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2023 Industry Updates Business Owners Need to Know

The internet has grown up!

It’s past its infancy, which saw rapid growth and unchecked development, and things are taking a new turn for the next stage in its evolution.

The last couple of years has seen some big changes in the digital space, and there’s more to come. As we move towards a more refined online space, there’s ongoing impacts to businesses and marketers you need to be aware of.

I’m going to dive into the latest changes and break down the biggest things you need to know as a business owner.

iOS17 takes another step on privacy

Currently underway is the roll out of Apple’s iOS17 update, which amongst other changes, brings another layer of privacy for its users with the Link Tracking Parameter. 

Last year the Mail Privacy Protection update changed how email tracking worked on Apple Mail, interrupting the ability to track opens. Prior to that we saw the iOS14 update, with its App Tracking Transparency, drastically impact ads performance with the removal of 3rd party tracking as default across its apps. 

The newest iOS17 update strips back click tracking code in URLs when clicked or shared in Apple Mail, Safari private browsing and Messages. The rise of digital advertising over the last two decades has been thanks to the extremely high level of data available through tracking individual behaviour and engagement online. This change means that it will become even harder to attribute behaviour and purchases linked to campaigns using these click IDs. 

Who is this important for? Any eCommerce or business running paid ads or email marketing, as it’s likely you have a good chunk of your audience using Apple Mail and browsing. 

HOW TO MITIGATE THIS? ENSURE YOU’RE USING UTM PARAMETERS

UTM parameters are short pieces of text you add on to your URLs to help attribute that links place and purpose, and the effectiveness of campaigns.

You (and your marketer) can add these UTM parameters to any campaign you’re running, social posts you share and more. They’re currently still not banned within the privacy wars, and extremely helpful.

One of the best places to use UTM parameters to track performance is within email campaigns!

Which leads us onto the next big changes currently rolling out…

Google and Yahoo increase their Sender Requirements

It’s not only Apple who is cracking down on privacy and online etiquette. Google is stricter than Yahoo, so we will cover their new sender requirements next.

The list below specifically relates to bulk email sending, which counts for anyone who may send over 5,000 emails in one day (even just sporadically), the goal is to improve inbox experience and email deliverability by ensuring senders are legitimate. A very good thing!

Even if you’re sending less than this though, take note of points 1-4 as these apply to you as well! And be sure to read through the sender requirements so you don’t miss any of the other updates.

Google has been very clear on what you need to do, and to break it down simply, you must…

  1. Authenticate your sending domain
  2. Align your ‘From’ sending address to this domain
  3. Not be using a gmail.com related email
  4. Monitor your Spam rate and keep it under 0.3% 
  5. Make it easier for recipients to unsubscribe

The first 3 are best practice when you’re sending high volume, so this is more an enforcement to help weed out anyone being dodgy. The last two are very specific though.

If you’re using a dedicated email platform for your marketing, you will be able to easily monitor the Spam Complaint rate against your emails.

I suggest trying to better segment and tailor your emails to help keep the spam rate low. The more specific an email is to the recipient, the less likely they’ll be marking it as spam.

Lastly, they’re asking that all marketers provide a one-step Unsubscribe link inside the email, as well as another very clear link within the email body. This is a big change, and one that I’m sure we can all agree is great.

Again, many email platforms are helping adjust to these new requirements and may be automatically integrating the Unsubscribe links needed, Klaviyo in particular has stepped up to the task.

My recommendation is even if you’re not yet sending 5,000 emails + in a day, take note of these requirements and do what you can now to implement them for your own business. This really is best practice and the direction digital is progressing.

Another inevitable direction we’re heading towards is a cookieless internet, which does sound a very sad place…

Google’s on track to go Cookieless by the end of 2024

This is a massive change, and aligns with Apple’s own privacy changes. It’s one that will affect every business as well. But first we need to understand what Cookies are and the different types of user data. The two you’re likely most familiar with are First-Party data and Third-Party data.

First-party data can be thought of as harmless, as it’s data exchanged when you engage with a business’s marketing or website voluntarily. 

Think of when you make a purchase online, save login details, or subscribe to an email marketing list. This data is kept between you and that particular business only. It has come directly from customers and prospects. Very juicy data.

Third-party data is different, it’s usually collected by an external company with no direct connection to the individual user or the business they’ve interacted with. This third-party, via a ‘spying’ script, monitors your online behaviours, seeing where and how you interact online, gathering the data which can be used, transferred or sold.

There are countless businesses that utilise third-party data, but in particular Meta and Google have through their paid ad platforms and Analytics.

When Apple removed this default third-party tracking with its iOS14 update mentioned earlier, it literally pulled the rug from under these two giants, cutting off their data at the source.

It may seem counterintuitive for Google to be implementing a change to these third-party Cookies when they help it to monopolise online advertising, but like I said at the start…. The internet is growing up.

Google’s become aware of the highly intrusive nature of it’s own developments and since 2019 has been developing a scaled back method to help support advertising online while ensuring privacy for its users.

The Privacy Sandbox initiative will overtake cookies at the end of 2024, and there is going to be an impact on Ads performance. How much exactly? It’s hard to say now unfortunately.

What you can expect though is…

  1. Personalisation will be harder, as there will be less data to work with and accurately predict user behaviour and preferences.
  2. There will be less third party audiences to access, so you will need to better prospect for new audiences and in different ways.
  3. Ad targeting will be unreliable, again due to less data to understand your audience, and businesses will need to work harder to gather their own insights.

It’s really important to understand the long term impact of the privacy changes rolling out, as it’s a complete shake up to how the industry has been operating, what results are achievable and how businesses need to conduct their marketing.

How you can start to make your own cookies & prepare for a privacy-first internet

With the changes to Apple, email marketing and Google’s third-party cookies, it is now integral for businesses to look at ways to generate their own quality data.

This new era is going to initially be harder for small businesses, as it requires more time to achieve lesser results online. But it’s also going back to a more traditional approach to marketing… crafting great strategies, knowing your data and testing. 

No longer just relying on Google or Meta to do the heavy lifting.

First-party, and even Zero-party, data is going to be your best friend.

Zero-party data is information that customers have proactively given to a brand. Adore Beauty is a great example of this, as when you first subscribe to their email list it prompts you through a range of questions, asking what you want to hear about, what you’re most interested in, and more personal details about you. 

You can get pretty creative with how you gather zero-party data, and competitions, surveys, quizzes, social polls, review requests and even customer accounts are all great ways to capture this information.

Combining your zero-party data with first-party data from your website, CRM and email marketing is going to lead to the best results, but again, it does take more effort and strategy from businesses and I suggest thinking about it now.

Social media has changed too

Now that I’ve mentioned online polls, I bet you’re wondering how social media ties into all of this. It’s probably the channel you spend most of your time thinking about, even though there’s been some bigger changes going down online of late.

Firstly, social engagement has changed, and if you’ve been pulling your hair out wondering why you’re getting fewer likes or reach, you’re not alone. The way people are interacting on social media is evolving.

On Instagram, there’s less likes and comments happening, and people are spending a lot of their time watching Stories over their feeds. Short form content is still also ruling over other types.

TikTok has slowed in its growth for new profiles, as inevitably happens as platforms mature. Those initially on and using the app a lot enjoy great reach and engagement, and the late adopters see slower growth and less reach as competition grows.

So the way I want you to start thinking about social media is different, it’s not about going viral or getting the most engagement. It’s about prospecting, validating and capturing insights.

You want to be focusing on quality over quantity when it comes to your audience and focus on sharing content that really resonates and connects with your ideal customer.

Engaging, relevant content will help you attract and grow your audience, even if slowly. 500 engaged followers is better than 50,000 who are never going to buy from you.

Just having this active social media presence helps to then validate your business. As the customer journey online is convoluted and people are wanting to stalk your profile first before committing.

When you have a growing audience on your socials (even if only small or slow) starting to interact with them to gather insights will be key. Ask them “What do they like?” “What do they care about?” “What would they like to see from you?”

But please keep in mind that social media is only one piece of the puzzle, and solely focusing on Instagram for your marketing efforts is not going to work.

My passion and biggest message I push to clients is to take an holistic approach to their digital marketing, and everything I just covered is the reason why.

The digital space is constantly changing, it’s the only thing you can rely on when it comes to online. So understanding your audience, where they’re hanging out online and then steadily building your own marketing strategy over time is crucial for long term success in business.

You do NOT need to do it all at once though. Slow, steady and sustainable is powerful. 

All of the online privacy changes I’ve stepped you through demonstrates the need to think in this holistic way, because with limited tracking you’re not going to know exactly what works or generates the most revenue.

I want you to think about closing the gaps in your marketing.

First focus on your website, does it convert? At what percent? What do people most and least engage with?

From there, where is your greatest opportunity for improvement, do you have the traffic but little to no repeat customers? Focus on re-engagement through email marketing.

Do you have a great conversion rate and loyal customers, but very few of them? Focus on acquisition of new audiences through social media, collaborations or PR.

This is the way you need to be thinking when it comes to your online marketing…. Not just about Followers or the latest trending Reel.

And as a business owner, you have a responsibility to be aware of what’s happening in the digital world. The continued refinement of the internet is taking us into a new chapter, one that I definitely feel is more positive, but it does come with challenges. Be sure to have open conversations with your marketers to ensure they’re across the recent changes and the looming deprecation of third-party cookies. It’s time to start rethinking your online approach.

See more like this:

How to put your own spin on social media trends as a brand.

How to put your own spin on social media trends as a brand.

While jumping on the latest trends has its advantages, you also want to ensure that you add your own twist to what’s trending to stay true to your brand and keep your audience engaged.
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