In this episode of the Futurum Tech Webcast, Interview Series, I’m joined by Tara DeZao, Product Marketing Director, AdTech and MarTech at Pegasystems for a timely conversation about the shift away from third party data and what that means for marketers.
Over the last few years, there has been a lot of concern around the amount of data that is used to track us. Every action we take online is tracked, which can be disconcerting when you think about it. But we are on the precipice of a new era. Data deprecation, or the process of limiting what data advertisers and marketers have access to, is slowly picking up steam. And while this is great for consumers, it’s adding in a layer of complexity for brands who still need to deliver personalized customer experiences.
We at a crossroads. The organizations that serve up quick, efficient, personalized, and intuitive experiences can because of their access to data. Those are the kind of experiences we crave as consumers. So as organizations shift from third party data, what do marketers need to know to still be able to provide those experiences? Tara and I explored the topic in great detail.
Here are some of the highlights from our conversation:
- An overview of the data privacy laws and regulations that have passed in the last half decade that have gotten us to where we are currently.
- A look at how control over personal data is going back to the consumer.
- How the data privacy changes have disrupted the digital marketing environment.
- How brands are using data to create personalized customer experiences how consumers are reacting to these experiences.
- An overview of how tech companies like Google and Apple are driving data depreciation and what marketers need to know about the changes.
- How Pega can help marketers navigate this transformation.
We closed the conversation talking about how Pega can help marketers navigate this transformation at whatever speed is best for their organization and where we think brands and marketers should be focused for the future.
You can watch the video of our conversation here (and subscribe to our YouTube channel while you’re there):
Or listen to my interview with Tara on your favorite streaming platform here:
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Shelly Kramer: Hello, and welcome to this episode of the Futurum Tech Webcast. I’m your host, Shelly Kramer. And today I’m joined by Tara DeZao, the product marketing director AdTech and MarTech at Pegasystems. And we are going to have a conversation today about data deprecation. So before we dive into that topic, I want to just kind of talk a little bit over the last couple of years, there’s been a lot of concern around the amount of data that’s used to track us. In fact, in our research, we have shown that’s one of the number one consumer concerns. I know that my data is accessible. I’m asked to give it up all the time, it makes me very nervous. It makes me very uncomfortable and I feel very helpless about it. That’s what consumers have told us. We know that every action that we take online is tracked and that of course can be very discouraging, but we’re on the precipice of a new era.
And to me, that’s really exciting. So data deprecation, which is the process of limiting what data advertisers and marketers have access to is slowly picking up steam. And while this is great for consumers, thus the yay for me, it’s also adding a layer of complexity for brands, and they brands still need to deliver hyper personalized experiences for clients. And that’s part of even though as a consumer, even though you may not love being tracked and companies having data on you in and everything else, the reality of it is when you have a great customer experience, it’s largely because the organization that you’re interacting with has the right kind of data. And it’s able to use that data and serve you up quick, efficient, personalized, intuitive experiences.
And those are the experiences that we will walk away from and go, if only everything was like this. So that’s one of the magic, the kind of the magical things I think that Pega and your team are really, really dialed into. And I think it’s exciting. So we’re going to talk about what marketers need to do to be able to be ready for this shift and to be able to serve up those kind of amazing customer experiences. And again, that’s what Tara and I are going to be covering today. So Tara, welcome to this show, it’s so great to have you.
Tara DeZao: Thank you, Shelly. It’s awesome to be here. I’m so excited to talk about this topic. It never gets old for me.
Shelly Kramer: It never gets old for me either. And you know I’m really being serious when I say that, I am the nerd that walks away from experiences going, and I use this as an example sometimes, and sometimes it’s not fair to use Amazon as an experience because it’s such a gigantic company with infinite resources and everything else. But I remember one time I got some kind of a notification and I was trying to figure out what my subscriptions were on Amazon, what I was paying for. And that’s something that kind of is like a runaway train with some of us. And you’ve got some things on this credit card and some things on this debit card and you just don’t have any idea. And I remember going to Amazon and doing a quick searcher, maybe I even did a voice query on Amazon.
And it was like in two seconds I had the exact answer and I’m just like, so many times companies make getting information like that difficult and they do it with intention because if you don’t know and you can’t find it and you run out of time or it’s a pain in the neck to slog through you just walk away and leave it. But the reality of it is when you have those amazing experiences, you really walk away and go, I just wish every inner interaction with a brand was like that. So before we get started talking about data deprecation, what marketers need to do and all that I want to know about you. So tell us a little bit about your backstory.
Tara DeZao: Sure. I’m originally from the East Coast and I became a California Washington transplant around high school and I never left. I love the west coast. I’m a mom to a seven year old boy, which I feel is a feat during the pandemic. So I always tell people on these conferences and webcasts, great job parents out there. And I’m a former rugby player. I love teamwork. And I’ve been in AdTech for the last 12-ish years AdTech MarTech. I started out in tech hardware, which was admittedly pretty boring for me. And as soon as I found AdTech I never went back. I couldn’t leave.
Shelly Kramer: This is my home. This is where these are my people, these my issues, this is where I belong. Well, I will tell you we discovered this before we jumped onto this recording. And so we do have in common that we both grew up on the east coast and you live in Seattle now, my husband’s company is headquartered in Seattle. We’ve shared our thoughts on the weather and how the summer in Seattle is super nice. And my husband and I foster a seven year old boy, actually, he just turned eight on Monday.
Tara DeZao: Wonderful.
Shelly Kramer: And I am a mother of four daughters and I have two daughters who are grown, and very old. And then I have 15 year old twins who are sophomores in high school. And what I am here to say is that, parents of boy children I salute you in a way that I have never been able to do before, because all I know is estrogen and drama and craziness and makeup and all of these things. And you know what, boys bring something entirely different to the mix. And it is fueled by testosterone. So I’m learning so much on my journey.
Tara DeZao: Yes, it’s true. I always thought we were more nurture than we are nature, but now I’ve been proven wrong by my son and million times. And I think that’s sort of the nature of parenting is they just prove everything wrong that you thought about what it would be like to be a parent.
Shelly Kramer: Everything. And you quickly learn there is no rule book and you’re going to mess up many, many times along the way and you probably won’t kill them. So it’ll all work out fine.
Tara DeZao: Yes, it’s true.
Shelly Kramer: It’ll all work out fine. Okay, so let’s talk a little bit, let’s just dive into this topic. So give us some background on data and privacy.
Tara DeZao: So I think where we’ve landed today is that we are sort of mired in regulation. We have changes coming down about data and the way that marketers and brands use data. And I think how we got here is that we weren’t very transparent as an industry AdTech and MarTech about the quid pro quo of the internet. So we didn’t ever educate the consumer, hey, this is the data we’re collecting, this is why we’re collecting it. It’s pretty harmless, it’s mostly about shopping. So I think that converged with some high profile data breaches like Cambridge Analytica and everyone sort of woke up at the same time to, should we start regulating this? Because it seems really creepy when in fact most of the places that consumers go on the internet are free, because they’re subsidized by advertising and data. So I think if we had been more transparent about that, we probably wouldn’t be where we are today, which is mostly in a panic, I think.
Shelly Kramer: Well, I’ve said this a thousand times at a minimum and I think that those of us in the industry understand, but I’m not sure ordinary average consumers do. You know if it’s free you are the product. If it’s free, your data is the product because nothing is really free.
Tara DeZao: It’s true.
Shelly Kramer: So I think sometimes no matter how much you repeat that mantra, I’m not sure it really sinks in. And I’m not sure sometimes that people really understand that value proposition, I give you my email address or I don’t give you my email address. You track me by way of a cookie and things are going to be served up to me as a result. So Tech companies are responding. I mean, there’s lots of changes that have happened in the landscape in terms of tracking and data, customer data, and all that sort of thing. So let’s talk a little bit about what companies are doing to respond to privacy concerns, and regulations, and things like GDPR and California CCPA, is that CCPA?
Tara DeZao: CCPA, California Consumer Privacy Act. So I think first of all, we all have noticed that every website we go to now asks you to accept cookie tracking. We’ve had to become much more transparent about the data that we’re collecting and how we use that data. And then I think brands and marketers have seen the writing on the wall and they’re sort of investing their time now and figuring out how can we get consented data, or what’s called zero party data from consumers where they’ve opted in. And they’ve voluntarily said, here’s my data. I want a better experience. We see brands setting up preference centers so that they can figure out what their customers want and need better. And I think ultimately that’s going to lead to a stronger customer experience. Just like you said, on Amazon, they have tons of your data that you’ve voluntarily given multiple times. And so that’s why you get that really crisp, clean, easy customer experience.
Shelly Kramer: Absolutely. And there have been some new changes recently in terms of Apple’s newest iOS update and things that have given marketers some sleepless nights I think in terms of exactly what are the changes that we’re dealing with and what does that mean for business as usual for us? How do we need to shift? How do we need to pivot, what do we need to do differently? So I think it’s safe to say marketers are struggling a little bit. Feeling confused, feeling nervous, all those things. So can we talk a little bit about how these changes have disrupted the digital market environment?
Tara DeZao: Absolutely. So the third party cookie being deprecated by Google is all we kind of ever hear about it’s going away. And that third party cookie is the way that many brands connect consumer touch points to deliver that unified customer experience. But in reality, this has sort of been a long time coming safari and Firefox and Apple were first on the scene to sort of get rid of the traditional ways of tracking people to use a not beloved word by marketers. But I think now that the cookie is going away, that’s going to really disrupt the ecosystem in a way that we’ve never seen, because so many brands rely on that little piece of code to connect the ways that they see their customers.
Shelly Kramer: Absolutely. And I saw some changes just announced this week around the Firefox browser that I haven’t really even had a chance to dig into, but you know, what browser you choose to use makes a big difference as well. And so what would you say that marketers should be doing to address these changes? What should they be thinking about?
Tara DeZao: Well, first they need to audit their exposure. So the nature of media buying and digital marketing, in some cases, the brand lacks transparency into the kind of data that they’re using, because either they have an agency or they buy through another platform that isn’t their own data. So I think first figuring out what does this ecosystem inside our organization look like, and how do we need to subsidize that going forward. Second, I think they need to be ready to undergo a very serious digital transformation because they’re going to need to invest in new technologies to sort of bridge this gap, that’s going to be left by the third party cookie ultimately dying.
Shelly Kramer: I’ve spent a significant portion of my career as a brand strategist and my advice is always start with the basics. I mean figure out where you are, audit your situation, take a look at everything you’ve got, what you’re missing, what information you’re missing, where you go to get that, what are we doing? what might not we be doing all of those sort of things. So that’s start with the basics.
Tara DeZao: Absolutely. And it’s a good time to sort of get set up so that you can test and learn before the cutover. We want that time to sort of figure out, okay, now that we have new strategies, new technology, how do we make it work for us? And I think you need a little bit of a ramp time to do that.
Shelly Kramer: You definitely need a little bit of a ramp time to do that. So talk with me a little bit about, and I think we touched on this at the beginning of our conversation, Amazing customer experience is the holy grail of so many things and a customer-centric mindset and really there have been so many times that I’ve been on a journey as a customer. And generally speaking, this happens when you have a problem. You need some information, something doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to, you need help. I mean, it’s can be so frustrating. When you have an amazing customer experience, you walk away from it feeling like I’ve just, and usually it in many cases and it involves a human probably with some kind of a technology assist.
But sometimes they can have really far reaching consequences. And personal experience that I had a very large company that I put all of my retirement funds into. And one year, a couple of years ago, I got a notice from the IRS, post-tax season that they thought I owed them like $15,000 or something like that. And as we sussed this out, we realized working with my account and working with my bookkeeper. And we realized that they had made an error, a reporting error a year-end tax document reporting error. And we had actually known there was a problem. And we talked with them when it was happening to try to correct it, but it didn’t get corrected. And then you walk on down the road and you forget about it.
And so I’m dealing with this organization, I’m dealing with trying to get help online. I’m dealing with trying to get help on the phone, I’m talking with what seems like 50 different people. And you know, what I really don’t want to have to do is write a $15,000 check to the IRS that I don’t owe. And it took so long and so many phone conversations and emails and follow up and everything else to resolve this and to get it straightened out and to get the IRS squared away. That when I walked, I mean, when I was immersed in that, dealing with that situation, I knew with a certainty one thing, what do you think it was?
Tara DeZao: That you were going to walk away from that brand forever.
Shelly Kramer: 100% and I could not wait until I got to the end of our journey together to pull every penny that I had out of that company and put it somewhere else. You may frustrate a customer and you may lose their $50 a month dog food purchase because something happens. But when you lose a customer that it, and of course we don’t know, that’s the beautiful and the dangerous thing about customer experience and your frontline people who are serving up customer experiences is you don’t know who you’re dealing with. You don’t know if this is a $50 problem or a $500,000 customer that you might lose.
Although that information actually, if you’re doing it right, should be available at your contact center. [crosstalk] fingertips, so they understand the relationship with that customer. But that’s the thing when it comes to what I wanted to talk about is, how you see customers, view customer experience and personalized engagement. Because from my vantage point, it is incredibly important based not only on our research, but my own personal experience and as I shared, I don’t hesitate to walk away when it’s not what I know it should be and what I know it can be. So what are you seeing?
Tara DeZao: Well, you’re spot on and it takes frankly a lot less than that to make a customer walk away. And actually the thing that matters the most probably is customer lifetime value. So you may sell something in the moment and it’s a bad experience and you still got the sale, so you’re excited, but it’s going to just make that customer walk away from you. And I think where it relates to personalization, it’s a fine line for brands to walk and they need to really find the happy medium between over personalization and seeming creepy tracking people, being too frequent, sending irrelevant ads as your customers travel through the internet and not having enough personalization saying, okay, we’re going to send this offer to every customer we have. It’s going to make them feel like we don’t care about their needs, it’s not very customer centric. So you have to find the middle ground of what do we know about our customer? How can we help them in the moment? Context is hugely important and I think a lot of brands miss that piece, the context in the moment is so important to interacting with your customer.
Shelly Kramer: So context in the moment technology can help.
Tara DeZao: Yes.
Shelly Kramer: Let’s talk about that.
Tara DeZao: The worst thing you can do, just message to a customer in the wrong moment. I’m talking about, okay, you’re on WebMD, you’re looking up pancreatic cancer, you’re doing some internet sleuthing thing about ailments you might be having, that’s not a great time to send somebody an offer about dog food. Or your customers in a natural disaster zone, maybe you don’t send them a sales offer for a new credit card at that moment because they’re panicking that they’re in a hurricane, it might be a good time to actually say nothing. I think silent sometimes is an undervalued treatment by marketers. So really, I mean, the customer moves fast through the web and the digital landscape, and you really need to be right there with them. So that kind of makes the way we used to do things these big batch pre-determined campaigns that we’ve served people at fixed times, and we’re talking to them about products that we want to sell them, it’s not sustainable for the future.
Shelly Kramer: It is not. And I have been following and covering Pega for many, many years and one of the things and have many great friends within the organization, but one of the things that it just blew my socks off, it’s probably been five years ago at a PegaWorld event was when the company was talking about sentiment analysis and how the Pega’s technology you can choose.
And this is going to be off the top of my head, not at all perfectly described, but how you can decide what I want my sentiment to be, do I want it to be super warm? Do I want it to be more cold and formal? Do I want to slide it over here in the middle? And what that means is just the responses that happen, that your call center, your contact center agents, it helps them decide how we want to respond to customers and what tactic we’re going to take. And some of the data that came out of that, and again, this is going back a number of years, but it was just amazing because what companies could do is that they could measure …. We have our sentiment setting set on 25. I’m making this up, might be not even a 25. And this is what we’ve seen in terms of customer satisfaction or customer conversion or whatever it is we’re measuring.
And you know what we did, we turned that sentiment up. So we warmed up our interaction, our responses, our empathy, and, and that was really the whole point of this really empathy and focusing on empathy as part of a technology solution. And the results that we got were just off the charts, I mean, we saw such a huge difference.
And then I remember having a conversation and it might have been with Don Sherman or somebody else on the team, but we were talking about during the pandemic, not that we’re out of it now, but one thing that technology solutions and certainly Pega did in those early months, the pandemic, it’s kind of like your natural disaster situation. We were all living through a natural disaster and so people were contacting their banks about the PPP loans, and they were contacting their insurance companies, and they were super stressed out, and all of those things when you’re able to add empathy into the mix and understand that we’re dealing with customers who are so stressed out. Or she lives in California and they just weathered the fires there or whatever, it can make a very huge difference and technology can help us add that empathy into the equation. I mean, our contact center agents don’t have SPE right.
Tara DeZao: Totally. And we have a large bank in Australia that was dealing with the convergence of the pandemic and the Australian Bush fires, do you remember those deadly Bush fires? And what they were able to do is create a page where they had resources for their clients, whether it be grants from the government, loans that they could take out outside the bank, and just ways to create a more financially resilient customer base and that was part of their strategy. So customers will remember that empathy are stressed out and you help them and like save them from the verge of bankruptcy, they’re going to remember you and they’re going to stay with you.
Shelly Kramer: Absolutely. I, 100% agree. And it has always seemed to me as a very, very small thing in the big scheme of what brands can do to inspire customer loyalty and customer trust. And we just want to feel cared about. We want to feel cared about, and that the companies we choose to work with and to give our money to, and to give our trust, to care about us and that they’re here to help us when we need it most. And you know what? From a marketing standpoint, that’s not tough messaging. There are many companies who say that and show us that they don’t mean it but when you’re an organization who not only says that but shows us that you mean it, and shows customers that empathy really matters, and the customer experience really matters, I believe leave it comes back to you a hundred fold, I really
Tara DeZao: It does. I think that’s something that marketers continue to struggle with and hopefully as we move into this next phase where we’re going to rely a lot on AI, that can help brands be like more human. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but I think we’ve been relying as marketers on predictive modeling for a long time in AdTech and that’s basically trying to predict what the customer’s going to do next. But at Pega, we utilize predictive modeling and adaptive modeling. So essentially Shelly, when you’re on a website and you’re looking around, we’re gathering your signals and we’re bringing it back into the mix and pushing out what’s most customer centric and relevant to you in the moment. And I think that’s what’s going to help marketers become more empathetic is like hyper in the moment, hyper relevance, under 30 seconds, under 10 seconds, 200 milliseconds is what we say at Pega. So with real, super contextual interactions.
Shelly Kramer: And I 100% agree and we talked about financial services, we talked about insurance companies, retail is a huge sector and use case here and part of it, I’ll give you an example from today, you’re living your life, you’re doing your job, you’re checking your email, you’re like, email from North Face. I haven’t seen one of their emails in a long time, I need a new coat, I’m going on vacation soon. I kind of like the coat I have but I have an outer wear addiction problem. Maybe I should go look at this. So I click on my North Face email and I am looking and in two seconds, I see exactly the coat that I have in mind. And my point is all I wanted to do was give the North Face my money.
All I wanted, that’s all I wanted. And then I wanted to go back to my work and my life and my responsibilities and everything else, so the quicker you can make it easy for me to give you my money, because it’s not all about solving problems, I mean, it is about buying things.
Tara DeZao: Yes, absolutely.
Shelly Kramer: And so the use cases in retail are huge because we want what we want when we want it, but we also don’t know what we want but you might have insights on what we want based upon our behavior that you can serve up to me. It’s kind of like Netflix, having an idea of what I want to watch next. But so it really is the right data at the right time is all about not only, growth and prosperity for the brand, I just wanted to buy a coat.
Tara DeZao: And it’s not all marketing data, there’s data all over the org that could help in these instances. And I think where brands struggle is they’re disconnected all over their own organization, where they store their data, what data types they’re pulling in. So I think we can get past this lack of third party data by really being efficient about how we use data that we already have. We hear brands say, I don’t have enough first party data to make this transition, what am I going to do? Well, the reality of the situation is you might, so you need to figure out if you do or not and how best to use it.
Shelly Kramer: We’re getting to the end of this conversation, which I hate because I could talk about this all day in case you haven’t noticed. I always feel like I have the very best job in the world because I get to hangout all the time with people who are just nerdy and just as geeky about all this like that I am and so these conversations could never, I love that. So we’ve talked a little bit about, again, various sectors and various technology solutions. I want to dive just for a minute into what can Pega help its customers do to navigate these kind of transformations? Where do they start?
Tara DeZao: Sure, absolutely. So we have a customer decision hub and what that is, is a customer engagement tool that takes all the data from all of your channels across your org and brings it together so that your interactions with your customers are highly relevant. And that solves a lot of issues for the brand. It means that you can deliver unified customer experiences, it means that you can create better customer lifetime value because you see every interaction that you’ve had with the consumer. And then lastly, in the moment piece I cannot stress how important contextual relevance is. Dealing with Shelly in the moment and knowing that you just want to buy something really quick and that’s normally what you do, I can’t overstate how powerful that can be. So I think this technology is backed by AI. It’s going to be the bridge to the future without cookies and interject empathy into marketing, which I think we all love to hear about that. Everybody loves empathy. If you say you don’t like empathy, you’re lying.
Shelly Kramer: And quite honestly, if you say you don’t like or understand or embrace integrating empathy into what you’re doing, you probably shouldn’t be in marketing. Marketing is all about understanding consumer behavior and paying attention and serving up great customer experiences because if we don’t do those things, as marketers we fail.
Tara DeZao: We totally have and the pandemic made everything even more digital faster, and it shone a light on the brands that were doing it right and wrong. So more important than ever before to utilize empathy, and care for your customers and show that you do.
Shelly Kramer: So Tara, if someone is listening or watching this conversation and they think this makes a lot of sense to me, I want to dip my toe in here, I want some more information. First of all, of course, I’m going to put your LinkedIn contact information into our show notes so people can reach out and connect with you, but does Pega help with like that audit process first step you talked about? I mean, what kind of handholding along the way might you and the team at Pega do that can help me make the transition to getting a little bit of information, a little bit of help and going, oh my gosh, I can’t live without this. So what does that look like.
Tara DeZao: So at Pega, we’re committed to working with brands wherever they are in their digital transformation. So you don’t need to take everything all at once and do a blanket transformation, we can slowly integrate your channels, we can work with you at the pace that is best for your business. If you head over to pega.com, you’ll see what I’m talking about. And we’re here for you to figure out what your next step as a marketing organization is, or even beyond marketing.
Shelly Kramer: Well, I think to me that’s always a comforting message, you know what I’m saying? Because sometimes you have conversations about technology and digital transformation and the technology that can power that. And it can be scary because you might be looking at, you want to get started with us? It’s an $80,000 investment or it’s a $200,000 investment. And it’s like, holy moly, my decision is on the line here. So I think that that to me is an important, by the way, I didn’t know that was what your answer was going to be but I love that we are here to help you no matter what stage of the journey you’re on, because I feel like that kind of messaging from Pega or anyone is honest and it’s respectful of sort the challenges that buyers have.
And trying to make decisions for our organizations that are the right decisions that fall within the confines of our budget, that I can be comfortable with, that I can start working with a team and really see how we match and what the vibe is like and then have a trusted vendor partner to continue my digital transformation journey. I think that’s what a lot of buyers are looking for. I know that I typically lead a lot of the technology investments of our family of companies, and that’s what I’m looking for. I don’t want vendor lock in, I really want to understand and to me, the relationship that I have with a vendor partner and the help I’m going to get along the way is a very key part of the decision that I make.
Tara DeZao: Absolutely. We understand that different industries and different businesses accelerate at their own pace. And I think that’s critical when you’re trying to walk people through these large strategic investments.
Shelly Kramer: Absolutely. Tara DeZao, what a fabulous conversation. Thank you so much for sharing what you and Pegasystems are doing. And some of the technology solutions that you have, I am always so interested in the things that are going on at Pega and I do think this is something that marketers really need be paying attention to. So thank you for hanging out with me, it’s been a pleasure and we’re going to have to do this again.
Tara DeZao: Thank you for having me, Shelly. This was awesome and happy holidays.
Shelly Kramer: Same to you. Bye bye.
A serial entrepreneur with a technology centric focus, Shelly has worked with some of the world’s largest brands to lead them into the digital space, embrace disruption, understand the reality of the connected customer, and help navigate the process of Digital Transformation. Read Full Bio.