Marketing in a Privacy Compliant World
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Marketing in a Privacy Compliant World

Stephen Loftis, Chief Brand Officer and Christine Lorusso, Director of Digital Marketing Firebirds Wood Fired Grill
Stephen Loftis, Chief Brand Officer and Christine Lorusso, Director of Digital Marketing Firebirds Wood Fired Grill

Stephen Loftis, Chief Brand Officer and Christine Lorusso, Director of Digital Marketing Firebirds Wood Fired Grill

Google is phasing out third-party cookies by 2024. Could you elaborate on the challenges in this regard?

Firebirds Wood Fired Grill relies on third-party cookies from search engines like Google to help determine our target audience and optimize advertisements for prospective guests. Organic search accounts for 50 percent of our annual website traffic, with Google accounting for 93 percent of that. The prospect of losing third-party cookie data by 2024 is detrimental and will have a significant impact on our digital marketing strategy.

Although we are aware of Google’s updates, we are unaware of the potential impact this will have on advertisers like us. This is where first-party owned data will be extremely useful to Firebirds as a brand.

Google is currently testing its privacy sandbox, which should be available in the third quarter of 2023. Google believes this will pave the way for an approach that will ensure the web’s continued viability without relying on cross-site tracking. This news gives us hope that we will be able to solve the puzzle without losing too much information or hampering consumer privacy.

What are your thoughts on the iOS 14 update and its impact on digital marketing?

We see the strongest ROI through our social ads. The limitations on third-party data that came with the iOS 14 update are a setback for Facebook’s ad platform and have raised concerns in two major areas: optimization and data measurement. According to recent reports, advertisers will see a 20 percent to 50 percent increase in CPA, which is a challenge for Firebirds because we strive to keep our CPA low while consistently producing a strong ROI.

How do you plan to overcome these challenges?

Upon hearing this news, Firebirds began testing until we found a new approach that would allow us to maintain the same CPA levels prior to the iOS update. In 2022, the average click-through rate (CTR) is 0.90 percent. We’re pleased to share that our current average is 3.88 percent, with our all-time CTR, which includes over 900 campaigns, is 2.9 percent. Despite the latest Facebook updates, we are seeing how our approach is assisting in overcoming these challenges. We are meeting our goals and initial projections, while also increasing to achieve average and comparative results to previous standings.

Outside of digital advertising, how have these updates impacted other areas of digital marketing?

The iOS update released in September 2021 included mail privacy protection, which raised two concerns regarding our email marketing strategy. The first is the ability for users to mask IP addresses so that we do not know the recipient’s location, which impacts data collection.

“Although we are aware of Google’s updates, we are not fully aware of the impact this will have on advertisers like us. This is where first-party owned data will be extremely useful to Firebirds as a brand.”

The second issue is that the email content is preloading, which means we do not know if an email was opened, resulting in an inflated open rate and lower CTR. This impacts A/B testing, as well as any automation-based campaigns, necessitating reconfiguration. Prior to the iOS update, our average email marketing open rate was approximately 18 percent, compared to the industry average of 12 percent, which we are proud of. We attribute this to our personalized messaging and insights gained from the data we collect in our CRM to know and understand the interests of our guests and what entices them to engage with our messaging. While those numbers have always been outstanding, we need to look deeper to determine success and to provide actual revenue generate from an email.

How will Firebirds continue to track the success of email marketing campaigns with these limitations?

We are not a “discount brand” so we are unable to rely on coupon redemptions to track the success of a campaign. Because of this, we’ve never based the success of email marketing on open rates or click through rates alone. Instead, we utilize UTM parameters and tracking on our website landing pages, as well as CTAs, through Google Tag manager and analytics. We also rely on our partners at OpenTable and Olo to supply us with reports and results that can be easily tracked back to a specific email. From there we can track website conversions and calculate a realistic ROI.

How are you proactively planning for the new privacy-compliant world?

We are focusing on how to take our metrics and data a step beyond what 3rd party platforms provide. Instead, we are relying on our owned first-party data, results, and analytics to ensure that we are set up for success.

First-party data has always been at the heart of our marketing strategy at Firebirds. We are working on expanding our CRM database through our own website and third-party sites such as OpenTable and Olo. Firebirds has amassed a database of over 2.5 million users, with 1.2 million of them being highly engaged, across just 55 restaurant locations.

Many brands are focused on first-party data, but one must take a step back, look at the data available, decide what data is actionable and is going to generate revenue, while also complying with privacy laws all of which can be overwhelming.

At Firebirds, we found that the best way for us to do this is by building those relationships with our guests so that they want to give us this information. Customers will not agree to share information unless they trust the brand and will benefit from sharing their information, and Firebirds utilizes this information to provide a personalized experience. This is visible in our performance, whether it is in the restaurants, across our digital platforms or through our marketing efforts. We create a personalized experience through email and ads, which increases the campaign’s success and overall ROI. It also increases guest satisfaction and trust.

Firebirds will continue to closely monitor the ever-changing world of third-party cookies and privacy laws, and we feel confident that our preparation to date will set us up for success in a post-cookie world.

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