ePrivacy: the realities of the ‘cookie law’ and de-personalisation

GDPR shook up consumer data back in May, but there's still a way to go. Judy Boniface of Mailjet outlines what you can expect from the upcoming ePrivacy 'cookie law'.

The dust may now be settling for some businesses following the introduction of the much deliberated GDPR regulation in May, but businesses must now begin preparations for the upcoming ‘cookie law’.

This so called ‘cookie law’, a moniker for the proposed new ePrivacy regulation due to come into play before the year is out, is expected to severely impact the use of cookies online and across digital marketing. As such, it could pose an even bigger test to businesses than GDPR. It’s a regulation that will create a likely deficit in the customer information they collect even post-GDPR.

Current cookie banner notifications, where websites inform users of cookie collection, will make way for cookie request pop-ups that deny cookie collection until a user has opted in or out of different types of cookie collection. Such a pop-up is expected to cause a drop in web traffic as high as 40 per cent. The good news is that it will only appear should the user not have already set their cookie preferences at browser level.

The outcome for businesses whose marketing and advertising lies predominantly online is the inevitable reduction in their ability to track, re-target and optimise experiences for their visitors.

The continued growth and innovation of SMEs – and other businesses in general – has been a key discussion point with regards to ePrivacy. A recent debate on the regulation by the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council softened the rules to some degree in order to allow for this continued progress. However, browser providers are still required to inform the end user of privacy settings at the time of installation, on initial use and when any updates take place that make changes to the privacy settings.

While the intentions are good, these debates haven’t relieved any pressure for businesses when it comes to the way they collect information for advertising and other purposes. Our recent research report discovered that 30 per cent of businesses in the UK and France are planning to reduce the amount of cookie-based display, paid search and re-targeting ads they carry out, as the new regulations will have a profound effect on how re-targeting operates.

For any business with a website and dependent on cookies, the new regulations put them at severe risk of losing this vital source of consumer data. As a result, businesses must find a practical, effective and legal alternative to alleviate the burden on the shoulders of all teams involved and to offset any drastic shortfall in this crucial data.

You are taking the biscuit now

Much of the digital ecosystem is still awash with cookies. According to our study, 93 per cent of companies still use cookie-based advertising to reach their customers.

Research from both the UK and France revealed that cookies are critical in facilitating the storage of customer information in the form of addresses, phone numbers and payment information (55 per cent). They are also a key tool used by businesses in dealing with the persistent issue of basket abandonment, with over two-fifths of respondents (42 per cent) using cookies on their website to save shopping baskets or wish lists for their customers.

Putting the power in the hands of consumers when it comes to setting browser-level cookie permissions will limit a business’s ability to extensively track the actions users take on company websites and progress targeted cookie-based advertising. Millions of internet users will have the option to withdraw their dataset from the view of businesses, one of the biggest threats ePrivacy poses.

Who ate all the cookies?

For 31 per cent of UK businesses, the information collected via cookies for Google Analytics behavioural data is the most important to conduct business. Companies need this information to have transparency of who and how consumers are using their website and much more. With that in mind, the apprehension comes as no surprise.

Cookies will be hard hit by the new ePrivacy laws

Direct communication between business and customer will become more significant than ever, with marketers anticipating a greater investment in channels such as social messenger services (72 per cent) and email (79 per cent) to reach customers. The evolution of the online experience means that many customers now actively initiate contact with live chat services, obligingly offering up their personal information in return for assistance directly from the business.

Live chat and chatbot platforms are not only a way to directly engage with and assist customers, but also an opportunity to harvest rich data about their wants and needs and initiate consented communication across alternative channels.

 The personalisation purge

The threat of not adhering to GDPR legislation is a risk in itself for many businesses in pursuing alternative methods of data collection in the face of ePrivacy.

More than half of businesses (54 per cent) admit that they source third-party data from data sales houses or other large site and system operators, however, the rules remain the same – the contacts on these lists must have provided permission for their data to be shared in such a way.

This means the standard of personalisation as we know it is certain to change, as ePrivacy creates new boundaries on available data sources and pushes businesses to be more transparent about the information that they track. This is not only to ensure customers feel protected and in control of their online identity, but also to educate them on the level of data privacy consumers deserve.

However, it’s not all negative for businesses. When a customer trusts a business, they are more willing to part with personal information, highlighted by the fact that personal routes such as LinkedIn and Facebook Lead Ads (71 per cent) are set to top events (59 per cent) and gated content (39 per cent), to become more the most prevalent means of lead generation.

Educating customers on how cookie collection is in their benefit can also provide a level of appreciation in the reasons for their use, such as saved shopping baskets and improvement in future website navigation.

It is personalisation that often appeals to the needs of customers and in order to maintain advantage among competitors, businesses must develop the most effective way in which to provide this type of experience.

The key will be to rely less on re-targeting tactics and begin to develop qualitative datasets, designed to form campaigns that resonate with consumers. Both B2B and B2C businesses will have to face cookie consent head-on, and begin to develop strategies that will allow for the evolution and conservation of their most valuable customer insights.

Judy Boniface is chief marketing officer at Mailjet.

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