Is Offline Data Tracking Too Much of a Privacy Hit?

One of the biggest developments that arose from Google’s most recent Marketing Next conference was its mention of tracking both offline and online data together. In particular, it announced work on two tools: Google Attribution and a new business sales measurement tool – both still in beta and expected to find commercial release in a handful of months.

Immediately following the announcement, the media heightened its coverage of customer privacy, and outfits are asking the generalized question, “Is Google taking its ambition too far and crossing deep into consumer privacy?”

Google Attribution and Sales Measurement

In order to analyze that core issue here at Atria, where you readers are most concerned about using AdWords and protecting your own customers’ collective privacy, we should first take a look at what these new tools will do for your businesses.

Google Attribution, says a Google blog post, will make it possible for your businesses to rely on data-driven attribution that uses “machine learning to determine how much credit to assign to each step in the consumer journey – from the first time they engage with your brand for early research down to the final click before purchase.”

It will grab information from AdWords, DoubleClick, Google Search, and Google Analytics in order to analyze your customer conversions and show you the paths those individuals took before purchasing one of your products or services.

In the immediate term, this may sound like a godsend to businesses that have trouble adjusting their bid prices or strategies. Whether you have trouble with keywords or just feel like you’re spending a lot of money for little return, online marketing can be tough to handle. Google’s aim here is to make marketing processes easier for all its customers.

The Importance of Privacy

Why then are outfits like Wired talking about privacy instead of praising the coming marketing tools?

The Google services mentioned earlier – AdWords, DoubleClick… – are all online services. They have been helping you run your businesses for many years. What’s different now is that Google Attribution will use more than just online data to connect firms with their customers; it will reach into the offline world with a new business sales measurement tool that fulfills the need, Google says, to find out whether online ads translate to the ringing of your cash registers.

The store sales measurement tool will allow you to connect online ads that led directly to in-store revenue. This connection between offline and online information is what has pundits worried about the ever-growing reach of the Google goliath.

Where Do You Stand?

It is possible that you already use many Google products with great success. A precursor to the store sales measurement tool, Google’s “store visits measurement tool” that arrived in 2014, may even have helped you link customer journeys from internet-connected tablets and laptops to your brick-and-mortar locations. But these new product releases come with more attached responsibility for you and for Google itself.

Google says it’s excited to use machine learning to help its customers connect with their audiences. Those enterprise customers, however, must decide how they want to adopt the new options as they arrive. Will you inform customers how their data will be used? Will you make it known that Google has promised “custom encryption technology” to keep user data anonymous?

Ask yourself how you can best keep your customers informed about their privacy and what you, as a local or national outfit, are doing to provide them with excellent products while also respecting their private information.

The most important part of this conversation is not the effectiveness of Google’s new tools; it’s whether or not they can be effective while protecting businesses and consumers. As business owners, you play a prominent role here, and you have a knowledgeable ally in Atria that can help you begin to use these tools responsibly and well.