Guest Blogger

by Jocelyn Toonders, Head of Partnerships at Mention Me

After keeping the marketing world on edge for almost a year, Apple has implemented its advertising tracking changes. As of 26th April, all businesses must use the AppTrackingTransparency framework to request  permission to track users or access their device’s advertising identifier.

And with the majority of users unlikely to give this permission, that presents a challenge. Without it, brands can no longer track behaviour and show highly targeted content. To overcome this, marketers need to turn plans into action and adjust to this new reality.

Of course, this isn’t the first time the advertising and marketing industry has had to adapt. In 2009, initial fears about the apocalyptic impact of the EU Cookies Law on business models and data collection eventually blew over as the industry adjusted to its implications.

While that change increased transparency and ethical data use to benefit both customers and advertisers, this one is likely to result in more resilient approaches to marketing strategy. Specifically, diversifying across a range of channels feeding into  one another. There will be more value placed on supporting channels which drive customer engagement and create long-term relationships with customers which can be leveraged into new customer acquisition.

Committing to multi-channel 

So how can marketers make sure they bounce back as quickly as possible from any negative impacts? Ultimately, there are both short-term and long term considerations. In the immediate term, it’s vital that you’re leveraging other channels to drive new customer acquisition and overcome any short-term losses. In the long-term, it’s time to put your customers back into the centre of your marketing strategy.

The immediate impact, and one which will have kept social media teams up at night, is the repercussions for paid social. Much of the discussion around Apple’s changes has centred on one platform: Facebook. It’s a channel which has become the bedrock of many brand’ ‘acquisition strategies but with less access to customer data and optimisation, returns could fall.

The key takeaway I’ve heard from our partners in the paid media space is that paid will remain vital but there’s going to be an adjustment phase. One agency partner, Nest Performance, told me recently that “iOS 14 will change the landscape of paid social, but not extinguish it as a powerful channel. Brands that will feel the impact are those that haven’t optimised their approach to paid social. Those that have the capability to adapt and test new approaches after the ATT prompt and interpret the data to determine how to optimise their performance will come out the winners. Any potential drop off from brands pulling back from the channel would actually make the opportunity even greater for the remaining advertisers as the space becomes less competitive.”.

With media costs rising, digital teams will need to work hard to implement a sophisticated setup and strategy to drive their desired results from social media platforms. Brands with strong client bases and higher customer lifetime value will be able to afford higher Costs Per Acquisition and ride the high levels of Facebook CPMs that lie ahead in 2021 and beyond.

Alongside immediate updates to the tactical side of their paid campaigns, marketers should consider how they build engagement and advocacy with their customers. These relationships will provide the foundations for long-term revenue and growth.

Content marketing can help plug immediate gaps. Your business website, social media and media activity are now key touchpoints for addressing customer pain points directly. Overseeing marketing content that is consistent, fits your target customers’ profile and can be served in the right places is a great starting point.

Back to basics – building trust and engaging your customers

Of course, the ideal scenario is that your customers are so committed that they immediately opt in to your brand’s marketing activity. But most businesses can’t count on that. Instead, they should focus on customer engagement.

That means building a relationship rooted in real brand values, rather than purely looking at acquisition. Also important is focussing on building brand affinity, showing consistent messaging, and showcasing brand values  in meaningful ways to drive loyalty and increase lifetime value.

But how do you find new customers if you can’t target them with paid advertising? Well, they’re probably already connected to you via your current customers. People recommend the brands they trust and feel confident will make them look good. That means word of mouth marketing will become even more important. It’s a vital tool to build your customer engagement and drive acquisition and is essential to building a sustainable, long-term marketing strategy.

With the right tools and strategies, businesses can nurture customer advocacy to drive significant revenue. The most effective brand recommendations are the most authentic – 51% trust a friend’s recommendation more than any other advertising – making referral a powerful social channel. By turning customers into advocates, referral programmes drive significant new customer acquisition and revenue. The customers acquired via this channel are also likely to have high lifetime value and 5X more likely to refer themselves, continuing the cycle of growth. Without a referral programme, brands can’t track – and more importantly, reward – these loyal customers actively recommending them to others.

Customer-centric marketing is the long-term bet

Since Apple first announced these changes, the industry has nervously waited for soaring costs and plummeting conversion rates. There are likely to be bumps in the road ahead, but brands should use these changes as a chance to refresh their marketing strategies.

Paid advertising, while very important, was only ever meant to be one piece of your customer acquisition and engagement strategy. In a marketing landscape already feeling the impact of changing in consumer spending and shopping habits, now is the time for to incorporate other tools and channels. This latest development is an opportunity for brands to put their customers back at the heart of their marketing strategy. Those that take it can look forward to higher customer engagement and acquisition that drives greater, more sustainable ROI.

As Head of Partnerships at Mention Me, Jocelyn oversees the referral marketing platform’s partner channel. With more than a decade of experience in digital marketing & martech, her career has included advising brands on launching in new markets around the world, setting up a performance marketing agency, and specialising in Paid Media advertising. Originally from Canada, Jocelyn has worked in global cities around the world, including Toronto, Sydney, Manchester and London.

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