How Changes in Cookie Consent and Governance are Impacting the Digital Analytics Industry

In the ever-changing world of data protection, the UK government has announced plans to reform its rules on website and app cookie consent.

Business’ use of cookies and other available trackers is currently governed by the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) and the European Union (EU)’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Under these rules, companies, as well as charities, are required to obtain EU users’ informed consent before storing or accessing the information on devices – be it on web browsers or apps for example.

With Brexit out of the way, the UK is keen to move away from the EU’s GDPR rules – which regulate the use of cookies, or personal data online identifiers, but increasing regulation has without a doubt impacted the role of Digital Analysts and the market as a whole. Here’s how:

Post-cookies landscape

For any business, first-party and third-party cookies are essential to track user journeys (searches, purchases, frequency, and IP addresses for example), and gather instructive data. This information is used to measure ad performance and website traffic, and to provide personalised marketing and advertising.

Under GDPR, users can refuse to allow cookies (and their preferences) from being collected and stored, meaning businesses are increasingly losing out on user-behaviour data. Advertisers said their clients saw analytics traffic drop by 30 to 70 per cent in the last year.

When Google announced it was phasing out third-party cookies, 41 per cent of marketers said the biggest challenge they would be facing would be tracking the right data, while only 31 per cent said they anticipated a positive change from the new policy.

Indeed, without the full picture of the user journey and less granular reports, companies are struggling to capture an accurate measurement of their performances through data analytics – as well as a change in marketing spending.

According to a survey, 61 per cent of marketers said they anticipated an increase in their budget spending, while 14 per cent said they were concerned about the need to train their teams. 18 per cent of marketers believe changes in cookie policies would lead to a 25 per cent increase in their spending.

Mitigating the impact

Unfortunately, some businesses are still lagging behind: an investigation found that as many as 64 per cent of well-known sites do not appear to comply with EU and UK cookie laws.

At the time, the investigator discovered that sites such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Ryanair were not compliant. On some of these websites, the business chose to hide the refuse/decline button, for instance.

To comply with the PECR, businesses must make sure to provide clear and unambiguous information about cookies and the easiest way for users to opt-in or out – and businesses can take advantage of increasing user awareness through the cookie consent mechanism. More than ever, customers demand transparency, so marketers can use this opportunity to perfect their brand image and build trust with their audience through the right consent management platform (CMP). A survey found that 71 per cent of people would stop buying from a business that collects or shares sensitive data without permission.

But with the right systems and strategy in place, data teams can continue to collect first-party data.

Data analysts can make the most of goal conversion tracking in Google Analytics 4 (GA4) which measures business outcomes by tracking specific actions on websites – these include page location, language, scrolls, clicks, and YouTube video views.

Businesses are being encouraged to switch to GA4 as soon as possible, given that Google has announced it has plans to stop collecting universal analytics from July 2023. Meanwhile, data analysts can also mitigate the impact of the cookie consent boxes by not showing the pop-ups on non-EU website traffic by using IP lookups to identify their EU and non-EU users – tools such as IPData and IPInfo.

Finally, with the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill 2022-2023 slated to have its second reading in the House of Commons on 5 September, it is important you ensure your data analytics team is ready for the next big change in data protection policy.

If you’re looking for your next role, or to build out your data team, we can help. Take a look at our latest Digital Analytics jobs or get in touch with one of our expert consultants to find out more.

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