Maciej Zawadziński: The customer journey is one of the most influential concepts in marketing. How did it evolve over the years? Will it still be relevant for the marketing of the future?
Gerhard Kürner: In the past, the customer journey was often just a theoretical value that wasn’t verifiable. With the increasing number of digital touchpoints, the customer journey or, better yet, first-party data of that journey becomes very important and relevant.
If we use raw data from all measurable touchpoints such as a website, e-store, app or email – and we collect that data with consent – we put ourselves in a favorable position to analyze the customer journey.
Maciej Zawadziński: Data is the key for the marketing of tomorrow. What new technologies and techniques will this marketing adapt to, to gather and activate consumer data?
Gerhard Kürner: Currently, we are experiencing a rapidly rising awareness that data is of value and must be protected, mostly because of data protection regulations. These regulations are a necessity, even though their implementation is fraught with difficulty.
The advantage of these regulations is users’ increased consciousness about their own data. This forces companies to think for the first time about what digital data they control and who really owns it.
The marketing of the future requires users’ consent. This also means companies need to collect and evaluate data on their own. From this point onward, we really talk about data-based first-party marketing. Anyone who does not address this from now on might struggle in the future. In my opinion, we are actually just entering the age of data.
Maciej Zawadziński: Chrome will phase out third-party cookies sooner or later. This will render the technology that relies on it obsolete, such as remarketing or cross-domain tracking. How will marketers manage without them – what will they use instead?
Gerhard Kürner: Other browsers have already started blocking third-party cookies. So, Google’s announcement didn’t surprise me. However, Google has a lot of advertising money at stake and will certainly find some way to get around this issue. At the end of the day, online marketing will become more complex.
Keep in mind that we also have the iOS consent to tracking apps, and its opt-in rate leveled off at 13%. This means that there is a big shift ahead of us, and it’s to focus on first-party data. In addition, topics such as contextual targeting will gain in importance.
Maciej Zawadziński: Based on what we know, will the replacement for third-party cookies be enough to sustain the quality of online advertising? Or will big tech walled gardens be the only way of reaching a greater targeted audience?
Gerhard Kürner: The big tech walled gardens, above all Google and Facebook, will continue to play a dominant role in the future. Marketers follow the eyeballs. It was true in the purely analog era and will remain so in the digital future. We can assume that ad platforms, supplemented by businesses such as Amazon and Apple, will dominate online advertising, where, at least in Europe, we will be able to reach many individuals.
However, I also believe that European media companies will continue to develop an additional opportunity to target people. Eventually, we will also have access to more digital touchpoints, such as addressable TVs.
Maciej Zawadziński: What would be your go-to strategy when it comes to first-party data collection and activation?
Gerhard Kürner: First of all, we have to start collecting first-party data unitedly. Google Analytics tracks 84% of all websites at this moment. It is not yet possible to assume a comprehensive collection of first-party data across websites, e-stores and apps.
Data that the collector controls allows for greater depth and quantity, resulting in new information. Most importantly, self-acquired data lets you activate unprecedented audiences. For the first time, we have a reasonable basis to work from with artificial intelligence and machine learning, segmentation and predictions, which wasn’t possible before. Once you combine this data with already existing information from your CRM, you create your own base for catering to wishes from new and existing customers. You then step it up a notch and offer your customers significantly richer benefits.
Data that the collector controls allows for greater depth and quantity, resulting in new information. Most importantly, self-acquired data lets you activate unprecedented audiences.
– Gerhard Kürner
Maciej Zawadziński: A lot of businesses rely on legitimate interest and some are unaware of the legal framework for their data collection. Do you think the same trend will continue in the future? Or maybe businesses will have to pay even more attention to follow data protection laws?
Gerhard Kürner: The time of unregulated data collection is over, at least in Europe. And based on the latest developments worldwide I can see that many countries are heading towards increased regulation.
If you want to keep the old privacy and security regulations or “non-regulations” alive, you will hit a dead end in the medium run. Currently, we are talking about data in terms of how it is collected, who gave consent and when. It will become the future of data collection and considered as a given. Instead of hurdles and problems, we will talk more and more about data quality.
In the long term, we will transform many areas in marketing using AI processes. We will spark a discussion about ethics and trust. In fact, the European Commission has already started work on this topic. Even though it’s often criticized, the whitepaper is, in my opinion, the cornerstone for the long-term regulation of AI in Europe. Anyone who is planning their data and marketing strategy beyond the next update of Google Chrome should also keep this in mind.
Maciej Zawadziński: In general, privacy laws make it harder for businesses to collect valuable consumer data. It seems the future will bring stricter regulations, making data collection even harder. In your opinion, how can businesses balance privacy and data collection, respect privacy, and still get valuable business insights?
Gerhard Kürner: Privacy laws alone are complicated. But often it’s the interpretation of those laws that make them more difficult or impossible to implement. Companies’ legal departments and sometimes external legal advisors are not trained enough in marketing analytics to be able to assess the impact of those interpretations.
There’s also a patchwork of interpretations and national differences across Europe. Despite challenges, data collected with user consent and processed in a transparent manner is an invaluable business asset that many still fail to appreciate. And you can enrich that data with data from different digital touchpoints and your own databases, such as CRM systems. With this base, companies have similar opportunities to large technology platforms to significantly, sustainably and measurably improve customer acquisition and customer care.
Gerhard Kürner, CEO & Founder of 506 – Data-based Marketing Expert
Gerhard Kürner comes from an entrepreneurial family and has been involved in various digital projects since the 1980s.
In the 1990s, he worked on the introduction of CD-Interactiv in Austria and won the state prize for advertising film. After setting up one of the first streaming services in Austria, he worked globally for voestalpine for 14 years.
During his time as Head of Corporate Communication he contributed to the brand’s transformation from a steel producer to a global technology group.
In 2015, Gerhard Kürner got involved in an advertising agency in Linz. Together with his partners, he created LUNIK2, one of the top 3 advertising agencies in Upper Austria.
In 2020, he founded 506.ai, an AI-driven marketing data science solution provider that he leads as CEO.