With Google set to throw us into cookie-less despair, removing all our digital marketing comforts and conveniences, what hope is there on the horizon for marketers who have become dependent on its easy yet powerful ways to engage?
Let’s take a look at how cookies have been serving us for the last two decades and what impact the greatest cookie-cutter of them all—Google—will have on digital marketing as we know it. How should we prepare for a cookie-less world?
Cookies, cookies everywhere
As we know, cookies are tracking codes placed on a user’s computer in order to track their journey across multiple sites.
When we talk about a cookie-less world, we’re being a tad hyperbolic, because it’s only third-party cookies that will be disappearing. But they’re the ones that collect data from various sources on behalf of an aggregator (like Google Chrome) who then sells the data as a package to advertisers. These insights allow advertisers to profile users in order to better target them, which helps optimize campaign performance.
Third-party cookies have been the backbone of analytics for use in digital advertising, especially targeting, retargeting, tracking and attribution, for the past twenty years. So, the hyperbola can be forgiven. But why the change of heart?
A little privacy, please
Privacy has become a hot topic of late and governments and data protection agencies have put multiple restrictions on the free-for-all of people’s data in an effort to protect user privacy.
The EU Cookie Law has required cookie consent in all its member states since 2002. Apple introduced Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP), its anti-tracking tool that blocks third-party tracking cookies by default for its Safari browser, back in 2017. The European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) privacy law was launched in 2018... the list goes on.
Google Chrome, with over 65% of the web browser market, will get rid of its third-party cookies in 2024 (a date twice moved from 2022 in order to give advertisers more time to prepare).
While the move may not come as a surprise, it will be a huge upheaval to the Ad Tech industry. Due to Google’s large share of the market, switching off third-party cookies will likely have a bigger impact on digital advertising than we’ve seen so far. Especially as Google says “we will not build alternate identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web, nor will we use them in our products."
Instead, Chrome will replace third-party cookies used for ad selection and measurement with its new open initiative ‘Privacy Sandbox’, which it hopes will become the new standard for running campaigns, protecting user privacy while helping content “remain freely available on the web”.
Justin Schuh, Director of Chrome Engineering said: “Users are demanding greater privacy—including transparency, choice and control over how their data is used—and it’s clear the web ecosystem needs to evolve to meet these increasing demands.” He stated that the company’s goal is to “create a set of standards that is more consistent with users’ expectations of privacy”.
What does it mean for marketers?
The impact of removing third-party cookies will be significant for the AdTech industry:
- No cookie syncing, meaning a lack of data
- Decline in third-party processing
- Relevant visitors will be more expensive
- No behavioral or interest targeting
- No remarketing or frequency capping
This will feel like a huge step back for marketers.
As Senior Director Analyst at Gartner, Eric Schmitt, put it: “Marketers should expect substantial and sustained disruption to digital advertising to last through the first half of 2023, or longer.” (It would be reasonable to think he’d correct this to 2024 given the recent change in execution date). He also advises that “Marketing leaders responsible for ad budgets, media mix, planning and measurement will need to adjust strategies as Google rewires its data policies, ad products and capabilities against a backdrop of new privacy norms and elevated antitrust dynamics.”
However, all is not lost. Yes, traditional ways of building customer profiles and targeting customers will become obsolete, but for leaders committed to delivering relevant and meaningful experiences to their customers, an adjustment in their existing strategies and technological systems will allow them to find the opportunity in the problem here.
Ushering in the era of first-party data
First-party data is like the understudy to third-party data. Never really given the opportunity to shine, it has waited in the wings, quietly hoping for its big break. And this is it.
Little did we realize, however, that first-party data was the true star all along.
First-party data cookies gather data about your users on your domains only. And while the definition may seem limiting, let’s explore the true value of first-party data.
- Insights: Knowing your customer’s demographics, location, gender, etc. is not knowing your customer at all. First-party data can give you those additional layers you need to understand customer behavior and what is driving it.
- Relevance: You’ll be able to analyze customer preferences and behavior to ensure you’re not suggesting products they have already purchased or accidentally clicked on, but rather products they have shown a clear interest in.
- Helps build trust: Complying with privacy laws is treating customers with respect. Requesting consent and being transparent about how you intend to use their data, will make customers more comfortable about entrusting it to you. Privacy is power.
- Competitive intelligence: Unlike third-party data, first-party data is owned by you… leaving your competitors in the dark as to why you have chosen certain marketing activities or tactics. Your customer insights are for your eyes only.
- Segmented audiences: Only first-party data will enable you to accurately segment your audience in order to create specific campaigns targeted to each for greater relevance and engagement.
- Personalized experience: When 72% of customers will only engage with personalized messaging, providing a personalized experience is essential. And, you’ll only get the insights you need to tailor the journey to each visitor through first-party data.
- Better multichannel experiences: Your customers want a seamless experience across all your touchpoints and channels. First-party data can connect all the dots to ensure seamless interactions along customer journeys.
- Competitive crystal ball: Deep insights about how customers are using your products can empower you to identify patterns, predict future trends, and adjust your offering according to actual customer needs.
Now we’ve established that first-party data was a star just waiting to be born, let’s move on to what the next step should be for hardcore third-party fans who want to start leveraging the power of first-party data.
Getting your hands on first-party data
One of the biggest barriers companies come up against in unlocking the true potential of first-party data is siloes. No matter how much in-depth data you’re collecting among your various fancy marketing tools, if you can’t bring it all together in order to create 360° customer profiles, then you’re simply missing the point of first-party data.
According to BCG’s global digital marketing maturity survey, “companies that link all of their first-party data sources can generate double the incremental revenue from a single ad placement, communication, or outreach, and 1.5 times the improvement in cost efficiency over companies with limited data integration”. That is some delicious food for thought.
Investing in the technology that enables you to bring all that juicy data into one place is therefore essential.
Additionally, of course, you need the tools that will help you understand the data and to act on it in real-time in order to ensure each visit to your brand is personalized, engaging, relevant, and memorable.
The digital experience platform (DXP)
A DXP can help you deliver consistent digital experiences across all digital touchpoints. Once implemented correctly, you can create meaningful customer interactions by knowing exactly who your customers are and what they came for.
Designed for seamless integration and effortless data flow, your customer’s profiles are bursting with valuable insights from across your website, mobile site, apps, social channels and more.
All that’s left, is for you to leverage its powerful features to craft the perfect journey for each of them.
- Contact management: Only with a holistic view of your customers can you deliver a truly relevant and personalized experience.
- Campaign management: Gain customer intelligence from each of your channels as you execute and manage cross-channel digital marketing campaigns.
- Segmentation: Segment your customers according to a full range of collected data and leverage segmentation in all your digital initiatives.
- Personalization: Provide customers with meaningful and memorable personalized experiences across your entire brand presence.
- Lead scoring: Create lead scoring rules that combine demographics and behaviors to automatically qualify prospective customers.
- Personas: Define customer personas, monitor how they perform over time, and ensure your visitors a personalized experience across channels.
- Email marketing: Send targeted emails based on a customer’s website activity, demographics, or lead scoring.
- A/B testing: Build and test multiple variations of your pages and emails to identify those that work best.
- Recommendations: Use customer data to make smart content and product recommendations to improve their experience and boost cross- and upselling efforts.
- Marketing automation: Easily automate and optimize your campaigns on any channel to reach and nurture more customers with perfect timing.
- Activity tracking: Learn how your customers interact with the content on your website, mobile site, email, or online store in order to improve their journey with you.
- Web analytics: Unlock the power of website data, access real-time statistics, and gain insights using multiple metrics.
- Data protection: Ensure you’re complying with data protection regulations, such as GDPR, PII, or CCPA. It’ll keep you safe and your customers happy.
The cookie crumbles, but customer experience lives on
The phasing out of third-party cookies will certainly mark the end of an era. But for those with the right technology, it will usher in more targeted, more engaging, and more respectful digital marketing practices that have a greater capacity to delight and earn trust.
First-party data is finally basking in the spotlight it deserves. And with a digital experience platform that can enable you to bring it together, understand it, and use it in the delivery of unmissable customer experiences, your digital marketing efforts will actually be in better hands than it has been for a long time.
So, are you ready to learn more about the power of digital experience platforms? Discover how you can fast-track marketing success with the right one in our ebook.