Most of us welcomed 2021 with open arms and new hopes, some marketers still live in fear – dreading the ‘new normal’ of data soon to be replaced with an oncoming cookie apocalypse. After all, with just a year more until Google finishes what they set out to do – ending support for 3rd party cookies in phases, will change the data landscape forever. In addition to Apple doing much the same by changing up its IDFA tracking and availability. All together creating a huge vacuum in the digital marketing tracking ecosystem that will disrupt everything we know in the digital marketing & advertising space. If you’re in any doubt of the matter, you could have a look yourself – check up on the status of cookies at www.cookiestatus.com. It seems that what would be needed for marketers then, are some well-defined resolutions that should be diligently stuck to for all the year and well into 2022. At least, until the change becomes the norm. But before you know ‘how’ to change up your marketing, it’s important to know ‘what’ objectives to aspire to.
The cookie ban is definitely going to affect the targeting, measurement, and attribution for all marketing and advertising activities in the digital space, from who you want to interact with your brand, influencing them to take action to scale that up. We all know that. But how exactly and for whom?
Marketers will be forced to look into newer methods to measure the success of their marketing efforts. An investment in identity-building & using data from their own websites will be the way forward. Businesses must embrace privacy-friendly practices of measurement – using first-party data and tracking interactions with their own touchpoints to measure the performance of campaigns across channels.
For the publishers, this cookie ban is expected to lose more than 50% in revenue. With the high volume of traffic they receive, they are a prime channel for marketers & advertisers to reach their targeted audiences. However, this business/advertising model relied heavily on third-party cookies, from measurement to deterministic IDs. And now they can no longer rely on these identifiers for precise targeting in programmatic advertising. Meaning, it’s going to be harder for businesses to show retargeting ads. Resulting in a lower ROI for these advertisers and losing advertising demand on their channel/platform.
Obviously the most affected group of professionals in this space, your world revolves around this. If you’re in this space, everything is affected, EVERYTHING. Targeting audience segments on the open marketplace will not be the same. It will be harder to target audiences in granular detail due to privacy constraints. It will be greatly based on contextual targeting and federated learning (robots grouping people together based on behavior in a privacy-compliant manner). Measuring campaigns will be super complex and less accurate. Since marketers have been relying on 3rd-party cookies to track performance across the media landscape, they have to find a credible system to link ad exposures to ad outcomes across channels as they have to deal with data loss. Attribution will not be the same – marketers will need to find alternatives to the current “multi-touch attribution” model as it will morph into a blended or more siloed solution when the 3rd-party cookie ban is in place. Some will cling to the basic and ineffective practice of “last-click attribution”.
Lastly, analytics, third-party cookies are being removed, but web browsers are not taking away a website’s ability to track its own users. You can still see click-through conversion – whether a user that converted on your website came from Facebook Ads, Google Ads, or other advertising channels. Making it more essential that marketers rely more on their own website analytics for data instead of third parties.
A tool where the foundation is heavily dependent on unidentified user data that is collected by a huge pool of cookies. With its value not based on its technology but more on the cookie data set that it has created and a huge chunk of it is by third-party cookies, DMPs are becoming more irrelevant, even obsolete together with the third-party cookies ban and Apple’s crackdown on identifying users in apps. They have been an important aspect in the marketing/sales world, but the advancement in technology, new privacy regulations, and data security needs have caused it to decline over the years. With the cookie ban and the move towards first-party data, it’ll only decline further and this may even be the final nail to the coffin.
For Walled Gardens
The reliance and use of walled gardens would only increase exponentially resulting in their revenue to grow initially. The loss of cookies is going to make walled gardens the easy and reliable system to link ad exposures to ad outcomes across media landscapes. Marketers and advertisers will increasingly pursue attribution analytics within walled gardens instead of across them, resulting in a growing number of media companies building their own walled gardens with a unified sign-in requirement.
Your Cookie Strategy for 2021
We’ve made clear the huge impact this has. Now we want to tell you why Customer Experience should remain the primary goal for every brand in 2021. Regardless of the demise of 3rd party cookies and 3rd party data sharing, customers will still look to more fulfilling experiences online – demanding better customer experiences from brands. The most important question you must ask yourself though is – will you be able to still deliver a quality CX this year? While the crutch of cookies slowly disappears, let’s take a look at the path ahead:
Resolution #1 – Dump the cookie strategy approach
Cookies may have been the go-to for most marketers who looked to track their customers and glean precious marketing insights, but it has never been the most effective. Owing to their anonymity, and the fact that cookies have been dying out since 2018 – it’s only a matter of time before the cookie approach gives out. According to a study, web browsers were already rejecting 75% of cookies on mobile devices and 41% on desktop. With rejection rates only increasing and on the other hand, browsers setting severe limitations or debilitating cookies completely, it’s wise for marketers to jump ship and find refuge in a strategy that would pay off in the longer term.
What marketers should first realize is that cookies are just a tool and not the whole of data-led marketing itself. And as with every tool – there’s a time to upgrade to a tool that works far more efficiently. We’ve seen how focusing on a tool that’s out-of-date can be dangerous, with several large juggernauts failing spectacularly.
As the era of 3rd party cookies comes to an end, it is a call for you, as a marketer to not only adapt but to have a strategy in place that lets you get ahead of the targeting, measurement & attribution game. As a marketer, your focus should not be on the tool but on your marketing performance and what can impact it and continue to impact in the long run.
This brings us to the next point.
Resolution #2 – Go Data-First with 1st Party Data
It’s time to realize that data is not just by the way, it is the way itself. A data-first approach, i.e. using data for more than your CRM, but to better leverage, marketing or business decisions can be key to improving your CX and thriving in years to come. The first step to a data-first approach is to identify and understand the types of data your business is using – whether it’s 3rd party data or 1st party data. While it’s probable that your business is using a majority of 3rd party data – it’s imperative to begin the transition to using more 1st party data. Why? Because 1st party data is the data shared by your customers with your own website, app, or other touchpoints – data that is owned by you and is far richer in context about your customer’s behavior.
Need proof? Boston Consulting Group reported that marketers who use all of their first-party data can generate double the incremental revenue from single ad placement, communication, or outreach. Not to mention that it’s time to face reality. With privacy laws like GDPR clamping down on websites playing fast and loose – the only way forward is to build trust with consumers. And leveraging first-party data experiences is key to a trusting, more profitable relationship.
Resolution #3 – Align with your martech stack
As your business changes track to a data-first approach, your martech stack must follow suit too to be able to utilize more first-party data. Every company has a different martech stack built to work uniquely – but it’s imperative that your stack complements your efforts as you embrace changes. Start by checking which tools of your martech stack are highly dependent on 3rd party data and if better substitutes that work with 1st party data exist. That’s where companies must harmonize their old stack and connect it to CDPs. Martech stacks that are able to focus on identity resolution, will be able to connect customer profiles across databases and households to make more PII (Personal Identifiable Information) identifiers available for activation.
How to turn your resolutions into reality
As with every new year’s resolution, it’s easy to be gung-ho at the start and lose steam a while after. Letting go of old 3rd party data habits and transitioning to a data-first approach may be a task that’s achievable but would still need time and commitment. But you can get by with a little help – to make sure your transition is smooth, efficient, and most importantly, effective. Using the advice & help of external experts to do the heavy lifting could be a faster route to getting your business efforts on the right track, before the competition and the rest of the world catch up.
At Meiro for instance, we’ve helped clients by deploying complete tracking solutions and back-end solutions for clients – working on the server-side. Helping them collect and collate 1st-party data that is then cleansed, consolidated, and can be used to slice and dice your consumer bases even into micro-segments for targeting, that wouldn’t be affected by the removal of 3rd party cookies. To put it quite simply, we’re specialists at doing all the data heavy-lifting, so that you can instead focus on driving your Marketing ROI and your company’s bottom line.
In conclusion – what’s the one strategy you need for 2021? It’s simple. Either switch to using first-party data or you could begin digging your business’ own grave. The world of business is dramatically changing and only taking decisive action can keep you ahead in the game. Get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be happy to help you improve and activate your cookie strategy for the year to come!