GAFAAn interesting and insightful article of Dr. Stefan Schulte, co-founder and Managing Director of Sherlock & Watson Marketing and Data Investigations gives us notions of how to keep our data safe.

He points out that the majority of SMEs use services from Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple (GAFA) for their customer communication since it is convenient to get their support but warns of the risk that such business relationships can quickly turn into dependency. The GAFAs do everything to bind customers efficiently and irreversibly; hence, a dependency can lead to falling margins, one-dimensional communication and, in the end, even to the endangerment of the very own business model.

Certainly, the large platforms are impressive. They enable access to previously closed worlds and open unimaginable customer potential in a never-before-seen granularity. The services are convenient, and many complex marketing activities can easily be delegated to the GAFAs—such as data and address maintenance, and database support. However, the dangers, Stefan Schulte emphasizes, shouldn’t be overlooked. Because whoever gives up his greatest value as a company, direct contact with customers, or does not even establish it at all, remains dependent on the GAFAs.

The dependence can express itself in different ways:

  • Anyone who has to re-rent customer contacts every time a product is launched has high costs. The GAFAs work in a profit-oriented manner, which means that prices also rise when resources become scarce.

  • Or maybe a platform like Amazon or eBay has just discovered that your products are doing well and (it is said that it happened) start to launch parallel offers for the top sellers, which could be the end of your own business model.

  • Or the platforms change their algorithms so that advertising impact, news flow and target groups are present in a completely new way. This makes economic sense for the GAFAs and their interests, but not for you—leaving you in a black box.

  • And what happens if the GAFAs might even be smashed soon, or at least regulated?

So, let's look for alternatives to the GAFAs:

Above all, you should always make sure that your customers and their data remain with you.

Alternative 1: Your own community is probably the most sustainable and best channel for customer dialogue. Those who manage to build a strong fan base around their product or service will win loyal and highly advocated customers: awareness increases, and the brand becomes strong. The community should of course not only take place on Facebook, even if Facebook can be helpful from time to time.

Alternative 2: Influencers, brand ambassadors and other multipliers can play an important role for the community. Let others speak for you and use people who set the tone in their niche—trust your target group. You can find them on social media such as YouTube or Twitter and soon again at events. But of course, there are other channels as well. Depending on the topic, regional multipliers are also available. The main thing is that your brand ambassador remains authentic and fits your offer.

Alternative 3: E-commerce networks can ensure a win-win situation: on the one hand, customers receive suitable and particularly interesting offers from other shops; on the other hand, you earn even with every request. Via incentives you can address new customers in the network without direct competition and use a variety of targeting options.

Alternative 4: Affiliate Marketing, which is far from dead and actually booming, according to c't Magazine. With a targeted affiliate strategy, you could achieve good and sustainable sales in 2021.

Alternative 5: Newsletter and email marketing are great at activating interested parties and retaining existing customers over the long term. Those who offer exciting and useful content and generate addresses neatly can get good traffic over the long term via this channel. In addition to the newsletter, which often has editorial community content, email marketing offers focused advertising for a single offer.

If you are looking for independence in advertising buying from Facebook and Google, you should also think about a good marketing automation tool.

Those who want to emancipate themselves from the GAFAs need data, data, and more data: transactional data, behavioral information, and socio-demographic data, as much as possible.

And what technology is required to plan and orchestrate the outlined channel portfolio? The answer is simple: With UDO "Universal Data Orchestration" you can get back your data, Dr. Schulte claims.

“This is a concept in which all of your data sources are brought together in one app without a great deal of IT effort. Based on the structure then available, marketing processes, plans, implementation and controlling can be controlled from a single application. In the end, UDO provides the best of the worlds Customer Data Platform (CDP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and Data Management Platform (DMP).”

By Daniela La Marca