25 AUG 2021
Much has already been written and said about the future of identity in response to Google's announcement to remove cookies from their browser. Most of these articles offer optimistic guidance on the need to continue testing solutions and preparing for this reality, but they're a little fuzzy on the details on how this will shape out. And that's okay cause that's the state of where things are.
In 2020, Data expenditures (U.S.) topped 12.3 billion for Third-Party Data, based on a survey from the IAB and Ipsos.  This is the data that will be impacted based on the removal of cookies. Publishers, AdTech, Agencies, and Brands are trying to figure out how to replace a cookie, so the music doesn't stop.
Mebrulin Francisco, Senior Vice President of Audience and Data Enablement, addresses this head-on – "This conversation cannot just be about replacing the cookie – we must evolve our entire approach based on everything we know today around consent management best practices, changing regulations, and consumer data beliefs."
In her discussion with Steve Frankel, Head of Partnerships at Permutive, Wes Benel, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Neustar, and Angelina Eng, Vice President Measurement & Attribution, IAB - they explore this further.
"Perhaps the biggest risk to the industry is the thing that's the hardest to explain to a consumer and regulator is the exposure of person-level I.D.s. Good and bad, the cookie has made this world easy, and it just works. However, this is increasingly coming with a cost. Every new headline in today's privacy-aware climate highlights the risk of participating in this ecosystem." – says Steve.
A recent social survey by Dynata  shows us just how much consumers are prioritizing privacy.
- 91% report they would be more likely to purchase from a brand online if they feel that brand is trustworthy and has transparent data practices
- 85% of U.S. consumers surveyed said they prioritize their personal privacy data more than they did a year ago.
- 74% said they are more receptive to digital ads from brands when it is clear how their data is being used.
If brands can't demonstrate the value of sharing this data, there are significant implications.
- Only 11-15% of worldwide iOS users are Opt-In to data sharing across apps.  78% of customers have backed out of a purchase due to a poor customer experience. 
- 58% of American consumers will switch companies because of poor customer service. 
We all need to hit reset and make the application of identity on the Internet inherently valuable to the consumer and privacy safe – and value is subjective, so this isn't easy.
"Brands must have a clear ability to articulate what they are trying to accomplish and do so in a meaningful way. The value exchange is defined by [a brand] giving something relevant and meaningful and not intrusive to the person having a conversation," says Mebrulin.
At the heart of the disruption sits the complexity in understanding the overall implications of costs. Brands are now faced with making decisions on acquiring data, maintaining data, and ensuring the data is usable across the organization. We see clients asking similar questions:
- Should we own or rent our identity?
- Do I have the right resources to handle the influx of data and demand?
- What is the value of our first-party data?
Let's examine specific examples of how companies use data to help us understand why it's more important than ever to invest in data and platform technology.
Arccos (Sports Niche)
If you're not a golfer, you might not have heard of this brand, but it's a newer entrant in the golf world that puts data front a center of their brand. They provide golfers with a club add-on to track every swing. Using A.I., the surface this data back to the consumer and help them understand how to get better in their game. Since their inception, they have collected over 31 billion on course data points from clubs, distance, weather, etc. What makes this interesting is that they share 6 million shots a month with PING (equipment manufacturer), so PING can learn how players are performing and design better clubs to sell. This is an example of a harmonious data relationship. Source: Golf Magazine, July/August 2021. 
A more widely known use case of how a company can extract value from their customer data is a practice in the financial industry called "payment for order flow." With the rise of retail trading (non-professional stock and options trading), Robinhood has been the pioneer of "free-trading," they do not charge a fee to use their platform and buy/sell stocks and options. To do this, they make up their revenue by selling their customer trading data. Payment for order flow generated 180 million in Q2 2020 for Robinhood alone. With Robinhood, users did not care until Robinhood halted trading on a few select stocks due to "extreme volatility" with those stocks. For a short time, the backlash was immense, facing criticism from all over, including Mark Cuban and Barstool Sports CEO Dave Portnoy; Robinhood is still facing several lawsuits. Despite the backlash, Robinhood IPO'd on July 28th, 2021, at $38 a share, and at the time of this writing is $47.92 and has a Market Cap of 40.35 Billion. 
You might have heard of the BigMac Index , but have you heard of the Pret Index? If you are an avid Bloomberg reader, you might know what this is. Pret, a specialty coffee and sandwich brand in major finance hubs (NYC, London, Paris, and Hong Kong), has a partnership with Bloomberg. Pret provides Bloomberg with traffic data and has created a baseline traffic index. This is a great example of leveraging aggregated data for unique partnerships and increased brand recognition. They're leveraging their data in a way that makes their retail traffic part of their marketing and branding. Plus, it's a win for Bloomberg, who might have been looking to purchase this data to empower their journalists and now approach this from a custom partnership that aligns with Bloomberg readers. 
What can we learn from these examples of how brands are using data?
- Brands should think about how they are providing a value exchange when using customer data. Ensuring the brand is giving something relevant and meaningful and not intrusive to the consumer.
- Brands need to focus on delivering an exceptional customer experience with data creation in mind.
- Customers are craving data themselves; surfacing back data can help customer experience and brand perception.
- Customers have "lines" on how brands should use their data, and if misused, be prepared to face a period of public backlash.
- Brands are already building unique partnerships with other companies in a mutually beneficial way based on similar audiences.
- Focusing on unified data, unlocking access to data, and empowering brands with this information is the first step to creating an identity profile and integrating privacy and intelligent data partnerships.
Right now, consumers are leading the charge in how their data is being used. The brands leading the pack are finding new ways to use customer data and partnering with other brands to deliver value back to consumers. You won't find these examples in any "best practices" document – the winning path is still being developed. Now is the time to decide on leading from the front with innovative ideas.
Authored by: Alex Reeder, Director, Data and Platform Strategy, MediaCom
Featuring: Mebrulin Francisco, Senior Vice President of Audience and Data Enablement, MediaCom