Across ecommerce, we are reliant on data for decision-making, optimising and refining marketing campaigns. However, in an increasingly privacy-conscious world how do we collect data and still respect users’ consent settings? This is where Google Consent Mode becomes an invaluable tool.
In essence, Consent Mode allows analysts and marketeers to capture a more accurate picture of customer behaviour and respect user privacy. This article will explore how Consent Mode works and what the benefits of this tool are.
What is Google Consent Mode?
The arrival of data privacy laws around the world, such as GDPR in the EEU and state-specific laws in the US, has had a significant impact on the way internet users’ data is collected and used for advertising and analytics purposes. With features such as cookie consent banners, users now have greater control over how their data is (or isn’t) used by businesses.
The percentage of users giving consent for cookies varies according to region and site type, but the global average sits at 64%.1 This means that you could be missing out on 36% of user data.
Google Consent Mode is a solution to this. Essentially, it allows you to fill in the gaps left by users who deny cookies, whilst adhering to privacy guidelines. It does this by enabling you to collect non-identifying data, even from users who have opted out of cookies.
Note that Consent Mode does not give visibility over personal information, device type, user location, etc.. Rather, the data it enables you to collect falls under the banner of modelled behaviour and outlines how customers navigate and use a site. This data can then help retailers identify pain points across their websites, inform conversion rate optimisation strategies and, in turn, increase revenue. These benefits are discussed in more detail later in this article.
Also note, Google Consent Mode is not a consent management platform (CMP) and doesn’t collect user consent. It solely deals with managing tracking depending on the consent given.
How does Google Consent Mode work?
Consent Mode functions within the Google ecosystem. It works by using Google Tag Manager (GTM) to indicate to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) and Google Ads how a user’s data should be processed according to their consent choices.
There are five default consent tags managed in GTM, as seen below:
Website operators can adjust the behaviour of Google tags based on consent status.
GA4 modelling in Consent Mode
GA4 uses both behavioural modelling and conversion modelling to build a picture of how customers are using your site. This information can then be used to inform Google Ads and Performance Max campaigns, ensuring you get the best return on ad spend (ROAS), while still adhering to privacy laws.
Behavioural modelling allows Google to accurately model the number of users based on the behaviour of other users. For example, if a typical user views three pages, adds two items to the basket and then makes a single purchase, then Google is able to determine based on 30 page views, 20 add to carts and 10 purchases that this is representative of 10 users.
This is important as it allows us to better understand the behaviour of users who haven’t consented.
Conversion modelling is able to estimate which channels are responsible for converting users. It does this by using data known about consenting users and estimating that a user is likely to have come through a certain traffic source.
For example, if we know that low intent users coming through a Meta advert exhibit certain types of behaviour on site, then we can use that to map users who haven’t consented into that channel.
What are the benefits of Google Consent Mode?
The primary benefit of Google Consent Mode is the increased visibility of user behaviour on your site. Whilst this may not be trackable data, or data that can be used for personalisation strategies, it gives a fuller and more detailed picture of customer behaviour on your site. As GDPR-like privacy laws are being rolled out to other regions outside of Europe, visibility of user behaviour is proving more difficult.
The benefit of this increased data and visibility is manifold. Data is an important asset in ecommerce. It should underpin key decisions such as what to test and where to invest in marketing campaigns.
For some of our clients, we have seen up to 30% of users withdrawing consent for Analytics tracking. Without utilising Consent Mode, we would be in the dark on key signals such as:
- Where is traffic coming from?
- How are users interacting with the site?
- Which conversion paths are more successful than others?
In a similar vein, we have seen cases where 50% of users have withdrawn consent for marketing tracking. In this use case, Consent Mode allows tags to fire, which are able to pass conversion signals through to Google Ads. These are then used to optimise your ad campaigns.
Google Consent Mode fills in gaps with data that would otherwise be lost as a result of users withdrawing consent. It does this in a way that respects user consent and doesn’t install a cookie onto their browser. It is also not possible to employ fingerprinting methods to identify users as this is also withheld from the frontend of GA4 (see Google’s documentation on what changes are made using Consent Mode).
As discussed, this can take the form of either conversion modelling or behaviour modelling. Google Ads and Performance Max Campaigns use this modelled behaviour to inform how they target paid ads. You can then see why having the full picture of customer behaviour is important and can lead to numerous benefits, including increased traffic, improved conversion rates and higher revenue.
It is these knock-on, consequential benefits that are the reason Google Consent Mode can be invaluable for your store.
What isn’t possible using Google Consent Mode
Consent Mode changes the functionality of Google tags, which covers Google Analytics, Google Ads, Floodlight and Conversion Linker tags. It cannot change the behaviour of any other pixels or tags from third-party marketing platforms such as Meta, TikTok and others.
Not immediately obvious, is that any kind of retargeting or remarketing activity isn’t possible using Consent Mode, and rightly so, because this would breach user privacy. Thus, users will not be retargeted with any kind of Google Ads within the expanded display network.
Cross-device and cross-session tracking isn’t possible either. Since, in the absence of a cookie being installed on the browser, Google has no way of unifying sessions.
So whilst Consent Mode is indeed useful particularly in Google’s ecosystem, it does have limitations and is not the perfect solution to all tracking and consent problems.
Speak with our industry-leading data analysts about Google Consent Mode
Here at Swanky our team of data analysts and strategists are among the best in the ecosystem. We are continually enhancing our data analysis systems and sharing this knowledge throughout the agency.
We also provide a unique ecommerce data and analytics service to help you make smarter business decisions. If your brand needs a boost when it comes to collecting and analysing your data, get in touch with us today.