How to Measure Advertising in a Private World
The world of digital advertising is clearly changing. Moves toward user privacy mean significantly less data tracking. Less data tracking means decreased capabilities for advertisers to measure campaign performance on the ad platforms they use daily.
Starting with iOS 14, tech companies like Apple have taken steps to remove tracking ability advertising platforms and their users rely on so heavily. So what does that mean for marketers when tracking has been the method used for determining success of campaigns?
The obvious issue with this is that the only way any marketing program can improve over time is by having a feedback loop. Without a reliable method for reporting what “worked” or “didn’t work”, we can’t know what to do next. In fact, that feedback being readily available is part of what has made digital advertising so successful. Everything is connected and results show up fast, so we have gotten used to seeing what’s “working” in real time and adjusting quickly.
So how do we run effective, scalable digital marketing with limited or no access to data tracking? In this new world of increased privacy, where apps no longer feed user data to Facebook and other platforms’ algorithms, how do we get feedback on our advertising?
In this post, we’re going to show you four ways you can still track marketing performance without relying on traditional tracking methods.
Who Should Hold Your Data?
For years now, ad platforms like Facebook and email platforms like Klaviyo have tracked and stored so much data on our customers that we’ve gotten used to going to them for data on our customers. The truth is, you are responsible for understanding your customer. And the customer data that is most valuable to you is likely much less than what those companies track (and possibly different data altogether).
This current way of thinking needs to shift. Rather than relying on others to understand your customers and hold onto that data, you need to own that information. That doesn’t mean track them and invade their privacy. It simply means the important details about who your customers are and what actions they take on your site need to be kept by you. DTC brands can learn something from B2B entities in this way. They use a database or a CRM to keep track of customer or client information, not marketing platforms. The bottom line is this: It’s time for you to rely less on others to understand your customers.
Why “Old School” Tracking is Both Reliable and Beneficial
The methods we are about to outline may be “old school”, but they’re also independent of any ad platform. That makes them more timeless than “old school” in our opinion because they don’t rely on any specific technology. While that may make them a bit harder to use than what you’ve grown accustomed to, they are more reliable long term. They’re not perfect, but they will be a substantial help considering the lack of data Facebook and Google can report on in light of recent changes. Keep in mind that you don’t need user data for every single person who comes to your site. You just need enough of a sample size showing what actions users are taking to help you make sound marketing decisions.
4 Methods to Track Marketing Performance Independent of Your Ad Platform
1. Coupon Codes
When it comes to ecommerce, this the oldest (and possibly the most underrated) tracking method in the books. The method is simple: create a unique coupon code for whatever you need to track and incorporate it into your campaigns. If you’re wanting to know which marketing channel sales are coming from (Facebook/Instagram, YouTube, Google Search, influencers, or affiliates), each channel should have a unique coupon. If you’re focused on Facebook advertising and you need to watch which audience or campaign is bringing in more sales, create unique codes to use in the ads for different campaigns or audiences.
However you choose to use coupons, they are powerful because it’s easy to create a large volume of them and also report on them straight from your ecommerce platform.
Create unique coupon codes per channel, per audience, or per campaign and you will be able to track where your sales are coming from.
2. Landing Pages
Hopefully you are already creating unique landing pages for your marketing campaigns, but have you thought about using them for data tracking purposes? Create different landing pages for each marketing channel, campaign, or audience and you’ll have a simple method for attributing performance to each.
This might mean you’re creating a lot more landing pages than you are currently, but there are tools to help you do that. In the end, it’s worth the time. Not only will it help with tracking, it will also allow you to create a more custom experience for multiple sources of traffic. Taking the time to carry over campaign creative for each landing page will only improve the user’s experience even further.
Another benefit to landing pages is the ability to integrate with your CRM and send data to it. For example, you might auto tag certain people as they come through to direct that info into your CRM. You’ll need a developer for this, but it’s very doable and worthwhile.
3. Custom URLs
Custom URLs are another method for tracking data without relying on your marketing platforms for tracking. It’s fairly easy to create a lot of simple branded URLs using a shortener tool like bit.ly or other tools. Under their clean exterior, these custom URLs can auto populate coupon codes, forward to landing pages, or contain URL variables. Depending on how granular you plan to get, setting these up may require some technical skills, but it will provide you with flexibility and the ability to track the results of traffic from different types of sources.
4. URL Variables
URL variables are one of the best ways to track customer activity and see which campaigns generate site visits and sales. One of the most common URL variables are UTM parameters by Google. If you’re using Google Analytics, this is the simplest way to make sure all data flows into Google Analytics for you to track there. If you’re not using Google Analytics, you can use any URL variable to hold information that is then captured on your site and sent to your data manager and/or CRM.
What is Needed to Make These Strategies Work?
Deciding how to use these methods to work for your business is up to you. But truthfully, marketers should already be using these methods, even before the iOS14 changes rocked the advertising world. Whether you’re ramping up these methods in your business or you’re considering them for the first time, you will need a few things to track data effectively.
One of the biggest challenges to getting started is simply setting a strategy. It does take a certain mindset to be able to organize campaigns and data so that it can be reported on. For a long time, many marketers have gotten away with operating very messily. When you’re taking tracking into your own hands, that is going to have to change. There will need to be structure and attention to detail to keep everything straight.
Another component of this will be technical understanding. You can definitely leverage some of these methods in a simple fashion if you don’t have a technical background, so long as you have an understanding of how these work. But if you can add that technical expertise, likely with a good development person, there is no limit to what you can do and how powerful your tracking can get. As we’ve said throughout this post, it’s worth the investment in your team and your marketing work, because moving forward, those who implement these methods will be the ones who win.
You will also need to have a strong CRM platform to work directly with these targeting methods. For ecommerce brands, the most practical way to do this is by using Klaviyo. Klaviyo is an email marketing platform, but also serves as a great CRM for DTC brands due to their ability to store all kinds of information about customers. Alternatively, you could look at using platforms like Hubspot or Salesforce and a tool such as Zapier to connect it to your ecommerce store.
Whatever you choose, all data should be integrated and flowing into your CRM. There is immense value in making sure your data is flowing into your CRM in an organized fashion, because all of that customer data is an asset for your business.
Finally, you’ll need some sort of dashboard that will help monitor and report on metrics that matter from your marketing campaigns. This could be reporting from your CRM, a dashboard like Google Data Studio, or simply a Google Sheet with key metrics that your team updates daily. Choose a method that will be easy for your team to watch and update, because this is an important step for visualizing what works and what doesn’t.
Why You Need to Start Using These Methods ASAP
1. They are based on principles, not fads or tactics.
These alternative tracking methods are based on timeless principles that ultimately help the customer. Customers want things like discounts and personalized experiences. They want to be marketed to in a way that’s more helpful than invasive. This stands in contrast to connecting with customers solely on the platform level, which relies on platform technology and comes and goes with the trends.
2. They are independently owned.
With these tracking methods, you are the owner and operator, not Facebook or Google. You won’t have to worry about any bias in determining attribution, abrupt changes in reporting, or (as we’ve seen recently), severe limitations in accessing user data. When tracking on your own, you can use any tools you would like. In fact, many tools will likely be emerging soon that will help you track your data even better.
3. They are simple.
Up until recently, the majority of the modern marketing world has relied on complicated AI algorithms, which makes things rigid and complex. These tracking methods are much simpler, so they can be used in many different ways. That makes them more powerful.
4. They are non-invasive and customer-friendly.
These tracking methods don’t invade customer’s privacy and take data from them. They don’t watch the content they interact with on apps and social platforms and use that to deliver ads accordingly. Instead, these methods put the customer first by only tracking actions visitors take within your own marketing world. This allows you to create better brand relationships with your customers.
Join the New (Old) Era of Digital Marketing
These methods are a different way of operating for many marketers, but ultimately this is the direction digital marketing is going. Get started on this now, and you’ll be ahead of the game. It will only improve your current marketing and prepare your business in case our abilities to track user data becomes even more limited.