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By Carolyn Corda, CMO at ADARA

As the UK (hopefully) starts to close the door on COVID-19 restrictions on June 21st, financial brands are gearing up for a much-anticipated return to normalcy. While the timeline for a full recovery is unknown, mass vaccination efforts are gaining momentum with the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, declaring this week that the UK government has administered at least one shot of the vaccine to 72% of the adult population. With reports also showing that businesses are growing faster than any other time over the past two decades, financial brands seem to be in a great position to take advantage of the eventual uplift in economic growth.

However, while normalcy returns to the economy and everyday life, there is an oncoming storm that could derail financial institutions’ ability to recover. After making an announcement in 2019, Google is finally set to join Apple and Firefox in phasing out the use of third-party cookies on their browser in January 2022. While this may seem minor in comparison to the disruption caused by the global pandemic, Google’s decision to phase out the use of third-party cookies on Chrome will have far-reaching consequences for the digital marketing ecosystem. This comes at the same time as sweeping changes to Apple’s IDFA system which means app tracking is now ‘opt in’ only.  Early results suggest only 4% of users are likely to do so. These two changes represent the biggest changes to digital advertising since (and even including) GDPR.

The relevance of tracking

Tracking consumers from website to website across the web, third-party cookies inform marketing strategies and allow financial institutions to create highly personalised marketing communications based on user patterns and behaviour. The same can be said for Apple’s app trackers, which mean businesses can gain a full picture of customer behaviours and interests. Without this, financial brands risk being at a major disadvantage. Reaching the right people has been key in reducing budget wastage and maximising returns. For the consumer, this has meant they operate in a world where they see relevant ads, rather than ones that may be irrelevant and even intrusive to the viewing experience. Losing this will put the brand at a double disadvantage.

With reports showing that the pandemic has completely upended consumer habits, understanding how people shop in the post-COVID-19 landscape will be key to recovery.  Financial brands that target consumers based on outdated pre-COVID behaviours will find that they are failing to get through to consumers and are losing out to competitors. For example, financial institutions that assume that consumers are going to purchase products in brick and mortar stores will find that they are sending irrelevant messages to those that have got used to shopping online during the pandemic.

Financial marketers, therefore, need to update how they understand their audiences if they’re going to get the insights they need in order to take advantage of the uplift in demand during the post-pandemic landscape.

Reassess first-party data             

The first step any financial brand needs to take in replacing these tracking technologies is reassessing the data they already have. Financial institutions have a wealth of first-party data such as payment history, age and credit score that they could be using more effectively. First party data can be used to understand which financial products a person has already bought into or even looked into, alongside key information like location or age. These can help assess which products might appeal. Furthermore, co-branded products like credit cards with airline reward point schemes  can give even further insight into the customer and their lifestyle preferences, meaning communication can be adapted accordingly to likely interests. However, this alone is not enough to understand the customer.

Data partnerships

The issue with first-party data is that it’s limiting to marketers as it only provides insights into how a consumer interacts with your brand. Unlike third-party cookies, it can’t show how consumers react to other brands. For banks that are used as secondary bank accounts, for example, the lack of data around consumer behaviours is especially limiting as they will have less activity history to fuel personalised marketing strategies.

Marketers need to look beyond first-party data and find new data sources in order to tailor messages to consumers. Data partnerships give financial brands a broader view of their consumers, allowing them to send highly relevant messages in a privacy-centric manner. In other words, they can give financial brands insight into how people interact with a group of other businesses and therefore data into a wider set of behaviours and patterns.

With privacy concerns being a major reason behind the death of the cookie, it is clear that these external partnerships need to be secure and safe. At Adara, we’ve developed a future-proof solution to the third-party cookie that combines data partnerships with strong data rights management capabilities and our Privacy Token – a secure way to obtain and share customer data that doesn’t rely on third-party cookies. With the ADARA Privacy Token, all shared data is obscured in a way that no external party would be able to reconstruct.

Adara’s tokenisation solution is purpose-built for safe data sharing and allows for brands to share and receive data, secure in the knowledge that sensitive information won’t be leaked to external sources since it never leaves the firewall. Analytics or data science teams are then able to provide the best and most relevant insights for marketing and customer experience teams. This enables them to send personalised messages through extensive and validated identity graphs. So even as ecosystem policies and privacy regulations constantly change, financial institutions can ensure a privacy protected digital business without sacrificing performance.

As the country opens up and consumers start to return to normal, financial brands need to realise that the upcoming changes in tracking mean that they need to adapt if they are going to take advantage of the uplift in demand. A privacy-focused future does not need to mean a loss in effectiveness – as long as the work is put in now to build new solutions for the brand.

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