Incubeta Ignite: Data: The Road Ahead

Read Time: 3 mins

The consequences of the industry’s misuse of data have finally caught up with us. Restrictions and technical limitations, enforced on us by legislation, web browsers and technology platforms, have curtailed many of our practices. With the turn of the decade upon us, Kate Jervis takes us through the road ahead for data.

Restrictions and Regulations

One of the biggest challenges we now face is that the “perfect” single customer view doesn’t exist. Of course, it never really has existed, however it’s something the industry has long been aiming for. Now, due to the impact of GDPR, it’s no longer a sustainable objective to work towards. What we’re able to track has fundamentally changed. 

GDPR wasn’t the first legislative restriction placed upon tracking; in 2011 the EU Directive stated that consent was now required to drop non-essential cookies. However, this wasn’t too limiting with the ICO providing guidelines which suggested implied consent (pre-ticked boxes for accepting cookies) was reasonable, and so we were still able to work towards tracking a complete view of the customer.

This all changed with GDPR legislation coming into play towards the turn of the century, and best practice guidelines from the ICO highlighted an important industry development; analytics cookies are considered non-essential and therefore need explicit user consent before they can be dropped and recorded.

Whilst they provide businesses with useful information that can help site optimisation for user experience, analytics cookies aren’t part of the functionality a user is requesting when they use an online service. If a website didn’t have any analytics on-site, a user would still be able to access the site itself, hence the classification as non-essential. Recent stats before GDPR came into effect show that between 8-20% of analytics tracking is being blocked, and so with all these legislation changes, it’s certainly likely that this number will grow.

Remaining Optimistic

Despite this, there is still a lot to be optimistic about and there are a few different solutions being discussed. Perhaps the most promising technical solution involves cross-industry unification, a blue-sky possibility conceptualised by the IAB; they talk of a world where information would travel with the consumer throughout the digital supply chain, giving any advertiser or website who is compliant with privacy regulations access to the consumer’s information. It may be a long way down the line, but it’s important to remember that the challenge of cookie-less tracking is not a singular business challenge – it’s an industry-wide issue, and therefore the true resolution lies in all our hands as a collective.

But in the short-term, what else is an option? There’s fingerprinting, or even a move from user-centric analytics to sessional data. Or if we were to stop thinking about the technical options for a second, we might realise that we could have a positive mindset, and work with what we’ve already got! We’ve become so obsessed with everything being measurable that our ability to take action has been seriously hindered. We will never be able to have the perfect customer view that we’ve pictured for years, so it’s time to let it go. Looking back from ten years ago to now, we have better technology, better insights and better skill-sets than we’ve ever had before, and so it’s time to start from where we are, instead of living in the past.