What Apple's Privacy Pivot Means For Marketers

If you’ve downloaded a new app on an iPhone recently, you’ve been given the option of blocking the app from tracking you and your behavior on your mobile device. Many have indeed chosen this option -- which has significant ramifications for travel marketers.

What impact will the update have on travel brands, who rely on this data for crucial information such as when and where customers like to travel? With Google also now implementing a  less use- friendly privacy option, there will be even less data available.

Greg Sterling, vice president of insights at Berlin-based Uberall, said that privacy is arguably now the central issue facing consumers, with increasing and widespread alarm about how much personal data is available.

Uberall is a global company that manages business location data and provides clients with help in managing local online searches, among other functions. While Uberall does not especially have a dog in this hunt, Sterling said that as a longtime observer of ecommerce, he takes an interest in analyzing consumer behavior.



Before the Apple initiative, individual users were tracked and targeted with ads  – and retargeted later when they were browsing.  A luxury hotel, for instance, would tell a third-party service which audiences it wants to reach, and would be able to buy all the cookie data, mobile identifier, email address and so forth, identifying present and potential customers for targeting and retargeting.  That will be more difficult, said Sterling. It will also be harder, he said, to quantify attribution -- figuring out which marketing campaigns were effective and led to a booking.

So what’s a marketer to do? Sterling said there are companies looking into workarounds out of necessity. For one thing, iPhone customers tend to be more desirable consumers and spend more money. Tracking remains possible on a desktop, but much more search and even bookings are being done on mobile.

Many companies are trying to find alternatives to tracking and targeting, said Sterling. The most common advice is to develop relationships with customers and encourage them to provide their information voluntarily through incentives or other measures so they can be marketed to directly.

Another possibility is piecing together profiles of consumers using alternative sources of information. Some companies have an advantage on that front, including suppliers with large regular audiences, like Kayak, TripAdvisor and Expedia. Marketers will be able to work through those platforms with a different set of tactics.

There are also existing loyal customer bases, like business travelers who are members of  airline loyalty programs.  And there are probably consumers who have familiarity with your product or service who can be brought into your direct influence.

Beyond that, said Sterling, by working with multiple channels, diversifying tactics, getting smarter and being thoughtful, marketers can develop personal relationships with consumers.

It’s not all bad news. There are other advertising opportunities like connected television and streaming so this Apple  development,  is not like starting from zero, said Sterling. And, in fact, while data providers celebrate the value of the information they collect and sell, it is often hard for companies to really track their ad campaigns. It’s messier and more difficult than interested parties would have you believe, he said.

Search marketing is completely unaffected by these changes, said Sterling. For instance, if a consumer types “cheap trip to Costa Rica” into a search engine, the pages that come up are totally unaffected by the privacy initiatives.

The interesting thing, said Sterling, is that consumers really do want ads that are relevant to them -- “or else you get ads for Viagra and Christian singles” (which of course might be relevant for some).  Consumers simply want control over the ads they see -- and in time, companies will start doing a better job at persuading people to opt in.

They really have no choice.

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