Putting the emphasis on deterministic targeting, the US is an outlier


Aaron Jackson, Chief Growth Officer, Eyeota

As the privacy landscape undergoes a tectonic shift, U.S. marketers are struggling to envision what their worlds will look like without once-relied-upon identifiers like cookies and mobile IDs. And while, indeed, their realities are about to shift, they need not stretch their imaginations too far to understand what a privacy-first landscape looks like for brands and agencies going forward. 

The simple fact is, many of the changes U.S. marketers are facing are already a reality elsewhere around the globe, where deterministic data strategies are well-balanced with scalable probabilistic approaches. The best practices for a privacy-first marketing world have been written. 

For U.S. marketers, the real hurdle will be pivoting their mindsets in an environment where deterministic data has been inappropriately placed on a pedestal for years. 

The skewed US marketing reality of today

Now that Apple has throttled its IDFA and Google’s deprecation of the third-party cookie is near at hand, U.S. marketers have upped the urgency on their quests to find alternative ways to tap into personally identifiable information (PII) for their marketing activities. 

What they might not realize is that the practices they have been relying on, and the alternatives they are seeking to those practices, are not viable in most parts of the world. More importantly, they don’t represent a holistic approach to sustainable marketing. 

In the U.S., in pursuit of the ultimate one-to-one marketing paradigm, deterministic data and PII have become the cornerstones of data-driven marketing. But how viable and comprehensive is this obsession with deterministic data over the long term? 

No doubt, deterministic data plays an important role within a holistic marketing approach. First-party customer files are absolutely invaluable when it comes to campaign personalization, retention efforts and marketing to known users on a one-to-one basis. But that is only a part of a successful marketing strategy. What about growing a business through new customer acquisition? Why do marketers not talk about that approach more often?

Even if the privacy landscape were not about to invalidate a number of current tactics, deterministic strategies pose significant limitations on their own. For example, when marketers onboard data within a deterministic paradigm, that data set is reduced dramatically in the online matching process. 

Ultimately, marketers consider a deterministic onboarding to be a success if 30%–40% of their offline files are matched. As a result, a brand’s resulting view of its target audiences — based on those matched files — can become quite skewed. 

Even if marketing teams represent a brand with a strong established identity strategy based on deterministic matching — and the means of retaining a strong first-party database going forward — they still need to figure out how to leverage the full power of their data. This is not just important for improved personalization, but also for prospecting and customer acquisition. That includes that 60%-70% of a file that is hitting the cutting-room floor when it is matched with online keys. 

One-to-one personalization is important. But brands also need to be able to tap into the fuller power of their data for one-to-many marketing, and that is where the power of probabilistic data onboarding and cohort methodologies come into play. 

Taking a page from the global playbook

Outside the U.S., international privacy expectations — which have only been exacerbated in light of GDPR — have prompted marketers to put probabilistic data onboarding, cohort methodologies and contextual targeting at the heart of their global marketing strategies. And it is working. 

By approaching data onboarding from a probabilistic standpoint, all of a brand’s data can be onboarded, whether it is offline or online, and the sources can all be aggregated to cohorts. In this manner, marketers retain a true view of their actual customer bases, which can then be leveraged to build cohorts for scalable consumer-friendly targeting. 

For U.S. marketers, this intelligent approach to probabilistic onboarding and cohorts represents a significant under-utilized opportunity, with or without new privacy challenges. 

By aligning with a partner that has experience lighting up datasets in a global context, marketers will find that not only can they retain their campaign effectiveness in a cookieless world; they can also reinvent and up-level their customer acquisition strategies in a way that taps into the full power of their first-party data assets.


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