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Multifamily Marketer’s Guide to Data Privacy

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By Bobbi Steward

Published 7 months ago

Updated 7 months ago


Data privacy rules and regulations are becoming increasingly stringent and it seems that just about everywhere you turn, news about the impending (yet still up in the air) death of the tracking cookie abounds.

Multifamily marketers are navigating a complex web of rules and guidelines to ensure compliance and performance in today’s world. In this blog post, we'll explore the key considerations and strategies that can help marketers thrive while respecting fluctuating data privacy regulations. Whether you're running Google pay-per-click, email marketing, or leveraging Facebook retargeting ads for your multifamily portfolio, understanding the impact of these regulations on your marketing and advertising practices is crucial.

Where to Start? 


👉 Understanding Why Third-Party Cookie Tracking is Changing

Third-party cookies have raised privacy concerns because they allow advertisers to track users' online behavior across different websites. Third-party cookies often operate without explicit user consent, allowing advertisers to gather data about users' browsing habits, interests, and preferences. In response, many users have turned to ad-blocking tools, which further diminish the effectiveness of third-party cookies for targeted advertising. And with the implementation of data privacy regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), there is a growing emphasis on user consent and control over personal data. 

Major web browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, and Safari, have already implemented or announced changes to their policies regarding third-party cookies. These changes aim to enhance user privacy and limit the reach and tracking capabilities of third-party cookies. As a result, the advertising and digital marketing industry is shifting toward alternative solutions, such as first-party data, contextual advertising, and consent-based approaches, to address privacy concerns while still providing relevant and personalized experiences to users. 


✌️Understanding the Intent of Regulations

Data privacy and its impact on multifamily marketing is a complex topic to tackle. So as a marketer, it's important to start by familiarizing yourself with regulations impacting our industry.

Every multifamily marketer should be intimately familiar with the Fair Housing guidelines on marketing and advertising, but fewer are up to speed with accessibility as outlined in the Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCGA), or even state-level consumer data privacy laws in California, Colorado, Virginia, etc. Take the time to distill down the overall goal of each set of regulations, and if you don’t have that level of comfort or expertise in compliance, your company’s inside council, a peer in the industry, or trade associations can be great resources to get you started. Developing a basic understanding of the intent of these guidelines is an important step forward in aligning your marketing efforts.


🤟The Impacts of these Changes on Marketing Functions

One area heavily influenced by data privacy regulations is the changing use of cookies. As a marketer, it's vital to grasp how changes in cookie technology can affect your various marketing functions and impact the performance of your campaigns. For instance, retargeting campaigns may experience different performance outcomes due to evolving data privacy rules and subsequent cookie tracking technology changes, and these performance changes can impact your cost per lease metrics. By staying informed and adapting your strategies accordingly, you can maintain compliance while optimizing campaign effectiveness.


Shifting Focus to First-Party Data


As data privacy regulations continue to evolve, multifamily marketers are encouraged to shift their reliance from third-party data to first-party data.

First-party data is information collected directly from prospects and customers who willingly provide their details. By leveraging this data, you can gain more control over your audience targeting and reduce the need for cookie-based tracking. This shift also empowers marketers to continue personalizing their campaigns while respecting consumer privacy, and not getting caught out when technology changes go into effect.

And not only will first-party data give you more control, according to a recent study by MIT, it will also result in way better performance. In the study published in Q3 2023, “Is first- or third-party audience data more effective for reaching the ‘right’ customers?” researchers from MIT discovered that third-party audience targeting performed so poorly that it is no more effective than showing your ad campaigns to random internet users. 

The modern digital environment in theory allows marketers to target individuals in organizations through specifically designed third-party audience segments based on deterministic prospect lists or probabilistic inference. However, in this paper we show that in our context, such ‘off-the-shelf’ segments perform no better at reaching the right person than random prospecting. We present evidence that even deterministic attribute information is flawed for ITDM identification, and that the poor campaign results can be partly linked to incorrect assignment of established prospect profiles to online identifiers.”

In short - even if your advertising platform of choice claims to be able to reach IT decision-makers at property management companies, or renters who are in-market for a new apartment, chances are high that they actually won’t - and you’ll be leaving your marketing dollars to chance.


Using First & Zero-Party Data to Engage Prospects


In marketing, direct engagement with customers is key. First-party data includes information prospects and residents willingly share with you, such as their preferences, interests, and feedback. But zero-party data takes this a step further, involving active participation from customers to provide personalized insights. 

So what exactly is first-party and zero-party data?

Let’s break it down for you:

  • Example #1: You provide Netflix with your name and email address when you create an account. That is first party data. But after you've established a relationship with Netflix, you begin to tell Netflix the shows you like and dislike - that is zero party data. In turn, Netflix can use that zero-party data to recommend more shows that you’ll probably like. 

  • Example #2: You provide your ZIP code to Yelp when you create an account on Yelp. That's first party data. But then you also tell Yelp that you prefer vegan restaurants or that you liked or disliked the Thai place that you went to last night. That is zero party data. And in turn, Yelp can use that data to recommend the best tofu stir fry in your neighborhood. 


At the end of the day, first-party and zero-party data is all about knowing your audience better, asking them what they want more of, and then acting on that data through your marketing channels. By implementing strategies like pulse surveys and micro quizzes, or simply adding questions to your contact forms to learn more about your prospect’s needs, you can collect valuable zero-party data that enables more targeted and relevant marketing efforts.

We spoke with industry expert Eden Chai, Co-Founder and CMO of Flair, who added:

"Data is set to become the game-changing asset in Real Estate. Operators who know how to collect data and put it to work will dominate the next decade. Remember, data collection is just the starting point; it's how you use it that moves the needle."

Rather than letting these data privacy regulations make you fearful of collecting data, use it as an opportunity to make your marketing smarter.


Maintaining Control and Compliance


With data privacy regulations in mind, it's crucial to maintain control over your marketing campaigns and oversight on the data that you collect. By relying on first-party and zero-party data, you reduce dependence on third-party sources and gain more control over your targeting and messaging. But when first-party and zero-party data aren’t available, look internally for other sources of data that can make your campaigns feel more personalized. 


When it comes to paid search advertising, consider leveraging a tech platform or vendor who can activate your search campaigns based on your own pricing and availability data feeds, which improves the relevancy of your PPC campaigns. If you have vacancies in a certain floor plan or unit type, leverage that data to adjust bids and ad copy to capture more search demand for that specific unit type. Keep it simple. If a prospect wants a 2 bedroom unit, and your ads for that keyword show 2 bedroom unit copy, you’ll capture their attention. But if they click on your ad and come to find that you don’t actually have any 2 bedroom availability, their experience will be negative.

The beauty of leveraging your own internal data to power your marketing campaigns is that it doesn’t require you to collect any personal information about the prospect, but it can definitely deliver a better prospect experience.


Redefining Attribution


As data privacy regulations evolve, traditional lead source attribution methodologies have become even less reliable - especially for campaigns and channels that rely on third-party data or tracking cookies. Rather than solely relying on static lead sources in your CRM or Lead Management tool to inform your marketing efforts and budget, it’s high time to consider a more comprehensive approach.

When measuring the performance of your marketing campaigns, evaluate qualitative data alongside quantitative metrics. Ask your prospects how they found you to collect zero-party data, and then study that data alongside your attribution data. Does it match, or does it tell a different story? 

"My favorite attribution hack is to add an open-ended question to our contact forms: 'How did you hear about us?' This is better than dropdown lists which skew results. Regularly, either monthly or quarterly, go through the responses and find the recurring themes. You'll be surprised at what you might find." says Chai.

Zero-party data gives marketers a more accurate understanding of the true customer journey and can help your budget pack a serious punch. 


Conclusion


Navigating multifamily marketing and data privacy regulations requires a proactive and informed approach. By understanding the regulations, embracing first-party and zero-party data, and reevaluating attribution strategies, multifamily marketers can successfully navigate this changing landscape.

Prioritize data privacy compliance, focus on customer experiences, and adapt your strategies to build stronger connections with your audience. By doing so, you'll be well-positioned to drive growth, improve campaign effectiveness, and maintain compliance in the multifamily industry's evolving marketing landscape.