The YouGov research found that only 45% of the 500 marketers surveyed, from small to large enterprises, stated they were observing current laws and regulations concerning data collection for digital communications. Meanwhile, less than a quarter (24%) were developing alternative plans for targeting potential customers when the dropping of third-party cookies is phased out. fifty-five, the company that commissioned the research, is describing the findings as a ‘wake up call’ for marketers to adapt to the new privacy-first internet and adopt a new strategy.

The results highlight the significant gap between the intentions and the actions of businesses. 75% of respondents claimed to understand UK laws for privacy and compliance with the data laws. Yet, when asked whether their customers are able to opt in or out of communications using a consent management tool (CMP) for their company website, app and email tools, only 45% of companies surveyed confirmed that they were. 

Meanwhile 38% of marketers said their customers weren’t able to opt in or out and 16% were unsure. This is despite UK law now requiring all websites to provide users with the ability to manage their consent regarding website tracking and data usage. It is also part of EU Law under GDPR regulations, in place since May 2020.*  

What about the cookieless future?

As well as not staying on the right side of regulations now, the survey also reveals a worrying inertia about adapting to the future ‘cookieless digital marketing environment’. This is the much trailed move toward a privacy-centred web where Apple has already long since moved away from 3rd party cookie tracking within Safari browsers and other tech giants like Google and Facebook are rolling out various non-cookie based measurement solutions. 

Only 24% surveyed said that their company had a fully formed strategy or were in the process of developing one. 20% reported that their company had not yet started but were aware they needed one, and 33% stated that there was no intention to do so.  

The current failure to prepare was apparent across business sectors. The most prepared was those whose main industry was IT and telecoms with 38% either prepared or in the process of preparing, followed by media and marketing (31%). Despite having some of the most regular digital communication with customers, retail was one of the worst prepared, with only 19% stating their company had a fully formed strategy or were in the process of developing one. This is despite marketers in the retail sector reporting the most ardent support from their CEO and senior leadership for digital. 

The survey also revealed senior marketers’ biggest concerns in developing their digital marketing strategies in the future. The number one concern was the team not having the skills in-house to develop and implement a robust digital strategy (17%), followed by whether the team’s skills are now up to date and relevant for the data and AI driven future (15%). This was tied with not being able to accurately measure marketing website activity (15%.)  Other worries were not being able to accurately target customers in the future (14%), being hampered by legacy systems (12%) and facing a fine from the ICO (12%). 

Richard Wheaton, MD of fifty-five said: “Our survey reveals a worrying inertia among marketers about adapting to a new more ‘privacy-focused’ internet. It is a legal requirement to have a consent management tool in place and yet a majority of marketers either don’t have one or are confused about what this means. It is also imperative that marketers have a plan in place for how they can target customers in the future with the end of the cookie in sight. With only one in four currently doing anything about a strategy, this should be a ‘wake up call’ to marketers. In this new world first party data will be of increasing importance. 

He continued: “The good news is that many brands have a treasure trove of this under-utilised data that can be used to understand audiences and achieve marketing objectives. It is vital to work with the right experts to unlock this, particularly given the concerns senior marketers have relating to the skills of the in house teams.”