Retailers Require New Resources for Success in the Privacy-Centric World | Industry Insights | All MKC Content | ANA

Retailers Require New Resources for Success in the Privacy-Centric World

By Heather Macaulay

For the last 20 years, marketers and advertisers have reached their target audiences on terms set by third parties. Google's vast display networks, enabled by cookies, defined what we knew as digital advertising. Facebook took it one step further maximizing user-submitted, deterministic data, harvesting it for hyper targeting on and off the platform. It was a gold rush of sorts, with entire segments of the industry born out of the indisputable dominance of the two.

Retailers were happy to ride the wave to measurable activations that continued to become more effective reaching the who, what, when and where of their intended target demographic — an arms-length arrangement that served everyone's needs without deeper inspection or reflection.

Suddenly, we've entered an era of privacy that changes the topography of the landscape. Legislation, in the form of GDPR, CCPA and CPRA, is now top of mind for advertisers as they gather and use customer data. Further complicating matters is the use of "privacy" as a veil for monopolistic actions being taken by Google and Apple.

There are real concerns, and then there are moves being made by big tech players to control the flow of data, preserve that information for their sole exploitation, and lock others out of the data ecosystem entirely.

Google, Facebook, and the like created the roadways, traffic signals and advertising vehicles that the industry relies on, but recent actions would restrict advertisers to these highways and byways, with steep tolls. Fortunately, retailers – and anyone else with a product to sell – are now in the driver's seat, empowered with their massive rolls of first-party data of customers who have purchased products or services from them. Retailers now own the relationship with audiences across countless verticals. But sitting in the driver's seat is different from actually knowing how to drive.

Retailers, streamers, grocery stores and anyone else who sells products and services for which first-party data is typically exchanged is suddenly able to become a component of the retail media network of the future.

Having someone's email, physical address and phone number is just one component of an entire recipe to successfully activate first-party data for advertising purposes in a privacy-compliant manner. However, getting to the proverbial promised land will take the existing organizational structures and new personnel and skill sets which have previously not been needed.

A typical roster looks something like this: First we have developers and technologists; they build the platforms, websites and apps which provide consumer access to the product in the first place. Then you have the marketers; they understand message, creative, ROAS, and campaign execution. And finally, the lawyers, who are primarily concerned with adhering to, and avoiding fines or penalties from the evolving privacy landscape, across various geographic territories.

Each group possesses a markedly different skill set, with no one party having a full understanding of the work of the others. And though they all may have vague notions, none have the expertise to craft a first-party data strategy from the ground up.

Companies that successfully sell products to the public are experts at just that. Expecting them to suddenly have the expertise to craft a first-party data strategy to maximize and also protect that information they have is an entirely different skill set altogether.

Enter the newest member of the team, a currently unnamed utility player on the digital ad ecosystem landscape.

Without this unnamed hybrid expert, helping the developers, marketers, and lawyers connect the dots, retailers are bound to fail in any number of ways. Be it a misunderstanding of the technology needed to pair with your customer data platform or lack of interoperability with clean rooms, retailers now have an entire set of challenges for which they have never had to solve.

That doesn't even consider the startup costs of building out retail media networks, integrating large data sets, or even just assessing all the data on hand. There's a lot of work to be done here, and very little in the way of an agreed upon roadmap.

To meet the future needs of the day, retailers need to employ an entirely new set of professionals inside their teams. You'll need a team that can understand the needs and goals of the developers, empathize with a marketers' need to address an audience and tweak the approach to keep the lawyers happy and personally identifiable information safe. Does your retail outfit have this person on staff? If not, you should start looking.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Heather Macaulay serves as president at MadTech where she is responsible for new business growth and marketing.