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The current data & martech trends every SaaS company needs to know

It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day marketing grind and lose track of the latest updates in data and martech. But keeping up with these trends is a crucial part of a growth marketer’s job in order to stay efficient and competitive. 

Sure, the term “data-driven” has been thrown around so much that it’s become an industry buzzword. But data is the true foundation of growth marketing in SaaS and it’s important for companies to make data literacy a priority. Why?

For a digital marketer, data is a way to:

  • Understand customer behavior patterns, habits, and preferences
  • Develop a fluid, engaging, and more profitable user experience
  • Create impactful, relevant, and personalized content
  • Target advertising to the right audiences
  • Analyze the value of marketing actions
  • Optimize the use of communication and marketing channels

 Most of today’s top marketing tactics (shown below) require some serious heavy lifting of data to succeed. And 15-18% of marketers consider data quality to be a top marketing tactic, according to the 2021 Nielson Annual Marketing Report.

Image source: 2021 Nielson Annual Marketing Report.

 

Making the most of the data you get from your marketing efforts allows you to do things more effectively with greater impact. 

And psst: If you’re interested in this topic, stay tuned for more (and subscribe to our Advance Insider newsletter to make sure you won't miss any future posts! 👇)

Working with data is a key differentiator in marketing

Data is like a gym membership: it has no value unless you use it. 

If you struggle to keep up with the latest data and martech trends, you’re not alone. Data measurement is a universal challenge for marketers. 

Fewer than 20% of marketers feel confident in their ability to measure their return on investment (ROI), according to the same Nielson report cited earlier. This highlights the significant disconnect between marketers’ goal to acquire new customers and their ability to measure their success.

Image source: 2021 Nielson Annual Marketing Report.

 

What are the main challenges growth marketers face when working with data? 

  • The constant evolution of tech (We’re looking at you, Google)
  • Incorrect configuration and filtering may lead to inaccurate data output 
  • Any change in your site or app can break the data
  • The data was once broken and now it can’t be trusted 
  • There is too much (irrelevant) data
  • GDPR compliance seems complicated
  • Data hasn’t been integrated or compiled to one place, making it time-consuming to go through 
  • Data output varies based on the attribution model used 

Simply put: Using data can feel overwhelming. But we’re here to help. 

With the death of cookies (which we’ll get into soon) and the increase in media fragmentation, the need for future-focused martech is only growing stronger. Companies need to have more focused technical capabilities like multi-touch attribution, deduplication, and marketing mix-modelling, but brands of all sizes are lacking confidence in this area. 

Image source: 2021 Nielson Annual Marketing Report.


This means the ability to measure becomes a key differentiator in marketing.
 

Next, let’s take a closer look at the data and martech trends you need to know about.

 

The death of (third-party) cookies

What's a third-party cookie? 

A third-party cookie is a type of tracking code placed in your web browser after visiting one or multiple websites.

They are, however, not created and tracked by the websites you visit. Instead, they’re generated by other domains, specifically third-party service providers that organizations pay to leave a tracking code in a user’s browser (hence the name, third-party cookie). And unlike first-party cookies that are only accessible via the domain that created them, third-party cookies are accessible on any website that loads the third-party server’s code.

As a result, a third-party cookie can gather data across many different websites. What’s more, it allows you to collect different types of data from users, like personal data: age, gender, location, browser, and device, as well as behavioral data, such as: visited webpages and period of usage.

This is how third-party cookies are created 👇

Image source: TMS.


What does the death of third-party cookies mean? 

Google will phase out third-party cookies during 2022, as Safari and Firefox did in the past. This will be the final death of third-party cookies (RIP).

However, this doesn’t mean death for user tracking, as first-party cookies will still be working. Third-party cookies collect information about the online behavior of the user in other (third-party) sites, whereas first-party cookies track only the usage in the site where the tracking is placed. 

That being said, blocking the use of all cookies is also increasing, and users don’t understand the value of cookies. 

Statistics from IAB FInland 2022 study..

 What does this mean for you? Marketers will need to find other ways for profiling users and targeting ads, such as through contextual targeting, where you use first-party data and enrich it with other customer data for more specific profiling. 

You’ll want to take better care of first-party customer data and find innovative ways to get data for profiling users. 

The death of third-party cookies is good news for data privacy, as it requires more responsible and transparent use of customer data. It’s also good news for marketers who have invested in high-quality and engaging content creation and versatile marketing channels and tactics.

How to growth hack your cookie banner 

No need to panic about more users declining all cookies—we have a growth hack for getting users to accept your cookie banner.  

First, analyze the opt-in and opt-out rate and evaluate if the impact to your marketing activities is so remarkable that it requires action.

Don’t offer “Decline” in the first banner screen—instead, allow the user to adjust it easily in the second screen. This is not 100% compliant, but good enough, and it can significantly impact the amount of opt-ins you’ll get.

Setting up a compliant cookie banner is easy with technology providers like CookiePro and Cookie Consent by OneTrust. It’s also possible to use HubSpot’s own cookie banner provided, but then you’ll need to pay special attention to configuring how the scripts load. 

Make sure your GTM is set so that the changes in the cookie consent banner impact the way cookies and pixels are launched. The worst-case scenario is that you lose the user’s trust when they notice that pixels are launched despite having opted out. You can easily check this by installing an ad-on to your browser, such as the Ghostery browser extension.  

Here’s an example of a compliant cookie banner:

First-party data is more important than ever 

What is first-party data?

First-party data is data that a company collects directly from its customers and owns. When you receive answers to a questionnaire about your customer’s interests, that’s first-party data. When you create an interest-based lookalike audience in AdWords based on your previous website users who have bought something, you’re using third-party data (Google is the third party).

First-party data can be personal data or non-personal data. Personal data is data you can use to identify a user, such as name, phone number, address, email, and IP address. We don’t always need personal data—information like behavioral trends (site views, CTA clicks, most viewed items, etc.) is incredibly useful, and it’s easier to gain.

When discussing data accrual, ask yourself: Do I need to know who is doing something, or what is being done?

What does taking better care of first-party data entail?

Making the most of first-party data requires getting back to basics. You need to understand your ideal customer profile and create high-quality, attractive content for them.

To take better care of first-party customer data, you can start:

  • Analyzing the reach and value of your customer data
  • Exploring possibilities to use customer data for targeting marketing actions
  • Testing out new channels, audiences, and targeting methods such as contextual targeting
  • Innovating new ways for collecting customer data


How to growth hack your first-party data

Want inspiration for getting first-party data from your users?

Try putting any of these growth hacks into practice:

  • Send customers questionnaires and feedback forms to gather input
  • Design a freemium model to focus on good data collection
  • Get users interested in high-quality content and signing up for your newsletters
  • Offer users benefits for signing up: better and richer content, coupons, 20% off first purchase, etc. 
  • Encourage engagement on pages to gain behavioral data by asking:
    • How did this article make you feel? 
    • Would you like to see more content like this?
    • Choose which of these interests you most: news, memes, podcasts, etc.
  • Create quizzes, trivia, and raffles 

GDPR is not your enemy but your (customer’s) friend 


What you should know about the latest GDPR trends

Since 2018, the General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) has been improving the protection of personal data and giving internet users better abilities to control the handling of their data.

During the past few years, data privacy regulators have focused a lot on cookie banners, personal data breaches, inadequate data protection, and issues with personal data control. The GDPR has deliberately vague clauses and standards to allow for general rulings to be made as technologies progress and to fill any loopholes.

GDPR ultimately gives more power to the individual to control what data they give of themselves and where it can be stored. 

Marketers need to be more aware of how to use data in a responsible way by respecting users’ consents and customer policies. 


Your GDPR checklist 

When working with your customer data, make sure you check the following boxes: 

✔️ Have a privacy policy in place

✔️ Let users know that you’re using cookies or other tracking technologies 

✔️ Explain to users what cookies are doing and why

✔️ Obtain users valid consent to store a cookie on their device

✔️ Give users access to your service even if the user does not consent to cookies

✔️ Collect and process data only after obtaining valid consent

✔️ Document and store consent received from users

✔️ Offer a simple opt-out, as simple as the opt-in (second screen is ok for now!)

✔️ After opt-out, ensure that no further data is collected or forwarded  

✔️ Make sure that there is no personal data going to Google Analytics 

If you’re not sure whether you comply with these basic rules, make sure to get the support you need to guarantee your compliance. 

Marketing agencies and third-party contractors also need to have data processing agreements (DPAs) with their clients to ensure GDPR compliance.

 

Break the (customer data) silos 

There’s a huge need to combine all this data to a single destination and have the right tools to effectively manage data from all the different systems.

This is where customer data platforms (CDPs) come in. The CDP market is growing 25-36% per year, and is expected to reach USD $5,503.4 million by 2028

CDPs help you avoid data silos and handle customer data more efficiently—and according to laws. By collecting data directly, they allow you to be less dependent on third-party data. You can build customer profiles from all the data you collect in a CDP. 

Breaking down your data silos gives you a better understanding of your business and your customers, and allows you to better target your marketing activities. 

 

The winter (EU) is coming for Google Analytics 

Next, let’s go through the Google Analytics issues coming up that you’ll want to be aware of.


Data location 

Some data privacy regulators in Europe have made statements that Google Analytics is not on par with GDPR, as they store data in the U.S., while European citizen’s data should remain in Europe.

This is the EU’s biggest pain point with Google—Google can’t guarantee that personal data stays in Europe and is not transferred to the U.S. 

Once again, there’s no need to panic and let go of all your precious analytics and data. Instead, we need to wait for the final resolutions from the EU and Google.


No personal data 

EU, privacy regulations, and Google itself are clear that no personal data (such as full IP address) should be flowing to Google Analytics. 

Check that your Google Analytics platform does not intake personal data, even accidentally. 

Upgrade to GA4 

Google will be forcing an upgrade to Google Analytics 4 (or GA4), as it will be the only option in 2023. This newest version of GA launched back in 2020, and it’s a completely new system and a major upgrade from the previous Universal Analytics. 

Whereas Universal Analytics is based on sessions, GA4 is based on events, which can be page views, clicks, submissions, or other custom events. GA4 allows for more advanced analytics and more mature marketing. It’ll give you a lot more insights as to what people are doing on your site. 

To avoid losing your historical data, you need to upgrade to GA4 now. You can use both Universal Analytics and GA4 at the same time until you fully transition to the new system. By making the switch, you’ll get more powerful and flexible data. 
 

Weigh your options for Google Analytics 

If you’re still not sure about what to do about your Google Analytics setup, here’s a rundown of your options.

  1. Make sure your current Google Analytics setup is as good as it can be: check that your setup is modern and data private, your version is GA4, and your cookie banner works as it should. Sit tight and wait for further instructions.
  2. Migrate to another Analytics provider that has their server in Europe. It won’t solve all your problems, but it will resolve the issue of data handling in the U.S.
  3. If you’re in a cloud environment, consider migrating to server-side tracking, which enables GDPR-compliant data control. Again, this isn’t a silver bullet, but when implemented correctly, it will allow you to work in a data-driven manner while respecting user privacy. 

You don’t want to go cold turkey and stop using Google Analytics altogether. Collecting data to better understand your customers is essential to ensure your marketing practices are efficient and that you’re doing the right things.

To sum it up:

  • Third-party cookies are really dying but we still have tons of other customer data.
  • Google Analytics is not illegal but it might need auditing and tweaking to make the use of it more compliant.
  • GDPR compliance requires that you update and monitor your processes since both technologies and GDPR regulations are ever-evolving.

What's next?

Check out the recording of our webinar “How to grow your SaaS business with a solid marketing and sales tech stack” to learn more about building a solid marketing and sales tech stack to fuel business growth. 

Or check out all our services here!