yet started on working with these things, it's really time to get going now.

Moving towards server-side tracking, as Mira has talked a lot about today. I think, instead of relying on your cookie based events, you need to rethink how you're getting your traffic today.

If a lot of it comes from paid marketing with third party cookies, how can you make your brand more trustworthy going forward? And what value can you give to these customers to encourage them to stay with your brand?

KM: It doesn’t sound like you want to be playing catch up with this sort of data. Because I think it's an important point you raised Mira, what is the differentiation with Google Analytics for?

MM: Well, without going too deeply into details, it's basically collecting only events, as well as the previous ways of doing Google Analytics, we're collecting different kinds of ‘hits’.

It is easier to combine the app side to website measurements than others for example but there are a lot of technical things that are different. Basically, the big chunk of changes happen in the background so that it's easier to transfer and switch the tool to a more privacy-centric mode. So, basically, IP anonymization is one of the things that it centres on by default.

KM: kay, and so just before we get to questions, I know a lot of the people joining us today, either have responsibility for hiring people into marketing teams, or who would like to be hired into marketing teams?

How do you think this data, and these changes in data and privacy are going to reshape the makeup of marketing teams? And what sort of skills are going to be in real demand going forward?

RB: That is a really good question. And I think, as we see, the trend is that we are more private on the internet than ever before.

But at the same time, we are still sharing more data about ourselves, through more devices. The Internet of Things will likely continue to increase as well as other methods for tracking data and organising and analysing those big chunks of data, starting to evolve, too.

And with so much data, and our habits available to them, companies could soon know more about us than we know about ourselves, including what we will do next.

So Mira, what do you think? What would you say about the competencies and skills needed to work in this data driven world so brands can make use of these new insights?

MM: I would probably say to start with the data specialists, AI and machine learning experts, as well as automation experts. That's a given. That's the power that we're going to need more of in the future.

But also our data strategists who understand both the business side of things as well as what the key data can do, because the planning part is essential.

Also, I would like to point out that the core competencies we already rely on today don't go anywhere. So we need analytics experts, we need digital marketing experts, we need developers, designers and we need all kinds of marketing specialists that we have already now.

So it's not that the data is driving the world. It's the people who are driving it. And the data is just a handy tool in that path.

KM: Your thinking is it's important to have you know, the data scientists as well as the creatives to be able to actually do something with it that's meaningful and authentic.

So I'm glad that you finished on that point Mira.

And I think for now, I think that's where we will wrap up. I think it's been a really, really productive discussion. I appreciate all of your opinions.

I have a feeling that we are probably going to run this session once again in six months time with completely different information. But we appreciate you joining us today and we will see you all again soon. Thanks very much!