By Natalie Cramp, CEO of data science company Profusion discusses how Apple’s ban on tracking pixels impacts marketing for fintechs
On the 20th September Apple began rolling out it’s latest device software update iOS 15. Normally, this type of news might be only of passing interest. However, in June Apple revealed that iOS 15 would contain a range of new settings designed to help users control their privacy. Within these new controls is a feature called ‘Mail Privacy Protection’ – which ‘stops senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user’. Marketers will be very familiar with these ‘tracking pixels’ as they enable organisations to track the engagement and optimise and tailor content for email marketing campaigns.
For fintechs this ban might seem like an issue for the marketing industry, however, the fact is that email remains the most popular and effective marketing channel for nearly every business. As the fintech sector, especially for B2C products and services, is such a competitive place where many companies need to show rapid customer acquisition to secure their next round of funding, anything that impacts the effectiveness of their marketing efforts is worthy of note.
If you’re unfamiliar with tracking pixels, it’s worth quickly recapping what they do. They are embedded into nearly every marketing email you receive. It tells the sender how many people opened their emails, when they were opened, how often and, in some cases, what links were clicked, or which articles people spent time reading. All of this information is analysed to better tailor content, the timing and frequency of emails and assess effectiveness. From here marketing budgets and strategies are refined. Without any other data on the user, the pixels are essentially ‘dumb’ – users are simply anonymous numbers from which algorithms can automatically send more appropriate emails.
Untailored content is naturally much less effective because it provides a worse customer experience. People receive more irrelevant information and emails may be delivered too frequently or not often enough for their preferences.
As many fintechs channel much of their revenue into product development and growth rather than communications, chances are that many of these startups have marketing teams that are disproportionately reliant on tracking pixels to optimise their campaigns. Whereas larger companies can, with the help of their data science team and cache of user data, create workarounds to plug their information gap, smaller fintechs are going to have to employ a different approach.
Our view is that the best strategy is to first get your marketing team to audit all of your existing practices, models and customer journeys to understand just how much losing information on iOS users will affect outreach. Then, with the blind spots in customer behaviour identified, employ tactics such as using more tailored links within emails, stepping up the monitoring of unsubscribes and increase the testing of different email campaigns on customer segments. Ultimately, the best solution could be to fully embrace zero party data. By asking your customer base directly (via surveys or marketing preference settings) when, how and what they would like to receive from your company, you can create a new stream of highly accurate customer data.
This issue is unlikely to be on many founders’ radars because it is seemingly highly technical and peripheral. Yet, we all know it will be top of their agenda if, within a month, the effectiveness of marketing suddenly falls leading to their customer growth figures stalling. Ultimately, how successfully a fintech responds to the tracking pixel ban will come down to how its leaders understand and value marketing. Effectively counteracting this change, and the many others that are likely to happen over the coming years as privacy rules evolve, inevitably means investing in a marketing department with data science capabilities. By having experts that can create new ways of analysing and understanding your customers and business, not only will your marketing team be able to quickly respond to changing data sources, it will also make your marketing – and your startup – more successful.