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9 Ways to Prepare for a Future Without Cookie Tracking

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It was over a year ago that I first wrote about do not track legislation, and luckily for most organizations the browser-provided imperative is loosely supported or regulated today, with very few sites adhering to interpretation and compliance of the preference.

For the most part, do not track legislation is often misunderstood by the general public, and even our regulators in its definition, usage, and most importantly the privacy implications and confidence it is meant to instill.

From a digital practitioner standpoint “do not track” is the least of my worries but upcoming news about Microsoft and Google pursuing cookie-less tracking capabilities indicates to me that education on how digital information is collected and shared will become even more important in the near future.

Rather than panicking, there is a lot we can do today to enact guiding principles that will likely ease a transition into tighter privacy controls in the future.

Education

One of the biggest problems facing digital marketing and analytics practitioners will be education. The industry has evolved so quickly that much of the technology that we rely on every day is likely taken for granted.

Personalization is one such area that relies on tracking, profiling, and delivering a lot of information about visitor preferences and behavior, which many of us likely take for granted.

One might argue that personalization is a byproduct of contextual advertising, and without underlying tracking technologies, wouldn't be possible to deliver.

Teasing apart a key delivery mechanism such as a session or persistent cookie will be very challenging, but explaining the importance of cookies and their usage to visitors and customers even more so.

What can you do to prepare?

1. Ensure your privacy policy is up to date and fully transparent.

2. Explain what tracking technologies are used (savvy users will know how to check for this themselves anyways).

3. What cookies are employed and for what reason.

Usage

It’s probably safe to say that aside from a few specific highly-regulated industries and regions, most digital marketing practitioners don’t spent too much time or due diligence in reviewing data usage models with third-party vendors and their technology.

Regulators focus both on collection and usage of data in these scenarios, particularly when third parties are involved because in many cases, these partners assume ownership of the data collected on your digital properties. This is the same reason why many browsers automatically block third-party cookies, to ensure data collection services and the usage of visitor information are being entrusted to the right recipients.

What can you do to prepare?

4. Explain how data collected is used.

5. Explain how disabling functionality may affect user experience or functionality.

6. Ensure correlating verbiage between your privacy policy and acceptable use policy are complementary.

Consent

In my opinion, this is where most of the opportunity is for much of North America. Very few companies actually gather consent in a clear and concise manner.

To be brutally honest, most of us think that relying on a single line radio box at the bottom of a registration page, with a link to a hundred page disclosure is acceptable. From a legal standpoint, it probably will cover you from any litigation, but from a customer experience perspective, hundreds of pages of disclosure tend to make the average Joe either uninterested or a little paranoid.

What can you do to prepare?

7. Humanize your terms and conditions. Less legalese and more transparency.

8. Separate your service level agreement and delivery conditions from your data consent.

9. Introduce ways visitors and customers can opt-into and out of technology that enables digital marketing and personalization quickly and easily.

Conclusion

Think about the steps you can take today to instill a greater confidence in your digital business and marketing efforts today. Sometimes little things go a long way to earn the respect and trust of visitors and customers, making the impact of future technology tracking capabilities or regulatory guidelines easier to transition into.

Have you done anything to prepare your website and visitors for the future of tracking and digital marketing personalization?


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