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What Interoperability in Digital Marketing Means for Your Agency

interoperability in digital marketing illustration of two systems working together

When information needs to be widely shared and tracked in a user-friendly way, interoperability is at play. In fact, marketing agencies have long relied on interoperability to track their campaigns and target their advertising, even though they may not have been aware that they were doing so.

But this is changing. As we increasingly enter a first-party–or even zero-party data–world, what happens to your campaign tracking is not yet clear. With increasing restrictions and demands pointing to an open web, where does that put data tracking, marketing analytics, and identity management?

In this article, learn about the role of interoperability in digital marketing and what new regulations mean for your marketing agency:

What Is Interoperability?

Interoperability refers to the ability technologies have to work together and make the end user’s life easier. It means that for a piece of technology to be useful, it needs to be able to connect with other technologies in a compatible way. And it is essential for apps, software, and computer systems.

Single Sign On Interoperability Example

A simple example of an interoperability solution is using Facebook or Twitter to log in to the fitness app you just downloaded without having to create a new account from scratch. But its uses extend beyond that and affect all businesses, companies, marketers, publishers, and consumers alike.

What Makes a System Interoperable?

For any interoperable system to be shareable and useful, it must take into account four factors:

  • Relevance: Correctly matching the data with the right participants to get more effective outcomes.

  • Granularity: The level of detail needed for the data to be understood by two or more parties.

  • Participant actions: The continuum of the participants in the data flow, and the roles they play at each stage. 

  • Business workflow: To know when not to introduce a non-automated step into the data flow. 

3 Types of Interoperability

To add another level of granularity, there are three types of interoperability.

1. Syntactic Interoperability

This is the sharing of information between two or more systems so that different software can share information, even if the language or interface used isn’t the same. This is like understanding the grammar of a language, not just the words. 

Example: Web Processing Services (WPS) for geospatial services. i.e., HTTP for accessing the world wide web. 

2. Semantic Interoperability

This implies not just the syntax (i.e., grammar), but also the semantics (i.e., meaning). As such, to have semantic interoperability, you also need syntactic interoperability. XML or SQL standards, for instance, require semantic interoperability.

Example: Health Information Exchanges and methods for data collection for public health and population data. The international standard for this is called Health Level 7 or HL7.

3. Structural Interoperability

This type of interoperability gets more granular to parse more meaning from the data. It is the exchange of data through common formats that are defined for data decoding, encoding, and representation. The structural interoperability format specifies the standards used between systems, allowing users to understand the purpose of the data more clearly. 

Example: Pharmacists prescribing drugs online (e-prescriptions), need to use the same standards as the systems sending the patient information. i.e., the strength of the drug, dosage, duration, and frequency.

Interoperability Type

What It Is

Use Case

Syntactic Interoperability

Where two or more computer systems connect and share data. This is the packaging and transmission of information to share data. 

HTTP for accessing the world wide web.

Semantic Interoperability

Where two or more computer systems connect and share data that each one actually understands in a meaningful way. 

The international standard for Health Information Exchanges (Health Level 7 or HL7). 

Structural Interoperability

The format in which data is shared in order to give a deeper understanding of the purpose of the data. 

E-prescriptions having the same standards defining strength, dosage, duration, frequency, etc. 

Naturally, interoperability wouldn’t be what it is today without a whole lot of data sharing–this can cause some serious trust issues. But we’ll get more into that later. 

So what is the role of interoperability in digital marketing? 

The Concept Of Interoperability In Digital Marketing

An estimated 2.5 quintillion bytes–that’s 18 zeros–of data is being created every day. This is an absolute goldmine for advertisers and publishers. But it would be useless without interoperable solutions that make sense of it all. 

From the early days of the internet, interoperability became an essential part of digital advertising: with third-party data and cookies tracking and following a brand’s intended audience, advertisers are able to easily track the customer experience (CX) and target specific buyer personas based on their behavior on disparate websites, apps, and other databases.

In digital marketing, interoperability is essentially data connectivity. 

For platforms, it’s filling in the blanks on crucial audience data to expand its customer relationships and behavioral knowledge (proprietary graphs).

facebook data sharing nodes

Source

For publishers, it’s aligning data between brands and advertisers in a secure way.

For marketing agencies, it’s powering customer acquisition goals–from targeting higher quality leads to concluding more sales and conversions down the funnel. 

From a simple visitor retargeting program to creating complex targeting algorithms based on user behavior, interoperability is quite important in marketing. But elsewhere, too. 

Why Is Interoperability In Marketing Important?

Today’s online experience is expected to be seamless. That means that both customers and businesses need to have access to all data from one place in a meaningful way. They also need to successfully manage sensitive information, glean valuable insights, and reduce noise from systems that work separately. 

All of this is also expected to be done automatically, without a second thought. In fact, the role of interoperability is to simplify things by 

  • Increasing cohesion, 

  • Reducing duplicate information, and

  • Creating more efficient systems. 

As you can imagine, this applies not only to two or more systems sharing information, but to businesses, organizations, and the world of marketing.  

Interoperability allows companies to grow and meet the demands of the consumers by taking advantage of existing technologies that they weren’t proprietary owners of. 

A great example of this is when a smaller business creates shopping tools that function within Whatsapp conversations.

interoperability with whatsapp

 

Source 

This way, companies grow, and expand their services–and by borrowing an already existing, user-friendly technology. 

Interoperability helps businesses operate more efficiently by making the most use of their data by reducing noise and connecting the dots between various data sources. Think of all the databases between accounting departments, sales, marketing, and more. 

Putting them all together manually would take ages–and waste a lot of valuable time and resources. Interoperability lets companies streamline their data analysis efforts and operate more efficiently. 

For digital marketing agencies, shows you to use customer data to create a smooth CX: matching your campaign efforts to each stage of the buyer’s journey by knowing what to put where, and which audience to target. It also means using marketing analytics tools to track campaign data across various marketing platforms to make sense of it all. 

interoperability in digital marketing

Source: Digital marketing dashboard from AgencyAnalytics

Imagine trying to measure anything that happened online if Google Analytics couldn’t track info from social media platforms. It would have limited capabilities and users would risk seeing multiple repeat ads and emails, or seeing the wrong ad entirely.

Interoperable Laws

Compliance with interoperability rules is important for the internet to function and avoid confusion–and in some cases, economic disasters–all to make our lives easier. Many of these laws apply to medicine and patient history data where large-scale sensitive information sharing is at play. 

Others, like the Interoperability and Data Exchange Rules, enable commercial and operational cooperation. This has applications in the gas industry, for instance, setting measurement and quality standards. 

Content Management Systems, for instance, have their own interoperability laws that encourage developers to use APIs to create a common language between systems. As you can see, interoperability is essential to collaboration–and fair competition. 

But marketers are facing major challenges because of new regulatory laws that threaten the interoperability of the internet. 

Part of the reason consumer data is under scrutiny lately is due to the holes in the system, resulting in data mismanagement. 

The European Union led the way with the creation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018–resulting in users having to click to define their cookie access and data sharing every single time they visit a website. And to give you an idea, the total amount of fines has increased from 400,000 euros to a whopping 245 million euros since that law was introduced. 

cookie permissions

Source

Meanwhile, the US has the highest penalty for violations. A medium-sized business can expect an $8.2 million fine per breach. The problem is that the US doesn’t have uniform privacy laws like the EU. 

But by 2023, this is expected to change with new laws like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) that will come into effect. These types of laws heavily impact audience targeting efforts like cross-contextual advertising and data sharing. 

Why Is Interoperability An Antitrust Issue?

Interoperability is key for a competitive internet, removing barriers to entry, and letting smaller players have a chance at success in an infrastructure that was largely built and developed by the bigger players.

Goodbye, monopoly, hello, free internet! But not so fast. For technologies to be interoperable, they need to reciprocally share essential information. Information that huge tech giants are trying to keep for themselves. 

The proposed antitrust bills in the US could force companies such as Google and Facebook to share more information–and lose out on their unique value proposition.  

That would mean Amazon not being able to promote their own products above others.

 

Such anti-monopoly antitrust laws would give third-party companies more information. It would also mean the end users would have the ability to monetize their content directly. In fact, since the launch of decentralized digital currencies, quite a few self-publishing platforms are sprouting up doing just this. 

But this increasing ownership of personal data driven by harsher privacy laws is causing problems for interoperability. If data is siloed by individual platforms, what does it mean for the future of online advertising? 

Loss Of Interoperability Hurts Advertisers & Publishers?

Chances are, you didn’t think too much about interoperability before. But without it, you would surely notice. Without interoperability, developers will struggle to implement data standards and slow their progress. 

Marketing agencies wouldn’t be able to use tens of publishers to put out the same content–it would result in duplicate content being seen by the same people, and there certainly wouldn’t be anything close to the granular level of targeting across the internet that we’ve all become used to. 

You wouldn’t have an aggregate view of your clients’ marketing data, let alone analyze it to measure your success.

For publishers, it’d be a world of walled garden monopolies: trying to access closed platforms that have total control over the content. Forget about the services of scalability and targeting to provide audience insights–it’d all be lost without an interoperable web. 

So what happens when the walls go up and there’s less sharing in the digital playground? What happens when first-party data becomes the new norm?

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Third-Party To First-Party Management 

With the recent public outcries for tighter consumer privacy laws, browsers like Google Chrome have already begun blocking third-party cookies. Cookie deprecation is certainly a threat to an interoperable, free web. With the phasing out of third-party cookies, marketing agencies are forced to move to first-party data. 

When facing walled gardens all around, what does it mean for business insights and comprehensive, targeted data analysis that marketers rely on for their campaigns? 

It’s not all doom and gloom. 

You’ll still be able to run retargeting campaigns based on Google’s first-party data and then report on it by pulling non-customer-identifiable data into a client reporting platform. However, data aggregators that rely on information that used to be provided to them via interoperable systems could find it difficult to flesh out customer targeting profiles.

After all, your agency clients will continue to expect audience insights and targeted campaigns. That won’t change. You’ll need to create an infrastructure that actively collects data from website visitors and followers. 

There are many ways to do this:

  • Lead generation forms 

  • Polls, surveys, and quizzes

  • Questionnaires and custom forms

  • Customer feedback and reviews

When you’re dealing with the end-user directly if you want information, you’ll need to incentivize and provide something in return. That’s just one of the rules of living in the free world.

Losing third-party data means that you’ll have to take matters into your own hands, collecting information directly from consumers. Luckily, four out of five consumers are willing to offer up their data in exchange for a more personalized experience–as long as they are

  • Collected ethically,

  • Managed appropriately, and

  • Protect Securely.

Then, you’ll need systems in place to track it all. AgencyAnalytics is an ever-evolving client reporting platform built for marketing agencies. It integrates with over 75 marketing channels to give you access to all your clients’ data in one single location. 

an example of an interoperable digital marketing report with many integrations

Having all this data in a user-friendly way is all thanks to interoperability and APIs, allowing you to create beautiful marketing reports your clients will actually understand–in minutes.

Key Takeaways: Interoperability and the Future

Data connectivity is essential for efficiency and a cohesive online experience. New privacy laws and regulations threaten to shake the old ways of online marketing, moving to consumer-directed data sharing.

The need to share, align, and protect customer data will not go away. Interoperability in marketing isn’t dying–it’s just getting a facelift. As agencies face greater challenges navigating identity management and tracking their data, their tech stacks will need an update.

The future is a place of providing better quality information, in the right context, and staying on top of your data–all by being transparent about your data-collecting methods. The risk of losing out on valuable consumer insights is too high a price to pay. 

New to AgencyAnalytics? Streamline your client reporting and get a grip on your clients’ data. Try it free for 14 days.

Melody Sinclair-Brooks

Written by

Melody Sinclair-Brooks

Melody is a marketing manager, writer, and startup consultant. She builds communication bridges thru multichannel storytelling, strategic partnerships, advertising, and go-to-market strategy.

Read more posts by Melody Sinclair-Brooks ›

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