Retail Buzz 003: Encrypted Search Threat to Marketers

By David Trolle | Wednesday 14th August 2013

Encrypted Search Threat

If the rate of growth in encrypted search data continues to increase, marketers will find themselves with dwindling data resources.

This could result in a search for new marketing models unless the browser companies introduce access to this ‘hidden’ data.

In this week’s Retail Buzz we discover that encrypted search data has increased from about 2% to about one third of all search and look at the source of this change.

Dave Trolle, Head of Direct Response at online retail marketing and ecommerce specialist Summit, poses the question in this week’s topical news item.

Awareness of Privacy Issues and Changes in Search Behaviour

The issue of online privacy has hit the headlines regularly over the past few years, including last year’s Cookie Law and recent revelations about UK and US government web surveillance.

But search specialists at Summit have not noticed any appreciable change in data availability reflecting a significant growth in consumers using private browsing tools.

However, says Dave Trolle, there is a significant threat from encrypted search.

The Effects of a Browser that Encrypts Search

Encrypted search happens, for example, when people log into their Google account and conduct searches in Google’s browser.

In-depth data about these searches is hidden from marketers. Dave and his team can see what was searched for, but don’t have access to keywords.

He estimates that in the past 18 months his team has noticed an increase in encrypted search from 1-2% to 25-35%.

This 25-35% proportion is still low enough to allow his teams to extrapolate using the other 65-75% of searches, for which they have full data.

If this proportion changes so that the majority of search data is encrypted, then that will pose a challenge for search marketers. That means a change in the model currently being used.

Or maybe the answer lies with the browser companies?