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4 Approaches for Successful Digital Marketing in the Age of Increased Data Protection

Changes in data protection laws are making life more difficult for marketers. This article explains how CWS managed to execute a powerful digital marketing strategy despite these changes.

Digital marketing is facing many changes. Since 2018, GDPR requirements mandate active consent for cookies and trackers. Additionally, Google plans to stop supporting the use of third-party cookies in Chrome starting from 2024, and Apple's Safari browser has been blocking cookies since 2020. Users themselves are also employing ad blockers and personalized privacy settings at higher rates.

How mature is your business in its digital marketing strategy?

Before companies begin to panic over these profound changes, they should first assess the level of maturity of their digital marketing activities. After all, not all market developments are equally relevant for all companies. In this case, so-called digital marketing leaders – highly mature companies with large advertising budgets, broad reach, advanced web analytics and tracking capabilities --  will be particularly affected. At the other end of the spectrum sit digital marketing followers, companies that are just getting started with digital channels for lead generation and user brand awareness. In the middle lie the so-called accelerators. Most B2B companies are among the digital marketing followers, while leaders include e-commerce champions such as Zalando or data-savvy e-commerce startups.

Therein lies an important lesson: B2B should adopt more B2C digital marketing techniques. B2B customers are also private individuals and consumers, they use the same systems and channels, and the same legal requirements apply. Becoming a worldwide top-10 marketer does not have to be the goal, but rather continuous development and skills improvement regarding both digital marketing capabilities and tracking analytics.

This is how you continue to reach your target groups through digital marketing

B2B companies classified as digital marketing followers or accelerators might struggle with legal requirements limiting the tracking of users throughout the entire customer journey. The following steps offer an effective solution:


1. Achieve the full potential of web analytics

Web analytics enable companies to collect, analyze and interpret customer data, enabling valuable insights and allowing for campaigns to be optimized. It is important for companies to choose an analytics focus that suits their needs and defines corresponding clear strategic goals as well as the marketing and web KPIs derived from them. The quality and reliability of data is also crucial. Digital marketing followers can also use it to make well-founded, data-based decisions about whether and how, for example, a campaign needs to be optimized or through which channels customers can best be reached.


2. Enable First Party Data

The collection and activation of first-party rather than third-party data will gain relevance as the latter becomes less available and usable moving forward. B2B companies that are in the digital marketing follower or on the cusp of the accelerator stage must understand that this data requires good foundations. In concrete terms, first-party data must be obtained via as many company-owned channels as possible. Customer profiles are generated via CRM systems or, in more advanced cases, via a customer data platform populated with data from various channels. This data can then be used to optimize audience engagement and targeting.


3. Rely on server-side tracking and conversion API

Server-side tracking (i.e. setting up your own tracking server) will become increasingly relevant as marketing and web tracking is restricted due to the discontinuing of third-party cookies. Additionally, conversion APIs complement the collection of conversion and transaction data along the entire customer journey, even outside of your website and in the systems of advertising providers such as Meta and Google. This also applies to post-purchase events such as complaints. Although this improves the quality and scope of data, a company should at least be in the digital marketing accelerator stage before concentrating on server-side tracking and conversion APIs, since setting up and optimally using the systems requires know-how and time.


4. Create a digital ecosystem

A question that is constantly top-of-mind for CMOs is: How do I get my customers to feel comfortable voluntarily sharing their data with me? One possibility is to set up a digital ecosystem with sign-on such as a customer portal or digital experience platform. When registering, companies receive important data such as e-mail addresses and can receive tracking and advertising consent from registering customers. In the portal itself, high-quality and highly relevant first-party data can be collected since it is obtained directly from real customers along the entire customer journey.

The CWS example

OMMAX supported CWS (part of the Haniel Group), a system provider in the areas of health, hygiene, care and workwear, with its growth and transformation strategy. CWS drives organic growth through digitization. The challenge: CWS is a multi-solution, multi-product and multi-segment company. In concrete terms, this means: Multiple ERP systems, country-specific product and service catalogues, solution areas, marketing and sales to multiple personas via multi-level decision-making processes. In view of this, the digital transformation had to be divided into manageable sub-projects, workstreams, systems and software as well as corresponding project teams.

In regards to digital marketing, the continuous recording of users and their behavior along the multi-stage acquisition and decision-making paths is the success factor for CWS. From the first click on an ad, to filling out a lead form on the website, to the sales made and contact with the service center, CWS now collects precisely the data that is required for subsequent activation.

It is crucial to link these data pools with appropriate identifiers. CWS is now even able to link offline calls in the service center with the corresponding online session on the website. An example of successful data linking is the integration of web data and first-party data from the CRM. Following this approach, a click on a Google ad is linked to subsequent sales. This knowledge is fed back to Google to algorithmically optimize the targeting for further advertising campaigns.

In general, the acquired and linked database enables a holistic view of the entire customer journey. This knowledge enables CWS to make more and more data-driven business decisions, from the optimization of individual campaigns, to the use of advanced analytics methods such as forecasting, to the transformation of entire business models.

Digital marketing remains relevant

Even before companies consider the maturity level of their digital marketing or how to use web analytics effectively, they need the right mindset: There is no way to circumvent legal requirements or adblockers in browsers and operating systems. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, instead companies should keep adapting to developments. But it's worth it, because even without third-party cookies, digital marketing will not lose its relevance.


about OMMAX - building digital leaders

OMMAX is a fast-growing digital strategy consultancy in Europe, specializing in transaction advisory, strategy and end-to-end execution of digital initiatives. The vision of OMMAX is building digital leaders in Europe with the overall objective of driving innovation and accelerating digital growth and profitability. Over the last 10 years, OMMAX realized 200+ M&A deals with >€15B deal value, and 800+ international value creation projects in 7 industries for leading private equity firms in the areas of strategy, digital operational excellence, advanced data strategy and analytics, tech and automation. As a front-runner for holistic data-driven strategy consulting and end-to-end execution, OMMAX is the leading consultancy within the European Private Equity sphere, specialized as both the architect and the executor of best-in-class value creation.

OMMAX article: 4 approaches for successful digital marketing in the age of increased data protection

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